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Hamilton Athletic Field

How Not to Do a Public Works Project

Posted by on 11:24 am in Featured, Forum Discussion, Hamilton Athletic Field, Opinion, Uncategorized | 1 comment

How Not to Do a Public Works Project

Russell Thompson, Director of Public Works, and his Staff have managed to unnecessarily alienate a sizable portion of Hamilton area residents with a ham-handed and arrogant installation of a huge solar panel installation that all residents of the Southgate neighborhood cannot avoid each time they leave home.  It was unexpected and unwanted. The execution of this project is a real setback in an already tentative relationship between the Public Works Department Staff and Novato residents. Skeptical residents are inclined towards an adversarial mode after witnessing the Public Works leadership say one thing and then do another. This is a classic case of how NOT to do a public works project. What was presented to Novato as the “Solar Project at Hamilton Pool” in classic bait and switch fashion became a white monstrosity at the intersection of Hangar Ave and Maybeck St, i.e. the main entrance to the Southgate neighborhood. It will likely remain there and probably be repainted a matte black partially hidden by evergreen trees. The solar panel structure is a monument to the City of Novato Staff’s prior problematic inability to accurately and completely measure the preferences of residents who may be affected by one of the city’s projects. It’s not that a comprehensive measurement cannot be done. It’s more likely because the City Staff fears that the proposed project will not be favorably received by the affected nearby residents. Historically, Novato’s City Staff has hidden behind minimalist legal notification requirements thereby avoiding the scope and width of engagement common sense dictates. The resultant angry responses by residents forced the City senior staff to “reach out” to residents. Still fearful that if residents knew completely what the Staff intended, the Staff used “selective” methods to engage the community in ways that tend to minimize negative feedback and quietly produce the Staff’s desired approval. More astute observers of the local political scene exposed the faux “reaching out” methods used in the name of “engaging” with the community. A recent fad is the use of community charrettes to engage community residents at the inception of a project’s planning. The charrette concept can be a useful planning tool if not used as a mere ratification of pre-selected choices. Unfortunately, the perversion of the process to serve a pre-determined outcome is more common. An elementary problem with charrettes is them being a “squeaky wheel” metric, i.e. those with strong feelings one way or the other attend and are heard. The silent middle majority do not attend and are not “engaged”. In most instances the “outcomes” of charrettes are not representative and are easily redefined to once again suit a predetermined and Staff preferred end. Residents have pushed back against pre-selected project “stakeholders” being used to represent community preferences regarding a particular project, e.g. departed City Manager Michael Frank’s ramrodding of an oversized Regional Transit approval against all common sense. One potentially useful development out of the widespread distrust of City Staff pronouncements has been an evolving City website.  Vision Internet, out of El Segundo, is working to improve the City’s website architecture and content. There is more information available to Novato residents today and it’s much easier to use. After the Hamilton Solar Panel episode turned turtle with angry residents publically criticizing the City Staff, senior managers reluctantly realized they were...

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Hamilton Field Sports Complex – Critique of the Assessment of Visitation Projections – By Alan Berson

Posted by on 5:37 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Hamilton Athletic Field, Opinion, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Hamilton Field Sports Complex – Critique of the Assessment of Visitation Projections – By Alan Berson

Article by Alan Berson The City of Novato recently released three studies about the proposed commercial Sports Complex at Hamilton Field. The three technical studies were prepared for the City as part of the preliminary application review process. The studies were funded by the applicants. The three studies, Fields Needs Assessment, Visitation Projections, and theEconomic Analysis, are based upon the most recent proposal for the Sports Complex, which was submitted to Novato in March of 2015. This is significant because that proposal is not the basis of these three reports. Under this “fast track” process being promoted by the City of Novato, the City has approved the creation of these reports based solely on verbal “promises” made by the developer to modify and reduce the scope of the original 2015 proposal. However, the developer has not actually done so. In fact, the developer has yet to submit enough information for the City to even determine the application is complete. This article is a critique of the Assessment of Visitation Projections, dated April 2016, (attached below), prepared by the Sports Management Group. In the City’s Summary of the Assessment states the following: The goal of this report is to evaluate the reasonableness of the projected visitation figures as projected by the Project Applicant. To reach this goal, the authors interviewed the Project Applicant and used their assumptions, analyzed project usage and visitation figures as provided by Victus in their report, prepared a “typical schedule” to test fields’ capacities, and conducted a comparative analysis of attendance figures at three similar facilities. Their conclusions concur with the estimates of the Project Application of about 201,000 visitors to the Sports Park and 91,000 to the Community Park annually. Critique This is not an independent assessment as claimed. Rather, it is a report based upon the same assumptions as adopted by the applicant and by Victus Advisors in their Economic and Fiscal Impact Analysis. It is mostly a check on the arithmetic described by the applicant. Even given these limitations, several glaring problems exist: Page 2 lists the principal features of the proposed project, but nowhere is it mentioned that alcoholic beverages are to be available on site. One questions whether or not this omission is intentional. Page 7 has a listing provided by the applicant that includes this statement: “The market for leagues, camps, lessons will be predominantly local.” This statement does not ring true. If that were true, there would be no need for accommodating so many people and having a regulation size stadium. In fact, it is doubtful that the operators of the proposed sports complex would find this to be financially profitable without having a large customer base outside of the city of Novato. Page 7 listing also refers to a study by Big League Dreams, a sports group with dubious credibility because of its history of misleading promises and multiple failures to assume responsibilities for fiscal problems. To rely on this group for predictions and assumptions is a big mistake. The listing on page 7 fails to note the competition from Petaluma that is very likely to markedly reduce attendance at any Novato events. The Petaluma sports complex is only about 15 minutes’ drive from Novato. In short, this is a report that provides little or no new or...

