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.