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Senior Housing in Works for McPhail's Property

West Bay Builders has turned in a proposal to city planners for a 117-unit senior care facility just south of Hanna Ranch.

It’s in the really early stages, but a plan to build a new senior housing complex on Novato’s east side is under way.

A Novato developer has proposed to have a commercial property rezoned for 117-unit senior housing community at a vacant chunk of land near the junction of highways 101 and 37, a city official said.

West Bay Builders, a large-scale public works and heavy civil builder based in Bel Marin Keys, is pursuing plans for the old McPhail's property, a flat parcel just north of Highway 37 and just south of the Hanna Ranch area, according to planning official Alan Lazure.

The undeveloped property, right next to the railroad tracks that are used for freight service and eventually for the SMART passenger train, is zoned for commercial use and would have to be rezoned for housing via a general plan amendment, Lazure said. West Bay Builders would have to fill out an application with the city to move forward to the Novato Design Review Commission or possibly the Novato Planning Commission, he said.

Rob Davison, development manager with West Bay Builders, reiterated that the plans turned into the city are very preliminary but that the complex would be complimentary to what’s already been approved at Hanna Ranch — a hotel, two restaurants, retail shops and several other buildings.

“Obviously there is a big demographic shift toward our aging population, and people are aging in place sometimes with inappropriate care and food. If you have a single-family home, sometimes that’s not the best place to be cared for when you reach a certain age. … What we’re talking about here is creating some first-class assisted living.”

The building, designed by Novato resident Bob Wright, would have 72,000 square feet of rentable space with a maximum of three stories. The Craftsman-style structure would have two restaurants, a pool, an art studio and gardens.

“The whole project would be oriented toward the (Hanna Ranch) hillside, so it would be attractive and would minimize the impact of getting rid of some of the oak trees,” which is part of the Hanna Ranch plans.

West Bay Builders has invested in three private-sector projects in Novato — the McPhail's property plus parcels at 803 State Access Road and an old gas station at Main Gate Road and C Street, both in Hamilton. The McPhail’s plans are furthest along, Davidson said.

The McPhail's site was approved for office space in 2008, but West Bay president Paul Thompson has pursued housing projects such as assisted care and full care rather than commercial developments partly because of slow economy.

 “We’ve owned the site since 2004 and we’ve gone through several iterations of what we wanted to do there,” Davidson said. “We’ve been approached by senior housing developers who are very excited about owning and operating facilities in Novato.”

Another senior housing facility is opening soon on Diablo Avenue in the downtown area. Hayward-based Eden Housing said a grand opening for the Warner Creek complex would be in the coming weeks.

"Senior facilities are a hot item now," Lazure added.

The tentative proposal at McPhail’s is for 68 one-bedroom units, 14 two-bedroom units, 11 studio units and 20 “memory care” units plus a variety of other units, Lazure said. Among those, there is talk of making about a dozen of the units for below-market-rate prices.

“(Affordable housing) is an issue in the city, and we’re trying to do our part to provide that BMR housing,” Davidson said.

West Bay is wary about access concerns to the site, Davidson said. The Hanna Ranch development will not have public access to Highway 37 or directly to Highway 101 (only via private road), so whenever that gets built, drivers will have to get there by cruising down Rowland Way behind Costco. If plans pan out for the McPhail’s senior complex, drivers would be able to reach Highway 37 via the Marsh Road and Hanna Ranch Road exits.

“It’s a little too early to tell about access and how it’s going to play out,” Davidson said. “Using common sense, it makes sense to have access to Hanna Ranch Road. … It’s going to be an ongoing discussion with the city about how it would work. The question remaining is whether we will be able to connect to Hanna Ranch other than emergency access on a private road.”

