Tag Archives: housing

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

SMART line revives plan for transit village hub in Santa Rosa

For more than a decade, the leaders of Sonoma County’s largest city have dreamed of transforming a cluster of vacant properties along the railroad tracks in downtown Santa Rosa into a vital new village filled with people opting for lower-impact urban living.

Time after time, proposals to develop the western side of Railroad Square have fallen apart, victims of political infighting, neighborhood opposition and economic slumps.

But the impending arrival of a $428 million regional rail system is breathing new life into efforts to create high-density housing around the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit platform in Railroad Square.

SMART has narrowed its search for a development partner as it prepares to start trains rolling through Santa Rosa later this year. Next month, SMART and the finalist in its quest for a development partner will present a detailed plan to build out the property.

As early as next summer, construction could get underway on a complex of market-rate and affordable apartments, retail spaces focused on food and wine, and a public plaza on a 5.4-acre site just west of the Railroad Square station.

Read more at: SMART line revives plan for transit village hub in Santa Rosa

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Much at stake for Bay Area in regional planning merger talks

OP-ED: Daniel Borenstein, CONTRA COSTA TIMES

Now the hard work begins.

Leaders of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission on Wednesday temporarily halted their ham-handed bid for a hostile takeover of the Association of Bay Area Governments. Instead, the two regional planning agencies have promised to work cooperatively toward a needed and long-overdue merger.

There’s much at stake. The Bay Area must better align housing, jobs and public transit. We spend too much time stuck in traffic. It will only get worse if we fail to build densely near transit centers and continue to approve sprawl along highway corridors already filled to capacity.

Unfortunately, for decades we’ve had two regional planning agencies — one for transportation, the other for housing — that have been engaged in passive-aggressive and sometimes open warfare.

Read more at: Daniel Borenstein: Much at stake for Bay Area in regional planning merger talks – ContraCostaTimes.com

For more on the MTC/ABAG power struggle: “A pricey palace, huge losses in risky investments, a busted bridge – and now the agency responsible wants more power.”

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Push to renew Sonoma County’s greenbelt protections fans debate

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

(Sonomamap, Sonoma County)

(SonomaMap, Sonoma County)

Right outside city boundaries, more than 17,000 acres of land in Sonoma County has been put off limits to most development for more than a quarter-century to reduce sprawl, protect farmland and natural habitat and provide some scenic buffer between urban areas that most county residents call home.

But some of the curbs that established those so-called community separators, first adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 1989 and strengthened by two voter-approved ballot measures in the late 1990s, are set to expire at the end of next year. Their enactment decades ago marked a key win for the county’s environmental movement, with current leaders making it a top priority to see the protections renewed.

So far, however, they haven’t had the reception they’d hoped for from the Board of Supervisors, which has balked at fully endorsing an extension at the ballot box in 2016. The issue could become a key one in races for three board seats up for election next year.

Teri Shore, the North Bay’s director for the Greenbelt Alliance, an environmental group spearheading the campaign, said a September poll shows that there is widespread public support for extending the protections indefinitely. They currently exist outside most cities and towns in the county, except for Cloverdale and Penngrove, where supporters hope to enact new limits.

Waffling by supervisors could undermine the protections, Shore said.“Without the voter-backed initiatives, the community separators are weaker and at risk of being developed because supervisors could easily change them,” Shore said. “These are important, major protections that shield open space and agricultural lands from development, and they keep Sonoma County from sprawling from city to city like you see in other parts of the Bay Area or Los Angeles.”

The issue is re-emerging as housing costs in the county continue to escalate, putting pressure on elected leaders to fast-track construction of units, especially for working- and middle-class families.

Read more at: Amid housing crunch, push to renew Sonoma County’s | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Secrecy rules in regional-planning power struggle between MTC and ABAG

Zelda Bronstein, MARIN POST

Last week the power struggle between the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments intensified, as the Sierra Club and the Six Wins for Equity Network entered the fray. Meanwhile, the agencies’ joint ad hoc committee resumed its secret deliberations on consolidating the planning functions of the two agencies.

Routinely ignored by the media, MTC and ABAG operate in obscurity at their MetroCenter headquarters in Oakland. That’s unfortunate, given their huge impact on where Bay Area residents live and work (or not), and how we get around. MTC oversees the region’s transportation planning; ABAG manages its planning for land use and housing. Together they prepared the region’s first, state-mandated Sustainable Communities Strategy, Plan Bay Area 2040, approved in July 2013. Under the aegis of that “blueprint,” as they call it, the two groups expect to hand out $292 billion in public funds.

