Still Interested in Housing Mandates? Meeting Monday Night at City Hall

The Novato Planning Commission will be briefed on the state of the city's general plan and its associated housing element as they relate to state law.

Although no formal action will be taken by vote, a Monday night workshop about Novato's future plans for housing still could be action-packed.

The city of Novato staff is to roll out details about state law and how it relates to the housing element of the city's general plan during a meeting of the Novato Planning Commission. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. at Novato City Hall.

There was no written report on the city's website prior to the meeting, which adds an element of drama to the proceedings.

Previous public input about housing quotas are to be reviewed at the meeting as they related to the housing element, the document the city must turn in every seven years to show how it is planning to provide enough housing for new residents.  City staff is to lay out the steps involved in the public review process for the housing element as well.

For more than two years, citizens have spoken up — sometimes loudly — about regional housing mandates brought forth by the Association of Bay Area Governments, the regional agency charged with allocating the state housing mandates to counties, towns and cities. Several groups sprung up and strongly urged the city to fight back against any forced housing mandates.

Two years ago, Novato Community Alliance raised about 1,100 signatures in a two-week span to state opposition to high-density development of any kind. 

"The sentiments of the people here have not changed," wrote Pam Drew, the alliance's president, in a Sept. 10 letter addressed to City Manager Michael Frank and Community Development Director Bob Brown. "... We, the existing residents, have no intention of becoming collateral damage to rapid, expansionary growth policies."

A few individuals and groups have advocated for more affordable housing in Novato, but a majority have spoken up against mandates because of concerns about crime, population density, compatibility with existing neighborhoods and available sites for new complexes.

Novato is not alone. Many municipalities have lobbied ABAG to lower the targeted amounts of new housing. There are two related and parallel processes going on at ABAG related to housing allocations that stem from SB 375, a state law that seeks to tie transportation corridors to land-use planning as a way to cut greenhouse gases.

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation for 2007-2014 showed Novato needed 1,241 total units, about 25 percent of the needs for Marin County. That number included 275 units for very-low-income families and 171 for low-income families.

The draft figures for the next RHNA cycle (2014-2022) were drastically reduced — 414 for Novato, including 111 very-low-income and 65 low-income. The total number was about 18 percent of Marin's allocation. The final numbers for the next RHNA cycle should be available soon, ABAG said.

According to details on the city's website, the housing element must: 

  • Provide goals, policies, quantified objectives and scheduled programs to preserve, improve and develop housing
  • Identify and analyze existing and projected housing needs for all economic segments of the community
  • Identify adequate sites that are zoned and available within the seven-year housing cycle to meet the city’s fair share of regional housing needs at all income levels
  • Be certified (approved) by the state Department of Housing and Community Development as complying with state law
  • Be internally consistent with other parts of the general plan (and meeting this requirement is critical to having a legally adequate general plan)

There will be time for public comment at Monday's meeting. To learn more and see documents about the issue, check this section of the city's website.