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Bob January 11, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Amazing that the Chamber of Commerce would not support low income housing on Hanna Ranch project and the City Council didn't demand it. Even though the State mandates for Novato to have more low income housing were being discussed, the Chamber addressed the City Council and said Hanna Ranch was to remote. So the developers of Hanna Ranch got by without doing their share to provide housing for the low income even though many of the employees at the restaurants, retail and hotel developed there would fit the low income category. This developer for the adjacent McPhail property sees this as a good location for housing. Also the Hanna Ranch developers were not required to provide access to Hwy 37 as a second entrance/exit to the Vintage Oaks shopping area even though the development will generate more traffic on Rowland Way. City of Novato needs to do a little better on master planning this traffic situation. housing. and now another outfit thinks it is a good location.
Kevin January 11, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Not as isolated as Smith Ranch homes and better than high density low income housing thats for sure! It will be good for the old people to be able to take a walk to the shopping center and I'm sure they have a shuttle service in place...
Tony January 11, 2013 at 03:58 PM
The road behind Costco should be open to everyone to access Highway 37 not just one project. Get your heads out of the dirt City leaders. Again this year I got stuck in Vintage Oaks at Christmas time because of lack of planning by all concerned or is there another reason this option is not done. Maybe something under the table with our not so truthful City leaders.
John Wyek January 11, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Viktage Oaks traffic during the holidays is a nightmare. I suggest making the traffic go only one way, in a counter clockwise loop. This would eliminate the need for the stoplight next to Taco Bell and the one by the old Burger King site, leaving only the stoplight at Rowland Way. Then if we could get a second point of access on the south side of the shopping center, we might be able to keep traffic flowing smoothly.
Marie Hoch January 11, 2013 at 05:42 PM
I am always puzzled by the traffic engineering around Vintage Oaks. Seems like they want to artificially restrict the number of cars that can head south on 101 in order to let the larger (?) number of cars head west over the overpass. Its as if they think most traffic is heading west, not south? Give us two dedicated lanes to enter 101 south and I think we will eliminate a lot of the gridlock.
Lloyd January 11, 2013 at 05:53 PM
AMAZING!!! All during the Hanna Ranch planning approval process and in front of the City Council person after person spoke about the need for all new development to do its fair share to helping Novato meet it's affordable housing needs and quotas. Of course the CC had already decided that the applicants (read as So Cal. for profit only build and fly away) for the new hotel and office space had waited long enough due to the City's inane and inefficient application process. SO rather than apply common sense they over-rode any rhyme or reason and declared the project was not appropriate for any housing. I'm going to be very interested to see how this plays out with the City and the Council. They gave away land and easements for the Hanna Ranch project that precluded any Hwy 37 link up. It is not safe to stick seniors out there and not have a second access point in the event of an emergency. "the times they are a changing"
Baxter January 11, 2013 at 05:55 PM
What level of care is planned for this facility? Most assisted living facilities these days have a "buy-in" arrangement whereby when you purchase a unit you are guaranteed a higher level of care (24 hour) when needed at a different location in the building where nurses, aides, and other employees work around the clock. There would have to be good access for emergency vehicles.
Steve B January 11, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Are Seniors deaf? Being surrounded by freeways and an active railroad seems very undesirable. The City should leave zoning as it is, AND connect 37 to the loop to relieve Rowland's idiotic traffic lights and intersections.
Dave Robertson January 11, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Senior housing is an important thing to be building. Of even more importance is assisted care and nursing facilities. The Bay area is loaded with baby boomers - all of which will create a demand sooner than later on this type of facility. Yet there is a dearth of these facilities. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that there are only a few of these units planned for "assisted living". There is a great need for that type of housing/care, it would fill the bill as "high density housing", and would be a service to the community. My late mother-in-law wanted to go to one of these facilities several years ago only to find out that there was very little around here that was available. Now THAT type of thing would be a positive move for the community!
Tina McMillan January 11, 2013 at 08:16 PM
If the Square were to be redone, it would be a great location for an assisted living facility, shops that cater to wellness and businesses that cater to wellness above the shops. Commercial assisted living facilities like Atria have a small nursing home component with more specific care. The idea is to create a project like this as part of a community and not isolated from the community by putting it out on 101. The only advantage to the Hannah Ranch site is the proximity to the hospital. It makes more sense to build workforce housing at Hannah Ranch for employees that will work at the hotel and offices. The Square is already part of a walkable neighborhood. A wellness center with shops below and businesses above and a assisted senior facility could turn the Square into a vibrant center again. Has anyone tried to reach out to Chang? I can't imagine a good businessman would want to continue to blight property and alienate neighbors. Working to create a project that would benefit the community and put money in Chang's pocket would seem like a win/win.
Tina McMillan January 11, 2013 at 09:21 PM
ONG Since you are still responding to my posts by trying to get me to stop I would politely suggest that you take your own advice.
