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.

Toot E. Picks Can Hurt Your Gums February 02, 2012 at 01:57 PM
This was a beautiful layout and the people of Novato must support it as you voted for the Council members who Voted to build this building. I know we are going to have the people who want nothing but change in this town, but they sleep all during elections and then complain after they are over. Please come to the party on the day our city manager and council members cut the ribbon on this one. Thank you Novato for putting this building Downtown
Worry February 02, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Toot wondering if you how many parking spaces this project is adding to downtown Novato?
Worry February 02, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Toot also wondering what your thoughts are on the amount of daily traffic this new building will get from visitors daily? Will this project help revitalize downtown with lots of visitors?
Concerned February 02, 2012 at 03:15 PM
If you look at the current parking lot it is filled with cars from the PD employees and old town visitors. If you add the employees for the cut the parking will be inadequate at best.
janna nikkola February 02, 2012 at 05:03 PM
It's just ludicrous that the old red wooden buildings on DeLong Avenue are in the forefront and the old wooden building next to the old City Hall building is being left standing rather than being demolished to make more room for usable office space or parking. Then the new city hall is being squeezed in behind these old red wooden structures, looking more like an after thought. I was always opposed to the $6.7 million being spent on renovating those old wooden buildings that had long outlived their usefulness and now stand vacant and unused, other than twice a month for city council meetings. I have no confidence whatever that the city coucil and city of Novato will manage to build this additional city hall within budget and on schedule, anymore than they managed the renovation of the old city hall which was over budget and not finished on schedule. Everything about Novato's city hall renovation and planning for a new one has been a huge boondoggle and a waste of the taxpayers' money.
Tina McMillan February 02, 2012 at 05:12 PM
http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/Index.aspx?page=637&recordid=1150&returnURL=%2FIndex.aspx%3Fpage%3D1 Novato City Office Mitigated Negative Declaration 1/2012 The city intends to build the downtown offices regardless of public feedback. Page 81 of the declaration: "Parking As noted in Appendix D, a parking analysis was conducted for this Project. The City’s parking requirements are set forth in Municipal Code Section 19.30. The analysis found that the construction of the Project in the existing parking lot would result in a net decrease of five spaces, increasing to six spaces over time (Walker Parking Consultants 2011). However, when the parking study was prepared, it assumed that up to 40 parking spaces in the vicinity of the Civic Center would be unavailable due to vehicles parked incorrectly, maintenance, or obstacles like broken glass. Such an assumption is extremely conservative and provides additional reasons to believe that the number of available parking spaces would not substantially decrease. The Project’s impact on parking in the vicinity of the Civic Center would be less than significant." If you read the declaration you will find that there is no "significant impact" on downtown parking. They are not going to address the cost (1 million lost due to closure of RDA) or the lack of a public parking structure. Sadly there are few ways left to challenge the decision of the council. Toot and the other anonymous posters will be pleased.
Lou Judson February 02, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Dark roofs and NO solar panels? With solar panels the cost of cooling the interior (if we ever have another real Summer) could be offset and earn the city income rather than cost in utilities. I am astounded at the lack of foresight in the building industry, and the people who pay them for outmoded contructions. Every building could more than pay its way if modern energy techniques were used!
Tina McMillan February 02, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Peak You and all the other anonymous posters begin to sound like the same person who says the same thing each time. The message is "you voted them into office now suffer..." Not everyone voted them into office and many are trying to make a difference. Whatever the cause of your bitterness it would be helpful if you could focus on the issue rather than your anger at the people of Novato. If you like the plan for the new city offices and feel comfortable with their location and cost then you should be happy about the direction the city has taken. Not everyone feels that way.
Karen February 02, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Peak - you are being facetious aren't you?
honu February 02, 2012 at 07:25 PM
Once again your planners/designers seem to miss the point. Let's move into the 21st century already and build buildings designed for the future and its electronic gadgetry. Parking IS a problem in Old Town, and I don't see that an underground parking garage will help. Get rid of the old buildings and bring Novato into the future and make it beautiful so people finally have a reason to come to Novato rather than pass us by. I agree with placing accesses to the buildings from the street sides. Stop being stuck in the past.
Tina McMillan February 02, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Take a look at Paul Mamalakis column in Novato Advance. Eric Lucan, who ran on a platform that questioned the council's decision to build downtown, is trying to advocate for the benefit of the city by questioning the council's decision to move forward on this project: http://marinscope.com/articles/2012/02/01/novato_advance/opinion/editorials/doc4f29cb9828ff5908673799.txt Unlike Peak and his ilk, I don't believe posting is a waste of time. Talking about these issues is the beginning of changing the way we do business. We saw that last year when folks spoke out about affordable housing density requirements and worked on a committee for an entire year to address the zoning issues that go along with ABAG quotas. Now we have Denise Athas writing to ABAG to say we are not willing to abdicate our rights to local zoning to go along with One Bay Area plan or to accept the additional housing thrown our way by San Rafael, a city that took money from MTC with the agreement of adding significant housing to its transportation corridor.
