The City of Novato is the second largest city in Marin County, located 29 miles north of San Francisco. It was originally the site of several Coastal Miwok villages: Chokeche, near downtown Novato, Puyuku, near Ignacio, and Olompali, at the present Olompali State Historic Park. In 1839 the Mexican government granted the 8,876-acre Rancho Novato to Fernando Feliz. The rancho was named after a local Miwok leader who had probably been given the name of Saint Novatus at his baptism.
After World War II, Novato grew quickly with the construction of tract homes and a freeway. Since the area was unincorporated much of the growth was not planned or controlled. It was incorporated in 1960 and is 43 square miles with 3,500 acres of open space and parks. Novato features a variety of neighborhoods including condos, modest family homes, mansions, waterfront communities, and horse ranches.
It’s a town with light industry, as well as home to the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, and several small biotech firms, such as Biosearch Technologies and BioMarin. The Buck Institute, perched on a hillside in Northern Novato in a dramatic campus designed by I. M. Pei, is a nonprofit that specializes in biomedical research for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, and heart disease. Several technology companies are also based in Novato, such as 2K Marin, Radiant Logic, Imagemovers Digital, and Sonic Solutions.
Hamilton Air Force Base was decommissioned in 1974 and designated a Historic District in 1998. It has has been redeveloped into an exciting subdivsion of single family homes, senior & low-income housing, and apartments. The former hangar buildings were gutted and converted into architecturally interesting office buildings. This community has six neighborhoods with lots of recreational facilities including an outdoor Olympic-sized pool, baseball field, gymnasium, skate park, historic amphitheater, and children’s play park.
Another well known subdivision is Bel Marin Keys, a water-front community with approximately 700 homes built around man made lagoons that have direct access to San Pablo Bay and San Francisco Bay. A haven for boat owners and bird lovers, Bel Marin Keys stopped its last stage of development and is in the process of restoring those dried out farmlands back into wet lands.
Novato housing prices are lower than other Marin County cities, due to its distance to San Francisco. It also has the consistently warmest climate in the County. Novato has a rural atmosphere with a vibrant downtown that hosts a weekly farmer’s market during the spring and summer months. All of these things make Novato a great place to live.
- Population: 51,904
- Households: Approximately 20,079
- Median resident age: 43
- Average listing in 2015: $885,000
- Average Sales price in 2015: $890,000 ($415/per square foot)