Welcome to Novato
As the second largest city in Marin County, Novato is the home of numerous commercial sectors as well as some of the largest technology companies in the region. In most counties in the state, this would mean a premium on space and a community focused on the economy and long term financial growth. However, Novato has a decidedly rural atmosphere and is the home of 27 separate parks. The fact that the city manages to function as a booming regional technology center while still maintaining a strong sense of community and vast swathes of undeveloped land is proof again that Marin County operates in its own universe, separate from the rest of the state.
Lay of the Land
Novato is located at the northern edge of Marin County, 29 miles north of San Francisco and 37 miles northwest of Oakland. It is the second largest city in the county by population (51,904) though the city’s immense size (28 square miles) leads to a relatively low population density. Sonoma County sits to the north of the city while the San Pablo Bay and Bel Marin Keys rest along the eastern edge of the city. It also shares a border with Black Point-Green Point as well as numerous open space preserves. Unlike the southern section of the county which has to deal with housing markets driven by Bay Area demand, the average home value in Novato is a manageable $561,948. The median household income is also a relatively modest $82,613.
For the most part, fixed route transportation within the county of Marin is limited to local bus services, shuttles that operate in the eastern section of the county, and the West Marin Stagecoach which operates in the sparsely populated western edges of the county. State Highway 101 runs into Sonoma County in the north and all of the way into San Francisco in the south. Additionally, California State Route 37 extends from Novato into the northeast.
Its location at the edge of the county means that Novato also benefits from the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit District. This is a series of rail services that serve most of south and central Sonoma County as well as Novato and San Rafael in Marin County. The Marin County Airport is also a short distance to the north of the city.
Novato has all of the amenities, services, and local attractions common to a city of its size. This includes a stretch of Grant Avenue in the downtown section of the city which features numerous locally operated shopping boutiques and many of the eclectic eateries common to Marin County. However, the city also features The Vintage Oaks Shopping Center, which houses over 50 retail locations and restaurants. Unlike almost anywhere else in the county, Vintage Oaks houses a Target as well as several other nationally recognizable chain locations.
However, the city hasn’t completely forgotten its rural roots and does its best to maintain the strong sense of community for which Marin County is famed. To this end, the city operates a farmers market from April through November, hosts a festival of Wine and Music every June, organizes an extensive Concerts in the Park series during the summer, and even runs a 4th of July parade through the downtown section of the city.
However, the most important aspect of the cities identity is the sheer volume of open space located within city limits. In addition to the numerous open space preserves and state parks located around the city in Marin County, Novato itself is home to over 3,600 total acres of undeveloped land and protected open space. This is in addition to the city’s two public golf courses and 27 parks. Novato is also home to Marin Country Club, a full-service private 18-hole golf course and tennis club.
In the spirit of Marin County, most of the parks within the city are lightly developed and maintain as natural an appearance as is possible while still providing support for community activities. This attitude of light development is highlighted by Stafford Lake Park. Located on 139 acres of lakefront property, the park hosts various picnics, outdoor events, and concerts. However, it is often considered one of the least developed parks in Marin County and also hosts a variety of fishing, hiking, and biking events.