TAM Is Already Looking For Consultants To Prepare A Community Based Transportation Plan For Novato

"The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) requests proposals from qualified consultants to update the Marin City Community-Based Transportation Plan, and to prepare a Community-Based Transportation Plan for Novato. Questions will be accepted through Monday, February 10 and responses regarding this request for proposals (RFP) will be posted online.

The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) serves as the Sales Tax Agency and Congestion Management Agency for Marin County and will take a lead role in this process as contract administrator.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: The proposal shall be dispatched in order to be received at TAM's office (781 Lincoln Avenue, Suite 160, San Rafael, CA 94901) no later than 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 13, 2014."

On Tuesday February 4th, the Novato city council was asked to vote on an agenda item that designated the entire city of Novato as a Low Income Community for the purpose of accessing transportation funding through the Transportation Authority of Marin.

  • The Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM) has designated Novato as a Low Income Community to access funding through a program called: Community Based Transportation Planning (CBTP).
  • TAM suggests that they took this action at the behest of Novato's city staff and council and yet no one is certain who started the ball rolling and why it wasn't voted on before TAM took the reigns.
  • Novato already has access to Lifeline Funding as part of the Bus Stop Improvement Project with a grant of $985,000. Why would the city want or need to designate itself Low Income if access to Transportation grants is possible without a CBTP? Shouldn't council members be asking the same question?
  • Linda Jackson of TAM and Erica Erickson of Marin Grassroots tell the council how important it is to accept CBTP funding. Erica Erickson describes the benefit to San Rafael's Canal area, when it accepted a CBTP in 2006. 
  • What Ms. Erickson omits is the fact that the city of San Rafael rejected ongoing participation in the TAM program when TAM ignored one of the most critical elements of the Canal project which was a bicycle/pedestrian bridge on Grand Avenue. The city described eight years in which it worked with TAM only to lose funding for the most important part of the process. The dedication of staff time, and the involvement in a technical advisory committee was no longer worth the funding it might receive.
  • At Tuesday's meeting, Two council members, Eric Lucan and Madelaine Kellner, voted yes without any attempt to vet TAM's offer. Two council members, Pat Eklund and Jeanne MacLeamy voted no and began asking the question, "How will a CBTP, declaring the whole of Novato, a Low Income Community, affect residents, businesses and city staff?
  • The only two other communities that have access to this grant are Marin City and the Canal area in San Rafael. Marin City achieved this status when TAM declared that more than 30% of their residents had incomes at twice the federal poverty level.
  • Novato's median income for the 2010 U.S. census is approximately $80,000 a year and persons living below the poverty level are 7.4%. 
  • It would seem that the city of Novato as a whole has not earned the designation of Low Income.
  • Community Development Director, Bob Brown, ask's TAM's Linda Jackson if there are any "strings" attached to the funding. Linda replies no, without acknowledging that every project creates a domino effect of requirements including a reassessment of RHNA. 
  • In response to questions from the audience and council members Eklund and MacLeamy, Linda Jackson also prepared an explanation of how TAM manages CBTP grants.
  • CBTP is a "grassroots" approach, led by TAM; low income residents are identified by 2010 census data and demographics, including interviews and focus groups led by outside consultants; guidelines require a map of the project area; consultants develop an outreach program with the help of Novato city staff; meetings of the "Stakeholder Groups" are open to the public; Focus Meetings are by invitation only; Council will have the option to reject, modify* or accept the plan (San Rafael was unable to modify the plan after 8 years of working with TAM); CBTP's include One Bay Area grant money; "the Board, including Eric Lucan and Judy Arnold, voted unanimously to approve the funding recommendation of $175,000 for the CBTP project."
  • What are the unintended consequences of accepting a designation and a grant program managed by TAM that will specifically identify areas throughout Novato as Low Income?
  • Community Based Transportation Planning and Environmental Justice Grants are "expected to help foster sustainable economies, increase affordable housing, improve housing and jobs balance, encourage transit-oriented and mixed-use development, expand transportation choices, increase safety, improve health, and reflect community values." according to the California state website.
