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School District to Discuss What to Do with Vacant San Marin Property

City is under pressure to locate spots for future housing developments. San Andreas Drive property is a prime candidate.

It's a harmonic convergence of two epic issues in Novato: school district properties and future housing development. Tuesday's meeting of the Novato Unified School District could be pretty darned interesting.

Here's why: People who want to keep a 21 1/2-acre property from being developed are being challenged to step up and figure out a way to preserve it. Otherwise it could end up as a housing complex at some point down the road.

The vacant greenbelt parcel in Novato's San Marin neighborhood will be among land-use topics to be discussed at the NUSD board meeting. According to a school district staff report, City Manager Michael Frank has suggested a proactive move by the district to start conversations with neighborhood groups to negotiate a sale of at least half the land as a nature preserve.

The city is mandated to pinpoint locations that could be rezoned for future housing developments a part of its general plan update. The housing element of the general plan for 2007-2014 has generated tons of controversy because, for the first time in state history, municipalities had to identify parcels that could be developed rather than just estimated the number of housing units that should be built to accommodate population growth.

The San Andreas site, just south of San Marin Drive, is not on the city's list of developable properties but remains the school district's largest asset of vacant land. To say that some neighbors don't want development would be an understatement. Officially, the San Marin Improvement Association has not stated a position on the matter, but the city has been — and will continue to be — under pressure to include part of the property on its list of potential housing development properties.

Meantime, the grassroots group called San Marin Compatible Housing Coalition is circulating an online petition to voice support for the city's draft housing element for 2007-2014, which does not include the San Andreas site.

What do you think ought to happen with this property? And is that different than what you think WILL happen?

The NUSD trustees also will discuss other buildings, properties and assets at the Tuesday meeting, which starts at 5 p.m.

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TAK February 01, 2013 at 05:30 PM
I am not well informed on this issue, but I did attend the NUSD Board meeting on Tuesday. Dr. Cunningham said that her recommendation to the Board would be to do nothing with the site for the long term -- 5 to 10 years kind of long term. If Novato started growing again it is a "beautiful site for a school". With all the NUSD facilities one of their assumptions for the plan was not to sell off any property. Cunningham acknowledged the political sensitivity of the issue and the San Marin residents in the audience. Trustee Knell suggested that the Board should not accept a "do nothing" recommendation and that they should look at the revenue that the parcel could generate given the district financial situation. Trustee Butler agreed. Knell also brought up the idea of "imminent domain" that if they didn't do something the land could be taken and NUSD would get nothing. Best bet if you want to hear and see the discussion first hand is to request a copy of the NUSD Board meeting. They tape the public meetings. gbatz@nusd.org is the contact for these requests.
TAK February 01, 2013 at 05:34 PM
And, it was clear from the meeting discussion and the documentation in support of the meeting that NUSD owns the San Andreas parcel, not the city.
Tina McMillan February 01, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Tired I bet if we sat down and talked over tea at Dr. Insomnia we would find that we agree on many things. It is the places where we disagree that require the greater effort toward conversation and compromise. My problem with SUNN and MCF has been their effect on the neighborhood groups. MCF is one of the nine largest foundations of its kind in the U.S. If it decides to fund one group over another then the rest are left without a voice. Many people who want lower density want it for reasons that make sense if you look at why they moved here. For me it was Novato's rural character and the fact that it has people from every walk of life and great public schools. Now the lack of property tax revenue and sales tax revenue have put the schools and the city in deficit spending mode. I would not build extremely low income housing in higher densities in one location. I would ask that workforce housing be part of any development that brings more low paying jobs to Novato, including Hannah Ranch. I would also focus on what is needed, i.e., more second units, more rentals, more senior housing, reopening section 8 as a way of giving landlords the choice of whom to rent to and local zoning and planning for everything. My hope is that the draft housing element passes at 20 units per acre and that Novato is seen for what it is, a suburban/rural community.
Avanti Monty February 02, 2013 at 08:17 AM
Tina that's interesting that these organizations approve of affordable housing at 20 units per acre. Lets put those organizations to a test and put affordable housing to a vote place it on ballot.asking, " Do you the people of Novato believe we should provide more affordable housing ".yes or No The majority of the people in novato will vote NO not only to disapprove of 20 units per acre of affordable housing but the entire concept. We have eyes and ears we are experienced intelligent people stop conning us and insulting our intelligence we see what happens to our neighborhoods, our property values, our schools , our crime rate and the degradation of our high quality of life ..How can our political leaders in good conscience continue to ignore what the people want ? How can they treat us like unruly children and threaten us by withholding funds if we don't comply with their mandates They can do it because we let them do it !! Blackmail doesn't meet the criteria for a democracy I sincerely hope the people of Novato fight this mandate with everything they can muster . Its not for anyone's best interest other than the developers and people with self interest agendas.
Tina McMillan February 02, 2013 at 08:47 AM
Monty Many issues require compromise. If we do not provide a draft housing element that can be approved at the state level the consequences are costly and time consuming. I don't see this activity as blackmail as long as the choice of what to build and where to build stays within the community. I do believe that along with zoning we need laws that penalize absentee landlords for allowing tenants to remain in subsidized housing, of any kind, when they commit crimes, harbor felons or cause harm to neighbors and to the community as a whole. Creating those laws does not stop us from submitting a Draft Housing Element. In providing zoning that reflects the existing community you support local control. The Draft Housing Element at 20 units per acre for multifamily housing is low density. If I went to the same people and asked them how they felt about future homes developed by Novato Unified School District for teachers or by the Rotary for the elderly I don't think they would be up in arms. What people are angry about is housing like Wyndover where management gets tax breaks at the expense and safety of the community. In supporting Novato's Draft Housing Element the single most important change is the density reduction to multifamily housing. This is a huge step and if approved would allow us to have the same approach to housing as our neighbors to the north. What I do believe in is balanced housing with a tax base that supports city services and schools.

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