Tag Archives: development

Op-Ed: Concerns that linger about Chanate deal

Maggie Bradley, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

I have three serious concerns regarding the Chanate Road property development. The first one is about the manner in which the Board of Supervisors handled the sale and future development of the taxpayer-owned land surrounding the property. The second is the manner and way the public’s concerns were handled by Supervisor Shirlee Zane. And the final concern is about the lack of sustainability in the building and development of this new community.

The first issue has to do with accessibility and information. Who has it and how do they get it? What I know, based on the reporting done by The Press Democrat and from others, is that there were two proposals vying for the development contract. Two supervisors had only read Bill Gallaher’s proposal prior to the vote.

The property to be developed is in Zane’s district. Gallaher is a generous donor to select individuals running for public office. Zane is a recipient of Gallaher’s generosity. Komron Shahhosseini, an employee of Gallaher’s, is a member of the Sonoma County Planning Commission who was appointed by Zane. Although this project will be decided by the Santa Rosa City Council, Planning Commission members can have major influence on development projects throughout the county. Gallaher was awarded the bid and plans to build 800 new homes. Shahhosseini is now a partner of Gallaher’s and is the development’s project manager.

The other proposal, from Curt Johansen, included approximately 500 homes and was designed as a completely sustainable development.

The second concern has to do with Zane’s response to the distress expressed by the public over the traffic and scope of this development. Do the math. The impact of more than 800 new homes (most likely with two cars) making between 1,600 (one car, two trips, to and from work) and 3,200 (two cars, two trips) trips on two-lane roads must not be tossed off as unimportant. Include the traffic from the new retail area and apartment complex. Then consider the minimal public transit available in that district. It is a recipe for a traffic nightmare and certain gridlock.

Zane’s response to that legitimate concern (I’m paraphrasing) was to say that she had recently driven the road several times and the traffic wasn’t that bad.The public’s anxious concerns regarding potential development (more homes) on Paulin Creek Preserve were earlier diminished as likely irrelevant. What was disappointing was Zane’s passing the buck and blaming the mix up on “staff,” dramatically declaring that she was “blindsided” by the news (“Sonoma County signals intent to protect Santa Rosa meadow,” May 4). However, when the news broke a few months ago, it was treated as no big deal.

Zane seemed confident that something would be unearthed during the environmental review that would somehow render the issue of building on the preserve moot. What and why? If the preserve can’t be built on for environmental reasons, how can the land right next to it be developed?

Finally, the votes in favor of Sonoma Clean Power and the SMART train are strong indicators to our elected leaders that we as a community want to move more toward sustainability. I could find no mention of sustainable building in Gallaher’s proposal.The other proposal by Johansen had sustainability baked into the development on all levels.

As a medium-sized city, Santa Rosa has an opportunity to become the national model for sustainable development. Let’s grab it.

Maggie Bradley is a 40-year resident of Sonoma County whose son was born at the former Community Hospital on Chanate Road and has been closely following plans for development of the site. She lives in Santa Rosa.

Source: Close to Home: Concerns that linger about Chanate deal | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

County backs down on sale of Santa Rosa meadow to developer

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The meadow for 15 years has been marked by a prominent sign that declares it part of the Paulin Creek Open Space Preserve supposedly managed by a partnership of the county’s Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the county Water Agency, the county itself and the city.

Bowing to intense political pressure from a group of Santa Rosa neighborhood activists, the chairwoman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has agreed to guarantee that a treasured undeveloped meadow near their homes won’t be paved over after the county sells the sprawling site of its old hospital complex to a housing developer.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane said in an interview this week that she has not yet determined the best way to officially ensure the meadow and some surrounding land remain as open space. The options under consideration include removing the roughly 10-acre parcel from the sale entirely or striking a deal with the developer, Bill Gallaher, to maintain the land as a preserve.

The about-face represents a significant concession from Zane, who previously insisted that neighbors’ concerns about selling the de facto open space would have to be addressed by the city when Gallaher’s project passed through its planning process.

Neighbors, in response, mounted an aggressive campaign, consulting an attorney, filing extensive requests for years-worth of public records on the parcel in question and placing signs — knowingly or not — in Zane’s McDonald Avenue neighborhood and along her route to work.

“It was just time to say, you know, if we have to lose some money on this in terms of renegotiating the proposal, then that’s what we should do,” Zane said. She said the decision came Tuesday after county officials and supervisors met behind closed doors to discuss the sale, though that wasn’t the only factor.

Read more at: Sonoma County signals intent to protect Santa Rosa meadow up for sale in development deal | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Sonoma County single home construction in 2016 most since 2007 

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Greatest demand is for townhomes and other affordable housing.

After a long dry spell, Sonoma County builders last year created the largest number of new single-family homes in almost a decade.

