News Big Changes are Coming – Part 2: Northgate Mall

In our last piece about two upcoming redevelopment projects, we covered the Fireman’s Fund site in Novato, listing the things we like about the current plans and what we think could be improved. In this piece, we’ll discuss the Northgate Mall redevelopment.

The mall, like many suburban shopping malls around the country, has seen declines with the rise in online shopping. Many retail tenants have vacated and the City of San Rafael is planning a redevelopment. The project is in the planning and permitting stages, with construction slated to begin in 2023. 


The final project will reduce the amount of commercial space by two-thirds, providing over 1,300 multi-family units. While the site will retain a large amount of surface parking, several green spaces and plazas are planned. 

Overall, MCBC is supportive of the project, but we want to work with the City to ensure that people can easily travel by bike or by foot within the site, and from their homes to SMART, the Bay Trail, and other nearby amenities. The project can be an opportunity for new neighbors and for current residents of Marin who want to live a no- or low-car lifestyle. Below are our comments — what we like so far and what we feel could be improved.

What we like: Northgate Mall

  • A large number of new multi-family units, desperately needed in Marin

  • Much improved pedestrian access throughout the site

  • Pedestrian plaza and greenspace 

What we think could improve

  • The current plan shows sidewalks on all internal streets, but proposes that cyclists share the roadway with drivers. Many parents with children or seniors prefer lower-stress facilities. MCBC recommends that sidewalks be widened to become shared use paths.

  • A two-way bike path currently exists on the east side of the mall on Las Gallinas Ave. The plan extends the path, but does not completely ring the site, leaving paint-only bike lanes on Northgate Drive on the west side. MCBC recommends extending the two-way bike path around the entire project.

  • Merrydale Avenue is the primary access point to and from the SMART station, the SMART Pathway, and the San Francisco Bay Trail. However, the plans do not show a bicycle path extending into the site from that access point. 

  • The access to and from the site from nearby streets should be improved. MCBC recommends adding a traffic signal to, or otherwise improving, the following intersections:

    • Northgate Drive/Thorndale Drive (to Villa Marin)

    • Northgate Drive/El Faisan Drive

    • Northgate Drive/Nova Albion Way

    • Las Gallinas midblock to Union Bank

  • The streets have large curb radii, meaning that the gradual curves allow high-speed turns (more like an off-ramp than a neighborhood street). MCBC recommends reducing curb radii at the site entrances, improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety. 

  • The intersection of Las Gallinas Way and Merrydale Road is missing a crosswalk. MCBC recommends providing crosswalks on all legs of the intersection. 

  • Too much parking! The project proposes over 1,700 parking spaces, or roughly 17 football fields worth of parking (about half of it in garages and the other half surface). MCBC believes that our scarce land in Marin can be put to better use than storage for private cars.

How You Can Get Involved

The Northgate Mall redevelopment process is moving forward quickly. Shown here is a timeline of the process. The next opportunity to voice your opinions will be on September 14th, 7 PM, at the San Rafael Planning Commission meeting. Click here to learn how to participate. 

Sign up below to get the latest updates about the project. 

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