A long-vacant parcel along Redwood Boulevard is set to become the site of a new 80-unit townhome development including 16 affordable housing units.
Michael Hooper, co-founder of Campus Property Group LLC, which owns the 7711 Redwood Blvd. property, said the townhome project follows two decades’ worth of effort.
“We’ve been trying to get to this very spot for 21 years and until today we haven’t been able to find a project that checks all the boxes,” Hooper told the Novato City Council on Tuesday. “But I think we’ve found one tonight.”
The council voted 3-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Pat Eklund dissenting and Councilwoman Susan Wernick recusing herself, to approve the design review of the project as well as various resolutions for lot line adjustments, mapping changes and environmental assessments among others to allow the project to proceed.
“What we need is really what this project has to offer,” Mayor Denise Athas said before the vote.
Eklund opposed the project, saying that she felt the site was more appropriate for business development. She also opposed several waivers the city would be providing for the project for restrictions such as wetland buffers and height limits.
“We wanted business to be really focused in this area to help support the Buck Center and bring more higher paying jobs to Novato,” Eklund said.
Wernick recused herself from the decision because she previously reviewed the project while she was a city planning commissioner.
The 7711 Redwood Blvd. Residences project is being co-led by the Newport Beach-based Landsea Homes. Construction is expected to begin in spring of 2020 and last for about two years, if the project receives entitlement and final design review approvals.
Overall, the project includes 14 buildings with two to seven units per building. The townhomes will be for-sale units. Trees will line Redwood Boulevard to provide privacy from cars traveling on nearby Highway 101. Bedrooms for each unit range from two to four, with the majority having three bedrooms, Hooper said. The townhome sizes range from 1,000 square feet to 1,700 square feet and some units will include roof decks.
Power for the townhomes will be all electric with no natural gas. Each home will have two photovoltaic solar panels installed along with electric vehicle charging points in the garages. The landscaping will use native, drought-tolerant plants, Hooper said.
“We don’t treat sustainability as an afterthought,” Hooper told the council.
The project includes 16 affordable housing units for low- and very low-income residents, which for Novato is defined as residents with an annual income of about $95,000 and $72,500 or below respectively for a family of three living in a two-bedroom unit, according to city staff.
“There is going to be a list a mile long probably of people trying to get into those units,” Councilman Eric Lucan said.
The location will be attractive for workforce housing with the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit’s San Marin station less than a half-mile away, Hooper said.
The site will have a total of 150 garage spaces. Eight units not having garages. There will be 29 surface parking spaces.
The council allowed the project to bypass certain site restrictions due to the number of affordable housing units as allowed through the state density bonus law. The law provides incentives for the development of affordable housing.
For the townhome project, these incentives include allowing retaining walls to be as close as 4.5 feet away from nearby wetlands, well within the normal 50-foot wetland buffer zone. The original design of the project would have filled in wetlands, Hooper said, with the project making adjustments to the lot map to avoid these impacts. The council also allowed for building heights to reach 43 feet, reduced building setbacks and waived requirements for trees to be planted in the parking lot.
Novato Chamber of Commerce board member Seth Shorett said the city is in desperate need of housing and said the project would be an “asset to the city of Novato.”
The NextGen Marin housing advocacy group praised the developers for the project’s affordable housing offerings and its decision not to fill in wetlands.
“Overall, we believe that this is a well-planned project with respect to the surrounding environment and current need for more affordable housing,” the group wrote in a Dec. 16 letter to the council.