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
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The developer of a large apartment complex in downtown Santa Rosa is hoping for permission to pack even more apartments into the project.
Rick Derringer won approval in May to build 185 apartments on a large industrial property along the railroad tracks in the city’s West End neighborhood.
His four-story DeTurk Winery Village project was already one of the largest apartment projects planned for the downtown area. Now he’s hoping to add more units into the project, boosting the number of proposed apartments by 30 percent to 240.
Derringer is holding a neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the DeTurk Round Barn to discuss his proposed changes.
“The city wants density and affordability, and this project provides more density and affordability,” Derringer said.
The project has undergone several iterations in the more than a decade since Derringer acquired the property. The effort has been complicated — and controversial — in part because it involves reuse of a historic building.
Read more at: Developer seeks to add units to downtown Santa Rosa apartment project | The Press Democrat
Hannah Beausang, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER
As Petaluma’s housing market continues to constrict, the city council Monday unanimously voted to relax regulations on the construction of additional living spaces on residents’ land and in their homes.
The updates to the city’s zoning ordinance, driven by three state laws signed into effect last year, are intended to make it easier for residents to build accessory dwelling structures, or “granny units” that are attached to their residences or built separately on their properties. It also creates a new classification and associated rules for converting an existing bedroom in a single family home into independent living quarters, or a so-called “junior second unit.
”Accessory dwelling units are regarded as an economical way of providing housing for a wide range of family members, care providers or local employees inside the footprint of existing neighborhoods.“
Businesses and people in Petaluma are looking for ways to create more affordable housing and this is a brilliant strategy,” said Rachel Ginis, the founding director of Novato-based Lily Pad Homes, a nonprofit that supports education about the development of second units and sponsored the junior second unit legislation.
Read more at: Petaluma crafts granny unit policy | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com
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
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Affordable housing and parking emerged Monday as two key issues that the developer of an $85 million Railroad Square project will need to carefully navigate to win approval from city officials and the transportation agency that owns the Santa Rosa property.
The first public hearing on the plan by Santa Clara-based ROEM Corp. to build 268 units of housing, retail shops and a public plaza on 5.4 vacant acres west of the city’s downtown rail station featured plenty of praise for the proposal.
“What you’ve put before us is what this community has been looking for for a long time,” Santa Rosa City Councilman Chris Coursey said.
But it was also clear debates that bogged down previous efforts to develop the site are already re-emerging, potentially threatening swift approval of the project.
How many units of affordable housing would be included in the project? How affordable would those units be? How much would the city or county be asked to subsidize construction of those units? All were questions raised but left unanswered during Monday morning’s well-attended presentation at City Hall.
Read more at: Railroad Square development draws support, questions | The Press Democrat
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
That was the consensus of the Town Council members Wednesday as they voted 4-1 to approve a revised development plan for the 387-unit Vintage Oaks on the Town Green, the once controversial project planned for the site of the former Windsorland mobile home and trailer park.“This is a great day for Sonoma County,” said Mayor Mark Millan, adding that it will provide new housing choices for both young and old.
“It’s sorely needed,” he said.
It’s a huge complement to the downtown and the new Bell Village center,” Councilwoman Deb Fudge said in reference to the site it will occupy just to the north of the new Oliver’s Market and shopping center.
She and other council members touted the ability residents will have to walk to the nearby station to ride SMART commuter trains, which Fudge said could be in service in Windsor by the summer of 2018, if grant funding comes through to extend the line beyond its current terminus just north of Santa Rosa.
Developers hope to begin building the first half of Vintage Oaks as early as next month and be ready to rent units out by the summer of 2017, according to project manager Peter Stanley, a principal in Santa Rosa-based ArchiLOGIX.
Southern California developer Bob Bisno said he and his partners expect to spend as much as $135 million to build the combination of apartments and townhomes, which will feature rooftop solar panels and a dozen electric vehicle charging stations initially, with potential to add more.
Read more at: Windsor approves Vintage Oaks on the Town Green housing project
Teri Shore, GREENBELT ALLIANCE
On February 1 at a public hearing in Santa Rosa, a standing room only crowd of about 100 neighbors, advocates, and elected officials came together to speak out in favor of a safe at-grade crossing over the SMART tracks at Jennings Avenue for walkers and bicyclists. No one spoke against the City of Santa Rosa’s application to build the at-grade crossing.
The hearing held at Helen Lehman School was convened by an administrative law judge for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which claims that a super-sized bridge over the railway is the only solution. A final decision won’t be made until later this year, perhaps too late to build the crossing before the SMART commuter service starts running in December.
The CPUC recently blocked off the historic railroad crossing at Jennings, forcing people to walk or bike an extra half mile each way along busy thoroughfares such as Guerneville Road, where “you can reach out and touch cars going by” according to Janet Barocco, a 16-year resident of Jennings Avenue.
Before it was blocked off, as many as 91 people and 25 bicyclists a day typically crossed the tracks here, according to the City of Santa Rosa. Now they must walk another 15 to 30 minutes or get into cars. The CPUC claims that some 170 elementary students who go to school nearby might cross the tracks at Jennings if the at-grade crossing is permitted.
Read more at: Santa Rosa SMART Jennings Avenue Railway Crossing
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The planned rail link to a Marin County ferry terminal, envisioned as a key part of a new SMART passenger rail service set to debut in 2016, appears to have secured the funding it needs to advance.
Congress is expected to approve a $1.1 trillion federal spending bill as early as Friday morning that includes $20 million for the rail link from downtown San Rafael to the Larkspur ferry terminal.Officials with the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit authority had been working with regional partners for three years to acquire the federal funding, which adds to $20 million already secured for the Larkspur project through local toll money.
“The extension from San Rafael to Larkspur is going to happen. That’s a big deal for the system,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael.
Connecting rail passengers to regional transportation hubs is a critical component of the SMART project, which initially is set to debut in late 2016 along a 42-mile segment from near the Sonoma County Airport to downtown San Rafael.
Read more at: Congress on track to approve SMART funding for | The Press Democrat
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.”