Their current dispute involves money. Finance-wise, the two partners are highly unequal. MTC has an annual budget of more than $900 million; ABAG’s budget is $23.6 million. More to the point, ABAG depends on MTC for crucial funding. The first public sign of trouble appeared in late June, when MTC voted to fund ABAG’s planning and research staff for only six months ($1.9 million) instead of the customary full fiscal year.

The timing of the MTC vote was not coincidental. At the end of December the two agencies are scheduled to move into their plush new headquarters in San Francisco. If major administrative changes are in the offing, MTC officials want to make them before the relocation.

But what’s really at stake is not efficiency; it’s who will call the shots, and in what direction they will aim. In particular, will social justice count in Plan Bay Area 2.0?

Read more at: The Marin Post

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Apartment complex near Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square OK’d

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa has signed off on the design of a 72-unit apartment complex near the future SMART rail station downtown, the first transit-oriented development to move forward under new zoning rules encouraging higher density housing in the area.

After years of talking about the need to build transit-oriented housing downtown, Santa Rosa may finally be close to getting some.

A developer won approval Thursday for a 72-unit apartment complex called Pullman Lofts just a few blocks north of the future Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station in Railroad Square.

The project proposes to wedge a three-story complex on the long, narrow 2-acre site of a former lumberyard between the rail line and Wilson Street.

That kind of higher-density housing near a transportation hub is precisely the kind of project the city has tried to encourage for years, but the economy and other factors have made it tough for developers to deliver.

“The marketplace is now catching up with the Downtown Station Area plan of eight years ago,” said Bill Rose, the city’s supervising planner.

The project is the brainchild of Phoenix Development president Loren Brueggemann, who for years built urban redevelopment projects in Minneapolis but since 2010 has lived in Santa Rosa.

He said he is excited about turning a vacant eyesore into vibrant housing that will appeal to young, urban-oriented people who want to live near transit, restaurants, bars and shopping.

Read more at: 72-unit apartment complex near Santa Rosa’s Railroad Square | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

New homes at Skyhawk subdivision in east Santa Rosa raise neighbors concerns

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The final phase of a large hillside subdivision in eastern Santa Rosa rumbled to life recently after a decade of dormancy, as massive earth movers began reshaping the landscape for new homes, dredging up old battles in the process.

APM Homes purchased the 26-acre property known as Skyhawk 9 and 10 from another developer in 2013 and in recent weeks has begun grading the site in preparation for 35 luxury homes.

The company hopes to finish an access road and bridge on an adjacent agricultural property by the fall and begin construction of the homes by the end of the year, said Aaron Matz, president of APM Homes.

“What’s going up there has been approved for a long time,” Matz said. “This shouldn’t be a big surprise to people.”

And yet the prospect of a new batch of hillside homes being built after such a long period of suburban serenity has generated a range of reactions from neighbors, from fretting over the loss of hillside views to allegations that open space has been improperly bulldozed by the project.

“After 15 years of looking out on that pasture, I would like to have seen it stay open space,” said Dan Madigan, whose Mountainhawk Drive home overlooks the development on the other side of a small protected ravine.

The case illustrates how building projects are beginning to rear their heads years after initial approval as the housing market’s recovery advances — taking some new residents by surprise or stoking long-cooled embers of opposition.

Read more at: New homes at Skyhawk subdivision in east Santa | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

167-home Santa Rosa townhome project in tiger salmander habitat to start construction

Cynthia Sweeney, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

After a decade and a half of delays procedural and economic, a 167-townhome development in west Santa Rosa is set to come out of the ground in coming months, in quite a different market than when initially conceived and with cutting-edge rooms-as-modules construction.

Groundbreaking for three model dwellings in the Paseo Vista Homes project, located off Hearn and Dutton avenues, is set for May 15. Santa Rosa-based HybridCore Homes expects to complete them by Aug. 1.

The remainder of the units would start to come out of the ground in early July. The entire project is expected to be completed in about two years.The 12-acre project includes 122 single-family homes and 45 low-income rental units, built as 15 triplexes. Prices for the homes are anticipated to be in the low-$300,000 range.

Started by a homebuilder and an architect in 2009, HybridCore Homes has designed room units, called “cores,” outfitted with appliances, cabinetry, electrical wiring and plumbing that can be trucked from the factory to the job site. One or more cores are moved into place on the foundation, and the rest of the structure is completed around them.

“This new construction technology helps to keep costs low and cuts construction time in half,” said Otis Orsburn, partner and vice president of construction.

The company has a “ton” of projects on the horizon, he said.

Read more at: 167-home Santa Rosa townhome project to start construction | North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Land Use, Wildlife

Op-Ed: Does Sonoma County really have water for new development?

Brenda Adelman, RUSSIAN RIVER WATERSHED PROTECTION COMMITTEE

Anyone regularly reading the Press Democrat knows they have been running many articles on both water issues and the need for new housing lately while hardly ever putting the two together for a meaningful analysis of the issues.