Tina McMillan February 02, 2012 at 07:34 PM
continued I do believe the council is pushing through a poor choice by building a class A office in old town. I am relieved that Lucan brought out the Measure F committee recommendations and I support his choice to purchase 75 Rowland over building downtown. That small area downtown is one of the last remaining areas in old town that could be used for parking and retail/commercial. We still need to rehab the community house. There are much better ways to use $20 million. If we are going to change course we need to do it now.
kai lancaster February 02, 2012 at 07:49 PM
I find some comments here to be incredibly disrespectful and mean spirited. Stop slinging mud because someone disagrees with you. If people have concerns or questions - great! They are participating in our democracy. The sun does not set on what our City Council says or does; their job is to hear all sides and do what is best for us. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't. Grow up and encourage dialog - don't mock it or try to shut it up.
Bill February 02, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Parking is a major issue here. Current plans show approx. 51 stalls on site. A 21,000 sq. ft. building needs at least 70 stalls. This does not count the Police Dept. people who currently park there (about 15 stalls) or parking that may be needed for the other buildings on the site. They are relying on street parking to make up the difference. Are there 34 stalls on the adjacent streets? I don't think so. Stalls are also needed for city owned vehicles, visitors, service vehicles, etc. The good news is when the building is closed (three days a week) the parking lot may be able to be used for the merchant's customers, similar to what now exists; unless they don't allow it. Net result is tighter parking conditions in Old Town for at least four days of the week. Remember the Novato based architect who did site studies and massing drawings two years ago? That firm showed a major parking structure integrated onto the site. That architect was politely shown the door and a new firm hired. Well, the Novato based architect's study was the correct solution, although the cost would have been much higher than $15 mil.
Trish Boorstein February 02, 2012 at 08:21 PM
At last nights San Marin Compatible meeting with Eric Lucan I read out a quote from the NY Times "An uninformed public is a threat to democracy. A misinformed public is even more of a threat". I asked Eric what he could do to keep his constituents informed and engaged when Public Comments at City meetings are basically ignored. He stated that he would read and respond to any emails or calls. He also suggested folks meet with him. I understand that 3 minutes is not a great deal of time during meetings. However, if multiple folks are commenting on the same concern and this platform for public speaking is to encourage civic engagement, then Council members have to sometimes challenge their peers and respond, question, or at the least acknowledge some of these concerns. Council members need to be more receptive during this time and not be afraid to speak up for fear of project delays. Better to be thorough and transparent. Unfortunately our City, Staff, and Council members (Pat Eklund excluded) have not been doing a great job of transparency. We as a community need to stand up to this. With all the outrage and petition against these City Offices, the least that should be done is put up story poles. The Council voted against this (Pat not included).
Tina McMillan February 02, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Bill What concerns me is the fact that the mitigation study denied the parking problems all together. As I recall the original study was done before the new buildings in the area were up and before the theater project was underway. It would be helpful to know why the mitigation report didn't address the questions raised by this new development.
Tina McMillan February 02, 2012 at 08:26 PM
The MacDonald plan is still in his office, including three-D models. At that time the city conducted numerous public workshops and the plan was to have parking as an integral part of the development. When MacLeamy came on board the council she questioned using the multiple buildings. It was her questions that appeared to stall the project and reorient toward purchasing an existing building. Then when purchase of 75 Rowland failed instead of using MacDonald the city started a whole new concept of one building and no parking.
Worry February 02, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Question: How many parking spots is the city adding to the current amount with the city office project? Answer.. None. They are REDUCING the supply by 6. Question: Will there be enough parking onsite for city employees? Answer: No. There are 51 spots and they have 60 employees. Question: Where will visitors to city offices park if there are too few parking spots for their own employees? Answer: They will park on downtown streets. Question: Did the city parking studies include the impact that the 20,000 sq foot (office/retail) 999 Grant Ave and the 300+ seat, 2 screen theatre projects would have on parking downtown? Answer: No. The studies do not accurately and/or completely exclude the parking impact that these two huge projects will have on downtown Novato. Each project will generate a need for hundreds of additional parking spots daily. Question: How many visitors does the city anticipate visting city offices daily? Answer: Their study has indicated an average of 13 visitors per hour during their hours of operation (four days per week). Question: When will city offices be open? Answer: They are open 4 days per week from 9-5pm. They are closed Friday, Saturday & Sunday. The building will be closed "dark" with no visitors or employees every single night and every single Fri, Sat & Sun. continued..
Worry February 02, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Question: Does the city's own downtown general plan call for a parking facility on this site to help continue the revitalization of downtown and help increase tax revenues? Answer: Yes Question: How does the city and its supporters believe city offices will help "revitalize" downtown Novato? Answer: We are not sure. This project will reduce parking when two huge projects are slated to open with in 2 yrs. The city building a 23,000 building for a few employees that are more apt to "brown bag it" as the positions with the city are often lower paying jobs and their own visitor studies show minimal visitors doing business at their counters daily as a large percentage of city customers do their work online. All signs point to this project drastically affecting parking, costing far too much, and limiting commerical growth and similarly much needed tax dollars.