  • If CBTP funding is tied to the development of Mixed Use and Affordable Housing how will accepting grant money affect our current zoning and general plan designations?
  • Who is best equipped to identify transportation and planning needs of a city of 52,000+ residents: City Staff, TAM, Outside Consultants?
  • Why would Novato residents want TAM to designate and pay an outside Consultant to decide which areas of our community need transportation related repairs and improvements?
  • Do we really believe that people who live outside Novato, who work outside Novato and who have no ties to Novato are in the best position to make land use, planning and  financial decisions for Novato? 
  • Even with the participation of Novato's low income residents it is ultimately TAM, "Stakeholder's" and Consultants who make the decision of what is needed where. If Novato were to say no once a need had been identified what are the potential consequences?  Could Novato be sued by Stakeholder groups, like Public Advocates or Marin Grassroots?  Lawsuits and land use and planning decisions seem to go hand in hand.
  • If CBTP is only being done for the money, how much will it actually cost to access funding? Can we afford to put CBTP projects first?
  • CBTP is a Net Negative program where all the grant money goes to TAM and outside consultants but has city staff and the city council doing tracking,  record keeping, accounting  to be eligible to receive funding. If mistakes are made, Novato pays for them.
  • What else does Novato pay for?  At least 10% of the funding for any project will come directly from Novato's general fund. In some cases that 10% is increased to as much as 50%. Who decides?
  • The only two other communities in Marin receiving money from TAM through CBTP are Marin City and the Canal area of San  Rafael. Are staff and council members suggesting that Novato's demographics are comparable to Marin City and the Canal Area of San Rafael?
  • Nancy Mackle, the city manager of  San Rafael rejected TAM's offers to continue CBTP funding for the Canal area neighborhood because TAM rejected the city's view of critical project needs "quelling an important opportunity to complete the most critical pedestrian and bicycle transportation link to downtown for the canal neighborhood."
  • If CBTP's were optimal wouldn't San  Rafael continue down this road by accepting TAM's offer to make additional improvements to areas where predominantly low income residents live?
  • What happened to Novato's focus on Transparency and Local Control?  Why the rush to engage outside consultants to complete a study of Novato's transportation needs?  Doesn't city staff have a good estimate of what projects, in order of importance, most need to be funded? 
  • Is it worth any amount of money to risk fracturing the relationship between the city and its residents by handing over a planning decision to an outside consultant? In 2009, when we were working on the Housing Element wasn't that what got us into trouble to begin with?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Al Dugan February 08, 2014 at 12:52 AM
Tina, well done. You have captured the meeting perfectly. This is the "bum rush" attempt to tag Novato as a low income city. I am shock the city council members would even consider this issue. Will real estate agents have to disclose Novato has been designated a low income city by The Transit Authority of Marin (TAM)? Who is behind this?
Wire February 08, 2014 at 01:10 AM
Just what I said about two years ago about bring in lower income peoples. One Bay Area!
Trish Boorstein February 08, 2014 at 01:12 AM
Thank you Tina for all the research. Another question that has to be asked is, "How do all the other Marin County cities take care of their transportation needs and priorities?" "Do they designate themselves as low-income cities in order to get funds?" I don't think so. And Novato shouldn't have to either. The discussion resumes Tuesday 11th at 8pm, city chambers, resulting with a final vote.
Bob Ratto February 08, 2014 at 10:58 AM
Canal drops out, Novato has to be sucked in so jobs can be justified..maybe it's just me, but I don't typically think of the income levels of Marin City and Novato as being anywhere near equal...the City Novato is most alike is San Rafael..funny how they dropped out and their former community development director is now here..say no to this, it is a bad scheme, giving up local control, targeting/redlining certain areas, and is not fiscally sustainable...
