A proposal to turn a 70-room Novato hotel into supportive housing for homeless people fell through Tuesday when the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted not to buy the complex under the state’s Homekey program.
The board made its decision during a closed-door session, emerging afterward to announce it could not reach an agreement with the Inn Marin Hotel’s owners on the $18 million asking price. Supervisor Judy Arnold, whose district includes Novato, added that she believed there hadn’t been enough opportunity to discuss the plan with neighbors.
“I believe that as a community we need to find ways to support our most vulnerable residents here in Marin and I believe that finding permanent supportive housing is an effective way to do that,” Arnold said in a statement. “That said, my position on this particular project was a result of the inadequate process and timeline we were forced to work within under the state’s Homekey grant process.”
California’s Homekey program uses federal coronavirus aid money to buy hotels and other buildings throughout the state for conversion into permanent supportive housing, but the catch is that all the money has to be spent by the end of the year. To date, the state has awarded $835.6 million for 93 projects with a total of 6,055 units.
The Marin board proposed in October that the county buy the Inn Marin, a stylish complex near Highway 101, apartment blocks and houses. Residents inundated the board and the Novato City Council with reaction that included some support, but more complaints that it was a bad fit for the neighborhood.
The City Council had been considering suing to stop the proposal, but last week opted instead to urge the county board to hold community meetings to vet the idea. Tuesday’s decision makes the point moot.
Marin County’s homeless population of 1,034 is the second smallest in the Bay Area, after Napa. It fell by 7% between 2017 and 2019, when the last federally required, biennial one-night count was taken.
“We’re satisfied and happy with the outcome,” said Pat Davidor, who lives near the Inn Marin. She and her husband, Joe, maintained that they supported housing for homeless people — their son lives on the streets — but thought it would be better situated farther away from subdivisions.
“It was a good try, wrong location,” she said, noting that there is already a large supportive housing facility just across the freeway. “Our hope is that money will become available in some other way and that more homeless housing can be created. But spread it around more, so other parts of the county can take their share.”
Two other Homekey projects fared better on Tuesday before the board. The supervisors voted unanimously to use the state funds to buy an 18-room hotel in Corte Madera for $4.1 million and a 44-unit office complex in San Rafael for $7.2 million.