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Jim L October 01, 2012 at 01:21 PM
They will all complain on here and then not show up to the meeting . Oh yes I forgot maybe they will post twenty times saying nothing to do with the facts except they have a problem getting the point across in one posting .
Craig Belfor October 01, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Do they have these meetings in Ross? That's where all the nannies, gardeners, and house cleaners work. They just live in Novato on Novato's tab.
BRIAN O'CONNOR October 01, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Katheryn October 01, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Some Cities are so bad they let billionaires build housing and their aggregate mining operations in the same residential area. Where is Governor Brown and Attorney Harris in all this? Please click on the You Tube Link below and then watch the You Tube Video in the story. If you are as angry as many of us are then please add this video to your Facebook, we need to get the word out to the world. http://temecula.patch.com/articles/citizen-reader-shares-mining-sounds
Al Dugan October 01, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I have spoken and written numerous times in the past on two issues that need serious consideration moving forward in the future planning of affordable housing.  The issues are essential to the future of Novato. First, the city should plan for it own needs in afforadable housing in a measurable and quantitative methodology so there is a based line to compare the city's real needs as opposed to arbitrary goals assigned by ABAG based on broad and general assumptions.  Top down planning is never a success methodology and is never used in the business world.   Secondly, Novato needs to consider Government Code Section 65584(d).  Novato has over built very low and low affordable housing in Marin in the past while other cities have build none or little.  The way to equalize very low and low affordable housing in Marin is to reduce Novato share to little or none in the the next 10 year housing cycle as required by Government Code Section 65584(d).  This requires “Increasing the housing supply and the mix of housing types, tenure, and affordability in all cities and counties within the region in an equitable manner, which shall result in each jurisdiction receiving an allocation of units for low- and very low income households.”   
Brant October 01, 2012 at 05:35 PM
We the People can control the Affordable Housing debate. There is an election in November. If you do not want the State to impose mandates on us, do not vote for a Progressive for any office.
Tina McMillan October 01, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Eden House, on Diablo Blvd, has already closed its list for applicants. There is no indication how many Novato seniors will be using this facility. For the most part we have been told that affordable housing is being built in our community for members of our community. This meeting is well worth attending. Anne Cronin Moore has left her position with the city and was suppose to be focused on the Housing Element. They city indicated they would post the actual housing element so that we can read it and see what areas are being submitted and at what densities and with what contingencies. It will not be a slam dunk since we are using the 20 units per acre designation. It falls upon us to show that housing built at a lower density is fiscally possible.
Al Dugan October 02, 2012 at 01:28 AM
This is an important time in the planning process. I will be there tonight.
Dave Robertson October 02, 2012 at 07:24 AM
Novato already has tons of devalued and very low cost housing brought on by the (nationwide) housing crisis. Why are we building more and more units? There are so many underwater homes in this city that we could call it a waterfront city. Why are the elected and unelected managers of this city so obsessed with complying with state law when the rest of Marin is ignoring them? The only planning that Novato should be concerned with is how we might move our housing market out of the toilet. And no, flushing it again is not a solution. The reality is that the Novato planning staff are merely trying to justify their paychecks by giving themselves something to do. What else would they be further planning a drowning city?
Dave Robertson October 02, 2012 at 07:31 AM
Novato's tab is an I.O.U. - remember, the city operated at a deficit. Oh, the City Council wants to add more constituents so they can fell less like part-time weekend warriors. But at what cost, and why do we keep voting for these egocentric and incompetent people? Why do we take them seriouly at all?
Roger October 02, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I think it was Trish last night that made a great point that City staff must be more helpful and transparent, saying staff is playing games by having this public meeting on the housing element and then saying the element will be available for viewing the next day. What a waste of a nice forum called there for the stated purpose of covering the housing element. I was amazed that staffer Elizabeth Dunn told commissioners that she would dictate the scope of last night's meeting. Activist Marla was honest saying it is going to get ugly. She must be hinting at the recent legal tolling agreement the City is negotiating with the Marin housing activists.
Al Dugan October 02, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Roger, can you outline the specifics of the legal tolling agreement the City is negotiating with the Marin housing activists?
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr October 02, 2012 at 04:20 PM
I disagree. There is NO constitutional mandate for a "fair share" of governemt subsidized housing. People should live where they can afford to live. Where in the constitution is there a mandate that paupers should live like kings? The Sacramento leftists, exerting their power to do so through ABAG, have imposed these mandates. Kill ABAG. Aside from that, Novato already has 33% of low income-felon, government subsidized housing with the Novato population only 25% of that of Marin. Why is Novato putting up with this?
