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Statement from Merlone Geier: Northgate Town Square Update

Posted on March 19, 2024


The following is an update from Merlone Geier on the Northgate Town Square Project (dated, Tuesday, March 19, 2024).

Dear Community Members,

Thank you to everyone who took the time to share your thoughts on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for Northgate Town Square. With all the latest public input, the environmental study is moving to the next phase of the review, which is to provide informed responses to each of these comments.

Many of you have been following this application for some time. As part of this project update, we want to share a brief recap about where we are today. Additionally, we would like to share some information regarding a new project alternative that is being included within the review of the project.

Background Overview

Over the course of this multi-year effort, we have actively listened to the diverse perspectives as well as concerns voiced by the community regarding various aspects of Northgate Town Square. Recognizing the significance of the proposed changes to the existing mall, the project has evolved in response to many of these comments and concerns. Some of these changes have included a larger town square than initially proposed at the start of the development, the inclusion of townhomes, the reduction of building heights near existing neighbors, and the integration of pedestrian and bicycle pathways.

Currently, our application seeks a certain level of flexibility. First, we have asked for a rezoning of the site to create a true mixed-use environment with the site plan. Second, we have been proposing a collaboration with a nonprofit housing developer to achieve the project’s affordable housing goals.

While these aspects remain part of our existing application, we also recognize that having a version of the project that complies with applicable zoning standards is warranted. This alternative would eliminate the need for rezoning the site, which creates another option as we continue processing our application.

 

Zoning-Compliant Alternative Plan

As part of the ongoing review process, a project alternative was recently submitted for the city’s review and consideration. This SB 330 compliant plan would maintain the central town square, a strong collection of retail and restaurant spaces, the bicycle and pedestrian network, and various public amenities. However, in order to comply with the city’s existing inclusionary housing requirements, the alternative would incorporate the affordable housing units throughout the new buildings instead of a stand-alone building.

To meet the existing city code for the affordable units and applicable zoning requirements, the alternative plan would include the following modifications to the proposal:

  • The town square community space would maintain its ±1 acre size, but the alternative reorients the design into a more pedestrian-focused setting that would connect to new restaurant uses. In response to public feedback, the parking layout would be shifted further away from the central green, providing a more tranquil area for community use.
  • Overall, the 168 affordable units (an increase of 22 units) would be dispersed throughout the site, including within the townhomes, consistent with the city’s affordable housing requirements. The integration of these affordable units is a direct response to public feedback.
  • The phase one alternative plan would include 719 residential units (a reduction of 203 units in the initial phase). In response to public feedback, the two proposed apartment buildings along Northgate Drive as well as the movie theater area would be replaced with additional townhomes. In this initial phase, the number of townhomes would increase from 100 to 266 and the apartments would total 453 units.
  • The phase two alternative plan would include 60 additional townhomes and three mixed-use buildings to the northern and western portions of the site totaling 1,086 apartments. We have consistently heard that these portions of the site would be more appropriate for the height of the apartment buildings – as they are significantly further away from existing homes, the Alma Via senior living facility and the Quail Hill neighborhood.
  • The retail will likely include local and regional restaurants, clothing and boutique retail, and a specialty grocery store. We also intend to analyze new options with our movie theater operator for an updated, modern facility within the alternative.

In the coming months, this additional project alternative will be analyzed alongside our existing application. We look forward to hearing additional feedback on the different versions of Northgate Town Square.

You can learn more about this alternative by visiting the city’s website here (https://www.cityofsanrafael.org/northgate-alternative-concept-sb330-update).

We thank you for your interest and active participation in shaping the future of Northgate.

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