Bob February 08, 2014 at 12:30 PM
The low income, high density, subsidized housing advocates are relentless. When you think the City has reached a nice balance of development then you find out that some City Council folks want to destroy everything the residents have fought for.
Eleanor Sluis February 08, 2014 at 01:31 PM
Bravo, Tina for a well thought out article-thanks--I agree that looking at unintended consequences with thoughtful consideration is more important than being pushed into a program with legal threats of losing money and increasing high density, massive buildings, extra traffic, higher taxes and related syndromes (deleterious sequelae) related to poor planning- spin-off effects. One of the spin-offs lack of communication (incommunicado) by the city staff and council is the fund called Lifeline 20% kickback / matching funds which can bankrupt the city over time. 20% of $ 4,000,000, $$$,$$$ taxpayers dollars kicked back for this project is $ 800,000. Novato would have to raise taxes to pay for this program and for the new bus hub of $ 3,000,000 kickback of 10-25% another $300,000 - $ 750,000 which is currently not accounted for in Novato’s famous fiscal sustainability plan. Neither the city nor the council talk about this. Pat Eklund nor Madeline Kellner on the big transportation board do not explain these kickbacks/ matching funds. WHY? Politics? Yet, I and others support them and the rest of the council and staff in having better communication about economic ramifications. A difficult job in making decisions takes time.
Baxter February 08, 2014 at 01:38 PM
Tina - Excellent summary of the city council's 2/4/14 Agenda item regarding the CBTP. It's written so that we can understand this complicated issue. Just wondering why everyone is afraid to say that Carol Dillon- Knutson (past council member) was the one who recommended to TAM a few years back that Novato could be a good candidate for this Plan. Linda Jackson from TAM stated at the 2/4 council meeting that "Carol Dillon Knutson offered this up to TAM and it's been sitting on my plate all this time...I'm presenting this to council tonight [regardless of a past council member's recommendation] because this CBTP is a good plan." Question is...a good plan for who? Thanks again for your summary and input. I'm forwarding this to residents in my neighborhood.
Tina McMillan February 08, 2014 at 02:15 PM
Baxter: It's difficult to know who is behind the recent push. In the TAM memos it also says that Eric Lucan and Judy Arnold put this back on the table last December. I think council members and supervisors are too comfortable accepting government grants without looking at the fine print. They think there is a free pot of money and we need to get in line first. ========================================== This grant isn't free. As Eleanor stated the matching funds could be anywhere from 10% to as much as 50% if TAM disagrees with our assessment of greatest needs. ========================================== If the city already has a Lifeline Grant, which according to TAM's website we do; then why would we need to change how we obtained that money? No good can come from identifying a city of 52,0000+ residents as Low Income. The census shows the percentage of Novato residents living below the poverty level is 7.4%. That number for the county is 7.5%. Would Marin County consider identifying itself as a Community of Concern? Of course not. Poverty exists throughout the state. Our statistics are at half the state level. Novato has people in need throughout the city, not concentrated in one area like Marin City and the Canal. ========================================== We need our public works staff and planning staff to give us a list of the most critical projects related to transportation and infrastructure and then figure out how we are going to pay for those costs. That would be living within our means. If a grant allows the city to make its own assessment, without a costly process where oversight takes up more man hours than the actual project, then we can consider the funding. ========================================== I just pray the council will think this one through. Eric and Madelaine didn't eve blink an eye. They just assumed if it was for a good cause it was a good thing. That is the danger of government grants that are outside our control. Even San Rafael said no.
Baxter February 08, 2014 at 02:36 PM
Tina - Needless to say that this "good cause" will look great on the council's resumes as helping the "needy' when in actuality it's helping ABAG/Plan Bay Area reach their goals, not the goals of the Novato community....
