Novato, California

Novato (/nəˈvɑːt/ nə-VAH-toh) is a city in northern Marin County, in the North Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 United States Census, its population was 51,904. Novato is located about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of San Rafael[9] and about 30 miles (48 km) north of San Francisco on U.S. 101. Novato has been called one of the best places to live in the U.S.[10]

City of Novato
Novato city hall
Location in Marin County and the state of California
City of Novato
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 38°06′27″N 122°34′11″W[1]
Country United States
State California
IncorporatedJanuary 20, 1960[2]
  MayorEric Lucan[3]
  County BoardDistricts 5 & 4
Judy Arnold
Steve Kinsey
  State SenatorMike McGuire (D)[4]
  AssemblymemberMarc Levine (D)[4]
  U. S. Rep.Jared Huffman (D)[5]
  Total27.96 sq mi (72.42 km2)
  Land27.44 sq mi (71.08 km2)
  Water0.52 sq mi (1.34 km2)  1.85%
Elevation30 ft (9 m)
  Density2,040.74/sq mi (787.93/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific)
  Summer (DST)UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP codes
94945, 94947–94949, 94998
Area codes415/628
FIPS code06-52582
GNIS feature IDs277612, 2411283


What is now Novato was originally the site of several Coast Miwok villages: Chokecherry, near downtown Novato; Puyuku, near Ignacio; and Olompali, at the present-day Olompali State Historic Park.[11]

In 1839, the Mexican government granted the 8,876-acre (35.92 km2) 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.[12] Subsequently, four additional land grants were made in the area: Rancho Corte Madera de Novato, to John Martin in 1839; Rancho San Jose, to Ignacio Pacheco in 1840; Rancho Olompali, awarded in 1843 to Camilo Ynitia, son of a Coast Miwok chief; and Rancho Nicasio, by far the largest at 56,621 acres (229.1 km2), awarded to Pablo de la Guerra and John B.R. Cooper in 1844.[13] Novato, along with the rest of California, became part of the United States on February 2, 1848. Early pioneers included Joseph Sweetser and Francis De Long who bought 15,000 acres (61 km2) in the mid-1850s and planted orchards and vineyards.[14]

The first post office at Novato opened in 1856; it closed in 1860, and a new post office opened in 1891.[9]

The first school was built in 1859, at the corner of Grant Avenue and what is today Redwood Boulevard.

The original town was located around Novato Creek at what is now South Novato Boulevard. A railroad was built in 1879, connecting Novato to Sonoma County and San Rafael. The area around the train depot became known as New Town, and forms the edge of what today is Old Town Novato. The current depot was built in 1917, but closed in 1959, and is largely derelict. The depot consisted of two buildings: a warehouse and a station. The warehouse burned twice in the intervening years. Behind the rail station/warehouse complex was a grain and feed mill complex. The mill complex, along with the warehouse portion of the rail station, was torn down in late 2007 to make way for public parking and a Whole Foods/high-density housing development, while the derelict station is still standing.

A Presbyterian church, still a landmark in Novato today, was built in 1896. Until 2006, it housed a number of city offices, but was vacated that year due to safety concerns and condemned; the church has since been renovated. A new city center complex has been erected adjacent to the old City Hall.

The Great Depression of the 1930s had a marked effect on the area as many farmers lost their land. After World War II, Novato grew quickly with the construction of tract homes and a freeway. As the area was unincorporated much of the growth was unplanned and uncontrolled. Novato was finally incorporated as a city in 1960.[15] One of the most important venues of the time (1960 to 1965) was "Western Weekend". Beard-growing contests, sponsored by Bob's Barber Shop, and many other odd activities helped to bring this community together.


According to the United States Census Bureau, Novato has a total area of 28.0 square miles (73 km2) and is the largest city in area in Marin County. 27.4 square miles (71 km2) of it is land and 0.5 square miles (1.3 km2) of it (1.85%) is water.

Major geographical features nearby include Mount Burdell and Mount Burdell Open Space Preserve to the north and Big Rock Ridge to the southwest. Stafford Lake to the west is a secondary water supply for Novato, with the Russian River in Sonoma County to the north supplying most of the city's water. Novato includes ten Marin County Open Space District preserves: Mount Burdell, Rush Creek, Little Mountain, Verissimo Hills, Indian Tree, Deer Island, Indian Valley, Ignacio Valley, Loma Verde, and Pacheco Valle.


