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Final Sites

The final staff recommendation to the Novato City Council which took into consideration the Ad-Hoc Housing Working Group's recommendations was published after 8:00 PM Thursday, July 7, for public review. A copy of it is available at


To read or refer to the related July 14 Council Special meeting agenda go to


On June 21st, the City Council had received recommendations from the Ad Hoc Working Group in report written by City staff regarding the site selections for and an update of the City’s Housing Element. The City Council continued its discussion of the Housing Element with a focus on potential housing sites to July 14th.

At the suggestion of City Council member(s), six additional potential housing sites had been identified for discussion. Those six sites are the second list on the July 14 Council agenda. The public will be given the opportunity to comment on these six sites only AFTER the staff recommendation which involves some of those sites is made and discussed, an awkward but perhaps useful arrangement. This new staff recommendation is the first list of six sites located on the agenda (See Staff Recommendation below). Its importance has leapfrogged the list of six sites proposed by Council. City Staff has reviewed the site recommendations of the Ad Hoc Group and the new potential sites identified by the City Council and prepared their own recommendations to make a new composite list of sites which has three alternates not given anywhere but in the staff report, i.e., not on the single sheet marked agenda. Those alternates are the Quest Church site, the Atherton Ranch site restored to the Housing Working Group's original 44 units, and the original Woodhollow site. City Staff is requesting that the Council provide direction on the appropriate multi-family housing density, potential housing sites, and relevant housing policy all at the July 14 meeting before the public comment for the 6 newly-suggested sites is heard. It is unclear whether a vote will be taken on the staff recommendation at the end of the meeting. Presumably, anyone wishing to speak to agenda item #1, the staff recommendation itself, will be able to do so in the usual order.

The July 14 City Council meeting is special meeting on Thursday, closed session at 6:00, open session starting at 6:30. Arrive at least by 6:00 if you wish to sign up to speak to any of the six new sites put on as the request of councilmember(s) or for agenda item #1. It is not presently known which particular member proposed which particular site(s). Of the staff's composite list of six sites, contrary to custom, the agenda has council questions, discussion, direction, and comments scheduled from 6:45 to 8:30 when pubic comment is to begin on the Council-suggested sites. Density is being addressed first with the sites being second.

See below for the Staff Recommendation's Composite List in Red with staff's specifications for units included.

Arguably the only new site recommended by the staff is #2 on the staff composite list (first list on the agenda), the COMBINED sites of McClay Road at Novato Blvd (1901 Novato Blvd.) and with newly resurrected LifeLong Medical parcel next door at 1905 bringing the units to 42 plus up to 15 density bonus units, an INCREASE of 19 units not counting the density bonus(es).

The staff also recommended #6, a swap of the Woodhollow site with one 900 feet north of it. This latter change was indeed one indicated by the announcement of the 6 new council-suggested sites as being potentially "in lieu of" sites recommended by the Housing Working Group. It results in a great difference in the number of total proposed units from 39 to 130, but the 130 number is mostly market rate units. The low income units, however, are REDUCED from 39 to 26.

The #2 site (staff composite list) embodies a suggestion made repeatedly by the housing advocates of the Housing Working Group and rejected three times by a majority consensus. It is in no way a swap but it is clearly a merging of one site recommended by the HWG with another site not recommended by the HWG. The reduction of 13 low income units in the Woodhollow site is more than made up for with the 19 added to McClay. Adding the parcel next door (with density bonus up to 57 units total), results in an increase of 83% in the number of units at McClay. This additional parcel is listed as #13 on the staff report, a numbering scheme which creates additional confusion, with language mixing the merged proposal with the proposal for a separate site.

The #3 site is a staff density and designation swap of unknown origins where the Housing Working Group's recommendation was reduced from 44 units to 26 units with staff proposing a 1.1 acre commercial, 1.1 acre 'lower density' designation, and a 1.3 acre low income housing @22 units per acre designation.

The #4 site increase from 33 units to 44 units appears to be an error unless the transition area mitigation for the single-family house interfaces has been removed.

Comparing the Housing Working Group recommendation to that of the staff, the staff has removed the Seventh Day Adventist Church from its list leaving west San Marin completely unrepresented in the dispersion of low income housing. It also changed the Quest Church site from primary status to alternate status. The staff significantly altered three of the remaining six sites on the Housing Working Group list. Only one site/neighborhood received a major increase aside from the potential of 130 houses, mostly market rate, for the Woodhollow swap. The same neighborhood around the 1900 block of Novato Boulevard which was targeted last year has been targeted this year at the eleventh hour through staff and/or particular council member opinion(s). No justification of this singling out has yet surfaced but the matter may come up between 6:30 and 8:30 on the 14th, particularly if it is raised in the meantime. The Housing Working Group's list is becoming hard to recognize. Only Hill Rd. remains totally unchanged. Hill Rd. and Landing Court were originally considered as alternates by several on the Housing Working Group.

The regular council meeting will take place on Tuesday, the 12th before the special meeting. The strategic planning agenda item for the 12th refers to "development" of the city manager's working group report with no elaboration but there is a timeline for the Housing Element. This 'development' of the City Manager's Housing Working Group Report particularly, outstandingly affects the neighborhood around the 1900 block of Novato Blvd, adjacent to the Square Shopping Center.

Exactly why does the city have to have the 1900 block of Novato Blvd for low income housing?


City Staff recommends a multi-family housing density of 22 units per acre to accommodate low income housing and the specific potential housing sites listed below (see map above):

  • 1787 Grant @ Virginia, 39 units
  • McClay Rd @ Novato plus adjoining property, 42 units total
  • North Redwood @ Pinheiro and Ranch, 26 units
  • Landing Court (RV storage), 44 units
  • Hill Road(off Redwood @ Ford Dealer), 29 units
  • North Redwood/Campus Properties site (900 feet north of Wood Hollow) 26 units


  • Quest Church parcel, 33-42 units
  • Atherton Ranch @ 44 units
  • original Woodhollow site, 39 units


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