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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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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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