Conservation and drought have been leading issues for the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) for several years now, and reading the Press Democrat on May 9, 2015 indicated that the general manager’s view of conditions appeared to depend on the audience to whom he was speaking.   The lead article that day (page 1 of A Section), was titled “Housing Squeeze: At summit, a call for new construction” written by Robert Digitale, and reported a conference for North Bay business leaders held Friday May 8th, where some presenters called for new development of as many as 7500 new units a year.

Press Democrat investor, Doug Bosco, also a former Congressman, told the 250 conference participants that, “The effort to build more housing must resemble the years long campaigns to build Warm Springs Dam…” he said, and “Until now….the housing issue often has suffered from a lack of community focus.”  There were about 15 speakers at the conference discussing housing deficits and what can be done about it. (Anyone regularly reading the Press Democrat knows they have been running many articles on both water issues and the need for new housing lately while hardly ever putting the two together for a meaningful analysis of the issues.)

Conference attendees were assured by Grant Davis, general manager of Sonoma County Water Agency and one of the speakers, that in spite of four years of drought, “….we’ll have enough water, so that’s not an excuse to say we can’t build affordable housing.” (And what if there are way MORE than four years of drought to come?)  At one point, Doug Bosco called for establishment of a housing czar to be responsible for building 1000 units. Now, while these statements were a projection of future outcomes, which anyone is free to make, in terms of water supply, they appeared to be based on nothing.

Water Agency contractors (Santa Rosa, Windsor, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Sonoma, Valley of the Moon, North Marin Water District, Marin Municipal Water District) have been basing development projects of water availability on paper water for years that had been promised by SCWA long before the drought. And seldom do they consider environmental impacts on lower river water quality caused by their actions. The power behind the Temporary Urgency Change Orders is that, while they require river monitoring, CEQA can be suspended and public review of projects is avoided.

But the coup de grace was in another PD article that same day (page B1) entitled “Water supply worries over remote lake….As Lake Pillsbury drops to less than 55% of capacity, affected agencies strategize” by Guy Kovner.  Much of the water filling Lake Mendocino comes from Lake Pillsbury after having been released into the East Fork of the Russian River north of Ukiah.  (Lake Mendocino’s water supply pool is only about 58% now, which is very low for this time of year.)  Because of the need for repairs at the Potter Valley Project, PG&E will be requesting further decreases of flow to allow for this work that would cut normal releases of 75 cfs to 30 cfs, with half of that serving Potter Valley.

Grant Davis said that this is an “unprecedented situation” at a different meeting with agency heads the same day as the conference noted above.  While we agree that this may be an unprecedented situation, we feel that under the circumstances his comments at the housing conference should have been much more circumspect.

While it is true we have many citizens in need of affordable housing, it is also true that our water supply shortages probably won’t end any time soon, if climate change has any credibility. It would also be great if we could rely on the promise of affordability if we do get more new housing.  There was a third story in that same edition of the Press Democrat (p.A4) about San Francisco demonstrations going on now because low income people are being given five day notices to move from their homes so owners can greatly increase rents, and dwellers have no where affordable to go.  Can it be that the affordable factor is merely a ruse to justify more development? And how would the term be defined? Affordable for whom?

We also are concerned that up to now, agriculture has not adequately controlled their water use; required monitoring of ground water use is still fiercely opposed; cities have not yet instituted strict mandatory conservation requirements nor shrunk their general plan projections to address what appears to be repeated water shortages; and inadequate measures are in place to assure that irrigation with wastewater does not become regular discharge into streams. Rather, housing shortages have stimulated the call for a lot more growth at a time when water supplies are greatly diminished.

Russian River Watershed Protection Committee
P.O. Box 501
Guerneville, CA 95446
Email:  rrwpc@comcast.net
RRWPC Website:  www.rrwpc.org

Filed under Land Use, Water, Wildlife

Rohnert Park council clears way for up to 1,645 homes

Matt Brown, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Rohnert Park City Council on Tuesday approved changes to a long-stalled housing project just north of Sonoma State University that could add up to 1,645 homes starting as soon as next year.

The University District development, Rohnert Park’s first large housing project in 24 years, was approved in 2006, but ground to a halt during the recession. Last summer, developer Brookfield Homes revived the project with proposed changes to the plan to reflect the shifting housing market.

“I think the changes we have made are relative to 2014,” Councilwoman Pam Stafford said. “This is what we needed to do to make it feasible.”

The revised plan on 300 acres west of Petaluma Hill Road includes 130 more medium-density homes and about 400 fewer high-density, multifamily units.

via Rohnert Park council clears way for up to 1,645 homes | The Press Democrat.

Filed under Land Use