The Downtown Novato Business Association, which administers the city’s central business improvement district, needs full-time executive director, professional marketing and public relations advice and more revenue to fund efforts to attract more tenants and shoppers, according to a new report delivered to the city council and redevelopment agency on Jan. 27.

The 31-page report prepared by Kim Fraser Associates of San Francisco noted that the 450-member association started in 1989 has only $30,600 in its $55,000 annual budget for marketing, is run by volunteers and has no written plan for success.

“The results were nothing we were surprised with in that we’re a volunteer organization,” said Denise Athas, president for the past two years.

Other challenges Ms. Fraser noted include “fragmentation” of the area from thoroughfares, several large vacancies, dispersed retail in the city and a shortage of retail options at night and on weekends.

Among the recommendations were raising more money, increasing the budget for marketing, hiring consultants, preparing a marketing plan, expanding the Web site and using it to communicate more effectively, developing signage and advertising, studying pedestrian patterns and encouraging members to be open longer, especially during district-sponsored events.

The report suggested increasing the marketing budget to $50,000 next fiscal year, which starts in July, and to $80,000 the year after. That could be funded by increasing dues, sponsorships and sales of raffle tickets; adding an assessment district for infrastructure improvements; and expanding the district area, according to the study.

The new Web site launched Feb. 4 was fueled by $7,500 in sponsorships. A district movie event had a $5,000 profit.

Ms. Athas said a goal of the association is to expand the downtown area to include the Redwood Boulevard corridor, which is a major focus of the city General Plan update. Input on the plan started in December and is set to be complete in three years, with the Redwood plan in a parallel approval track.

She is encouraged that the Whole Foods Market-anchored mixed-use project is set to be complete by the end of this year or early in 2010 and that Catlin Properties is developing a redevelopment plan for the long-vacant 999 Grant Ave. building.

By mid-February, Novato staff is set to come back to the city council with recommendations on how to proceed.


The California Air Resources Board has pushed back the release of revised thresholds of significance for greenhouse gases in environmental review of commercial, industrial and residential projects under the California Environmental Quality Act to mid-February.

Those thresholds determine whether a project needs an often costly and time-consuming environmental impact report or a less-intense review. Air board staff members have recommended a threshold higher than zero emissions because of the cost involved. Environment advocacy groups want the threshold at zero.

Construction trade groups are alarmed at the recommendation for an energy-efficiency standard in line with tier two, the highest level, of the California Energy Commission’s New Solar Homes Partnership.

The air board is scheduled to review the proposed thresholds on March 26 and 27. Board staff have stated that a workshop on the proposal will be held before the meeting. The board’s goal is to have threshold recommendations ready by June. Documents and comments are available at www.arb.ca.gov/cc/localgov/ceqa/ceqacomm.htm.


Commercial real estate people

Commercial real estate brokerage Keegan & Coppin/Oncor International added five salespeople.

Linda Zacharin and Sara Wann came to the firm’s Petaluma office. Ms. Zacharin has been in commercial real estate for three decades, first with Ritchie & Ritchie Commercial Real Estate in 1979, Grubb & Ellis in 1984 and then her own company in Petaluma in 1989.

In 1987, she was one of the first female industrial space agents nationwide to earn the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors designation. Ms. Wann has been in commercial real estate for five years and specializes in representation of retail, office and industrial tenants.

Art Fichtenberg and Carrie Kerwin joined Keegan & Coppin’s Napa office, which also serves the Sonoma Valley. Mr. Fichtenberg, a broker associate, has been a Sonoma Valley real estate developer for more than a decade, including work on Carneros Inn and Mercato on Sonoma Plaza. He operated his own brokerage, Real Estate Marketplace and then Realty World, from 1979 to 1994.

Ms. Kerwin also has experience as an owner-builder of Sonoma Valley projects and marketed new residential subdivisions and land. She earned her real estate license in 1998.

Beau Southwell came to Keegan & Coppin’s Santa Rosa office from another real estate brokerage in the same city. A 2007 graduate from U.C. Santa Cruz, he personally has been involved in real estate exchanges, restaurant startups and small residential developments, and he’s fluent in Spanish.


Submit items for this column to Jeff Quackenbush at jquackenbush@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4256 or fax 707-521-5292.