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Op-Ed: Stellar Job by Novato Planning Staff in Answering SUNN

Stand Up for Neighborly Novato, which advocates for more affordable housing options, got all its questions and accusations answered by planning manager Elizabeth Dunn.

Op-Ed: Stellar Job by Novato Planning Staff in Answering SUNN Op-Ed: Stellar Job by Novato Planning Staff in Answering SUNN Op-Ed: Stellar Job by Novato Planning Staff in Answering SUNN

Stand Up for Neighborly Novato sent a letter Oct. 15 to the Novato Planning Commission on the very night that the commission reviewed the city's draft housing element before it was sent to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for review.

The letter CC'd Melinda Coy at the state HCD so that the complaints were sent to HCD before the City of Novato's planners could answer it. No one individual or group of individuals signed their names to the letter.

SUNN's letter says, "The proposed across-the-board maximum density of 20 units per acre for non-senior housing and 30 units per acre for senior housing could significantly underutilize these valuable infill properties. We (SUNN) recommend the North Redwood overlay zone include a provision for increased density, while limiting building heights to three stories."

SUNN charges that 62 units from the previous planning period were not zoned and should be added to the new element as 62 lower-income units.  It charges that the new element "overstates by 71 the lower-income units built, under construction, approved or in-process January 2007-September 2012" and suggests corrections.

SUNN then adds the 71 units to the 62 units and conclude that more opportunity sites are needed because 133 more units are necessary to build.

It also considers the sites currently included to be "too small, too remote, have environmental constraints and/or should be aggregated with the adjacent site to make them viable within the short time remaining in this planning period."

Elizabeth Dunn, Novato's planning manager, at the request of the Novato Planning Commission, respectfully answered all of the charges in a five-page letter (See attached). Dunn deferred SUNN's proposal about the North Redwood Corridor to the reactivation of the North Redwood Corridor Planning Study. She then cited a letter dated March 24, 2009, confirming that the all the required units from the previous planning period were zoned and recognized by the state, defusing the charge about the 62 units.

Dunn proceeded to go into specifics about each project disputed by SUNN making up the 71 units, having consulted with Paul McDougal and Melinda Coy of HCD in getting their affirmation of the city's count. Dunn's response to SUNN's critique of the opportunity sites was this:

"Staff believes it is important to point out that these factors and others were considered for a number of sites city-wide through a lengthy public process … the five sites included in Table 49 were identified as the most appropriate based on a range of feedback received from a large number of actively engaged community participants."

Kudos to the Novato Planning Department staff for being on the job with the right stuff!

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