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Affordable Housing Advocacy Group Critiques Novato's Housing Plan

Stand Up for Neighborly Novato, which is vying for more sites in Novato for affordable housing, points out issues with the city's draft housing element.

A Novato-based group working to help create more affordable housing opportunities said the city's draft housing element, which was just sent off to Sacramento for state review, contains some positive steps toward making Novato more sustainable for its growing population but still falls short in several categories.

In a letter to the Novato Planning Commission, the Stand Up for Neighborly Novato group said programs that encourage mixed use and the development of vacant lots and other underused properties take the city in the right direction. But more sites need to be rezoned for housing and development needs to happen rather than just be discussed, the group said.

"SUNN looks forward to working with your commission and (city) staff to assure that housing element programs actually achieve their intended objectives and meet the requirements of housing element law," SUNN said in its letter. "We believe from our work in the community over the last 22 months that more sites are necessary to meet Novato’s great need for housing, and that HCD will agree with this point of view.

SUNN, established in 2011, said Novato needs more workforce housing to maintain a thriving community and provide options against Marin's highest-in-the-country rents that "still price out many of Novato's workers, seniors, persons with disabilities, and recent graduates."

In its letter, SUNN said the density per acre of 20 units mentioned prominently in the draft housing element could pose a problem with the state.

"The city would be on shaky legal ground if it were to allow higher densities for market-rate multifamily housing than for affordable housing," SUNN wrote, "because it would discriminate against affordable housing, in violation of state law. Your commission should consider higher densities on key infill sites to facilitate an improvement of the Mission Lodge property and other properties on North Redwood (Boulevard)."

SUNN said the draft element fails to acknowledge 62 units from the previous planning period that ended in 2006 and that the city overstated the number of lower-income units that have been approved for the current 2007-2014 span.

Katie Crecelius, speaking on behalf of SUNN, said the group hopes the Planning Commission will follow the recommendations in the letter. But as of Monday afternoon, SUNN had not heard anything from the comissioners or staff about the letter to the Planning Commission, she said.

The city planning staff will, indeed, draft a response to SUNN's letter, city spokeswoman Peggy Flynn said Monday. The draft housing element was not modified based on the letter before it was sent to HCD, she said.

The Novato Planning Commission will have a chance to provide comments on the draft housing element and the feedback it receives, and Flynn said the commissioners might choose to include elements of SUNN letter.

What do you think of SUNN's stance? Are you supportive of more affordable housing in Novato?

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Roger November 06, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Marla, thank you for trying to be constructive by offering the linkage fee idea to offset the loss in tax revenue for AH. That shows you are looking for some balance. Perhaps you could make your suggestion directly in front of the City Council at some future AH meeting. I would run up and endorse your idea along with many others who usually oppose SUNN. Maybe the IJ could run a photo and story of Novato being united on at least that AH linkage fee idea.
Dave Robertson November 06, 2012 at 07:05 AM
So ... Let me see if I have it straight. Novato (by whatever means) gets the developers to help pay the city for the increased costs of commercial and residential properties? Of course they will chip in if these projects are so profitable. And Novato would have city employes picking dimes off the street if they thought it would bring in revenue! How does this possibly address the fact that many of us do not want ANY of this development any longer? Quite frankly, if this development cost the city more than it could afford, the city "might" think about stopping this development altogether. Or is Novato the next Emeryville? At least Emeryville started as commercial. We are taking semi-rural suburbia and turning it into urban wasteland!
Dave Robertson November 06, 2012 at 07:12 AM
Constructive or collaborative? AH advocates may become united in helping the developers, but the rest of us still have serious objections. I guess AH advocates will not be satisfied until many of us who oppose them pack up and move to a more reasonable town in Marin - or anywhere else for that matter. You do know that lots of us have invested a lot if our hard earned money in our homes, and we will not sit back while it gets devalued (figuratively and literally) by the glut of affordable housing. Again, we already have too much housing in Novato!
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr November 06, 2012 at 06:06 PM
@Dave, it is not that the Novato City Council does not have guts. Rather, they agree with the Sacramento leftists, ABAG, SUNN social engineers. The 71% of Novato voters who did not cast a ballot in the last city council election isured that the incumbents will rule.
Jerome J Ghigliotti Jr November 06, 2012 at 06:17 PM
@Dave, the Sacramento/ABAG/SUNN leftists will not be satisfied until you abandon your property so that it can be converted to welfare-felon housing, and you move to Montana or Canada, not elsewhere in Marin. The leftists will not be satisfied until Novato and every city in California is a carbon copy of Pomona where 55% of the population speaks no English, or Antioch in which no law abiding citizen goes out after dark. Now THAT is diversity! And, no one, especially Secretary of State Debra Bowen-a Democrat-refuses to investigate the 6 million illegal aliens who are registered to vote in California. Do you wonder why the Democrats keep getting re-elected? Pedro Ramirez, former president of the student council at CSU Fresno, brags that he is an illegal alien and he is registered to vote in Tulare County.

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