On September 21, 2010 the City Council conducted a work study session for the update of the Housing Element. Over 100 people attended the meeting and there was over two hours of public comment. After considering the public’s comments and extensively discussing housing issues, the City Council, by consensus, provided policy direction on eight specific topics to guide future work on the Housing Element. The eight policy directives are briefly summarized below:
1) Open and Participatory Process: Conduct an open and inclusive planning process that encourages all residents of Novato to participate and that insures all input will be considered before decisions are reached.
2) Legislative Advocacy: Increase the City’s political involvement and activity in legislative advocacy regarding State and regional housing allocation processes, policies and requirements.
3) Housing Needs and Mix: Address the community’s future housing needs by providing a mix of housing options to serve all socio-economic levels, household sizes, and age groups in the community.
4) Housing Density: Establish housing densities that are consistent with community-wide values, and reduce proposed affordable housing densities, especially when adjoining single family housing neighborhoods.
5) Housing integrated into Neighborhoods: Protect the character of existing neighborhoods by carefully considering the compatibility, density and design of new adjacent residential development.
6) Distribution of Housing Units: Disperse affordable housing sites throughout the City. Avoid overconcentration of affordable housing units in any area and revise the housing opportunity sites list accordingly.
7) Housing in Commercial Areas: Consider housing sites in Downtown/commercial areas while balancing needs for retail and commercial development.
8) Public Safety: Evaluate potential public safety impacts that might result from higher density housing.
City Council members focused in a number of these policies to provide further guidance. In advocating revision of State and regional processes, the City should work toward modifying the number of housing units allocated to the City and reducing the affordable housing density requested by the State. Council members noted that, as the planning process proceeds, it will be important to clarify community values regarding density, compatibility of housing types and the appropriate concentration of affordable housing in any one area. Council members stated that lower housing density, compatibility of housing types with existing neighborhoods and dispersing affordable housing were very important and future discussions should focus on those issues to insure there is community consensus as the process moves forward.
Several Council members discussed the value of design guidelines to insure that new residential development is compatible with and integrated into the community. There was mixed Council comment on a housing fee to be charged to commercial development. It is important to Council members that the City prepare a Housing Element that can be certified (approved) by the State, as is required by State law.
Video of the entire work study session is available on the City’s web site. Video of the City Councils discussion of policy direction may be accessed via "Jump to," under the video image, as can the question-and-answer portion of the meeting. The City Clerk’s notes on the meeting are also available.
City staff is continuing work on refining the public participation process for the Housing Element update. In the next one to two weeks we will have available more information on the proposed City Manager’s Ad Hoc Working Group, including the composition, selection process and role of that group. Staff is also working to finalize the agendas and schedule for public workshops, and this information should also be available in the next several weeks.
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Community Development Director