Novato is the second-largest city in Marin County, set about 29 miles north of San Francisco. The city encompasses 43 square miles — including 3,500 acres of open space and parks — with a variety of home opportunities ranging from waterfront communities and horse farms to beautiful mansions.
Incorporated in 1960, Novato has a rich Native American heritage. It was originally the site of several Coast Miwok villages: Chokeche, near downtown Novato; Puyuku, near Ignacio; and Olompali, at the present Olompali State Historic Park. Novato was first established in 1839, when the Mexican government granted the 8,876-acre Rancho Novato to Fernando Feliz. The ranch was named after a local Miwok leader who had probably been given the name of Saint Novatus at his baptism. The only battle of the Bear Flag Rebellion, which led to California’s statehood, was fought at Olompali in 1846, and the Burdell family later established the first formal garden in Marin there in the 1870s. The Chosen Family hippie commune, serenaded by Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, lived in the old Burdell mansion until it burned in 1969.
Today, the city is home to the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company and several small biotech firms, such as Buck Institute for Age Research, Biosearch Technologies and BioMarin Pharmaceutical. Several small technology companies are also based in Novato, such as 2K Marin, Radiant Logic, ImageMovers Digital and Sonic Solutions. 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, the base has largely been redeveloped into single-family homes. The former hangar buildings were gutted and redeveloped into two-story office buildings. Hangar tenants include ImageMovers Digital, Sony Imageworks, Visual Concepts Entertainment, Smith & Hawken, The Republic of Tea and Birkenstock Distribution USA.