Official weather observations were taken at Hamilton Air Force Base through 1964. Average January temperatures were a maximum of 53.6 °F (12.0 °C) and a minimum of 38.7 °F (3.7 °C). Average July temperatures were a maximum of 79.9 °F (26.6 °C) and a minimum of 52.0 °F (11.1 °C). There were an average of 12.4 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 12.5 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. The record high temperature was 109 °F (43 °C) on September 2, 2017. The record low temperature was 16 °F (−9 °C) in December 2013. Average annual precipitation was 25.49 inches (64.7 cm). The wettest year was 1940 with 46.63 inches (118.4 cm) and the driest year was 2015 with 6.35 inches (16.1 cm). The most rainfall in one month was 18.87 inches (47.9 cm) in December 1955. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 10.55 inches (26.8 cm) between December 10, 2014 – December 11, 2014.[19]

Today, the nearest National Weather Service cooperative weather station is in San Rafael, where records date back to 1894. Compared to records from Hamilton Air Force Base, San Rafael is generally several degrees warmer than Novato and has an average of about 10 inches (25 cm) more rainfall. The record high temperature in San Rafael was 110 °F (43 °C) on September 7, 1904, and June 14, 1961. The record low temperature was 20 °F (−7 °C) on December 26, 1967.[20]


Federal and state

In the United States House of Representatives, Novato is in California's 2nd congressional district, represented by Democrat Jared Huffman.[5] From 2008 to 2012, Huffman represented Marin County in the California State Assembly.

In the California State Legislature, Novato is in:

According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 10, 2019, Novato has 31,544 registered voters. Of those, 15,794 (50.1%) are registered Democrats, 6,048 (19.2%) are registered Republicans, and 8,188 (26%) have declined to state a political party.[22]


Historical population
Est. 201855,655[8]7.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[23]


The 2010 United States Census[24] reported that Novato had a population of 51,904. The population density was 1,856.6 people per square mile (716.8/km²). The racial makeup of Novato was 39,443 (76.0%) White, 1,419 (2.7%) African American, 286 (0.6%) Native American, 3,428 (6.6%) Asian, 117 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 4,693 (9.0%) from other races, and 2,518 (4.9%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11,046 persons (21.3%).

The Census reported that 51,278 people (98.8% of the population) lived in households, 449 (0.9%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 177 (0.3%) were institutionalized.

There were 21,279 households, out of which 6,679 (32.9%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 10,393 (51.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 2,237 (11.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 854 (4.2%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,010 (5.0%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 195 (1.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 5,358 households (26.4%) were made up of individuals and 2,415 (11.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53. There were 13,484 families (66.5% of all households); the average family size was 3.04.

The population was spread out with 11,769 people (22.7%) under the age of 18, 3,355 people (6.5%) aged 18 to 24, 12,743 people (24.6%) aged 25 to 44, 15,914 people (30.7%) aged 45 to 64, and 8,123 people (15.7%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.6 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.1 males.

There were 21,158 housing units at an average density of 756.8 per square mile (292.2/km²), of which 13,591 (67.0%) were owner-occupied, and 6,688 (33.0%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.7%. 33,252 people (64.1% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 18,026 people (34.7%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[25] of 2000, there were 47,630 people, 18,524 households, and 12,411 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,719.2 inhabitants per square mile (663.9/km²). There were 18,994 housing units at an average density of 685.6 per square mile (264.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city in 2010 was 65.8% non-Hispanic White American, 2.5% non-Hispanic Black American, 0.2% Native American, 6.5% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 0.3% from other races, and 3.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 21.3% of the population.

There were 18,524 households out of which 32.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.7% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.0% were non-families. 25.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the city, the population was spread out with 23.1% under the age of 18, 6.4% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 27.5% from 45 to 64, and 13.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $63,453, and the median income for a family was $74,434 (these figures had risen to $78,895 and $91,890 respectively as of a 2007 estimate).[26] Males had a median income of $55,822 versus $40,287 for females. The per capita income for the city was $32,402. About 3.1% of families and 5.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.1% of those under age 18 and 4.0% of those age 65 or over.


The city is home to the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and several biotech firms, such as Biosearch Technologies, BioMarin Pharmaceutical and Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical.[27] Several small technology companies are also based in Novato, such as 2K, Radiant Logic, Toys For Bob, One Legal, International Genetics Incorporated, Channel Management Solutions, Enwisen, Sonic Solutions and DriveSavers.