Mark Burnham February 02, 2012 at 11:24 PM
i just read paul s. mamalakis piece in the novato advance (pg a4) it is a MUST READ! eric lucan the one male city council member brought up a letter dated dec 15th 2011 and authored by the city's measure f oversight/citizens finance committee that said they voted on nov 17th to stop the construction of city hall offices and review other options. the vote was 4-2. they blasted the plan to build downtown stating "the city is effectively losing more than $6 million the moment the building is constructed". this committee is made up of very saavy members.. and they are adamant that the city council not build on this spot downtown. paul mamalakis, the author of the commentary, asks whether "novato officials have been involved in a cover-up to prevent the derailment" of their offices? according to mamalakis the four other council members (eklund, macleamy, kellner, and athas) quickly "dismissed" lucan and his request to reopen discussions on this office project and moved on. apparently, the four female council members are smarter than the oversight committee, the majority of novato, and eric lucan. read this article. the city council is ignoring the will of the people and their own financial oversite committee who states that building here is financially corrupt. stand up tax payers and let the city know how you feel.
Bob Ratto February 03, 2012 at 02:49 AM
http://www.cityofnovato.org/Index.aspx?page=1610 Don't know if that is the right link, but it will get you to the Measure F oversight Jan 15 letter. The letter is very short and to the point, and discusses the fiscal impact of new offices. The Advance piece is nice, but I don't know that one could call it a "cover up", maybe a better term would be "fiscally irresponsible", or "blissfully ignorant"...I mean, just because you skirted Measure D, floated high interest rate bonds, made claims like 15 year old building are "halfway through their useful lives", "rent is too expensive" (even though bonds are WAY more); the primary funding mechanism for the bonds (RDA) is gone, you have a significant ongoing structural deficit, 1000+ citizens signed a petition to say "hey, wait a minute" parking is going to be a mess when 999 is in place (and the study looked phony)...well, heck, whatever could be wrong with this little project? If Lucan feels strongly about it, he should bring it up at every meeting and get this on the front burner.
Tina McMillan February 03, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Mark The tragedy is that Eric's statements have been said repeatedly to the council since spring of last year and the only council member willing to question the feasibility of moving forward is Eric Lucan who was just elected. Even the Measure F committee was dismissed last December and again this January. It makes one wonder if there shouldn't be some form of oversight that can stop the council when it refuses to consider public input and committee input. Previous councils engaged the public in discussions about downtown offices and had multiple public workshops when creating a plan with MacDonald architects that included a parking structure. Jeanne MacLeamy joined the council and totally changed the course of the project from build to buy and then back to build but with her vision of one building/no parking structure. What's even worse is the current mitigation study that glosses over the parking issue. It makes me queasy to think how much power the council has to push through a $20 million project ($40 million if you consider the interest payments on the bonds) with no oversight. The city manager works at the discretion of the council and no one has the authority to stop the council once it makes a decision. Even the committee participants are all council appointed. Talk about stacking the deck in your favor. Then the committees work very hard to provide feedback and are discounted when the feedback doesn't reflect the will of the council.
Tina McMillan February 03, 2012 at 04:01 AM
continued This may be the first council that has refused to listen to any feedback regarding a decision of this magnitude and cost. If you go back to the days of Betty Machado this issue has been debated for decades and in the past it always came to a vote. That was the ultimate reason behind measure D but the council was able to bypass its effects by creating a onetime payout through the interest charged and the loan repaid by the RDA. (http://www.ci.novato.ca.us/agendas/pdfstaffreports/measured.pdf) See Measure D proposed wording fronm 2004
Worry February 03, 2012 at 04:07 AM
Thanks Bob. Here is the city link to the Measure F Oversight Citizens Finance Committee.. This is on the city website and lists their duties: http://www.cityofnovato.org/index.aspx?page=1561 The committee members: Chris MacKenzie, David Bentley, Alan Berson, George Cohen, Cairin Devine, and Robert Jordan. Congratulations to the four on this commitee who votied 4-2 to tell the city council to stop building city hall as it will "lose" the city of Novato $6 million dollars upon breaking ground. This committe is repeating what thousands of Novato citizens, every commericial real estate broker, and many of the city of Novato's own employees have been saying behind closed doors.. "Do not build and waste our tax dollars!" Thanks to this committee and thank you to Eric Lucan for keeping up the good fight. Here is to hoping that Denise Athas, Madeline Kellner and Pat Eklund stand up to Jeanne MacLeany and fight for what the vast majority here in Novato knows is a giant boondoggle.
Tina McMillan February 03, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Worry I agree with everything you have said but keep asking myself what can be done to stop this without losing the entire RDA loan repayment due to the three year clause and whether we still have the option of purchasing 75 Rowland or a comparable structure. It seems like an end run by the council on both Measure D and purposefully funding the RDA repay to create a time bind and a hindrance to purchasing property that could be leased out. The money from the RDA is from a tax free bond measure. This measure does not allow the money to be used to purchase a structure that could be leased out to create income. I believe that was the final analysis of the bonds. So way back in December of 2010 the council created bond funding from an agency that would soon be defunct and that had strict limitations on how it could be used. Talk about lack of transparency. How do you question a decision where you have no opportunity to vote and a deck stacked against any other reasonable options?
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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