OPINION: Teenagers in Novato are an Endangered Species
Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Shannon Boland | NextGen Marin
In recent decades, Marin has stood apart from the rest of the Bay Area because of its resistance to growth. As a part of Marin County, Novato is known for its landscape and slow place. If you asked anyone under the age of thirty-five, it’s more than likely they’ll tell you the pace is too slow.
Novato is the second largest city in Marin County with a population of over 56,000. With 20% of the county residing in a single city, one would think there would be more to do here. In comparison to San Rafael, with a robust downtown recently ranked sixth in the Bay Area, or Petaluma, which has multiple theaters and a combination of local and and name brand businesses, Novato is lacking in comparison.
There’s a reason Novato is also referred to as “Slovato.” Recreational activities in Novato include golfing and not much else. This city has a few shopping areas that mostly focus around groceries and...higher priced organic groceries. Vintage Oaks is the closest thing Novato has to a mall.
In terms of things to do, there is a certain demographic that is being left out: young people.
For adults under the age of thirty-five, there is hardly an incentive to live in Novato. There is no booming economy driving jobs to Novato. There is certainly nothing resembling nightlife here. In fact, there is hardly anything open in Novato past 9PM.
Speaking as someone who has lived in Novato my whole live, I can attest that there is little to do here. The few places open past 10PM on a Saturday night include Target or In-n-Out, and Target closes at 11. Sure, Novato has some lovely hiking trails, but one can only go hiking so many weekends in a row. More often than not, teenagers will either spend their time inside their own house or in just about any place outside of Novato.
Regarding community activities, Novato is trailing behind our neighboring cities. The Marin Independent Journal posted a list detailing all the community arts and entertainment events in Marin. Out of over fifty events in the whole county, only two of them took place in Novato.
When high school students graduate and go to college, whether it be SRJC or University of Connecticut, they will probably continue their education outside of Marin County. As a recent high school graduate returning to Novato after my first year at college, it was certainly a disillusioning experience. Becoming readjusted to the lackluster atmosphere of Novato makes me have major doubts about moving back after college.
Few recreational activities compounded with the high cost of living contribute to migration out of Novato. According to The Marin Independent Journal “fifty-two percent of millennials said they will be attempting to leave the region in the next few years” due to the lack of affordability. Part of this is difficulty finding an affordable place to live. Average rent for an apartment in Novato is $2,158 a month. With a shortage of housing that is affordable for people starting out in the workforce and a lack of an active job market, leaving Novato becomes more and more appealing each year.
A fondness for the community may be the only reason people have to stay in Novato, but it doesn’t have to be. If Novato can embrace change the younger generation may be less encouraged to relocate. The new downtown SMART station is the first sign of growth Novao has had in years. Hopefully Novato will continue to take steps towards the future before our youth population disappears for good.