UPDATE: Press release from the City of Novato.
Marin County Withdraws Offer to Purchase Inn Marin as part of Homekey Program
Novato City Council discussion on this item to be removed from the November 10 agenda; Marin Board of Supervisors to cancel November 17 public hearing on this matter
Post Date: 11/10/2020 4:30 PM
On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, the Marin County Board of Supervisors held a closed session to negotiate acquiring Novato’s Inn Marin located at 250 Entrada Drive, Novato (APN 160-161-21) as part of the State’s Homekey Program. Following this closed session meeting, the County has permanently withdrawn attempts to purchase Inn Marin, and issued the following statement:
“In closed session this afternoon, the Board discussed the potential acquisition of the Inn Marin at 250 Entrada Drive, Novato. In light of not being able to reach an agreement with the Seller on price, the Board directed the County’s negotiators to no longer pursue the property. The Board further directed the Clerk to cancel the Public Hearing on the proposed purchase previously scheduled for November 17, 2020, and to cancel any remaining publication of notices for the November 17th hearing on this matter.”
The Novato City Council will no longer consider or discuss taking a formal position on this matter, and tonight’s Council meeting agenda item regarding this topic will not occur.
For additional information on the Marin County Board of Supervisors’ meeting, visit marincounty.org/bos.
Novato City Council meeting information and agendas are available at novato.org/agendas.
Arnold yanks support for Inn Marin deal
Sherman R. Frederick
Barring a last-minute change of heart by the Marin County Board of Supervisors, the City of Novato set up base camp over the weekend to fight the county tooth and nail on its unilateral move to turn the Inn Marin into a homeless facility.
The Novato City Council met in closed session on Friday and laid plans to sue the county. It planned to meet again on Tuesday to finalize those plans.
Afterwards, the city said the county has left many unanswered questions about the Inn Marin conversion plan. The city told the county to “hold community workshops as soon as possible before the board takes any final action.”
But the biggest development came Saturday when County Supervisor Judy Arnold, who initially voted to explore the idea, came out hard against the project. Her opposition could be significant, as the County Board of Supervisors and staff tend to give weight to the supervisor of the affected district.
In a letter to her fellow supervisors and the Novato City Council, she said:
“I attended the Novato City Council meeting last night (Friday) to hear the discussion of the Inn Marin proposal for the homeless.
“One woman toward the end of the meeting said how she worried about the homeless and their children, and wished Novato could help but knew the opposition was too strong, and ended her comments with: “Sometimes we just have to give up a good thing.”
“That sentence was like a commandment to me.
“I … have concluded that in the midst of the pandemic and what it is doing to businesses and family budgets, we cannot tolerate this project.
“…it is time to withdraw and say: ‘Sometimes we just have to give up a good thing.’”
The county advanced the Inn Marin proposal at the last minute under the state’s Homekey program, which offers the county “free” money to alleviate homelessness. But the county has to close by Nov. 2 to get the cash.
Homeless advocates have characterized the Inn Marin deal as found money that would help Marin alleviate homelessness. But the short fuse on the plan has the county scrambling to explain the merits of the idea.
The new owners of the Inn Marin bought the facility in 2017 for $12.1 million. They offered to sell to the county under Homekey for $18 million. The Inn Marin, like all of the travel industry, have suffered in 2020 under COVID restrictions. A county valuation of Inn Marin has been kept secret by the county.
Arnold told the Novato Advance that she initially moved to proceed with the plan to get a feel for how the community would react.
“It didn’t take long,” she said. “The messages poured in.”
She explained that normally a plan like the Inn Marin plan would go through vetting channels to give the city, the county and residents time to digest and understand the plan.
But the state’s Homekey program short circuits that and forces the county to act unilaterally.
“AB 83 crafted the bill to jump start the (Homekey) process to keep the Covid Virus from spreading among the homeless,” Arnold said. “I believe the crafters of the bill did not either care about local government hearing from their constituents.”
The first time the City of Novato heard about the plan was only hours after the county voted to proceed. All council members expressed negative comments about the lack of transparency.
Councilmember Eric Lucan said the plan would have a severe impact on Novato’s budget as the Inn Marin brings in in excess of $300,000 a year in room and property taxes. Can the county “backfill” that,” he asked. Likely not as both the county’s budget and Novato’s budget is under severe stress due to COVID-19. Both are running large deficits.
Mayor Pro Tem Pat Eklund, minced no words for the county: “The county has not been transparent. This should not go forward.”
Mayor Denise Athas, Councilmembers Susan Wernick and Amy Peele echoed that sentiment.
“It’s been my experience that if we want to get folks on board they need a seat at the table,” Councilman Wernick said, “and unfortunately in this situation, no one had a seat much less a table to even sit at.”
(Sherman R. Frederick may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Home delivery of the Novato Advance is available to Novato residents. Call Donna at 415-898-7084 to start deliver. Still only $59 per year.)