The following letter has been sent to the Novato City Council, notifying them of the potential violations of the Ralph M. Brown Act / the California open meetings law, regarding their failure to properly notice the upcoming decision-making City Council hearing.
Dear Novato City Council:
I wish to call your attention again to the agenda item J-11 of the December 5, 2017 meeting of the Novato City Council. It reads as:
CONSIDER AND POSSIBLY TAKE ACTION TO ADOPT A RESOLUTION APPROVING A LICENSE AGREEMENT FOR THE USE OF THE HUD PARCEL (APN: 157-970-07) AND STRUCTURE (816 STATE ACCESS ROAD) FOR ACTIVITIES OF THE DOWNTOWN STREETS TEAM, INCLUDING THE USE AND STORAGE OF MOBILE SHOWERS AND AUTHORIZE THE CITY MANAGER TO EXECUTE THE SAME; INCLUDING FINDINGS THAT THE ACTION IS CATEGORICALLY EXEMPT FROM THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENT QUALITY ACT (CEQA) PURSUANT TO CEQA GUIDELINES SECTIONS 15301 (EXISTING FACILITIES), 15332 (INFILL), AND 15061(B)(3
What was distributed in a
mailed public notice to residents, only within 600’ of the
proposed showers, was a postcard which stated in its title that
it was a 90-day pilot program for homeless showers and not a 1-year licensing agreement (lease) and that the
showers required a water and sewer hookup at the intended
location. The mobility of these showers is limited to the
appropriate infrastructure being in place. The water hookup is
approximately a $29,000 value which would require a city
expenditure, if not received in trade. None of this information
was given to the public in the notification or community
meeting. http://novato.org/home/showdocument?id=22771. That council approval
was required on the expenditure or the licensing period was not
noted on the agenda title. In simpler terms, the 90-day pilot
program did not match in timeframe the 1-year licensing
agreement. This was misleading to the public.
I would also like to note
that while the number of homes within the 600’ range was not
significant, the number of homes that pass directly by the
proposed location and affected by the decision is significantly
Additionally, there are
several organizations nearby which may not have been notified
including the Hamilton Skatepark users; Marin Airporter,
Courtyard Marriott, the Hamilton Marketplace including Safeway,
Novato Library at Hamilton, the North Bay Children’s Center and
daycare; and the Novato Charter school. As one public speaker
pointed out, the school had been on lock-down this year because
of a report of a homeless man with a knife in the area. These
entities and their members should have received public
notification and at least given the opportunity to weigh in on
this, should they so choose.
Additionally, the public
notice postcard mailed by the City of Novato did not contain a
city staff contact as is your standard process. Only the
applicant’s name is given, not the city staff as required by the
city’s public noticing process for transparency.
The agenda item also
referred to the parcel by an uncommon name “HUD Parcel (APN:
157-970-07). There is no mention of the Hamilton area in the agenda. We have
discussed clarity on agendas in accordance with the state’s law
for transparency in order to allow the public to participate on
items that may be of interest to them.
This same problem occurred
this year both with the Transportation Authority of Marin (TAM)
vote and with the unsolicited Avesta proposal for Hamilton Town
Center which was noticed first in a closed session and later was
noticed incorrectly on a subsequent public agenda. In the case
of the Hamilton Town Center, the project was referred to as the
Federal Lands to Parks property with an APN number. It was
removed from the agenda due to the error and the inability to
cure and correct for adequate noticing to the public.
Due to these apparent violations of the Brown
Act regarding the 1-year lease to license a Hamilton parcel for
a homeless shower system and a possible city expenditure for a
water meter; the public was mislead with the understanding that
the council would be voting on a 90-day pilot program for a
mobile homeless shower. In actuality, the council voted to
approve a 1-year license agreement (lease) of a parcel at
Hamilton for a mobile shower program that will continue until it
is reviewed on June 30, 2018 and come back to council for
possible extension in November 2018.
Other issues of
- The meeting was not broadcast on channel 27 live but was only webstreamed for later broadcast, because the meeting was held in an alternate location outside of the standard City Hall.
- The minutes and video are not available to the public at this time for review of transparency issues.
- This controversial agenda item was held to the end of the meeting, requiring the public to wait to address the council. I was not able to speak until 11:30 p.m. and I understand that the vote went past midnight.
- Some members of the public were allowed to read statements for others who were not able to stay and speak; and in addition they were allowed an extra three minutes to speak on their own behalf.
- The council staff report included only a small portion of the emails addressed to council. It is unclear whether the Council received the stack of emails that were placed at the entry table which were received by the clerk prior to the meeting but placed for viewing by the public.
All of these issues in
total, I run contrary to the Brown Acts requirement for
transparency for public meetings and the opportunity to
participate in their government on an important issue in their
I am requesting that you revise and repost the agenda for public comment and a re-vote at the next council meeting of December 12, 2017 or at a future council meeting..
Thank you, Tracey Ruiz