Tag Archives: development

Skyhawk air conditioners, new homes, overwhelm electrical grid

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A normally quiet east Santa Rosa street has been turned into a noisy power station to meet the growing power demand by large, air-conditioned homes and new development that threatened to overwhelm the area’s power grid.

Pacific Gas and & Electric set up a series of mobile power generators on Great Heron Drive in the Skyhawk neighborhood last week after power went out to 109 customers in the area Aug. 31, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said.

Worried by a forecast that called for triple-digit temperatures over the Labor Day weekend, the utility wanted to make sure it could keep the lights and air conditioners on in the area, she said. The mercury ended up hitting a new record of 110 degrees in Santa Rosa last Saturday.

The neighborhood of mostly larger single-family homes built in the 1980s and 1990s had an undersized electric infrastructure that was stressed when people turned on their central air conditioners.

Read more at: PG&E installs temporary substation on Santa Rosa street | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Land Use

Density helps new homes be more affordable

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A long-planned Roseland housing community designed with affordable prices in mind is moving forward in a big way, with construction poised to ramp up over the next month or so and the first crop of residents possibly moving in early next year.

At the Paseo Vista subdivision on Dutton Avenue in southwest Santa Rosa, houses in the first phase will start at $390,000 — a far cry below Sonoma County’s latest median home price of $644,000. The project keeps prices low through dense development and by having key sections of the homes built at a factory in Riverside before being shipped north for assembly in place by construction crews.

The 12.2-acre site has for about two years hosted three model homes advertising the property’s future potential. As final subdivision maps are recorded next week — they were previously approved by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in August — the developers expect houses to arrive in mid-October, putting the community on track to welcome its first residents sometime after the first of the year.

The project is planned to include 122 single-family townhouses for sale and 15 triplexes, each of which will include a studio, a one-bedroom and a two-bedroom apartment for rent, the developers said. Among the 45 rental apartments, 32 units will be reserved for low income and very low income households, according to county officials.

Read more at: Santa Rosa developers moving forward on Roseland subdivision where homes start at $390,000 | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

SMART selling land near downtown Santa Rosa station to housing developer 

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The vacant lot next to Santa Rosa’s downtown train station is being sold to a developer with plans for a highly anticipated transit-oriented housing and commercial center.

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, which begins service on Friday, has agreed to sell its 5.4-acre property west of the Railroad Square station to ROEM Development Corp. of Santa Clara for $5.75 million.

The deal inked Tuesday calls for the sale to be finalized only after the developer wins necessary approvals from the city for the $85 million project, which could include several hundred residential units.

The sale agreement was structured with payments required at key junctures over 28 months to motivate ROEM to move forward with the project quickly, said Farhad Mansourian, SMART’s general manager.

“We didn’t want an open-ended contract,” Mansourian said. “We want to see shovels in the ground. We want action.”

The deal could pave the way for the single largest rail-oriented housing and commercial development in Sonoma County. The property and neighboring land that is the site of a former brick cannery building have been eyed for more than a decade as prime downtown development opportunities.

Read more at: SMART selling land near downtown Santa Rosa station to housing developer | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Sonoma City Council votes to require more study for downtown hotel

Jason Walsh, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE

The Sonoma City Council has voted unanimously to uphold an appeal seeking additional environmental study of a 62-room hotel project on West Napa Street.

The 5-0 council vote, in a special meeting on Monday, formally affirmed an appeal lodged by project opponents after the Planning Commission in April approved the environmental impact report for the $40 million Hotel Project Sonoma, which also includes a spa and 80-seat restaurant.

The special meeting followed a July hearing in which council members endorsed further work on the environmental report.

Critics said the report failed to fully disclose potential environmental impacts, address certain mitigation measures and offer project alternatives.

Bill Hooper, president of Kenwood Investments, the developer of the hotel, said the company supports the council’s decision because the extra study items will result in a more thorough document for the project. He noted the report is being written by an outside consultant selected by the city.

Read more at: Sonoma City Council requires votes to require more study for downtown hotel | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

After tons of drama with the California Coastal Commission, things are looking up

Steve Lopez, LOS ANGELES TIMES

Yes it’s true, sharks are everywhere along the California coast this summer. But by all appearances, a far bigger threat to your enjoyment of the state’s fabulous beaches has been contained for now.

It’s a new day at the California Coastal Commission.

You remember the drama last year, right?

I don’t get to take up an entire section of the newspaper, so I can only touch on the many ways in which the coast was imperiled by conflicts of interest, the clout of pro-development forces, the undermining of staff experts and a head-smacking lack of professionalism among certain members of the Coastal Commission.

In February 2016, commissioners — appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders — stunned and angered hundreds of spectators when they summarily dismissed the agency’s respected executive director. Charles Lester had staunchly defended his staff’s independence from outside influence while adhering to the letter of the law on coastal preservation, and he made a dramatic appeal to keep his job, to no avail.

But in an unintended way, the firing was a blessing.

“They got away with getting rid of Charles,” said former Commissioner Sara Wan, “but they didn’t get away with the public response.”

