Commons at Mt. Burdell – Going Green, LEED Plantinum + Design

Novato Real Estate – For my Novato Neighbors and FFIC Friends

Background –

I recently (June 17th) attended a neighborhood presentation by American Assests, developer of the FFIC Site, about the proposed plan for their new project for the site – “Commons at Mount Burdell”.

I attended the meeting as a member of San Marin Improvement Association (SMIA) as well as a concerned Realtor who lives close to the project site and an ex-FFIC employee.  I have a vast interest in the project, for me, for my neighbors, for my friends and for our local community.  

I was probably the only one from SMIA, while most others were residents across from FFIC. 

Since this will have a major impact on our neighborhood, I have decided to share with you the information I gathered at the meeting.  The following are notes at the meeting.  In the interest of accuracy, I asked Ms. Margi Goodman,  representative of American Assets, to review the notes and have made corrections accordingly.  

To start with, from the information I received, I have created a graph with current FFIC topography and  American Assets’ “Commons at Mount Burdell” plan for comparison.   

Common at Mount Burdell and FFIC Current Facility
The Meeting –

John Chamberlain, CEO of American Assets, the owner of the site, was the presenter at the meeting. 

Since this is a project still being revised, please do check with the developer for details and updated plans (they are conducting meetings to get feedback from the community and will revise the plan if needed):

1. The project is called ‘Commons at Mount Burdell’, a place developed to serve the local community.  All the development is confined in the ‘LOOP’ – meaning the driveway surrounding FFIC campus with two entrances – West Campus and East Campus drive.

2. The plan is to keep and improve the three current FFIC buildings

3. The additional buildings will be built on the current parking facilities. All future parking will be underground with the exception of parking right in front of the center FFIC building, which they will keep as well as parkings for the two residential buildings.  Parkings for the two housing structures will be in the middle of the buildings and not visible from outside. 

4. There will be a new ‘world class’ hotel (similar to Sheraton Hotels) with a comprehensive health club (not a gigantic one but a luxury hotel quality facility). The health club will include swimming pool with possible retractable roof, weight room and will be accessible for FFIC employees.  (Note – Partridge Knolls neighbors wonder if they can get community membership)

The hotel will be located at the far east side of the property. The plan currently calls for a craftman style facility with 175 rooms, meeting facility, a large banquet room – capacity of 450, restaurant and the health club.  

5.  A residential facility in between the Hotel and FFIC building. The facility will house 150 units. The current plan is around 1/3 1BD/1BA units and 2/3 2BDs/1BA units. Rentals for 6 months to 12 months leases. All rental units will be on 2nd floor and up. 20% will be low income housing.

The first floor of the rental building will be shops and restaurants. Although after further inquiries (comments were there is really no need for restaurants and shops there), John said that the eateries will mostly consist of coffee shop, small stores, etc. for the hotel, apartment residents and office workers.

6. A few small office buildings will be built between the West Campus Drive and FFIC building. These will be built in the future pending needs.

7. They will donate a small parcel to Novato Rotary to build a community center.

8. The current ball park will increase in size. Some feedback is for multi purpose field. My personal feeling is that, the field and the community center for Novato Rotary, are part of what the developer wants to do to give back to the community and build local goodwill.  The exact plan is not clear at this point.  American Assets has contacted little leagues, etc, and will possibly be looking at a mixed use facility which they will build and maintain for local usage. 

9. The total projected usage will be for 5,000 people – the original maximum occupancy designed for the FFIC site. At the height of FFIC, there were 2,000 occupants and they currently have around 1,000 people on campus.

10. A big selling point is the green building aspect of the whole structure, hopefully a LEED Platinum (or exceeds Platinum) Certified complex. Platinum is the highest rating you can get from the LEED certification (Note – I did a research on this when making presentation at San Marin High School Green Week recently. So please do contact me if you need further information about LEED certification.)

11. Current FFIC buildings are up to 80ft tall.  The new buildings will be 40 feet at  most (most parkings will be underground).

If you are concerned, be sure to drive on San Marin Drive and imagine how it might look – which I do every time I drive by FFIC now. Good thing is that the trees at FFIC are more mature and the site sits lower than San Marin Drive.  My own feeling is that the new buildings might not be as intrusive as I first feared.  (Added 6/28- Also try to imagine how the site will look at night and when the leaves fall. It’s pretty dark now when you drive by, but it could be more lively at night with hotel, residential structures and community center. )

12. Per developer, they hope by doing this, they will be able to lower FFIC operating costs which will encourage FFIC to stay in Novato (there is always that speculation) and keep local employment rate up. With the new facility, they hope to attract other occupants, prevent the buildings from sitting empty and increase sales revenue for the city.

Major Concerns –

1. Traffic in and out of the site and how dangerous (per residents across from FFIC) it is currently and what it might do in the future. There are also concerns about the 101 interchange. Per developer, they are doing a traffic study including both and the plan will not go forward if 101 interchange needs to be improved – cost prohibitive.  In addition, the plan might change from Traffic Study Findings.

2. The effects on home values – opinions are divided on this. Some worried about what they will see out of their windows, some worried whether the residential units will affect the value of homes. Some thought the addition of world class facilities will add to home values.

3. Energy/water usage – see Green building plans

4. Views from residents who live on the hills across from FFIC

5. Noise level – from construction and from additional traffic

6. Secuirty (Added 06/28) – Another concern is the security of the site, especially the parking structures. The residential ones will be secured parking and public ones will have patrol – American Assets will be researching this.  

Design Review –

American Assets submitted the plan to the city on June 10th.  The city shall respond in 30 days after submission.  They will be conducting more neighborhood meetings to get feedback and anticipate revising plans from feedback received.   They will be going through Novato Design Reviews.  The high level time frame is estimated to be two years.      

Please make sure you attend future meetings for updated plans and let them know about your concerns. 

Comments –

I welcome your comments and do let me know if I have missed or misrepresented anything.  I will gladly make corrections. 

Updates and Meetings – (added 07/08) 

Ms. Margie Goodman has kindly agreed to keep me informed of updates and future meeting schedule so I can post them on this blog.   Please come back and check periodically. 

September 4, 2008 Update – The Fireman’s Fund meeting will be on Tuesday, Sept 9th at 6.30pm at the Nova Ro meeting room.  (From San Marin, take a right on Redwood Blvd, then take another right on Pinheiro Circle.  The meeting is at 31 Pinheiro Circle, upstairs in the mtg room.) 

The President of American Assets (John Chamberlin) will be there to show you the proposed project, listen to your feedback and answer any questions.   

Please bring neighbors along.
Thanks for your interest!
eMail Notices –  (added 07/08) 

Please email me at if you would like to be notified of future meetings.

References –

1. City of Novato Planning Department – Redevelopment of the Fireman’s Fund Office Campus – including two PDF files for detailed information.  

2.  Marin IJ Article  This article basically talked about the Green building aspects of the project and did not touch upon the concerns of the neighbors who attended the meeting – mainly the additional traffic in and out of the campus with the new Hotel, residential units and office buildings. Note that the first picture showed the angle from Ball Park to the campus, but the truth is the green space on the proposed campus is much smaller.

3.  Novato Advance Article, June 11, 2008

4. Another Marin IJ Article – announcing the Sale.