Tag: Novato

Homeless housing plan for Novato hotel under Homekey program falls through

A proposal to turn a 70-room Novato hotel into supportive housing for homeless people fell through Tuesday when the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted not to buy the complex under the state’s Homekey program.

The board made its decision during a closed-door session, emerging afterward to announce it could not reach an agreement with the Inn Marin Hotel’s owners on the $18 million asking price. Supervisor Judy Arnold, whose district includes Novato, added that she believed there hadn’t been enough opportunity to discuss the plan with neighbors.

“I believe that as a community we need to find ways to support our most vulnerable residents here in Marin and I believe that finding permanent supportive housing is an effective way to do that,” Arnold said in a statement. “That said, my position on this particular project was a result of the inadequate process and timeline we were forced to work within under the state’s Homekey grant process.”

California’s Homekey program uses federal coronavirus aid money to buy hotels and other buildings throughout the state for conversion into permanent supportive housing, but the catch is that all the money has to be spent by the end of the year. To date, the state has awarded $835.6 million for 93 projects with a total of 6,055 units.

The Marin board proposed in October that the county buy the Inn Marin, a stylish complex near Highway 101, apartment blocks and houses. Residents inundated the board and the Novato City Council with reaction that included some support, but more complaints that it was a bad fit for the neighborhood.

The City Council had been considering suing to stop the proposal, but last week opted instead to urge the county board to hold community meetings to vet the idea. Tuesday’s decision makes the point moot.

Marin County’s homeless population of 1,034 is the second smallest in the Bay Area, after Napa. It fell by 7% between 2017 and 2019, when the last federally required, biennial one-night count was taken.

“We’re satisfied and happy with the outcome,” said Pat Davidor, who lives near the Inn Marin. She and her husband, Joe, maintained that they supported housing for homeless people — their son lives on the streets — but thought it would be better situated farther away from subdivisions.

“It was a good try, wrong location,” she said, noting that there is already a large supportive housing facility just across the freeway. “Our hope is that money will become available in some other way and that more homeless housing can be created. But spread it around more, so other parts of the county can take their share.”

Two other Homekey projects fared better on Tuesday before the board. The supervisors voted unanimously to use the state funds to buy an 18-room hotel in Corte Madera for $4.1 million and a 44-unit office complex in San Rafael for $7.2 million.

Kevin Fagan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @KevinChron

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Novato Voters Approve Hotel Tax Hike, San Rafael Passes Sales Tax Increase

Novato residents Tuesday appeared to favor, by a three-to-one margin, a ballot measure that would increase the city’s hotel tax by 2 percent.

With all 13 of the city’s precincts reporting, slightly more than 77 percent of Novato voters favored the “transient occupancy tax” increase. The city’s current transient occupancy tax is 10 percent of a hotel guest’s room rate and has remained unchanged since 1997.

The 2 percent hotel tax increase would provide an additional $400,000 in annual tax revenue, according to city officials.

Novato collected $1.82 million in hotel tax revenue during the 2019-2020 fiscal year but is projected to collect only $1.45 million during the 2020-2021 fiscal year.


City officials estimate the tax increase could boost hotel tax revenue by $400,000 in its first 12 months. All hotel tax funding is used to fund local expenditures like infrastructure repairs, emergency response services and recovery efforts from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Elsewhere in Marin County, San Rafael voters appeared poised to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase over nine years that is estimated to generate some $3.4 million per year for services like street repairs, disaster preparedness and park maintenance.

Just over 62 percent of San Rafael voters approved of the measure, according to the county’s unofficial election results.

The measure’s approval would nudge the city’s sales tax rate to 9.25 percent. All sales tax revenue would be placed in the city’s general fund, according to San Rafael City Attorney Robert Epstein.

Unofficial results also showed Marin County voters overwhelmingly supporting three school district funding measures, including a pair of parcel tax extensions.

The Shoreline Unified School District’s Measure L, which would extend a $212 per parcel tax for eight years, had roughly 84 percent support from voters with both of the district’s precincts reporting.

Measure M, which would extend the Tamalpais Union High School District’s $469 annual per parcel tax for nine years, had nearly 74 percent support, according to unofficial results from the district’s 57 precincts.

Some 77 percent of voters in the Sausalito Marin City School District appeared to support a measure that would authorize the district to issue $41.6 million in bonds, which district officials said will fund the construction and modernization of classrooms and upgrades to the district’s libraries and science labs, among other things.

Marin County election officials have reported 101,111 ballots cast as of Tuesday night. Approximate 58 percent of the county’s registered voters cast a ballot, according to the county.

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Novato residents blast county plan to buy hotel for homeless

Novato residents blasted Marin County’s proposal to buy a 70-room hotel to convert to homeless housing during a City Council meeting this week.

Some residents urged the city to file a lawsuit to stop it. The Novato City Council expressed some openness to at least exploring that option but first wanted to provide more time for the public to weigh in.

The strong response came just hours after the county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to continue negotiations to purchase the Inn Marin and Suites at 250 Entrada Drive under an expedited timeline that would not include any vetting by the city.

“It’s been my experience that if we want to get folks on board they need a seat at the table, and unfortunately in this situation, no one had a seat much less a table to even sit at,” Councilwoman Susan Wernick said.

The purchase could be approved by the county as soon as Nov. 17, just weeks after the county notified Novato officials in mid-October of the potential sale.

“I’ve spent more time and consulted with more people deliberating the purchase of a new television set than apparently has gone into the purchase of this property,” Novato resident David Gall told the council. “This is a long-term permanent imposition on the city in response to a short-term problem.”

The swift sale is possible through the statewide Homekey program, which launched in July. The program provides $800 million in state grants to counties and cities to buy hotels and motels to eventually convert to permanent supportive housing for homeless residents affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The state law that created the program, AB 83, allows counties to skip local government reviews for these housing projects if they meet certain criteria.

Inn Marin and Suites is one of three sites that the county is considering buying, along with sites in Corte Madera and San Rafael. The property owners had expressed interest in selling the properties to the county as part of the Homekey program.

The Inn Marin property owner, 250 Entrada Drive LLC, is seeking $18 million, though a county appraisal could change the price. About two-thirds of the cost would be covered by Homekey grants, county officials said.

The county plans to operate the inn as transitional housing with on-site services for homeless families for the first year before converting it into permanent supportive housing.

While acknowledging the rapid timeline is not ideal, county planning manager Leelee Thomas said the state grants must be used before the end of the year and properties must be readied for occupancy within 30 days after the purchase.

“A property needed to be fairly ready to be occupied because you have a limited time between closing escrow and having people move in,” Thomas told the council.

The county was also not expecting to be able to purchase the Novato hotel until it was notified by the state on Oct. 10 that it received tentative approval for more grant funds.

The Novato City

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