Trish Boorstein January 11, 2013 at 11:50 PM
Great idea Tina! This has been circulated by other residents in the neighborhood and would seem to appeal to owner, developers, and residents. The question is how Novatoans are going to be able to present this kind of input, after staff as of March 2012 during the Council retreat where Brown sat silent, removed "community-based planning" from our Strategic Plan. Frank, Brown, and staff are no longer beheld to community input or more likely will never engage the community again.
Pete Adams January 12, 2013 at 12:58 AM
Tina, spot-on.
Lloyd January 12, 2013 at 01:31 AM
Senior's with the most needs generally are not in a position to purchase a property. And although we desperately need assisted living care I am wondering why we would consider changing the zoning for anything less then a 20% inclusionary dedication of low income units, not the 10% proposed in this article. The City Council has repeatedly stated that 20% is the acceptable goal. Furthermore I'm not sure how much acreage a vacant chunk of land entails. If we assume 30 units per acre including density bonus for seniors this chunk would need to be at least 4 acres in size. Also the issue over transportation as seniors generally don't have or are very limited with auto's. Will there be 24/7 security being out in the middle of nowhere? Will there be a link to either Hwy 37 or 101 in case of emergency at the very least. What type of shuttle bus service will be provided by the developer/owner. Where will the health workers servicing the complex live? Perhaps along with this project we ought to be asking if work force housing has a place out there as well. The Hanna Ranch project needs to be integrated in to the planning. This could be a real opportunity. I think if done correctly we can satisfy a major component of the senior and work force housing needs to benefit all. This is right up Bob Brown's alley. Could it be we could all actually work together and come up with a gr8 project for Novato? yeah I know it might make sense.. too good to be true.
Lloyd January 12, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Dude don't you ever get tired of being contrary. You seem to indicate you have some knowledge, care to share or is it just a lot of .....
Trish Boorstein January 12, 2013 at 02:40 AM
ONG, take note because this will be the only occasion I ever respond to you. I only respond to posters who actively engage in constructive dialogue even if there is disagreement. Posters who do not use their real names and demonstrate any history of trolling do not deserve my time.
Mark Schoenbaum January 12, 2013 at 03:08 AM
Trish- ONG is a true troll in all sense of the phrase. Just the fact that he has to keep developing new troll accounts (BudLight, MyWayOrTheHighway, et.al.) shows that he is desperate to keep sniping at those who do not share his overated opinion of his own opinions. He is likely insecure and afraid that if he exposed his real name that he would be scorned by the community (and rightly so), his only joy in life appears to be attacking people that do not agree with him.
Tina McMillan January 12, 2013 at 06:01 AM
Actually CVS has no plans to leave the Square which is another reason why a Wellness Center would be an attractive project. Does anyone remember the name of the fellow hired to bring in new business to Novato? I can't find him on the city website but he might be the person to reach out to Chang. This isn't about giving up private property rights. The Square has a huge impact on the surrounding neighborhood. Unless we stand up and speak out we have not chance of having an impact on what happens in our neighborhoods. I think the same could be said of the empty former Pini Hardware Building on Grant. If the city reaches out, if neighborhoods reach out, perhaps we can all make a positive difference together.
Bob Ratto January 12, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Tina I think the name you are looking for is Chris Stewart, he is the new Economic Development Director.
Susan Wernick January 12, 2013 at 09:39 PM
Lloyd, I agree with all your comments/concerns. Could be a wonderful facility like Smith Ranch in San Rafael if it's done right. Definitely need to look in to more than 10% of lower income inclusionary units. And, the proposal of this projects warrants another conversation surrounding workforce housing at Hanna Ranch as well.
Tina McMillan January 12, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Thanks!
Tina McMillan January 13, 2013 at 12:06 AM
ONG I asked and was told there are no plans to leave and there is an active lease in place. As for what they would do if Chang continues to blight the Square, like Tag's I wouldn't blame them one bit for leaving. It seems pretty clear that Chang has driven out almost every other tenant. There are no attempts to lease through commercial sites like Loopnet and during the last housing cycle there were conversations about low income housing being developed there. Thanks to Measure F money, we do have an Economic Development Director whose job is to bring businesses to Novato. Can you imagine what it would be like to have the Square redeveloped catering to a Wellness theme? (Thank you Michael R. for this suggestion.) This idea could produce a much better setting than the old McPhail's site because it is in a clean, quiet neighborhood. Why would anyone want to live that close to the freeway on a long term basis? As for bets on whose right or wrong, if you really want to create some nasty karma with the mean spirited dialogue then that's up to you. If you want to actually sit down and have a cup of tea and talk then we have a place to begin. It would be great to put a face on the person who has trolled the halls of Patch for over a year now picking fights and acting put out. I still don't know what it is that got your dander up to begin with but how about moving in a different direction? Otherwise its just you, Betty and Mary's Mama talking among yourselves.
Tina McMillan January 13, 2013 at 01:20 AM
ONG Bob's job is not economic development; its the draft housing element and the general plan. Chris Stewart is the fellow that is suppose to be our proverbial rainmaker. I guess you didn't like my olive branch. However I will keep trying. Time for football. Go Niners. Huey Lewis and the News are doing the Anthem. ONG, live a little, go have some fun.

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