In fact, the fall of Lester has led to the toppling of a hyperactive commission that seemed at times to have forgotten its duty to the Coastal Act, and to the guiding principle that the unsurpassed 1,100-mile coast is not anybody’s — it’s everybody’s.

Read more at: After tons of drama with the California Coastal Commission, things are looking up – LA Times

Filed under Sonoma Coast

Sonoma County approves sale of old Santa Rosa hospital site to housing developer

J.D. Morris, THE NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Sonoma County has approved a deal to sell an 82-acre former county hospital site where a developer plans to build 800 rental units, housing for veterans, a grocery store, an amphitheater and other amenities.

County leaders have touted the sale to Bill Gallaher, a politically connected Santa Rosa developer, as a clear-sighted move to meet an urgent regional need — expanding the housing supply, especially for renters, who’ve seen rates skyrocket in recent years.

The deal was approved 5-0 by Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday.

The health care complex is centered around the former Community Hospital, built in 1936 and vacated in 2014 after Sutter Health moved into its new hospital off Mark West Road. The aging building did not meet current seismic building standards and racked up costly maintenance bills, according to the county. Much of it is slated for demolition under Gallaher’s proposal.

Though a sale of the property was first raised as a possibility more than a decade ago, the deal approved Tuesday has faced strong criticism from neighbors, health care advocates and others since it was first unveiled as a proposal in February. Opponents raised concerns about the loss of health care services on the site and the future of open lands on the property.

But proponents, including Gallaher’s representative, have emphasized all along that the details of the project will ultimately be Santa Rosa’s permit and planning process is complete, and officials expect that period to last about 18 months.

Read more at: Sonoma County approves sale of old Santa Rosa hospital site to housing developer | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Ex-Cloverleaf Ranch site proposal sparks debate over development in rural buffer zones 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Plans to revive and revamp shuttered lodging and event grounds off Old Redwood Highway are being met with resistance from Sonoma County environmentalists who say the project will encroach on rural lands voters eight months ago overwhelmingly agreed to protect from large-scale development.

The project would transform more than 20 acres just north of Santa Rosa into a new business called Solstice Sonoma, envisioned by San Francisco architect Kevin Skiles and his partners as a modern yet rural getaway for weddings and retreats, and for others seeking an escape barely removed from city services and Highway 101.

Originally developed as part of the Cloverleaf Ranch camp and horseback riding school next door, the site is located within one of the buffer zones between cities that received an additional 20 years of protection through the passage of Measure K last year.

Known technically as community separators, the buffer zones remain subject to longstanding county rules requiring voter approval of large new projects such as major housing tracts, shopping malls or other commercial developments.

Proponents contend the Solstice plans are in keeping with county land-use rules, including Measure K. Construction would be hidden behind a hill covered in grapevines, rendering the new development invisible to passing motorists, and the site was used for decades as a camp and event facility.

But critics say the proposed construction goes far beyond what land-use rules allow in rural buffer zones and what voters agreed to in November. They see the project as a key test of the strength of Measure K, which passed with more than 81 percent of the vote.

“This project definitely pushes the envelope,” said Teri Shore, regional director for the North Bay office of Greenbelt Alliance, which spearheaded the ballot measure. “This is one of the last visible green buffers between Santa Rosa and Windsor.”

Parts of the project were evaluated Wednesday by Sonoma County’s Design Review Committee, which still needs to hold at least one more meeting to consider the proposed design in more detail. That committee does not have any land-use authority — ultimately, the county’s Board of Zoning Adjustments will need to approve or deny the project, a step at least a few months away. The zoning board’s decision can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

Read more at: Ex-Cloverleaf Ranch site proposal sparks debate over rural buffer zones | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Transportation

Yes In My Backyard, says Bay Area housing advocate

Richard Scheinin, BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Brian Hanlon used to work for environmental agencies and regards himself as a political progressive. Then several years ago, he began to feel the crunch of the Bay Area housing crisis. Why was everything so insanely expensive? And what was with all these zoning laws that were preventing new houses from being built?

Hanlon switched careers and became a full-time housing advocate, one who says, “Yes In My Backyard,” to affordable housing as well as to luxury housing, condos and mixed-use projects near transit hubs. That motto is now the rallying cry for the region’s growing YIMBY movement, of which he is a leader. YIMBYs say the region must get its head out of the sand and expand its meager housing supply. How else will it ever reduce the competition for homes that keeps driving prices up – and pricing so many people out of their own communities?

“I’m someone who supports whichever housing policies are going to benefit people who need housing the most,” says Hanlon, who concedes that being a YIMBY can make for unpredictable bedfellows – for instance supporting developers while opposing aging and otherwise left-leaning NIMBY homeowners who block any new housing in their neighborhoods.He is policy director of the San Francisco YIMBY Party and co-executive director of the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA), which has targeted local governments that block residential development. And, oh, yes – he and his girlfriend pay $2,000 a month for a “tiny” one-bedroom apartment in an old building in downtown Oakland.

This interview (keep reading) was edited for clarity and length.

Read more at: Bay Area housing crisis won’t end without a big buildout