What is Stand Up for Neighborly Novato’s mission and vision?
Stand Up for Neighborly Novato’s mission is to advocate for housing solutions for our residents and workforce through our community values of respect, civility and compassion for each other by educating the public on the need for reasonably priced housing and helping those in need – seniors, recent graduates, young families, disabled residents and others.
Novato will become a stronger, more vibrant and even more neighborly community where seniors, recent graduates, young families, disabled residents and workers live in reasonably priced housing in communities that are well-designed, well-managed and near businesses and transportation.
Why is housing a big issue in Novato?
Every California county and city, including Novato, must update a document called a “housing element” and submit it for certification to the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Novato was supposed to submit an updated housing element to the State in June 2009, so it is long overdue. The housing element is a section of Novato’s General Plan and must follow HCD guidelines. A housing element that has been certified by the state is known as a “certified housing element.”
HCD requires each community to adopt policies and programs and rezone sites, if necessary, to accommodate residents and workers with a range of incomes. According to City staff, Novato’s updated housing element must identify sites or additional housing options to accommodate 238 additional apartments, condos and houses for households with incomes below $90,500 (for a family of 4).
If Novato does not submit a housing element that’s eventually certified by HCD, the City could lose some state funding and potentially face costly lawsuits.
Fortunately, Novato has a history of providing well-designed, affordable housing reflecting Novato’s hometown character. Examples include Meadow Park, the Villas at Hamilton, Mackey Terrace, Creekside, the three NovaRo senior housing developments near downtown Novato and the Next Key.
The Novato City Council gives the final sign off on the housing element before the element is sent to the HCD.
How does housing affect Novato’s hometown character?
We believe that, if Novato does not encourage a better supply of homes at all income levels, our town will become a place that prices out retirees and young families, has struggling small businesses with fewer consumers, and more congested streets and highways as even more Novato’s workers are forced to commute here. Over time, these factors will erode the hometown character that we’ve come to love from living here for many years.
Why did Stand Up for Neighborly Novato form? Aren’t there other groups advocating for the same goal?
Stand Up for Neighborly Novato is a grassroots organization that was formed by a group of concerned neighbors who met in a friend’s living room to discuss not only housing issues, but the negative and divisive tone that surrounded the work on a certified housing element.
We wanted to form an organization to promote a more fact-based and respectful debate about how housing decisions over the next few months would affect Novato in the long term.
There are no other groups advocating for a certified housing element like Stand Up for Neighborly Novato.
In fact, other organizations have taken positions that would make it more difficult to get a housing element certified, likely making reasonably priced, multifamily housing options unviable, and encouraging car-dependent suburban sprawl, thus changing Novato’s character permanently.
Does Stand Up for Neighborly Novato only favor high density housing?
Stand Up for Neighborly Novato is not advocating for any particular density across-the-board on all sites selected. Rather, we support careful analysis of the constraints of each possible site, which likely will result in a range of units for each individual site. For instance, for a site adjacent to single-family, detached homes, the density will likely be lower than that in a commercial area or where there are other multi-family developments.
We also believe it is vital that any new home is designed to fit well with the existing communities, and that best practices are followed to ensure good management and successful communities.
Does Novato already have high density housing?
The vast majority of multifamily homes, apartments or condos in Novato are 20 units per acre or higher and therefore are classified as “high density”. Neighborhoods like Ignacio Hills, Edgewater, Mackey Terrace, 4 Cielo Lane, Hill Valley, Bridgecreek, Otavon, La Casa, Novaro I, II, & III, Captain’s Landing, The Villas at Hamilton, and the Next Key fall into that category, some affordable and some market rate.
What are some community benefits from well designed and managed reasonable housing?
In addition to preserving Novato’s hometown character, well-designed, multi-unit housing near transportation, jobs, and shopping can protect open space and control suburban sprawl, which will reduce the strain on our environment and water systems. Housing close to public transportation and shopping also makes the most efficient use of Novato’s undeveloped and underdeveloped land. Today many young families want to live in walkable communities close to restaurants and shopping, and a certified housing element can help meet that need.
Will more reasonably priced housing, especially high density housing, result in more crime?
No. According to a report by the State Department of Housing and Community Development, “not one study has shown any relationship between housing density and violent crime rates; once residents’ incomes are taken into account, the effect of density on non-violent crime decreases to non-significance.”  To keep housing areas safe, Stand Up for Neighborly Novato supports policies that ensure best practices are followed in tenant screening and management to ensure the success of neighborhoods.
What about Bay Vista and Wyndover?
Bay Vista and Wyndover have had their challenges, which are being addressed through management changes and improved applicant screening processes.
There may be some issues in reasonably priced housing areas, just as there is crime in some residential, market-rate areas. And just as some residential areas have not had issues with crime, neither have many affordable housing sites, such as Next Key, Mackey Terrace, Creekside, Meadow Park, Virginia Grove, Nova-ro 1,2,3, the Villas at Hamilton, Lone Palm Court, Pickleweed, Belvedere Place, Edgewater Place, Centertown, San Clemente Place, Cecelia Place, The Hilarita, Bennett House, and Parnow Friendship House, to name just a few.
Bay Vista has one of the lowest densities of any affordable housing development in Novato, which further supports research showing that there is not a correlation between density and crime.
Where does Stand Up for Neighborly Novato want to put these reasonably-priced neighborhoods?
Stand Up for Neighborly Novato is not advocating for specific locations. Stand Up for Neighborly Novato is collaborating with residents, neighborhoods and community leaders to build a consensus on those recommendations, and ensure that proposed housing sites are viable.
What does it mean for a proposed housing site to be “viable”?
A viable site is a site where a sufficient number of homes can be developed to make the project economically feasible for reputable, mission-driven non-profits like Eden Housing, Mercy Housing, Bridge Housing and EAH.
A viable site must also pose little harm to the environment and allow for a design that reflects Novato’s character, is compatible with surrounding neighborhoods and maximizes safety. It should also be located near public transportation, shopping and other services.
Won’t more reasonably priced housing mean lower property values for homeowners?
No. In fact, it can raise property values. We can and should expect future homes to be well-designed and built to fit with the existing makeup of their neighborhoods. According to the report by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, reasonably priced housing areas “designed and built with sensitivity to the architectural and aesthetic standards desired by the community may even increase property values… No study in California has ever shown that affordable housing developments reduce property values.” 
There are also much more significant factors that affect property values, such as (according to the report) “proximity to urban centers, nearby attractions, any negative factors such as environmental contaminants, and availability of adequate infrastructure and services.” Zillow has created a “walk index” where you can see where a homes’ location affects property value.
Will more reasonable housing put a strain on Novato’s public resources? What about schools?
First, the people who will live in reasonable housing areas (many of who already work here) will spend money in the local economy, boosting the resources the city needs to provide services. Second, if the housing element is done in a way that minimizes suburban sprawl, then public resources can be used with greater efficiency. Compact neighborhoods use far less water and energy than larger market rate homes. Third, Novato schools are funded in part by Average Daily Attendance and receive funding on a per pupil basis. As current students graduate and our population ages, a small number of families will move into market rate and affordable housing, bringing new students and vitality to our schools. The Novato Unified School District has publicly stated their support for affordable housing.
How can I help Stand Up for Neighborly Novato?