Public Gets a 3-D View of New City Offices

A scale model of the new city administration building plan was on display at Wednesday's Design Review Commission meeting.

A three-dimensional model of the city administrative offices and a table full of examples of building materials, made a good impression on the Design Review Commission last night.

“For someone who’s been on Design Review for a long time, this is a rare treat,” said chair, Tom Telfer. “I think the lack of public comment is a testament to the clarity of the presentation.”

Steve Worthington of RMW Architecture gave an overview of the project, particularly for the three new commissioners who are now serving on design review. 

For newly-appointed commissioners Michael Barber, Joseph Farrell and Jon Strickling it was their first design review meeting – and for some of them – a first comprehensive look at the plan for city offices.

“There’s been a strong desire from everyone involved that the materials and design conceived all go together,” explained Worthingon, referring to the renovated city hall.

The city administration building plan carries many of the same elements as Novato City Hall, including the clapboard siding painted the city’s signature red, with white accents and a dark-tiled roof.

Later during the project workshop, Worthington ran through an array of design options and the words “value engineering” were used several times where less expensive materials could be used on the roof, siding, windows, planter boxes and the base of the building.

“We’ve lost about a million dollars because of a loss of redevelopment dollars that were part of the budget,” Worthington said.

But the biggest hit of the meeting was the scale model showing the new office building in reference to the city hall and the Community House as well as some of the buildings along Cain Lane.

The model sparked lots of conversation, input and cell phone photography.

New commissioner Michael Barber said that the model provided a level of detail that was impressive. “You see a drawing on a little page or a website and it just doesn’t do it justice,” he said.

Novato resident David Jackson was disappointed that the model showed that the entrance to the city offices was located in the middle of the plaza, rather than near the streets of Machin or Simmons.

“It needs curb appeal,” Jackson said. “If you’re going to spend that much money there should be an effort so it has some presence.”

Resident Pat U’ren has been following the progress of the design and particularly liked the underground parking feature with an entrance off of Cain Lane. “I think it helps the merchants,” she said.

Perhaps thinking about Novato’s hot summers, Robin Diederich brought up the number of windows on the building. “When I see a lot of windows, I think they’re beautiful, but I also think of energy conservation,” Diederich said.

Worthington explained that the south facing side of the building was designed with an overhang to increase shade.

While nobody showed up to specifically to comment on the cost of the building or the downtown location, one public speaker did questions the city council’s decision not to erect story poles on the site to show the building’s height.

“To pursue the upmost transparency, story poles should be put up for the community to see,” said resident Trish Boorstein.

New commissioner Barber, a Novato architect, agreed. “I’ve had to put up story poles for a bathroom remodel so I think for any civic construction project, there should be story poles,” he said.

Overall the comments from the commission were positive as they gave feedback and set some priorities on which materials were favored, for the architect.

According to the city’s senior planner, Stephen Marshall, the city staff will now work with the architect to make the design fit into the reduced budget before it goes back to the city council for review.


The scale model of the new city administration offices will be on display for the public once a location is determined. Notice will be posted on the city’s website.

Tina McMillan February 03, 2012 at 05:43 PM
Bud Measure D goes all the way back to 1987."....Generally measure D requires voter approval prior to the construction of any city facility...." The history behind the downtown office project is important because it has been so contentious. It is a shame that you would think than anyone's comments to the council, including their own members are a waste of time. You're right when you say the council has the last word, but according to their own website: "the council...is ultimately responsible to the people for the actions of government."
Bill February 03, 2012 at 09:10 PM
In reading these posts it appears the parking study is flawed and/or incomplete. It is not a matter of a loss of five or six stalls, but a matter of 1.) how many on-site parking stalls are needed to support a building of this size with 60-80 employees and associated support vehicles and 2.) what happens to the folks who are already parking on the site. Is there room on the adjacent streets to handle the overflow? Maybe it is time for the second and concludiong phase of the parking study. It is also disturbing the project was not put up for ratification to the voters. Bypassing the voters was based on a legal opinion from a Sonoma attorney. A legal opinion is nothing more than a legal opinion; It implies that the voters cannot legally do anything about it if City Council wants to bypass them, according to the author. Common sense says let the voters say yea or nay. Put it on the November, 2012 ballot. That's what they would do in a democracy.
Tina McMillan February 04, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Bill Please write to the council. Trish is trying to get story poles but thus far the council has stopped every person that has questioned this project in any manner. From what I can tell there is no oversight once the council attains a majority. Unless council votes can be swayed Eric is the only council member willing to question the validity of the project and of the studies. They are determined to push this through without any public oversight.
Worry February 04, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Bill, Fyi. It is not a 21,000 sq ft building it is more than 23,000 sq ft. The obvious concern is that they have more employees than parking spaces and their visitor studies indicate an additional 13 per hour (4 days per week) visiting these offices. The parking study (Walker) stated that day time parking will be very problematic. THE BIG ISSUE here which the city doesn't want to address and the parking studies don't address is that 999 Grant and the theatre will add THOUSANDS of additional cars in need of parking each week. THESE STUDIES DO NOT ADDRESS THESE PARKING REQUIREMENTS. Are we so short sighted that we as a town, and this council, are not able to see this?! If you do contact the council they WILL tell you that these city offices do not cause a parking problem.. They can probably get away with arguing that (even though it is false). THE REAL PROBLEM is the additional parking we will need very shortly and it is not a couple spaces.. it is hundreds daily! The city wanted to revitalize downtown. The people wanted it too. This project will create a parking nightmare once these long awaited, revenue generating commercial projects open their doors.
Baxter February 21, 2012 at 07:57 PM
The rejuvination of Downtown...Grant Avenue...new city offices...new theatre....new businesses. Why should there be a parking problem? The City Council looked into the future and envisioned a walkable, sustainable, community. The SMART train downtown station will alleviate the parking problems for Downtown Novato. Ooops! City Council allowed the downtown train station to disappear. Bummer!


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