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City of Novato
Hamilton AFB HQ.jpg
Novato3 (cropped).jpg
Unity In Marin, Hamilton Field, Novato, California USA (cropped) (cropped).jpg
Clockwise from left: Marin Museum of Contemporary Art; City Hall; Unity Church; Downtown Novato. Motto: “The place to be”
Location in Marin County and California
Location in Marin County and California
City of Novato is located in the United States
City of Novato
City of Novato
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 38°06′27″N 122°34′11″W / 38.10750°N 122.56972°W / 38.10750; -122.56972Coordinates: 38°06′27″N 122°34′11″W / 38.10750°N 122.56972°W / 38.10750; -122.56972[1]
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedJanuary 20, 1960[2]
 • MayorSusan Wernick[3]
 • County BoardDistricts 5 & 4
Judy Arnold
Dennis Rodoni[4]
 • State SenatorMike McGuire (D)[5]
 • AssemblymemberMarc Levine (D)[5]
 • U. S. Rep.Jared Huffman (D)[6]
 • Total27.99 sq mi (72.48 km2)
 • Land27.48 sq mi (71.16 km2)
 • Water0.51 sq mi (1.32 km2)  1.85%
Elevation30 ft (9 m)
 • Total53,225
 • Density1,900/sq mi (730/km2)
 • Demonym
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

Novato (Spanish for "Novatus") is a city in Marin County, California, in the North Bay region of the Bay Area. At the 2020 census, Novato had a population of 53,225.


What is now Novato was originally the site of several Coast Miwok villages: Chokecherry, near downtown Novato; Puyuku, near Ignacio; and Olómpali, at the present-day Olompali State Historic Park.[9]

Mexican era

Rancho Olómpali was granted in 1834 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena to Miwok ranchero Camilo Ynitia.
Rancho Olómpali was granted in 1834 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena to Miwok ranchero Camilo Ynitia.

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.[10] 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 Olómpali, 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.[11]

Post-Conquest era

Following the American Conquest of California and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 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.[12]

The first post office at Novato opened in 1856; it closed in 1860, and a new post office opened in 1891.[13]

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

California Churrigueresque architecture at Hamilton Airfield; 1936.

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 Novato Flatiron Building was built in 1908.

Modern era

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.[14] 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.


Aerial view of the Hamilton Wetland Restoration Project.

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. Although Novato is located on the water, access to the water is blocked by expansive farmland and wetlands.


Hamilton Amphitheater Park.
Hamilton Amphitheater Park.

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 111 °F (44 °C) on September 5, 2022.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Novato has a warm-summer mediterranean climate, abbreviated "Csb" on climate maps. This means that Summers are Hot, but Winters are rainy and can be mild to chilly. Precipitation occurs in the colder seasons, but there are a number of clear sunny days even during the wetter seasons, except during spells of seasonal tule fog, when it can be quite chilly for many days.


Novato City Hall.
Novato City Hall.

In the United States House of Representatives, Novato is in California's 2nd congressional district, represented by Democrat Jared Huffman.[6] 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.[19]


Spanish Colonial Revival homes at Hamilton Army Airfield.
Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[20]


At the 2010 census Novato had a population of 51,904. The population density was 1,856.6 inhabitants 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%).[21]

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, 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 one person and 2,415 (11.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 2.53. There were 13,484 families (66.5% of households); the average family size was 3.04.

The age distribution was 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 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, of the occupied units 13,591 (67.0%) were owner-occupied and 6,688 (33.0%) were rented. 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.


Marin Museum of Contemporary Art.

At the 2000 census there were 47,630 people in 18,524 households, including 12,411 families, 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 (264.7/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%.[22]

Of the 18,524 households 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 households were one person and 9.3% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.01.

The age distribution was 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% 65 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 household income was $63,453 and the median family income was $74,434 (these figures had risen to $78,895 and $91,890 respectively as of a 2007 estimate).[23] 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 Buck Institute for Research on Aging is a world leader on aging-associated diseases research.
The historic Hamilton Theatre.
The historic Hamilton Theatre.
Doctor Insomniac's Coffee, a Historic Landmark[24] on Grant Avenue
Doctor Insomniac's Coffee, a Historic Landmark[24] on Grant Avenue

The city is home to the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and several biotech firms, such as Biosearch Technologies, BioMarin Pharmaceutical and Ultragenyx.[25] 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[26] developer of video games, Brøderbund Software, was headquartered in Novato, known through games Choplifter, Lode Runner, Karateka, and Prince of Persia, and others.[27] 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 a smaller headquarters in nearby Petaluma.[28]

In Eastern Novato, north of Hamilton, there are several hayfields contributing to the local economy, but they are diminishing as more and more of them are restored to wetlands.