In 2016, county and city governments issued permits for 581 single-family homes, according to the California Homebuilding Foundation in Sacramento. The last time more homes were built here was in 2007, when 904 permits were issued. Last year’s permit total was 236.

The construction industry remains a major employer and a significant contributor to the county economy in that way. In recent years, business and civic leaders have also looked to builders to help address a housing shortage they say is so dire it threatens to become a drag on the economic health of the region.

From that perspective, builders and others said the current level of construction activity remains well below average. And there are few reasons to expect it to increase dramatically anytime soon.

“There’s still headwinds out there for private builders and developers,” said Keith Christopherson, a longtime builder and a partner in Synergy Communities by Christopherson of Santa Rosa. For many, capital and suitable land remain in relative short supply, and most are wary of the possibility they could face another economic downturn with unsold units.

Read more at: Report: Sonoma County home construction in 2016 best since 2007 | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Sonoma County officials gather input on proposed hotel expansion at Graton Resort and Casino

Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Traffic, crime and groundwater use were among the main concerns raised by residential neighbors of the Graton Resort and Casino during a town hall meeting Tuesday evening to discuss a proposal to double the size of the casino’s new 200-room hotel, which opened last November outside Rohnert Park.

The expansion, proposed by the casino’s owner, the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, would add 211,328 square feet of building space to the existing 300,000-square-foot hotel, according to the draft tribal environmental impact report, released in March.

The casino, opened in November 2013, occupies more than 300,000 square feet.The town hall, hosted by Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt, drew about 50 people to the Stony Point Christian Fellowship, located a little more than 2 miles north of the casino.

Officials from several county agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office, County Counsel’s Office and the Transportation and Public Works department, attended the meeting to review the 853-page draft environmental impact report and respond to questions from the public.

Read more at: Sonoma County officials gather input on proposed hotel expansion at Graton Resort and Casino | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Transportation, Water

Sonoma County considers building on its own Santa Rosa property in bid to ease housing shortage 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Four publicly owned properties around Santa Rosa could be dramatically reshaped over the next several years by a push to create large numbers of new homes, apartments and condominiums and chip away at the region’s housing crisis.

Sonoma County officials could soon move forward on efforts to build housing at the site of the county Water Agency’s former headquarters on West College Avenue, where early estimates indicate as many as 200 units could be constructed.

Any progress there this year would come in addition to plans already underway to sell 82 acres of county-owned land off Chanate Road to a housing developer, as well as a separate project to build units on part of a Sebastopol Road site owned by the county’s Community Development Commission.

Further down the line, county officials envision building housing on part of their northern Santa Rosa administrative complex, which is considered too old and spread out to meet current demands. They also may someday develop units at the site of the old Los Guilicos juvenile hall off Highway 12 in Sonoma Valley, but officials have yet to seriously move forward with any plans there.

Aside from Los Guilicos, the other four Santa Rosa sites could anchor some 1,375 units by 2022.

While that amount would mark a major effort by the county to expand the tight local housing market, it would not come close to matching the pace from the boom years before the most recent recession, when builders added nearly 18,000 houses, apartments and condominiums in the county from 2000 to 2008. The county wants to get as many housing projects as possible underway this year.

Read more at: Sonoma County eyes its own Santa Rosa property in bid to ease housing shortage | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Housing added to Santa Rosa greenway design

KEVIN McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Read the latest plan for the Southeast Greenway here.

A subtle struggle is underway in southeast Santa Rosa between providing housing and preserving open space, and the pressure to provide housing appears to have the upper hand.

The latest design for a 57-acre greenway running on Caltrans right-of-way from Farmers Lane to Spring Lake calls for about 190 units of housing, most of it apartments clustered at the western end of what’s being called the Southeast Greenway.

That’s a 26 percent increase over the most intensely developed of the three options presented to city leaders late last year. It’s also 153 percent more units than the minimalist design favored by the group that’s been advocating for a greenway for eight years.

The revisions, made publicly available last week, followed months of public input and direction from members of the City Council and Planning Commission in November, many of whom stressed that the plan should reflect the city’s top priority, which is housing, and ensure the project can pay for itself, which more development would theoretically allow.

So Tuesday’s follow-up joint meeting of those two city bodies should prove a telling study in where city leaders are leaning when it comes to developing the ribbon of vacant land once eyed for the extension of Highway 12 over Spring Lake.

Will they embrace the new higher-density plan as presented, scale back development out of deference to neighbors hoping for the lightest footprint possible, or set aside even more land for housing near Yulupa Avenue and Summerfield Avenues?

Read more at: Santa Rosa greenway design makes room for more housing | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Santa Rosa meadow up for sale by Sonoma County over neighbors’ objections 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

At the end of Beverly Way, a small and secluded street in northeastern Santa Rosa, lies the entrance to a grassy meadow beloved by local residents who for decades have wandered through the open field and among the massive oak trees beyond.

