About Novato CA
Novato is currently enjoying a surge in popularity due to the renovation of downtown, expansive green spaces, relatively low housing costs, and key geographic location. Located 29 miles north of San Francisco and bordering Sonoma County, Novato CA is the second largest city in the county and close to everything.
Novato has a long list of attractive features for residents and businesses, including a small town atmosphere, low population density, high household income, lower housing prices than other Marin County cities, high investment in public schools and education, and the warmest climate in the County. Novato has a rural atmosphere fostered by twenty-seven parks and seven open space preserves that total around 2,600 acres, including 1,600 acres surrounding Mount Burdell in Northern Novato.
Housing in Novato is relatively affordable. Novato’s high personal income level and relatively low housing costs push median discretionary income for city residents to double the Bay Area average. Hamilton Field is an exciting new residential, commercial, and cultural community that is located on the once-vacant Air Force Base. This planned community has six neighborhoods with over 900 new single-family homes and many new residents feel there is a real sense of community. There are lots of recreational facilities including an outdoor Olympic-sized pool, baseball field, gymnasium, skate park, historic amphitheater, and children’s play park. Businesses have moved into beautifully renovated old airplane hangars.
Novato has more than its share of rock star power, with Metallica’s James Hetfield, Journey’s Jonathan Cain and Steve Smith, Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, slide guitarist Roy Rogers, and blues singer Angela Strehli and husband bob Brown, who manages Huey Lewis and the News and owns Rancho Nicasio, the West Marin roadhouse, claiming local status. Former members of the Grateful Dead maintain a rehearsal studio in a Novato industrial park. The Chosen Family hippie commune, including singer Janis Joplin, lived in the old Burdell mansion until it burned in 1969.
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Novato was incorporated in 1960, but its history dates back to about 6,000 BC when Coast Miwok Native Americans inhabited the area, living in a village at the base of Mount Burdell. The Coast Miwok are considered to be the finest artisans of the Pacific Coast tribes and during the Spanish Mission Era, they learned how to build with adobe and cultivate new food crops. Mexican governors made several land grants in the Novato area. In 1839, Fernando Feliz was granted Rancho de Novato and the following year Ygnacio Pacheco received Rancho San Jose (the area is now Ignacio, Hamilton, and Bel Marin Keys.) In 1843, Camilo Ynitia, son of the last Coast Miwok Chief, was granted Rancho Olompali. Olompali is the site of the first Spanish colonial house built in Marin County. After being sold several times, Rancho Novato was purchased in 1856 by Francis DeLong and Joseph Sweeter. They planted thousands of trees, mostly apples, and the Ranch became one of the largest orchards in the world. In the 1870’s, Portuguese and Swiss-Italian farmers and dairymen began to settle in Novato. In the 1880â€™s, the Northwest Pacific Railroad reached Novato, connecting the small agricultural community to the rest of the North Bay. By 1910, chicken ranches, orchards, diaries and vineyards were the mainstay of Novato’s economy. The subdivision of 6,000 acres by DeLong was the beginning of the present city of Novato.
During the depression, Novato city staff brought an Army Air Base to the community. Hamilton Air Force Base, during most of its operational years (1928 – 1975), was the main employer in Marin County, but now Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, with 2,400 employees, is the largest employer in the County.
Novato’s economic base is well integrated into the emerging new economy of the San Francisco Bay area with the shift towards small, knowledge-based businesses launched by entrepreneurs. These businesses also are typically oriented towards global, rather than local market. Novato successfully mixes corporate headquarters (Birkenstock Footwear, Smith and Hawken, and TravelSmith); state-of-the-art technology companies (Broderbund, IMSI, Sonic Solutions, and Industrial Light and Magic – Skywalker Ranch); and a variety of retail centers in its business community. The nonprofit Buck Institute for Research in Aging is on the leading edge of biomedical research on the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease.
Beginning in early 2003, the City of Novato began renovation of Grant Avenue, from Railroad Avenue to 7th Street, the area commonly referred to as Old Town. The renovation is almost complete with new streets, sidewalks, and landscaping. The new streetlights have an old-fashioned look and there are also a few Victorian clapboard buildings on the side streets off Grant. The Spanish-influenced architecture has been retained but updated and has enhanced the historic charm of the area. Almost all the buildings on this street are one-story wood or stucco, with a few modern buildings that house banks. This area is home to small service businesses, restaurants (predominantly Mexican), and a mix of and eclectic shops including florists, jewelers, fashions, home and personal gifts. A recent addition is the chain grocery Whole Foods to be located at the old railroad station. Running every Tuesday night from May until October, is the ever-popular Farmer’s Market. Located downtown at DeLong and Sherman, vendors sell organic and seasonal produce, fresh-baked goods, flowers, and local gourmet specialties, along with live music, carriage rides, and BBQ. The Downtown Novato Business Association hosts events, promotions, and specials in addition to providing a business directory, contacts, directions/maps, and a newsletter. The Association’s Web site is at www.downtownnovato.com and includes photos of before and after the beautification of Old Town. The Association has a subsidiary Web site, www.GrantAvenueTV.com. This site showcases local public access station Channel 26 and the Association produces a show detailing the events, businesses, and issues of the Grant Avenue/Old Town area.
Bel Marin Keys
Located in the unincorporated area east of the Novato city limits, this is an affluent water-front community with approximately 700 homes. Most of the homes sit on one of the many beautiful lagoons, although some are on the Novato Creek. All of the lagoons have access to San Pablo and San Francisco bays through the navigational locks.
Bel Marin Keys was a planned community built between the late 1950s and the mid 1980s. Phases 1 through 4 were completed, but phase 5 was never built due to environmental concerns. Instead, the land is in the process of being converted back into wetlands, which were dried out in the early 1900s for farmland. Phase 5 would have roughly doubled the size of the Bel Marin Keys tract had it been built. The Phase 5 restoration is an expansion of the Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project.
Marin Country Club
The Marin Country Club has been in operation for 45 years and currently has 540 members. Membership is limited and by invitation only. The Club holds several golf socials each year for prospective members to meet current members and experience the amenities of the Club. Members have equity in the assets of the Club. The Club’s mission is to foster camaraderie and a high quality social and family atmosphere.
- Winter temperatures range from 48 to 62
- Spring temperatures range from 64 to 81
- Summer temperatures range from 74 to 98
- Fall temperatures range from 73 to 95
- Rainfall 57 – 65 days per year
- Precipitation 40 inches per year
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