A Casual Stroll along Mt. Burdell, Novato, in the Magnificant Marin County

Fabulous Mt. Burdell provides a gorgeous backdrop for City of Novato in the magnificant Marin County, San Francisco North Bay, CA. The pictures were taken in the summer, around the very desirable Partridge Knolls neighborhood, overlooking San Marin, showing the ‘golden’ state. During the raining season, the hills turns fresh and than jade, provides a refreshing look throughout the county. Mt. Burdell, being one of the ‘younger’ hills in Marin County, has oak trees dotted in various places, provides a lively and beautiful picture of the hills.


Sylvia Barry, Realtor, ePRO
Marin Realtor for Marin Real Estate
Marin, San Francisco North Bay
Frankk Howard Allen Realtors
website: www.SylviaSellsMarin.com
Blog: www.AllAboutMarinHomes.com

 MARIN, SONOMA, S.F. BAY AREA REAL ESTATE – Beveldere, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon; Cotati, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa. Starter Home to Luxury Property. REO (Bank Owned), Short Sale, View Homes, Architecural Distictive Homes. Investment, 1031 Exchange. Chinese Realtor.

Novato July 4th Parade, Marin County, CA

I have never been ‘IN’ the Novato July 4th parade before.  A few times I was there, I was a bystander, watching for my then young sons marching down Old Town Grant Avenue as part of Novato Summer Music Institute Marching Band.  It was fun watching them, but I had never be IN one before.

Yesterday, I got the taste of actually being in the Parade while riding the truck with the Penguin Empire Robotics Team (San Marin High School Robotics Club).  I have to say that it was a lot of fun riding with the students, pretending that I was helping (yes, they knew exactul what to do). and waving to the bystanders (now that I am in it, I might as well enjoy the parade!)

The parade drew record entries and recrod crowds – presumably the difficutl economy kept a lot of people home during the summer; but being in Marin for the summer can not really be considered a hardship, I have to say.  

There were over 200 entries; including the perennial entry of fleet of antique tanks and military vehicles (a private collection, can you believe that?), basset hound parade and they are very serious about that (yes, hundreds of them and their proud owners – brings smile to my face everytime I think about that), MY personal favorite is the Pini Hardware Plunger Brigade, this year, with an automatic toilet built by Penguin Empire adviser Mike Sousa (I think Pini Hardware did the garbage can routine one year), many student groups – the Novato Summer Institute, Five Charming Lads from San Marin, San Marin Jazz Choir, Marin Summer Theater, Novato Unified School District, Various Novato schools and Novato School Fuel thanking Novato for passing Measure A+ for Kids campaign, dace clubs, Taken do clubs, anti-tax protesters, archers, musketeers, Coast Guard Strike Team, and much more.

It’s also fun to see so many friends and neighbors out there watching and enjoying the parade.  Novato, a town of 50K+ population, a lay-back and very friendly town can seem so small and personal where we seem to know everyone and care about everybody!

Oh, not to forget about the Penguin Empire Team – the students did great and the crowds were awed by the awesome robot whenever we stop (we did stop a lot more than we were allowed to).  The students remotely controlled the robot, drove it down the ramp, made some tight turns, performed a couple of routines (unfortunately, due to the crowd, we were not able to show the full potential of the robot) and drove it back up the float.  The crowds were quite enthusiastic about the robot and the team 🙂  

Here are a few picturs to share with you (Sorry, I was too busy to be IN the parade and did not have time to take as many picturers as I have liked!):

Penguin Empire Pre-Parade

2009 July 4th Parade MST 2

Pini Hardware Plunger Brigade

Parade 3

Parade 2

Parade 4

Parade 1

Parade 5

And the Parade is not complete without the viewers cheering us on!

Parade 6

9 Fabulous New Luxury Homes on Olive Court. Novato, Marin County

9 Fabulous New Luxury Homes on Olive Court, Novato, Marin County

Please make appointments with Sylvia Barry or your Realtor if you want to see these new Craftsman Style Homes located on Olive Court in Novato.

