Tag Archives: Novato Ecumenical Housing (NEH)

Downzoning can punish community

Marin Scope August 3–9 1998

One Point of View

Dwayne Hunn

Political decisions at the local level seriously affect the world in which we, and tomorrow’s children, must live. Although Democrats cheered wildly when Presidential Nominee Dukakis alluded to working for the ‘community” as a reason for his success, local Democrats as well as Republicans seldom think in terms of the larger community.

Californians spend 300,000 hours a day stuck in traffic at a cost of $350 million a year. Automobile traffic, especially stop-and-go traffic, is overwhelming our atmosphere with carbon dioxide. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have risen from 280 parts per million in the immediate pre-industrial period to 348 parts per million in 1987, a rise of 24%

Marin’s population has grown 1/2 of 1 percent every year since 1970. Its automobile registration, during the same period, has grown 6 times as fast. Today’s average home sale price in Marin tops $270,000. What do these statistics have to do with local political decisions?

Let’s use a real life example. Recently San Rafael’s General Plan Revision public hearing process ended. Shortly thereafter, at a late June San Rafael City Council Meeting, Council member Thayer moved and the City Council unanimously supported an immediate downzoning of the Spinnaker on the Bay Project.

Neither of the developers, Sidney Hendricks or Dennis Horne, were present nor had they been apprised that this downzoning was under consideration. “Four to five years of work was re-planned in five minutes and $200,000 of our money was wasted,” was how Dennis Horne described the downzoning to medium density (8-15 units per acre). According to Home, the San Rafael Planning Department and Design Review had no serious problems with their design of 18.5 units per acre (506 units) with 15% of those to be affordable units. His disgusted, initial reaction to this decision was to say, “I’m tired of all this jacking around. If the City says we can build 20 palatial estates that’s what we’ll build. No more attempts to provide affordable housing or work with the community. It just wastes our time and money and gets us burned.”

If you are one of those who think all developers are fat cats raping the land, then you don’t realize that after about 7 years in the development business only about two out of five still have the finances to remain in business. What you should also realize is that the few who survive must acquiesce to the ‘planning forces” that publicly control the private land for which so much was paid. The “planning forces” are often composed of legions of NIMBYs (not-in-my-back-yard) or swell-worded environmentalists. Both don’t seem to make the connection between their role in forcing regular folks Into a long distance commute to find an affordable home and the consequent degradation of our atmosphere.

How could this scenario be better handled? The Council could reconsider it’s action based on:

  1. East San Rafael’s pleas for less traffic and more affordable’ housing.

2) The developers desire to build a secure project that benefits more than just the rich

3) Suggestions by Novato Ecumenical Housing to swap the affordable units proposed for Spinnaker on the Bay for in-lieu fees that could have been used to:

  1. Purchase an existing apartment complex(s) in East San Rafael and insure its long term affordability or make it into a coop(s).
  2. Purchase existing condominiums in East San Rafael and use a deferred principal and Interest second trust deed program, as presently implemented by NEH in Novato, to make home ownership available to low Income households.

In-lieu fees equal to 15% of 506 will buy more existing units in East San Rafael than 5–15% of the reduced density of approximately 280 units.

Swapping in-lieu fees for community controlled will provide a means to build “community.” Downzoning, just because it sounds good to a narrow constituency, often punishes the larger community. The more often this goes on in Marin and communities across the United States, the more time we waste behind the wheel. The more time we waste behind the wheel, the more we increase the Greenhouse effect and the less competitive we become in the world.



NEH, NBTMA, County letters on Hamilton Proposed Development

Costal Post May 31, 1989

 Hamilton Housing And Jobs

 Based on an analysis of the Redevelop­ment dollars that the Hamilton project would generate and the state-mandated 20% minimum set aside for Affordable Housing which total $105 million, I have computed that by year five of the project up to 330 of the lowest salaried families (earning up to $20,000/year) could be receiving $250 per month rent assistance payment for up to 30 years. By year seven, a thousand local fami­lies will be eligible to receive that level of assistance and there will be sufficient funds to provide it.

NEH has recently assisted over 100 fami­lies to secure newly affordable housing in Novato. We have found displaced Novato families with young children will move back from Sonoma to Novato when they can be guaranteed as little as $250/month rent reduction/rent assistance.

Thus, the estimated worse case traffic figures in the EIR are very wrong. The back­ups, both a.m. and p.m., are based on an erroneous assumption that only 16% of the people will be living and working on site at Hamilton. Our analysis shows that over 50% of families working at Hamilton can and will live on site, especially if at least 50% of the first housing units built in phase One will not be generating the 101 peak hour traffic feared.

Additionally, our analysis shows that many of the newly created entry level jobs at Hamilton can and will be filled/held by spouses of active duty military personnel. These spouses will need neither new hous­ing nor will then need to get on the freeway to get to Hamilton—they will already be there at Capehart and Rafael Village. They can be at Hamilton without ever going onto any freeway as it exists or as improved by Berg-Revoir. The EIR did not adequately evaluate the traffic reducing impact of these available workers—already in affordable military housing—on site.