Visitors to the Sonoma County-owned land are welcomed by a prominent sign just beyond the street that declares the property part of the surrounding Paulin Creek Open Space Preserve, a more than 40-acre swath of land situated south of the former county hospital complex and above the Hillcrest neighborhood near Franklin Park.

But the meadow’s inclusion in a forthcoming county land deal — the sale of 82 acres to a local developer whose plans include hundreds of new housing units — has neighbors alarmed that the county is, perhaps unwittingly, turning over the field to housing construction.

A 16-foot banner recently staked down by Beverly Way neighbors speaks to that concern.“The county is selling our meadow to an apartment developer,” it proclaims, encouraging like-minded individuals to help prevent “the destruction of our preserve.”

Read more at: Santa Rosa meadow up for sale by Sonoma County over neighbors’ objections | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Interim chief gets permanent post with California Coastal Commission

Peter Fimrite & Steve Rubinstein, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

The California Coastal Commission named its acting executive director to formally head the agency Friday, exactly one year after firing his predecessor in a controversial ouster that caused a statewide outcry among environmentalists.

Named to the post was Jack Ainsworth, 59, who has worked for the commission for 29 years. Meeting in Newport Beach (Orange County), the commission voted unanimously to appoint Ainsworth, the agency announced in a news release.

“Jack’s depth of understanding of coastal issues, the challenges confronting this agency and his steady leadership over the last year thoroughly impressed us,” said commission chair Dayna Bochco. “We are all looking forward to continuing our work to protect California’s magnificent coastline and ensure access for all.”

Ainsworth’s promotion followed the commission’s decision last Feb. 10, with a 7-to-5 vote, to fire Charles Lester after a heated debate over the long-term mission of the agency. The decision prompted thinly veiled allegations of racism and intolerance to be hurled between commissioners and Lester’s staunchest supporter, the Surfrider Foundation.

Supporters of Lester alleged big-money developers were behind the move. His opponents said Lester’s staff was insufficiently diverse.

Surfrider, an advocacy group created more than 30 years ago to fight coastal development, said the commission pushed out Lester to appease builders and rich movie stars who wanted to construct Malibu mansions.

Read more at: Interim chief gets permanent post with California Coastal Commission – San Francisco Chronicle

Filed under Land Use, Sonoma Coast

Sonoma County gives developer exclusive right to negotiate purchase of ex-Santa Rosa hospital site

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors moved forward Tuesday with plans to sell 82 acres of county-owned land in the Santa Rosa hills to a well-known local developer who wants to convert the site, where the former Sutter Medical Center was located, into a mixed-use community that includes hundreds of new housing units.

The sale of the land off Chanate Road to developer Bill Gallaher and his team is intended to make a major stride toward expanding the county’s tight housing market, including the addition of more affordable units. If the sale is finalized by supervisors in several months, it would mark the county’s largest real estate and housing development deal in recent history.

The Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to enter into exclusive negotiations with Gallaher, whose company would pay as much as $12.5 million in cash for the land. County officials say the deal is worth nearly twice as much when cost savings are considered.

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins abstained from the vote, saying she did not have enough detailed information from closed-session discussions that happened before she assumed office in January.

The closed-door discussions fueled concern from many members of the public who attended the meeting Tuesday. Residents said they felt blindsided because conceptual details of the proposed development emerged publicly just days ago.

Read more at: Sonoma County gives developer exclusive right to negotiate purchase of ex-Santa Rosa hospital site | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Land Use

Ratna Ling Retreat Center at center of rare Supreme Court appeal

Amie Windsor, SONOMA WEST TIMES & NEWS

East of Salt Point State Park, in the northwest corner of Sonoma County, sits a Tibetan Buddhist retreat center that promotes a tradition of positive change, a spiritual community and deep appreciation of the natural environment.

Despite its aims, not everyone believes the Ratna Ling Retreat Center is as much of a steward to the land and environment as its website claims. The retreat center finds itself in the midst of a lawsuit over the large expansion of its printing press operations.

In 2014, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved the expansion of the retreat center’s printing press, enabling Ratna Ling to make four temporary tent-like storage structures permanent. The approval also granted the retreat center permission to construct a new five-bedroom residence for senior members of the Buddhist community on its property.

“The county permitted industrial-scale fabric storage tents in a remote, fire-prone area, even though the local fire protection district warned of unmitigated industrial fire risks,” said Bruce Johnson, a member of Coastal Hills Rural Preservation, the citizens group who filed the initial lawsuit.

After the Board of Supervisors granted approval, Coastal Hills sued the county, arguing the county did not conduct a proper environmental review and that the retreat center was in violation of county land-use standards. Coastal Hills also argues the printing and publishing operations for Dharma Publishing, located at the retreat center, are inconsistent with the county’s general plan and zoning provisions.

Read more at: Ratna Ling Retreat Center at center of rare Supreme Court appeal

Filed under Land Use, Sonoma Coast