Millworks Novato Grand Opening brings New Dimension to Town!

mw_logo_rgbA controversial project due to the sheer size, the location and what it is and what it is not (a bit vague?  Ask me!), Millworks Novato had it’s grand opening today (April 25th).  What a pleasant surprise the development is!

As a Novato resident and a Realtor; although I missed the design, approval phases of the project; I, as many Novatans,  have watched with great interest and concerns in the progress of the building.   Today, I got to tour Millworks with my friend, Barbara.  We came away quite impressed!

Millworks – According to the developer, Millworks Novato is “Nestled among the North Bay’s rolling hills landscape, charming Old Town Novato is the home to Millworks, and environmentally sustainable and pedestrian-friendly new home community”. 

Millworks Novato

Millworks Novato

The building, sits atop the coming-soon Whole Foods,  located at the east end of Old Town Novato, consists of 124 flats and townhomes.  The homes are designed to be a combination of 1 bedroom/1 bath, 2 bedrooms/2 baths flats and 2 bedrooms/2 baths plus Den Flats. 

Amentities — Other than a few larger units on selected locations; first and second floors are mostly for Whole Foods and parking for Whole Foods and third floor is mostly for residents parking.  In addition, there is a library, a fitness center and a social room for gatherings.


'Roof Garden - Living Roof' on 4th Floor

Roof Garden – One of the Millworks’ most unique design is the rooftop garden on the 4th floor where the interior units all have patios on the ‘Roof Garden’.  This Living Roof – centrally located with open sky courts – have living gardens and flag stone patiors, gives the 4th floor residents a sense of being on the ground floor which is a very appealing, surprising feature!

Views Galore – For outdoor lovers, the floor to ceiling windows brings tons of sunshine and the breathtaking surrounding Novato hill views inside.  I can only imagine how beautiful the night time views will be with the twinkling lights from the distance.

Kitchen and Living Room

Kitchen and Living Room

The Interiors – Millworks have open floor plan where kitchen opens into living and dining rooms (area – depending on plan).  Kitchens have granite slab counter tops, break fast bar, Bosch stainless steel, Energy Star appliances, Kohler sinks and faucets.  Bathrooms have Kohler faucets, Marble slab counters and surrounds on bathtubs.  Dual flush toilets conserve water.   All units are equipped with air conditioners (although I always say that we really don’t need that in Novato – the breeze from the ocean cools down most hot days by night).  Schlage hardware, recessed lighting, sustainable flooring, cable ready.

Green Features at Millworks

Green Features at Millworks

Building and Living Green – Millworks is also designed with ‘Building Green’ in mind as Sustainable is a big concern for environmental minded Marin Residents.  The building is designed with

  • Money Saving features such as emergency efficiencies while determining the direction of the building (South facing), insulation grades,  dual paned windows, doors, Energy Star appliances..
  • Preserving Health – such Cabinet doors are free of formaldehyde, none-toxic and low VOC Materials are used throughout
  • Environmentally Sustainable– Pre-engineered lumber, waste recycling during construction, Build-in recycling centers, sustainable flooring’s and cross ventilation windows are some example of the environmentally friendly design.

The Units and Pricing – One Bedroom / One Bath unit (812 sf to 883sf) starts from the low $400,000s; Two Bedroom / Two Baths Flats (1260 sf to 1360 sf) starts from the mid $400,000s and the Two Bedrooms, Two Bath plus Den Falts (1452 sf to $1595sf) starts from the high $500,000.  

HOA Fees – HOA fees ranging from $393 to $494 monthly.  An interesting chart provided by Millworks compares  HOA fee to the average single-family detached homowner’s regular maintenance cost per year, and of course, Millworks HOA seems more reasonable according to the chart – email me if you are interested!

Keep in mind the price includes standard features, and any and all upgrades will be additional costs to the buyers.