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr October 02, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Not if 71% of Novato voters fail to vote. They deserve what they get.
Tina McMillan October 02, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Roger Strangely enough I think Marla was referring to the actual tenor of the meeting being held and not the future conflict over housing mandates. There was only one person at last night's meeting that spoke in favor of more affordable housing being built as part of ABAG and state mandates and that was Marla. What made last night's meeting so difficult was the fact that no reports were provided in advance so we could understand the ramifications of the density reduction. The report is a critical piece of getting this housing element approved and somehow the city planners thought they could conduct a meeting about the housing element without providing necessary data. The people in the audience appeared to be well informed and already knowledgeable abut the ramifications of not having a housing element submitted in a timely manner. Jay Strauss asked extremely helpful and pertinent questions and was put off by Elizabeth Dunn. It was odd. Hans Grunt was more affable. Elizabeth Dunn and the city attorney both focused on the most extreme consequences that would emerge if the housing element were not approved. It made me wonder why the city didn't continue last years work on the housing element with more of the suggestions of the adhoc working group. Public Advocates, was mentioned by Pam, as a group with a history of suing cities over housing elements. Jay suggested it was Marin Fair Housing that we need to be worried about.
Tina McMillan October 02, 2012 at 05:05 PM
People that are interested should attend the next planning session meeting on October 15th. Please note that Pat Ecklund was at the meeting and taking notes. Pat has stayed interested in what residents feel about decisions being made on a variety of issues. Though I may not always agree with Pat on every issue her concern for the city and her willingness to give residents a voice is genuine. If we lose Pat there will be no voice willing to challenge regional housing mandates. The letters written by the council were a huge step toward attaining more reasonable housing numbers. We should have pushed back earlier in this last cycle and I believe given the growth at Hamilton, we could have gotten a reduction in those numbers as well. There was a resident who spoke up about making it less expensive to build second units that could be used for family members. Here are links to two sites that show prebuilt second units of different sizes: http://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/35500/tiny-house-builder-tumbleweed-locates-in-sebastopol/ http://www.tinyhousetalk.com/ada-accessible-tiny-homes/ These prefab homes were being talked about after Hurricane Katrina and continue to be built throughout the U.S.. In Novato the cost of permits makes most of these homes too expensive for the average homeowner. If the city wants to use second units as part of the AH requirements we need to negotiate with all the involved agencies.
Tina McMillan October 02, 2012 at 05:07 PM
What impressed me most about last night's meeting was the range of people that attended because they have a genuine concern about how our city functions. We need city planners to help us by making all the information visible and accessible on the city website. It is unfortunate that the city waited a year to present a feasibility study on the 20 unit per acre density issue. Now to have Dunn and the city attorney talk about being out of compliance and being sued, seems more like a strong arm tactic to get a housing element submitted at a higher density of 30 units per acre.
Al Dugan October 02, 2012 at 05:57 PM
FThe city may have exposure for building too much very low and low affordable housing under as required by Government Code Section 65584(d).  This requires “Increasing the housing supply and the mix of housing types, tenure, and affordability in all cities and counties within the region in an equitable manner, which shall result in each jurisdiction receiving an allocation of units for low- and very low income households.”   
Eleanor Sluis October 02, 2012 at 11:31 PM
http://novato.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=682 The city has a dilemma following the centralized, over-reaching, Sacramento’s rules requiring building high density 30 plus units per acre in Novato. Novato’s residents subsidize affordable units. Acknowledging continuous needs of services for seniors, disabled, and the dispossessed, how best can taxpayers provide for services of safety, parking, and social services in a community, which has ongoing debt of one to 2 million dollars for police, administration, maintenance, roads and social services? The city council decided to build 20 units per acre and produce a feasibility study for Sacramento. Apparently, high-density groups want more units per acre. They threaten an expensive lawsuit if 30 plus units are not built to their satisfaction. Is this the same group that is threatening Marin County to build higher density in two years or there will be a lawsuit? Who is taking over Marin and Novato’s democratic procedures?
Eleanor Sluis October 02, 2012 at 11:34 PM
http://novato.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=4&clip_id=682 Is it time to countersue these groups because of their threats and harassment of city and county officials? Local and county responsibility mandates safety and care of its citizens. It means Novato and Marin’s regulations follow fiscal guidelines in using funds for city and county management, not for frivolous lawsuits threatened and harassed by Marin Housing Authority. A counter suit could stop the affordable housing groups from threats and harassment of forcing Novato and Marin County officials into higher densities and not recommended by the majority of the taxpaying citizens. It is far better socially, economically, politically, and environmentally productive to not act on fear of reprisals by groups which want to subvert a democratic process and to economically harm those residents who pay their hard earned money to live in an open, rural, agricultural space with its land trusts and low density. Maybe a push back with a counter suit is necessary.
