General Plan Update

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The Draft Novato General Plan 2035 is now available for public review!

Draft General Plan 2035 Documents 
Draft Novato General Plan 2035 Comparison of General Plan 2035 with 1996 General Plan
Draft Novato General Plan 2035 Appendices  Draft Downtown Design Guidelines
Highlights of Draft General Plan 2035   General Plan 2035 Presentation 

Full-size Draft General Plan maps with parcel lines 
Map GP-1 Land Use Designations Map CW-5 Landslide Hazard Areas 
Map CW-1 Road Classifications Map CW-6 Flood Hazard Zones 
Map CW-2 Bikeways Appendix E Open Space Inventory Map  
Map CW-4 Liquefaction Hazard Areas 

Provide your feedback at an upcoming workshop, open house or neighborhood meeting--see dates, times & locations posted in right-side column (under How can I participate?) >>


What is a General Plan?

The City's General Plan serves as a basis for decisions that affect the City’s growth and development such as transportation, land use, streets and infrastructure, parks, housing and neighborhoods, recreation and community facilities, downtown, the environment, public health and safety, and flooding. The General Plan is a strategic and long term document identifying goals and polices that guides and directs the City in terms of implementing policies, programs and resources. As required by State law, the City of Novato’s General Plan includes seven chapters, or "elements": land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, noise and safety.

The City's General Plan was last completely updated and approved by City Council in December 1996. The Housing Element was last updated in June, 2014, approved by the City Council on November 18, 2014 and approved by the state Housing and Community Development Department in January 2015.


Why does it need to be updated?

The General Plan is the principal policy document guiding the development and conservation of local municipalities, and is often referred to as the “constitution” of local development. The General Plan also reflects the vision and values of a community. To remain effective, a General Plan usually focuses on a time horizon of 10 years. Novato’s General Plan was last comprehensively updated in 1996; the City is looking towards 2035 with the General Plan update. New State regulations have been enacted, and our perspectives on land use and environmental issues have changed.

The General Plan update is also an opportunity to formally incorporate locally adopted climate change documents into the new General Plan. In 2009, Novato adopted a Climate Action Plan (CAP), and in May 2013, adopted an updated Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory using data from 2010. The intent is to weave climate change and adaptation strategies through the relevant chapters of the General Plan, set GHG emissions reduction targets and establish a long-term strategy to achieve those targets.   


Update Process

The City of Novato General Plan Update process, including climate change and adaptation strategies, and the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), will take approximately three years to complete. It is anticipated that formal adoption of the General Plan will occur in 2017.

The General Plan Update will occur as a series of discrete tasks. These tasks will be informed by public feedback collected during community workshops and through various education and outreach efforts, as well as through meetings with the various Commissions and City Council, all of which will occur throughout the four-year effort.

A refined work program for the General Plan update process was presented at the October 22, 2013 City Council meeting.

A. Update of the Existing Conditions Report 

An Existing Conditions Report presents information on baseline conditions about the City of Novato. It is intended to function as a reference document to be used by all participants in the General Plan Update process. The report provides background information necessary for informed decision making and consensus building during the update process. In addition to informing our future policy work, the report will be used for introductory material in the general plan chapters and as the basis of the preparation of the EIR.

The City’s former general plan consultant, Design, Community & Environment, prepared a comprehensive, Existing Conditions Report nearly five years ago, in March 2009. City staff updated the report and released the new version in March 2014.  The report spans 18 chapters and covers a diversity of topics, including land use, circulation, parks/recreation, natural and cultural resources, public services, etc.

Existing Conditions Report

B. Evaluation of Existing General Plan Policies & Programs (Fall 2013 through March 2015)

City staff evaluated the policies and programs of the 1996 General Plan, identifying those that have been implemented, those that have not (and the reasons why not), and those that are no longer relevant. This work informed the redrafting of the elements and their evaluation by the City's boards and commissions. The City Council reviewed the policy and program evaluations and provided final direction to staff in order to draft new policies and programs for the General Plan 2035.

Policy and Program Evaluations

C. Identification and Resolution of Significant Policy Options - "White Papers" (through Sept 2015)

Staff prepared "white papers" on key policy issues and presented these to the Planning Commission and City Council, as well as the appropriate City boards and commissions.

White Papers

D. Study of Focus Areas (2014 through May 2015)

Focus Area Studies

E. Preparation of the Draft General Plan 2035 (through August 2016)

Staff utilized information from the Existing Conditions Report and public input, and Council direction from focus area studies, white papers, and evaluation of the 1996 General Plan policies and programs to draft the General Plan 2035. The draft was released in August 2016.

Draft Novato General Plan 2035

F. Public Workshops to Gather Feedback (August through October 2016)

The City will hold workshops, open houses, and neighborhood meetings in order to get feedback on the Draft General Plan:

Workshops at City Hall - Meeting-style format; get an overview of the General Plan, ask questions, and give your feedback.

Open Houses at City Hall, 901 Sherman Avenue - Drop-in format; select General Plan topics of interest at staffed tables where you can get more information, ask questions, and provide feedback.

Neighborhood meetings throughout Novato - Staff will host meetings within the community; get an overview of the General Plan, ask questions, and give your feedback.

See 'How can I participate?' section for dates, times & locations (right-side column) >>

G. Preparation of the Environmental Impact Report (July 2016 through January 2017)

The City's consultant, Rincon Consultants, is preparing an Environmental  Impact Report (EIR) to analyze the environmental impacts of the policies  and programs contained in the Draft General Plan 2035.

City Council Staff Report (June 28, 2016)

H. Public Hearings (October 2016 through April 2017)

City advisory boards and commissions will discuss and provide input on the Draft General Plan. These advisory bodies include the Recreation, Cultural & Community Service Advisory Commission, Economic Development Advisory Commission, Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, Design Review Commission and the Planning Commission. The City Council will consider all public input and recommendations from the advisory boards and commissions when considering adoption of the Draft General Plan and Final Environmental Impact Report in 2017.


Schedule & Next Steps

Building upon the work previously accomplished, with dedication of substantial staff resources from several departments, and relying upon existing boards and commissions, staff anticipates completing the General Plan Update in approximately four years. The EIR process would likely constitute one year of that time. The schedule contains the following milestones:

  • Update of the Existing Conditions Report: March 2014
  • Evaluation of the Existing General Plan Policies and Programs: Through April 2015
  • White Paper Topics Presented to Commissions and the City Council: Through September 2015
  • Community Workshops on Focus Areas: Through May 2015
  • Draft General Plan Policies and Programs: Through August 2015
  • EIR for General Plan: July 2016 to January 2017
  • Draft General Plan 2035 Release for Public Review: August 2016
  • Public Workshops to Gather Feedback on Draft General Plan: August through October 2016
  • Public Hearings with City Advisory Commissions and then to City Council for Final Adoption Consideration: October 2016 to April 2017.

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