Maintaining Our Small Town Character while Facilitating Economic Development
The current General Plan, which was adopted in 1996, reduced growth across the board from the previous plan. Over the years, projects that were presented in the past at much higher densities are coming before the Council significantly pared down and often cut even more.
In addition, in 1997 under my initiation, the Council and the voters supported the passage of an Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) restricted growth within the city limits for the next 20 years. That UGB was extremely successful in limiting our growth and protecting our surrounding open space. Now, 20 years later, I again initiated the renewal of our UGB which will be on the November 2017 ballot. If approved by the voters this year, this UGB will limit our growth and protect the surrounding open space for the next 24 years!
Setting an UGB at the city limits allows the voters to control the city’s development for and to focus that development where infrastructure already exists. Having an UGB helps maintain Novato’s small town character and preserve our community separators by preventing sprawl while spurring revitalization of our downtown and renewing the community’s efforts to redevelop areas that need it.
I want to see projects that are good for our community. I have voted in favor of and against projects depending on whether they were compatible with the neighborhood and the environment. In 2009, we embarked on another update of our General Plan which should be finished by the end of the calendar year. This proposed plan also pares down the development from the previous plan adopted in 1996 and includes a vision for one of the last areas for development – Redwood Blvd between Olive and San Marin Drive. The City of Novato received an application from a developer that wants to build a four story hotel – a residence inn. Do we really need another hotel especially one 4 stories tall? During our visioning of this area, a majority of those participating wanted to see additional retail to expand our downtown area.
51% of the respondents from our 2013 community survey indicated that retail growth was the “right amount.” In examining the results of our recent survey and the many visioning exercises conducted in 2010 for the Redwood Blvd, I believe the community wants more shopping choices, not another hotel or shopping center. In those visioning exercises in 2010, many members of community expressed desires for more walking and biking paths along Redwood Blvd along with more opportunities for outdoor experiences including parks and open spaces. To fulfill those expressed dreams by our residents, we might want to consider plans that would enhance the existing median along Redwood Blvd by creating a linear park (like South Park in San Francisco) where there are play structures, walking and biking paths, benches and picnic tables creating a sense of place. To create shopping choices, maybe we should build upon our downtown revitalization by continuing shopping choices along Redwood Blvd similar to 4th Street in Berkeley. This area needs to ensure that we do not jeopardize our work in revitalizing our Downtown, but build upon it. I encourage you to get involved since these proposals will impact our future and quality of life.