Tina McMillan October 03, 2012 at 01:48 AM
First, The Department of Housing and Community Development, HCD, has the ability to create mandates that require the development of affordable housing in communities throughout the state. Unless we change state law we are better off working within the system to create reasonable numbers. Second, anyone can sue anyone and it just makes the attorneys more money. You can't stop a law suit but you can create a housing element that satisfies the spirit of the law. Novato's planning commission is doing just that with the draft housing element. They want to succeed but they wont know until it is submitted whether the new density designation will be challenged. There is nothing wrong with being challenged. Third, the city planners are not at fault because the city manager chooses to hire a PR position rather than add to the planning staff. We need to send emails to the council indicating where our priorities lie. Just because the city manager wants a buffer doesn't mean we need to spend over $83,000 on a new employee whose job it is to "communicate" with the public. Isn't that what council meetings and planning commission meetings are for. Fourth, You're right, fear is not a good reason to act, so instead of fear we need to keep ourselves focused on the common good. We had people speaking last night about second units, about additional properties from the AdHocWorking Group and about the need for better management once AH is built. Novatoans stay involved.
Al Dugan October 03, 2012 at 01:59 AM
HCD requires equal distribution per Government Code Section 65548 (d) an it is also a state law that requires equal distribution of very low and low affordable housing in Marin. Novato does not stand in a bubble and it is the responsibility they build in proportion to the rest of Marin.
Tina McMillan October 03, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Al I wholeheartedly agree the rest of the county needs to step up to the proverbial plate, but when it comes to the housing element we each stand alone. The state through regional agencies, makes a determination of what shall be built called Regional Housing Needs Allocation, RHNA. Ours were substantially reduced for the next cycle. The current cycle numbers still stand. We must provide a reasoned response or we will be liable. Here is a quote from the current draft housing element: " The City of Novato has a strong record of achieving affordable housing. Even though Novato has about 20 percent of the population in Marin, the City created 51.4 percent of the low and very low income housing in Marin during the prior planning period between 1999 and 2006. The Regional Housing Needs Allocation for lower-income housing for the entire county was 618 units; a total of 527 permits for low-income units were issued in Novato alone, or 85 percent of the total need." I believe the city planners are using these facts to argue that we can build at a density of 20 units per acre, with an AH bonus, meet our requirements for providing more affordable housing to a wide range of people and still maintain the character and integrity of our town. The only issue not currently addressed by HCD or the draft housing element is what Toni commented on last night. How will "best practices" be enforced in the multifamily units to be developed?"
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr October 03, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Why do you pay politicians in Sacramento, Marin County, and Novato for them to impose social engineering, cookie-cutter cities, identical to Richmond and Pomona? Why do the peoplewho for vote for these social engineers not just move to Richmond? THAT is Novato's future.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr October 03, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Eleanor, I hope that yours was a rhetorical question. Assemblywoman Torres and governor moonbeam have taken over the democratic process, with the consent of the Novato City Council. It would be nice if low income housing were occupied by the elderly and the disabled. Two problems. First, the elderly in these complexes are terrifed of their neighbors and are afraid to come out of their units (and often lkeave). Second, the "dispossessed" now means those with birthright entitements who have learned how to work the system, and quality for everything' even there are many more needy. Oops, thre things. The third is that everyone in Caifornia is disabled. Just walk around San Francisco and ask each person who has a dog in a restaurant. They are all "disabled". Yes, the lawsuit groups is the same "entitlements" bunch who successfully sued Corte Madera, and Corte Madera paid dearly. The problem is that California laws need to be changed so that the "entitlement" bunch do not receive all of the state funds. Margaret Thatcher was quoted as having said that "socialism is a great system until you run out of other people's money to spend". California has already run out and is still spending money that is not there. The feds, too.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr October 03, 2012 at 10:32 PM
@Al, wanna bet? Novato is not in a bubble, it is in a leftist sewer.
Tina McMillan October 04, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Jerome Just because folks don't agree with everything you say does not make Novato a "leftist sewer". You assume everyone is a socialist, while the proAH community calls everyone a conservative. It doesn't amount to anything when the name calling takes center stage. Novato is a great place to live. The city government can be improved with the participation of the residents. That is exactly what happened at the planning commission meeting regarding the housing element. October 15th is the next meeting with the draft housing element out it should be a good one.


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