Top employers
The Villas at Hamilton.
The Villas at Hamilton.

As of 2018–19 the city's principal employers were:[29]

# Employer # of Employees % of Total City Employed
1 BioMarin Pharmaceutical 1005 3.56%
2 Novato Unified School District 803 2.85%
3 2K/Visual Concepts 660 2.34%
4 Bradley Electric 342 1.21%
5 Costco Wholesale 316 1.12%
6 Novato Community Hospital 304 1.08%
7 City of Novato 290 1.03%
8 Ultragenyx 275 0.98%
9 Safeway Stores 250 0.89%
10 Novato Healthcare Center 233 0.83%


Hamilton Field History Museum.

Prominent museums in Novato include:

Other museums in Novato include the Novato History Museum, the Space Station Museum, the Marin Treks Natural History Museum, and the Novato Roundhouse. Other notable attractions in Novato include the Harkleroad wind turbine, the Point Reyes National Seashore, Miwok Park, the Hamilton Wetlands, and the Mount Burdell Open Space Preserve.


Novato is served by the Novato Unified School District. Notable public high schools include Novato High School and San Marin High School. Novato Charter School is a charter school in Novato.


Novato Downtown station is served by Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit.

Major highways in Novato include U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 37, and major roads in Novato include Atherton Avenue, Novato Boulevard, San Marin Drive, and Ignacio Boulevard.

Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) operates three commuter rail stations in Novato: San Marin / Atherton station, Hamilton station, and Novato Downtown station. Novato is also served by several bus routes of Golden Gate Transit and Marin Transit, with a transit center in the downtown area, which serves 2 Golden Gate Transit routes and 6 Marin Transit routes.[30]

Notable people

Cherry Blossoms bloom on Grant Street in Novato, California
Cherry Blossoms bloom on Grant Street in Novato, California

In popular culture

Sister cities


  1. ^ a b "Novato". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.
  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 December 14, 2022.
  4. ^ "County of Marin District 4 webpage". County of Marin. Retrieved February 7, 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Archived from the original on February 1, 2015. Retrieved December 5, 2014.
  6. ^ a b "California's 2nd Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 1, 2013.
  7. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  8. ^ "Novato (city) QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
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  10. ^ Bright, William (1998) (November 30, 1998). 1500 California Place Names. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-21271-8.
  11. ^ Marin County Ranchos Archived November 14, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Novato 1838-1899: Land Grants and Farming | NOVATO HISTORICAL GUILD". Retrieved November 12, 2019.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "Early Novato Area History". Archived from the original on November 23, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2007.
  15. ^ "Novato, CA September 05, 2022.". Archived from the original on September 5, 2022.
  16. ^[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ "SAN RAFAEL CIVIC CTR, CALIFORNIA - Climate Summary".
  18. ^ "Members Assembly".
  19. ^ "CA Secretary of State – Report of Registration – February 10, 2019" (PDF). Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  20. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  21. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Novato city". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  22. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  23. ^ FactFinder
  24. ^ "National Register Digital Assets – Fashion Shop and Stephen Porcella House". Archived from the original on October 20, 2016. Retrieved October 20, 2016.
  25. ^ Bloomberg: Biotechnology Company Overview of Ultragenyx Pharmaceutical Inc.
  26. ^ Time : The 10 Greatest Games for the Apple II
  27. ^ Brøderbund Software, Inc. Company History
  28. ^ Halstead, Richard (June 15, 2015). "Fireman's Fund to move from Novato to Petaluma in November". Marin Independent Journal.
  29. ^ "City of Novato, California: Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Year Ended June 30, 2019". City of Novato. p. 169. Retrieved January 27, 2022.
  30. ^ "Novato Transit Center - Transit.Wiki". Retrieved October 11, 2021.
  31. ^ {}
  32. ^ Houston, Will (February 2, 2019). "Novato backs 'hometown hero' Jared Goff, Rams in Super Bowl". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved September 30, 2021.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  33. ^ Durso, Joseph (February 18, 1989). "Vernon (Lefty) Gomez, 80, Dies; Starred as a Pitcher for Yankees". The New York Times.
  34. ^ a b "Novato Proud". Retrieved April 12, 2017.