As a baby boomer and looking forward, I thought this will be a great place to retire – low to no maintenance, single story (elevator up/down), walk to town, new, green building, etc.  Having a Whole Foods downstirs works well also.   However, as a  young, single professional living in Chicago many years ago, I also enjoyed staying in downtown highrise for the amentities it provides (Millworks is not close to the 45th floor I was on before).  

Releases – The current plan the developer has is to release 10 homes at a time while gauging the interest ,control inventory and proper pricing. 

Tax Credit – And don’t forget the Federal First Time Homebuyer Up to $8,000 Tax Credit as well as the California State Up to $10,000 Tax Credit for purchasing new contrustions !

Interested in Checking out Millworks? – I enjoyed my visit to Millworks with Barbara.  Let me know if this stirs up your curiosity.  Please give me a call (415) 717-0293 or email me at sylvia@SylviaSellsMarin.comif you want to check out Millworks.  I would love to come with you and get your input about the building that changed the face of Old Town Novato, For Better For Worse, and hopefully, since it’s already here, we will make it ”For Better’ because that’s the only way we can all benefit! 


California Issues New Construction Tax Credit for Qualified Homebuyers

americandreamIn order to stimulate purchases of newly constructed homes as well as encouraging home ownership; the State of California has issued a (up to) $10,000 tax credit for homebuyers of new contruction properties.
Here are the details of the plan:
1)  This credit only applies to new homes that will be used as a primary residence and is limited to the first 10,000 new home purchases.
2)  The credit is for $10,000 or 5% of the home’s price, whichever is less.

3)  There is no down payment requirement to receive the $10,000 tax credit.
4)  There are no maximum income limitations so any buyer purchasing a new home can qualify.
5) The $10,000 tax credit is just that, a credit, not a loan, so if the home remains your primary residence for two years, you do not have to pay any portion of the tax credit back. If you sell the home in less than two years, then it has to be paid back at time of sale.
6) The new home cannot be located outside of the United States and it cannot be inherited property or a gift.

Spring Hiking in Marin County

marin-hikingApril 2, Thursday, hike a moderate/easy 1A hike in Muir Woods, via Fern Creek and Camp Alice Eastwood. Meet at 9:30 at Miller and Locust in Mill Valley (at the bus stop). Back by 1.30. Share carpool costs. Rain cancels. Sponsored by the Marin Group Sierra Club.

April 3, Friday, the Marin Bushwackers Hiking Club presents a two-hour, “exhilarating and educational, off-the-beaten-track hike for in-shape hikers.”?  Meet at Tennessee Valley Trailhead gate at 5:30 p.m.?  For more specific directions and information, call John at (415) 331-0100.

April 4, Saturday, Two-hour  hike on moderate trails with md-hike wine and cheese sevrved overlooking the pacific, followed by optional dinner and socializing at the Mt. Home Inn. Meet at 4:30 p.m. in the parking area across from the Inn on Panoramic Highway in Mill Valley. Cost is $15. Sunset Hike and Dine Club. To reserve a spot, call (415) 331-0100.

The Fairfield Osborn Preserve offers Saturday hikes through May 16 so visitors may observe the diverse fauna and flora of the popular nature preserve on Sonoma Mountain operated by Sonoma State University. Tours are appropriate for families, friends and individuals. Visitors should be able to hike two to four miles over uneven ground. Sturdy shoes, long pants, drinking water and a snack are highly recommended. General admission is $3. Visitors 12 and younger are admitted free.

Hikes are held every Saturday at 10 a.m. There will be no hike on April 18. The Fairfield Osborn Preserve is located at 6543 Lichau Road in Penngrove. For more information or directions, call (707) 795-5069 or e-mail fairfield.osborn@sonoma.edu or visit online, www. sonoma.edu/org/preserve.

