Novato began as Rancho de Novato, a Spanish land grant given in 1839 to Fernando Feliz, but its roots are far deeper. Olompali State Historical Park just north of the city is where a panorama of history unfolds in a single afternoon. It’s named for a key Miwok settlement, the location of the only battle of the Bear Flag Revolt leading to California’s statehood, the setting for Marin’s first formal garden, and a hippie commune in the 1960s.
Incorporated in 1960, Novato is Marin’s fastest-growing city, embracing new residential development and commerce. Novato’s latest additions include Fireman’s Fund headquarters, the county’s largest employer; the huge Vintage Oaks shopping mall; Hamilton Field, where a residential and retail complex is under development; and the Buck Center Research in Aging.
The city encompasses 28 square miles containing more than 57,000 residents, second in population only to San Rafael. Its many three-bedroom, tract homes give Novato a distinct suburban feel (such as Ignacio, Loma Verde, San Marin, Partridge Knolls). And there are areas that have more rural and expansive feel, such as that found in Indian Valley, around Stafford Lake (just west of town), and along Atherton Avenue out to Blackpoint (a.k.a. Black Point) (the former location of the Renaissance Faire) and Greenpoint (a.k.a Green Point) (nestled above the Petaluma River with a public boat launch). There are plenty of recreational activities for all ages. Novato’s adult soccer leagueis very collegial and popular.
Housing and Education
Housing prices in Novato can be among the least expensive in the county. But the city sports a variety of price ranges (for single family homes, $400,000 to $2 million). There are also nice horse properties and homes sited on very large parcels (especially in Indian Valley and along Atherton Avenue. Novato kids attend one of seven elementary schools, three middle schools, and two high schools in the Novato Unified High School district. There is also a continuation school, three alternative schools, and a private school. Local schools generally rank in the top 10-20th percentile. Rancho Elementary School is a lottery school which is one the top elementary schools in all of Marin (and the state). It is located in the Presidents neighborhood.
Most Novato commuters drive to work, although some use public transportation. During commute hours, travel times can be lengthy (e.g., 40-60 minutes) if going to San Francisco or the East Bay. The wine country, however, is just 15-20 minutes away. And Highway 101 is currently undergoing an expansion to provide a commute lane running through the entirety of Marin County. That project, set to complete in December 2008, should speed up the commute to San Francisco significantly.
Novato has the second largest population in the county, and one of the most diverse. Age breakdown and education levels run the gamut. Occupations vary, but are concentrated in sales and administrative professions. A large number of young professional families have gravitated to Hamilton Field and Pointe Marin over the past few years, lending these neighborhoods a young and upscale feel.
Novato is in the county’s northern region. Its yearly average temperature is 58 degrees, and its average temperature range is between 46 and 67 degrees. July through August are the hottest months, with an average high of 78 degrees, but it occasionally reaches into the 90s. It has an average humidity of 60 percent and gets about 26.3 inches of rainfall per year, usually between November and April.
Important Phone Numbers
City Manager: 899-8900
Planning, Public Works: 899-8989
Police Department: 897-4361
Fire Department: 878-2690