Bubba six pack February 08, 2014 at 03:59 PM
When I saw the sandbags on the front page I thought it was an article about bracing for this new flood of AH we had turned away so many times before. Wrong article, but same idea. How to the others do it? If Novato homeowners comprise 63% of the total residents, and the renters comprise the low income, then how do these numbers work in Ross? They sandbag, by designating the Art and Garden Center as their AH spot. We need to designate a site that will never be developed, like the theater. Hats off to Pat and Jeannie, for asking questions and not allowing them to bum rush us. Don't blame Judy and Eric. Judy never represented Novato, and Eric will kiss the highest turdcutter every time. Shame on Madeline for signing a blank check, starting at 10% participation, but with an open ended commitment later. She obviously never heard of bait and switch.
Roger February 08, 2014 at 05:07 PM
Tina: Thanks for writing this informative article. Lack of a local Patch editor doesn't stop the Novato Patch from being helpful...with your research efforts. Thanks again.
Tina McMillan February 08, 2014 at 06:04 PM
Roger: You're welcome. Novato Community Alliance and Novato Homeowners Association are other neighborhood groups whose websites and email blasts will help you keep up with local news. ========================================== http://www.novatohoa.com/ http://nca4bh.org/ncasite_j17/index.php/en/
Bubba six pack February 08, 2014 at 08:21 PM
Bob- are you saying that San Rafael got rid of this deal and the person who ran it, only to see this person appear in Novato and back the deal here? Sounds like they're using Novato as the dumping ground again, the same practice that resulted in Novato building more affordable housing than the rest of Marin combined in the las ten years. We need to get the lawyers from Ross, who's held off this onslaught successfully so far.
Trish Boorstein February 08, 2014 at 09:59 PM
Bubba, taken from the link http://www.tam.ca.gov/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=6871 San Rafael's letter to TAM stating their reasons to decline an update to their CBTP in the Canal. 2. The Public Works Department has spent a lot of effort and time to obtain a grant to design (design study) a bicycle and pedestrian bridge on Grand Avenue, which is complete. Unfortunately, during the last OBAG (One Bay Area Grant) process, this important link from the Canal neighborhood to the Downtown Transit Center and San Rafael High School was not identified by TAM as a viable or high priority project to fund. Unfortunately, this action quelled an opportunity to complete an important, if not the MOST CRITICAL pedestrian and bicycle transportation link to Downtown for the Canal neighborhood. Bubba, San Rafael spent a lot of money and time for this project and it was rejected. TAM operates heavy handedly.
Stephen Nestel February 11, 2014 at 07:57 PM
This is amazing. The middle income communities get dumped on in Marin so the rich communities can claim that they have "done something" when in fact they are avoiding their fair share. Where is Judy Arnold on this? Doesn't she want to be re-elected? Why won't she stand up for the community?
Tina McMillan February 11, 2014 at 09:22 PM
Stephen: Judy is behind this. The professional politicians can't turn down government funding even when it will cost more in staff time than Novato can afford. Novato needs to create its own list of transit priorities and then decide which ones are most critical. There is nothing wrong with funding projects that will serve lower income residents but Novato, unlike San Rafael's Canal and Marin City, does not have segregated populations where you can label any one neighborhood as impoverished. In reality for all of Novato to benefit we need a city wide plan designed by city staff, not outside consultants. Novato and MTC did a Transit Plan in 2011 and we have a plan to rehabilitate our central bus stop at Redwood and Delong/Grant but no money to do the work. You can't say the commercial/industrial areas are impoverished because they aren't and you can't predict which projects the consultants will choose. What you are left with is a cluster of crazy that means city staff time will be taken up to create an assessment thus distracting from the real need to find funding for projects that don't qualify as CBTP's. It's so backward thinking as to be prehistoric but career politicians dont' think when they see what appears to be free money. CBTP's require 30% of the population to live at twice the federal poverty level and they do not fund 100% of any project. No matter what we will be dipping into the general fund at a time when we have not a penny to spare. It should be interesting tonight. The swing vote is with Denise Athas.
Elvis February 13, 2014 at 04:14 AM
good luck NOvato, this is all just a reminder that it is ALWAYS important to read the fine print, especially when there is "free" money involved.


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