On Thursday, April 9, hike nine miles from Mill Valley towards Sausalito. Discover this 1A easy Bay path from East Blythdale Avenue in Mill Valley along the Bayside towards the Bay Model, guided by a docent . Meet at 9:30 a.m. in front of the Maria Maria restaurant at 651 East Blythedale Ave. in Mill Valley. Return by 1:30 p.m. Rain cancels. E.mail-rgwatson@pacbell .net. or call (415) 461-9255.

Sunday, April 12. Angel Island picnic and hike. An easy 2A hike with 360-degree views of all the bay, and to see results of the Angel Island fire. Hike to the top of Mt. Livermore and then have lunch on the beach. Bring liquids and a potluck dish for 6 to share. Meet at 9:45 a.m. at the Angel Island Ferry dock in Tiburon. $13.50 fare. Back by 4 p.m. Rain cancels. E-mail rgwatson@pacbell.net. or call (415) 461-9255.

Thursday, April 16. China Camp. Explore the Shoreline Trails of China Camp in San Rafael. An easy 1A hike. Meet at 9:30 at the Civic Center Post Office on San Pedro Road in San Rafael. Back by 1:30 p.m. Share carpool costs. Rain cancels. E.mail-rgwatson@ pacbell.net.

Thursday, April 23: Ocean view trail. A moderate/long 1A hike from Rock Springs to the Top of Cataract Falls with a view of the ocean and Stinson Beach. Carpools from Miller and Locust at the Mill Valley bus stop at 9:30 a.m. Back by 2:30 p.m. Rain cancels. E.mail rgwatson@pacbell. net or call (415) 461-9255.

Sunday, April 26. Lakes and waterfalls hike to Bass Lake/Alamere falls. A 2A moderate hike from Palomarin trailhead. Bring towels if desired for an optional dip in Bass Lake. Meet at Fairfax Parkade at 9:30 a.m. Rain cancels. E.mail rgwatson@pacbell.net or call (415) 461-9255.

Thursday, April 30, hike the Dipsea Trail and Muir Woods. A moderate 1A/B hike on the Dipsea trail and through Muir Woods. Meet at Miller and Locust in Mill Valley (at bus stop) at 9:30 a.m. Return by 1:30 p.m. Share carpool costs. Rain cancels. E.mail rgwatson@ pacbell.net or call (415) 461-9255.

May 3. Sunday. Drakes Estero. A moderately paced and a most charming 2B tour to the ocean of the beautiful Drake’s Estero area on Point Reyes. Carpool at 9:30 a.m. from Fairfax Parkade (opposite Fairfax Theater). Back by 5 p.m. Bring lunch and liquids. Share carpool costs. Rain cancels.

May 7. Thursday. Blackie’s Pasture. A very easy 1A from Blackie’s Pasture. Hike from the parking lot at Blackie’s Pasture towards Tiburon and back, stopping at a yummy bakery with a fabulous San Francisco view. Meet at 9:30 a.m. at Blackie’s Pasture on Tiburon Boulevard. Back by l p.m. Bring your taste buds.

Sylvia Barry, Realtor, ePRO
Marin Realtor for Marin Luxury Real Estate
Marin, San Francisco North Bay
Frank Howard Allen Realtors
website: www.SylviaSellsMarin.com
Blog: www.AllAboutMarinHomes.com

SERVING MARIN, SONOMA, S.F. BAY AREA – FOR ALL YOUR REAL ESTATE NEEDS Beveldere, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon; Cotati, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa.

Novato Real Estate Market Overview, April 01, 2009

Millworks Novato

 Millworks Novato (going strong with a lot of interest -check with Sylvia to see)

Novato Real Estate Market started to pick up after the gloomy winter – Yes! (by the way, is there such a thing as gloomy winter in Marin?  – we are so spoiled, when there are more than a drizzle and a little bit of wind, we complaint about the weather and then secretly congratulate ourselves for being in such a wonderful place – there is a premium there :-))

Thanks to the press, both prnt and online and yes, the Obama Stimulus plan, the buzz out there is this is a great time to BUY in Marin county.  Finally, we have affordable prices (o.k. affordable is a relative term), but more affordable houses here in Marin.