The former Hamilton Air Force Base is also located in Novato, but was decommissioned in 1974 and designated a Historic District in 1998. After lying stagnant for many years, major renovations were pushed through by then-mayor Michael DiGiorgio. As of 2008 the base has largely been redeveloped into single-family homes. The former hangar buildings were gutted and redeveloped into two-story office buildings; tenants include 2K Sports, Sony Imageworks, Visual Concepts, The Republic of Tea, Toys For Bob, and Birkenstock Distribution USA.

From 1983 to 1998, the iconic[28] developer of video games, Brøderbund Software, was headquartered in Novato, known through games Choplifter, Lode Runner, Karateka, and Prince of Persia, and others.[29] From the 1982 until 2015, Novato was headquarters for Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, which was Marin County's largest employer at one time, with 2,400 employees as of 2000. By 2015, the company had laid off or transferred most its employees and relocated its remaining employees to its a smaller headquarters in nearby Petaluma.[30]

As of 201516 the city's principal employers were:[31]

# Employer # of Employees
1 Novato Unified School District 838
2 BioMarin Pharmaceutical 765
3 2K/Visual Concepts 600
4 Novato Community Hospital 333
5 Safeway Stores 298
6 Costco Wholesale 297
7 Bradley Electric 255
8 Brayton & Associates 225
9 Novato Healthcare Center 209
10 Buck Institute 198


Novato has several different neighborhoods determined by the upcoming redistricting.[32] They can be roughly classified as:

  • San Marin
  • Old Town
  • Northern Downtown
  • Eastern Novato (includes lower population areas such as Atherton, Hamilton and Bel Marin Keys)
  • Ignacio
  • Hamilton


Major roads in Novato include U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 37.

Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) operates two commuter rail stations in Novato: San Marin / Atherton station and Hamilton station. A third station at the historic downtown depot has been constructed by the city and will be operated by SMART in December of 2019. Novato is served by several bus routes of Golden Gate Transit and Marin Transit.

Notable people


  • Good Shepherd Lutheran School (private school)
  • The Novato Unified School District is a school district in Novato, California.
  • Novato High School
  • San Marin High School
  • Marin Oaks High School
  • Sinaloa Middle School
  • San Jose Middle Schoo
  • Pleasant Valley Elementary School
  • Loma Verde Elementary School
  • Lu Sutton Elementary School
  • Lynwood Elementary School
  • Marin Christian Academy (private school)
  • Olive Elementary School
  • Hamilton Meadow Park School
  • Rancho Elementary School
  • San Ramon Elementary School
  • Our Lady of Loretto School
  • North Bay Christian Academy (Private school)
  • Nova Independent Study]
  • Samuel Hazelton School of the Arts
  • Novato Charter School (charter school)

Research Facilities


Points of interest

See also


  1. "Novato". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
  2. "California Cities by Incorporation Date". California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Archived from the original (Word) on February 21, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  3. "Council Members". City of Novato. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  4. "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved December 5, 2014.
  5. "California's 2nd Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  6. "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  7. "Novato (city) QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved February 26, 2015.
  8. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  9. Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Clovis, Calif.: Word Dancer Press. p. 673. ISBN 1-884995-14-4.
  10. "Novato Ranked Among Best Places To Live". April 9, 2018. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  11. Peterson, Bonnie J. (1976). Dawn of the World: Coast Miwok Myths. ISBN 0-912908-04-1
  12. Bright, William (1998) (November 30, 1998). 1500 California Place Names. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-21271-8.
  13. Marin County Ranchos Archived November 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  14. "Novato 1838-1899: Land Grants and Farming | NOVATO HISTORICAL GUILD". Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  15. "Early Novato Area History". Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2007.
  16. NATIONAL REGISTER DIGITAL ASSETS Fashion Shop and Stephen Porcella House
  20. "SAN RAFAEL CIVIC CTR, CALIFORNIA - Climate Summary".
  21. "Members Assembly".
  22. "CA Secretary of State – Report of Registration – February 10, 2019" (PDF). Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  23. "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  24. "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Novato city". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  25. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  26. FactFinder
  27. Bloomberg: Biotechnology Company Overview of Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc.
  28. Time : The 10 Greatest Games for the Apple II
  29. Brøderbund Software, Inc. Company History
  30. Halstead, Richard (June 15, 2015). "Fireman's Fund to move from Novato to Petaluma in November". Marin Independent Journal.
  31. "City of Novato, California: Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Year Ended June 30, 2016". City of Novato. p. 164. Retrieved May 1, 2015.
  34. "Novato Proud". Retrieved April 12, 2017.
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