Novato Ecumenical Housing Novato

Traffic Impact Of The Hamilton


Letter to Dwayne Hunn

North Bay Transportation Management Association:

You have asked for a clarification of the County’s projections for the traffic impact of the proposed Hamilton project on High­way 101 as outlined on Page 9 of the County letter submitted to the Novato Planning Commission on September 12, 1988.

The morning queue of bumper to bumper traffic on Highway 101 currently backs up 6.8 miles from the bottleneck at Puerto Suello Hill to Highway 37. As our Septem­ber letter to the Novato Planning Commission indicates, the County estimates that the addition of 1,150 southbound vehicles per hour on Highway 101 headed for Hamilton in the morning would add 9 to 17 lane miles of queue to the existing queue beginning at Highway 37. The addition of 9 to 17 lane miles to the existing queue would back up traffic on the freeway an additional 3 to 6.5 miles extending the bumper to bumper traf­fic from its current beginning at Highway 37 up to San Marin Drive or past Gnoss Field.

The evening queue of bumper to bumper traffic currently begins north of San Marin Drive where the freeway narrows to 4 lanes and extends 1.8 miles to DeLong Avenue. As our September letter indicates, the County estimates that the addition of 865 northbound vehicles per hour on Highway 101 from Hamilton during the evening commute would add 7 to 13 lane miles of queue to the existing queue beginning at DeLong Avenue. The addition of 7 to 13 lane miles to the existing queue would back up traffic on the freeway an additional 2.3 to 4.3 miles extending the bumper to bumper traffic from its current beginning at DeLong down to Highway 37 or Alameda del Prado. In summary, the County estimates that the Hamilton project would add 3 to 6.5 miles of congestion to the freeway during the morning commute hours and 2.3 to 4.3 miles of congestion to the freeway during the evening commute hours. I hope these figures provide the clarification you requested.


Marin County Planning Department San Rafael

 NBTMA Supports The Hamilton Project

North Bay Transportation Management

Association (NBTMA) believes that the public and private sectors working together can create traffic solutions that will improve the community’s quality of life.

NBTMA asks you to support the Hamilton Project for the following reasons:

Hamilton traffic reduction strategies; first right to rent for those who work at Hamilton; Redevelopment Agency funds of$105 mil­lion guarantee low and moderate income households funds to live and work at Hamil­ton; and optimal use of the Northwest Pa­cific Right-of-Way by designing to build a live/work community within a 1,2 mile walk of the transit corridor.

The correct County estimates that the project would add to miles of added queues are 3 to 6.5 miles in the morning and 2.3 to 4.3 in the evening. This is without factoring in the traffic mitigations listed above.

When phased traffic mitigation require­ments are coupled with developers who listen, traffic reduction can be the result.

Local Jobs Data Bank would place pres­ent Novato out-commuters into jobs at Hamilton. Transit providers could shuttle workers from Sonoma to their Hamilton jobs, such as the Santa Rosa Airporter.

Federal Entrepreneurial Capital Grunt funds are available to put a jitney on the road, but to receive them the recipient must show a 3 year business plan which shows that non-public money will make the jitney self-supportive. Hamilton’s developers would consider paying the fares of their workers who commute from Novato to work at Hamilton.

Hamilton is a model that can encourage the development of other mixed-used com­munities along Marin and Sonoma’s rail­road right-of-way. To build those workable communities, a model must be created. Hamilton is the model.

Innovations at Novato’s Skylark project

Marin Independent Journal  Friday, January 31, 1986

By Clark Blasdell and Dwayne Hunn

JUST UP THE ROAD from the Marin Independent Journal, 15 more families soon will be moving in at the Skylark housing project, another development by Novato Ecumenical Housing.

This Ignacio project will set a state record when 19 of its 37 homes are sold at below-market rates to first-time Marin homebuyers who. earn less than 80 percent of the county’s median income of $27,500.

There are several innovations connected with this project. Itemizing them gives us an idea of how difficult it is to build affordable housing in Marin.

With a balance sheet of zero, Novato Ecumenical Housing received a $350,000 California Housing and Community Development loan — one of their largest single commitments. Coupled with Community Development Block Grant funds and in-lieu fees from developers, NEH now had enough funds to purchase the site on Alameda del Prado near the Skylark Motel.

The city of Novato’s Housing Opportunity Program encourages affordable housing development by allowing certain sites to be built at the top of the density range, thereby reducing a developer’s per unit cost. One of these sites, was found.

By using the $350,000 predevelopment loan, NEH was required to make half of the development affordable to low-income households — those with earnings from $19,250 to $27,500. After eight lending institutions rejected NEH’s construction-loan application because of the project’s financial complexity, Citicorp granted a $2.35 million loan in February 1985.

NEH’s contribution was to come from $973,984 in grants it obtained from nine different funding sources.

Also part of the funding package was $2.754 million of first-time homebuyers’ mortgage money through the $22 million Marin County Tax Exempt Bond Pro gram, issued at a fixed 30-year rate of 10.5 percent.

