Editorial: Novato council backs important housing project

POSTED: 1/26/2019

Author: Marin IJ Editorial Board

Publication: Marin IJ

The Novato City Council has agreed upon the future of one of the last parcels in the longtime conversion of the old Hamilton military base into a community.

The council approved selling the 5-acre site of the former commissary to a developer for an 81-unit “green” townhouse complex.  The selling price is almost $6.2 million.

It is impressive that the oft-divided council voted 5-0 to pick the development plan and offer from San Francisco-based City Ventures, which is proposing to build a project aiming to be a model for “green” construction.

The design appears to be a nice fit with the Spanish Colonial Revival style found in much of Hamilton’s original buildings. The density promises to provide much-needed housing that’s close to jobs, SMART train service and shopping.

It was chosen after a community process that involved several bidders, among them a proposal by Marin-based affordable housing developer and manager, EAH, which envisioned building an even larger complex and paying a lot more — $8.5 million — for the property.

The council’s approval starts another leg of the city’s planning process, but the council’s initial endorsement is a clear sign that it felt the size and design of City Ventures’ proposal was a better fit — and more likely to win support in a community that has become known for its debates over proposed changes.

While not providing the number of affordable units promised by EAH, the development should still open a door for people looking to buy a home in Novato. Sixteen of the units will be designated as affordable housing.

In the lengthy conversion of Hamilton, the city has made sure that the “new” community includes a variety of housing opportunities, from affordable housing — even a shelter and transitional housing for the homeless — to higher-priced houses. The city has made good use of a rare opportunity; and it certainly addresses criticism of Marin as being opposed to any growth.

During last week’s hearing, the council drew criticism for deliberating in closed session to pick the design and terms of the sale. State public meeting laws allow councils and boards to meet in private to negotiate real estate deals.

But its approval has to be made in public and the public deserves an explanation for the council’s decision. It got that.

The council’s vote is not a “done deal” for the development proposal, which still has to go through a public planning process to win full city approval and start construction.

But the council’s unanimous vote is a great start on a housing development the city needs.

Read the full article here: https://www.marinij.com/2019/01/26/editorial-novato-council-backs-important-housing-project/


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