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Hamilton Field Sports Complex – Critique of the Needs Assessment Study – By Alan Berson

Posted by on 5:17 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Hamilton Athletic Field, Opinion, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Hamilton Field Sports Complex – Critique of the Needs Assessment Study – By Alan Berson

Article written by Alan Berson The City of Novato recently released three studies about the proposed commercial Sports Complex at Hamilton Field. The three technical studies were prepared for the City as part of the preliminary application review process. The studies were funded by the applicants. The three studies, Fields Needs Assessment, Visitation Projections, and theEconomic Analysis, are based upon the most recent proposal for the Sports Complex, which was submitted to Novato in March of 2015. This is significant because that proposal is not the basis of these three reports. Under this “fast track” process being promoted by the City of Novato, the City has approved the creation of these reports based solely on verbal “promises” made by the developer to modify and reduce the scope of the original 2015 proposal. However, the developer has not actually done so. In fact, the developer has yet to submit enough information for the City to even determine the application is complete. This article is a critique of The Fields Needs Assessment Study, dated March 2016, (attached below). In its Summary it states the following: The difference between the demand and the supply indicates that to meet the desired level of field use and the current demand for growth, an additional 177 timeslots per week for ball sports and an additional 272 timeslots per week for field sports are needed. Although the required timeslots varies by field depending on a number of factors (natural or synthetic turf, lighted or unlighted, etc.), estimates indicate a need for 6 to 8 ball fields and 10 to 12 multi-use fields, based on the existing inventory of natural turf and unlighted fields. Critique The report relies on references to sports facilities in other similar cities, interviews with groups that are advocates for sports, and by pointing out successful operations elsewhere. However, its weaknesses are numerous and include the following: There are no references to actual data of the Novato Department of Recreation and Parks. No evidence is presented to indicate that serious waiting periods for ball fields has existed for Novato residents over the past 10 years. In fact, this report makes no reference to the authors having reviewed actual data of the department. In response to questions about availability of sports fields in October 2012, the Novato Director of Parks and Recreations wrote this: “Once a facility renter submits a facility use request, we have 4 days to approve it or not. If we can’t accommodate them, we refer them to other potential facilities oftentimes. But the City and NUSD have nearly all of the facilities and we work together to meet the most needs possible. We do not track wait time as requested below, because we either accommodate or can’t”. No discussion is presented of alternate ways to accommodate perceived needs of sports enthusiasts, such as repair of existing fields, and use of sports facilities just outside the city, both north and south that are under-utilized. No space is devoted to describing the sports facilities already built and under construction in Petaluma that will almost surely compete with the proposed Novato facility for business. No mention is made of the many sports facilities that have been abandoned either during construction or early in its operation, leaving the city with a mess and a large...

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Novato’s Senior City Staff Fails Again – Hamilton Pool Solar Panel Architectural Disaster

Posted by on 3:45 pm in Featured, Forum Discussion, Hamilton Athletic Field, Opinion, Uncategorized | 4 comments

Novato’s Senior City Staff Fails Again – Hamilton Pool Solar Panel Architectural Disaster

In used car lot lingo it is called “bait and switch”. In Novato it could be called how Senior City Staff communicates with Novato’s neighborhoods. On October 23, 2014 the Novato Department of Public Works presented a forty-two page Staff Report to a Special Meeting of the Finance Committee requesting the support and approval to use Measure F Funds to install a solar power project at the Hamilton Pool. It was approved. In the Staff Report, two potential configurations were presented with drawings and dimensions. One was a two-part ground mount system on the hillside below the pool which was ultimately rejected. The second was a single T-Structure carport configuration to be located in the parking lot below the hilltop pool. The T-structure carport design was shown in the Oct 2014 Staff Report site plan to be located at the back side of the south half of the parking lot away from the entrance to the South Gate neighborhood and with a maximum carport-like elevation of 14 feet 8 inches. It was also noted that the structure could be located in the north parking lot but would require trimming of trees. The report noted that the sites and designs had been “presented” to the Hamilton Community Forum and that Staff was reaching out to other neighborhood Homeowner Associations. Instead, what the South Gate neighborhood, whose entrance fronts the north parking lot, got in November was a massive structure of a solar panel 20 feet high, 80 feet long and 30 feet deep placed across the street directly in front of the South Gate entrance. It could only be charitably described as in-your-face ugly. How did such a monstrosity get erected without the design alarm bells going off? Here’s how. It took a series of bureaucratic “interpretations” which effectively minimized the opportunity for the neighborhoods to object. In the Staff Report presented to the Citizens Finance Committee in October 2014, the T-Structure dimensions were noted as “typical” for a carport solar structure. This would not raise the eyebrows of the casual reader of this report. Notably, the Citizen Finance/ Measure F Oversight Committee meets at 7:30 AM on a weekday, ensuring that working residents would be inconvenienced were they to attend. The “bait and switch” worked when in November 2015 the 20 ft high “truck stop” sized structure was erected. The less visually intrusive carport design presented in the original October 2014 Staff Report had magically disappeared. Neighborhood groups were kept unaware of a potential architectural disaster when the Senior City Staff self-servingly and subjectively classified the solar panel structure as an “accessory” project. As a consequence of this classification, the structure was not required to be submitted to the Design Review Board where the final design would then become public and potentially cause problems for the Senior Staff’s intentions once the massiveness and actual location of the structure was revealed. A second benefit of the “accessory” classification was that neighbors within 600 feet did not have to be notified of the project’s final design. Common sense dictates that extensive neighborhood notification regarding a potentially controversial final design should have taken place whether required or not. The lack of notification confirms that the Senior City Staff wanted to minimize any potential adversarial community input. When neighborhood resident Tracey Ruiz raised...

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