To obtain this money, points (prepaid interest) had to be paid to the bond broker. These fees were paid by another block grant allocation.

Through the process, NEIl was determined to build the best project possible. We began by choosing California’s 1981 Affordable Housing Design winner, Mike Moyer, as project architect. He integrated all-redwood siding, solar domestic hot water beating, all-gas appliances, extremely high-efficiency gas furnaces, thermo-paned windows and edible landscaping into the one and two-bedroom designs. PG&E later awarded Skylark its Energy Conservation Award.

To make we homes affordable and to ensure that pride of ownership would be maintained, NEH created second trust deeds (mortgages) with deferred principle and interest, along with a shared-appreciation program for the below-market-rate buyers.

As an example, suppose such a buyer purchases a unit at $100,000, but can only finance $60,000 (down payment plus first mortgage). The remaining $40,000 in value is carried by NEH as a “sleeping” second mortgage requiring no payments until the unit is sold.

At that time, the first and second mortgage are repaid and the appreciation beyond that is split between the original buyer and NEH. This split, in essence, is NEH’s deferred interest.

For market-rate buyers, NEH provides interest-rate buydowns. For example, suppose a first-time homebuyer purchases a unit at the 10.5 percent interest rate. NEH may do a 2-to-1 buydown, which means it pays part of the interest for each of the first two years.

This means that in year one, the interest is 8.5.5 percent, in year two it is 9.5 percent and for the remaining 28 years it’s 10.5 percent. This often helps the buyer qualify by reducing initial monthly payments.

To cost-effectively carry out the design and ensure hometown accountability, a Novato builders’ consortium of respected builders was formed– Grippe, Parode, and Timmer.

As NEH enters its second full month of marketing, prices start at $88,000 with uniquely designed two-bedroom units available at $105,000. Spacious two-bedroom townhouse design s are priced at $114,950. A few below-market-rate units may also still be available.

Interested people should contact Home and Land Realty (454-9900) to take a look at the spectacular and affordable record-setting project that NEH and the community of Novato are proud to have created for Marin.

More than half the units at Novato’s Skylark housing will be sold at below market rates




Clark Blasdell is executive director of Novato Ecumenical Housing. Dwayne Hunn is assistant director and Skylark’s project manager.


New project offers affordable housing

Novato Advance  Wednesday, November 20, 1985


Novato Ecumenical Housing.

 Novato Ecumenical housing began marketing an unusual — and record breaking — housing project this month.

Skylark Meadows, located at Alameda Del Prado and Cielo Lane, sets a California record because 19 of Its 37 units are affordable to low-income households.

No ownership housing development with both market-rate and below-market-rate units has ever come close to making such a high percentage of its units affordable to low-income households.

The marketing of Skylark marks a significant breakthrough in affordable housing. In July, the average sales price of a home in Marin was $200,000. This means few teachers, policemen, firemen. clerks, etc. can afford to own a Marin home. Many of these people look for homes in Sonoma County. in 1970 the average daily traffic that crossed the Marin-Sonoma County line was 31,000. Last year, that number was up to 58,000.

Young, starting families find it almost impossible to qualify top~. chase a home in Marin. Consequently, families with children arc becoming a rarity in Marin. Since 1970, Marin’s average household size dropped 18 percent.

Skylark is one attempt to reverse that trend. Beginning with architect Mike Moyer, winner of California’s 1981 Affordable housing Design Competition, Skylark has retained high quality and affordability. Every inch of Skylark has been done in premium exterior redwood siding — even the signage is in redwood.

Edible and native landscaping. which uses only about 40 percent of  water consumed by traditional residential project plantings, covers the ground.

And, though an initial design concept called for electric resistance heating, which is cheaper and easier for the developer to install, NEHs final choice was to create an all-gas project. As a result, the homeowners’ operating costs are likely to be cut in half.

All 37 Skylark units have active solar water heating designed to provide about 70 percent of the domestic hot water load.

In addition to reducing energy costs for residents. Skylark is NEH’s small effort to ease Highway 101 gridlock.

In setting a state record, NEIL hopes to use this as a flagship for other affordable housing projects that will provide homes to families who are the working backbone of a community.

We hope that these families, instead of spending tedious hours on  an air-polluting freeway commute will Jive near where they work.

Few projects in Marin offer 608 to 1,3)0 square feet of premium housing, with market values ranging from $78,500 to $114,950. Fewer yet offer first-time homebuyers 10.5 percent fixed rate 30-year Marin County Bond financing. None, that we know of, offer two- year interest buydowns on the first 10 two-bedroom units sold.

This means that the interest rate in year one Is only 8.5 percent. In year two It increases to 9.5 percent and is fixed thereafter at 10.5 percent for the remaining 28 years.

Novato Ecumenical Housing is especially interested in offering Skylark units to families of three with incomes of about $24,750, and families of four with incomes of about $27,500.

For more information about buying at Skylark, call 892-8136 or 454-9900.

Contractor Rick Timmer (left), Clark Blasdell and Dwayne Hunn looked over Skylark Meadows plans shortly before the development was completed.  Skylark units went on sale this month.