The condo/townhome cotinue to pick up pace, as well as the below $500K single family homes.  These are the ones that went thru the worst downturn and were the ones who led the short sale / foreclosure pact, but are now being recognized as the best purchases in town.  

Many former renters find it costs them less to own than to rent; in the mean time, they are able to enjoy the write offs from owning a home. 

That buzz drives the market right above it to go up.  ‘Starter’ homes up to $700,000 saw across board increases in % Pending.  Being able to sell the condos and entry level homes means they can also move upward.  

This allows the $500K – $700K homes to see the biggest surge in % pending. 

The $800K and up range still lag behind – many are waiting for lenders to come up with the policy for Super Jumbo (between $625K and $729K) pricing structore.  Other move up buyers have their homes on market, are relunctant to ‘buy contingenty upon sale’ are hoping to sell and move into upper end houses here in Novato.  

Overall inventory starts to climb, as we expect it to be in Spring.  Homes for sale went up 25 homes, from 305 to 330 in a month (March to April). With the slower release of foreclosures, the inventory is not growing as much as we thought it would.   

Make Sure You are not waiting for the ‘bottom’ of the market. Remember, that is always hindside, by the time you look back, the bottom has already came and went. 

Call Sylvia now to discuss the market and the trend, get familiar with the buying process, and start hunting.  It’s never too late to get ready.     

Give me a call at (415) 717-0293 or email me at sylvia@SylviaSellsMarin.com for inventories on the market, whether REO, Trust Sale, start home, luxury homes.. I will be very happy to find the best house / investment property for you! 

It will be my pleasure to serve you!  

category   Total Units/ In Escrow   % Active   % Pending % +/- since 09/10/08
All SFD’s and CID’s   330/120   64%   36% (N) +1%
SFD’s   231/75   68%   32% (N) +2%
CID’s   99/45   55%   45% (S) +0%
$0 -$500K SFD   64/34   47%   53% (S) +2%
$500,001-$600K   35/15   57%   43% (N) +15%
$600,001 – $700K   27/10   63%   37% (N) +9%
$700,001 – $800K   28/7   75%   25% (N) -2%
$800,001 – $999,999   35/2   94%   6% (B) +2%
$1M – $1.25M   18/2   89%   11% (B) -2%
$1.25M – $1.5M   14/3   79%   21% (B) +3%
$1.5M+   10/2   80%   20% (B) -13%
  • Buyer’s Market  < 25%
  • Neutral                25% – 40%
  • Seller’s Market   > 40%



Marin County Bank Owned (REO) Homes – Take Advantage Now!

This is one of the very rare times in history where there are bank owned homes in Marin county, coupled with low interest rate; definitely a great time for buyers to take advantage of the current buyers market, even in Marin county.

