Angry Ruiz Blasts Mayor Fryday & City Manager Regan Candelario

Angry Hamilton Resident Tracey Ruiz Blasts Mayor Fryday and City Manager Candelario Attempt to Conceal Hamilton Property Sale to Developer

Dear Mayor Fryday and Council,

When you are deliberating the RFP process on the Hamilton Town Center, I would like to remind you that over 400 people have signed a petition against infill housing at that location.  https://www.change.org/p/novato-city-council-hamilton-town-center-is-for-all-of-us

At the November 29, 2017 council meeting, Councilmembers Eric Lucas, Denise Athas and Josh Fryday voted to include the Hamilton Town Center in the Request For Proposal (RFP) process despite the petition, despite 200 comments that were presented, and despite the numerous speakers and emails that objected to the Hamilton Town Center’s inclusion in the first round of RFPs.  Many citizens waited three hours to speak on the subject which was rushed due to the midnight time restriction that evening of the council chambers at Novato Unified School District.

Reviewing the current staff recommendation on the RFP for the Hamilton Town Center, I ask you to consider the following:

  1.  Restrict the RFP on Hamilton Town Center and exclude in-fill housing proposals.  

The Hamilton Town Center was planned as an open space to provide an environmental and visual respite to the high density of the surrounding homes.  Additional housing and associated cars are not appropriate in this historic hub of Hamilton’s planned community.  Any development at this site must be carefully considered to maintain the historical integrity of the Hamilton Town Center which is one of the key identifying features of the original 1930’s airbase.

Hamilton is a high density development and this site was originally designated as open space by the Federal government in the transfer of the property to the City of Novato.

If you review the March 15, 2016 agenda where the Council approved to move that open space zoning to another property, you will find that it was not placed on the agenda in a transparent manner.  Instead, the agenda called it “Federal Lands to Parks Exchange” and APN parcel numbers were used instead of common names for the properties.  This process did not include any public engagement that I’m aware of during the three years it took to arrange the transfer with the Federal government.  Close to the March 15 council meeting, a public request for a community meeting on the topic never took place and instead a “fact sheet” was distributed to the few attendees at a community meeting on flood zones.

March 15, 2016 City Council Agenda

  1. HAMILTON FEDERAL LANDS TO PARKS EXCHANGE 

Added: POWERPOINT PRESENTATION

Consider adopting a resolution approving the Hamilton Federal Lands to Parks Exchange, including: (1) adopting a Mitigated Negative Declaration and Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program; (2) approving a tentative map dividing APN 157-690-53; (3) authorizing the execution of a deed of release and amendment of restrictions applicable to APNs 157-970-03, 147-690-47 and portions of 157-690-53; (4) authorizing execution of a declaration of restrictions relating to APNs 155-400-01, 155-400-02, 155-400-04, 155-400-06 and 155-400-07; and (5) approving a program of utilization relating to same.

  1.  Review the RFP timelines to ensure that the public has ample time to schedule and participate.

Recall that the November 28, 2017 Council meeting on the RFP process for 13 vacant properties at Hamilton, including the Hamilton Town Center, occurred on the Tuesday after the Thanksgiving holiday and that the Council’s agenda came out on Thanksgiving Day.  The agenda contained 37 pages of documentation and did not include the reference documents:  Novato’s Strategic Plan; General plan; Hamilton Field Master Plan.  The meeting was also held at an alternate location; the Novato Unified School District Offices instead of the City Hall council chambers.

  1.  Require accountability on public engagement, participation and community meetings with follow-through on timelines proposed by the city manager and staff.  

On February 28, 2017, a Novato Council Closed Session agenda with Avesta Development Group was scheduled to negotiation “price and terms of payment.” This sparked outrage and was yet another example of a lack of communication, public engagement and a potential violation of the Brown Act for not first announcing this offer in open session.

February 2, 2017 City Council Agenda – Item cancelled by the developer

  1. CLOSED SESSION
  2. CLOSED SESSION PURSUANT TO GOVERNMENT CODE SECTION 54956.8:

CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATOR

Property:                  Hamilton Theater Town Center Site, APN No 157-690-4

Agency Negotiator:  Regan Candelario, City Manager

Scott Ward, Director of Hamilton Base Reuse

Negotiating Parties:  Avesta Development Group, LLC

Under Negotiation:   Price and Terms of Payment

A March 20, 2017 community meeting was held in response to the public uproar on this process.  This was followed by an April 22, 2017 Community Visioning meeting for the vacant properties including Hamilton Town Center.

The public was led to believe that additional community meetings would occur as outlined in City Manager Regan Candelario’s proposed timeline presented at the July 25, 2017 Novato City Council agenda.  I do not believe that any of the proposed outreach and feedback meetings took place prior to the November 29, 2017 meeting where Councilmembers Josh Fryday, Eric Lucan and Denise Athas voted to place all 13 vacant properties at Hamilton out for RFP process, including the Hamilton Town Center. Please see the agenda below:

July 25, 2017 City Council Agenda

  1. STRATEGIC PLAN UPDATE, PROPOSED SCHEDULE, AND REVIEW OF THE PROCESS TO ADDRESS THE CITY-OWNED FEDERAL LANDS TO PARKS SITES IN HAMILTON, STRATEGIC PLAN ITEM 3C

Receive an update regarding the current Strategic Plan from Staff including the proposed schedule for the upcoming Strategic Plan and review the process to address the City-owned Federal Lands to Parks sites in Hamilton (Item 3C).

EXCERPT Page 3 of item J10

  • Staff has scheduled a City Council discussion regarding Hamilton as a potential for General Plan/focus area for August 29
  • Staff will schedule more outreach/feedback meetings in Hamilton and Citywide for the summer and fall
  • Staff has scheduled a presentation to the City Council for September 26 to layout and discuss proposed next steps for the designated City owned parcels in Hamilton
  • After September 26 City Council meeting, Staff will schedule more outreach/feedback meeting(s) in Hamilton and Citywide in October
  • The first decision making date for the Council is tentatively set for November 14

As you can see this process so far has been riddled with errors in transparency and effectively limited public engagement.  And it continues, as not all of the agenda links on this topic are available as historical references on the city’s web page dedicated to the “Hamilton Federal Lands to Parks Exchange,” particularly the closed session agenda on February 2, 2017 and city manager’s timeline on the July 25, 2017 agenda.

With this knowledge and background, I hope you will agree that the solution is for all the Council members to demonstrate a good faith effort and restore the public’s trust by placing a restriction against any RFPs for the Hamilton Town Center that include in-fill housing and/or by temporarily removing the Hamilton Town Center from the RFP process as requested by citizens who spoke at the November 29, 2017 council meeting.

This will allow the RFP process to be vetted on other, less sensitive, vacant properties at Hamilton.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

-Tracey Ruiz

Tracey Ruiz
Freelance Writer, Social Media

totraceyruiz@gmail.com

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