Tag Archives: housing

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

Op-Ed: Paulin Creek Preserve is a place worth keeping 

Tim Stafford, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Early in 2002, I asked then-Mayor Mike Martini if he would like to take a short hike on land that was coming up for a Santa Rosa zoning decision. I knew Martini casually because our kids went to school together. Like a lot of my neighbors, I had concerns about a developer’s plans to build houses on land where we had taken innumerable walks and where my children had spent many hours exploring. He accepted my offer, so on a rainy day I showed him the land.

I didn’t try to discuss the land-use decision with Martini, and he didn’t say much as we hiked. I had the impression, however, that he was stunned by the beauty he saw. That impression was ratified by his subsequent actions. Within days, he had talked to the major players involved and helped arrange for the Open Space District to buy the land.

The arrangement was celebrated as a win for everybody. The Press Democrat wrote an editorial citing it as a great example of government working together for the common good. Chris Coursey, then a columnist for the paper, wrote enthusiastically of the “little slice of wilderness” that had been preserved.

Joined to two adjacent parcels that run along Paulin Creek — one a small pie-shaped county-owned property known as Parcel J, the other a larger parcel owned by the Water Agency for flood control — the open-space property was named Paulin Creek Open Space Preserve and shown on Open Space District maps. A large sign at the head of Beverly Way, the only road access to Parcel J, was put up by a county agency stating the existence of Paulin Creek Preserve as an entity preserved by multiple government agencies and urging that it be used with care. We neighbors believed the matter was settled forever.

In Coursey’s column, he quoted Martini saying, “I didn’t know places like this existed in Santa Rosa anymore.” Fifteen years later, it still does. But it may not, if the county’s plan to include Parcel J in the sale of the old Sutter Hospital property goes through. Parcel J has nothing to do with the hospital properties. They are adjacent, but they don’t access each other, not even on foot. But Parcel J is critical to the Paulin Creek Preserve. Without it, the other two properties are cut off from each other.

To be clear, the neighbors trying to separate Parcel J from the land sale have no objection to the development of the hospital lands. We know that housing is needed, and even though we live very close to that potential development, we aren’t opposed to it. What we hope to preserve is the small, beautiful swath of meadow and oak-studded hills, the wetlands and the creek that make up the Paulin Creek Preserve.

Read more at: Close to Home: Paulin Creek Preserve is a place worth keeping | 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

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