marincountyreoI  have many clients who asked me about Bank Owned (REO – Real Estate Owned) properties in Marin county.  Although Rare in comparison to other counties in California, we are seeing more bank owned properites in Marin county with the majority in Novato, then San Rafael, and trickle down to Southern Marin county.
Several of my clients have taken the opportunity and bought bank owned homes, a couple are listed on multiple listing, and one bought before the house went on multiple listing from an investor associate of whom I have built a nice working relationship with. 
A sample of currently bank owned properties are listed below – 
One unit in Belvedere, Tiburon Area  Belvedere, Tiburon, Marin County Bank Owned – Extremely desirable area, and will normally have no foreclosured properties, but there is a very special reason for this  low price/bank owned in such desirable area – ask me for details. 
One unit in Corte Madera, Larkspur area – Corte Madera, Larkspur, Marin County Bank Owned
None in Greenbrae, Kentfield – Not too surprisingly that there are no bank owned home in Kentfield, Greenbrae area considering we just had 12 offers on a basically tear down house (Trustee Sale) all because of the highly desirable location for Greenbrae, Kentfield 
None in Ross – Same reason as Greenbrae, Kentfield on why there is NO Bankowned in Ross
None in Mill Valley – Same thing about Mill Valley Bank Owned – None in such desirable area.
3 Bank Owned properties in San Anselmo – A little west, but still short commute to the city, full of charm and character, a town you don’t want to miss!
21 bank owned proeprties in San Rafael – fabulous time to buy in San Rafael – these bank owned properites in San Rafael are from Canal area, Terra Linda, Spinnaker Point, Santa Venetia area, Civic Center area, all the way to Gerstle Park.  Homes are condos, contemporary homes, Eichler homes, newer constructions, you name it!  
26 in Novato – Novato is the north most city in Marin County.  These bank owned properties in Novato, Marin make Novato a ‘relatively’ affordable place to live now.  Several condos have restricted usage, a couple are in flood zone, some have higher HOA fees, but most of the others are excellent buys – many are gobbled up with multiple offers – make sure you don’t wait for competition if you are interested in any of these properties.
And there is even ONE in West Marin Muir Beach Bank Owned Homes just waiting for you to finish it up…..
My hope for 2009 is that the homeowners who own distressed homes will be able to take advantage of the government’s bail out plans and avoid foreclosures…….
This means there will not be as many foreclosure properties as forecasted, and that’s a good thing in my book…. So, take advantage of today’s foreclosure inventories to set your foot in Marin County! 
Sylvia Barry, Realtor, ePRO
Marin Realtor for Marin Luxury Real Estate 
Marin, San Francisco North Bay
Frankk Howard Allen Realtors
website: www.SylviaSellsMarin.com
Blog: www.AllAboutMarinHomes.com
MARIN, SONOMA, S.F. BAY AREA REAL ESTATE – Beveldere, Corte Madera, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Larkspur, Marinwood, Mill Valley, Novato, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Sausalito, Tiburon; Cotati, Penngrove, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa.   Starter Home to Luxury Property.  REO (Bank Owned), Short Sale, View Homes, Architecural Distictive Homes. Investment, 1031 Exchange.

Marin County Summer Cooling Centers

Marin County Summer Cooling CentersThe following information is provided by the Novato Chamber of Commerce.  Since Marin weather is mild in general, so most of home owners do not need nor do they have air conditioner.  This information can be very helpful for the rare, but very  uncomfortable scorching hot days in Marin.

This is very important for the very young, the Seniors or others with health conditions who need to be especially careful when weather conditions change drastically!

The following facilities have graciously agreed to open their doors as Cooling Centers (to those of any age) in Marin County in times of need.

Hours of operation as a Cooling Center are informally offered and may change when necessary.

Each site is air-conditioned, has water for drinking, a restroom and seating.

Aegis of Corte Madera
5555 Paradise Drive; Corte Madera 94925
Phone: (415) 927-4200 Fax: (415) 927-4200
Hours available as a Cooling Center: 8:30am to 7pm daily (weekends included)

Marin YMCA
1500 Los Gamos Drive; San Rafael 94903
Phone: (415) 446-2101 Fax: (415) 492-9703
Hours available as a Cooling Center: 7am to 7pm daily (weekends included)

Aldersly Garden Retirement Community
326 Mission Ave; San Rafael 94901
Phone: (415) 453-7425 Fax: (415) 453-6377
Hours available as a Cooling Center: 9am to 5pm Monday thru Friday

The Margaret Todd Senior Center (MTSC) Primary Cooling Center in Novato
1560 Hill Road; Novato 94947
Phone: (415) 899-8290
Hours available as a Cooling Center: 9am to 5pm Monday thru Friday
For after hour assistance, please call Novato Police Department Dispatch (415) 897-1122

Aegis of San Rafael
111 Merrydale Road; San Rafael 94903
Phone: (415) 472-6530 Fax: (415) 472-3969
Hours available as a Cooling Center: 9am to 5pm Monday thru Friday

Information provided by Marin County Department of Health & Human Services

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 sylvia@SylviaSellsMarin.com 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.