Tag Archives: urban planning

Pop-up parklet comes to Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square 

Christi Warren, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A group of local designers hung out all day Friday in a little pop-up parklet they created on the western side of Old Courthouse Square. The space — a carpet of sod with orange chairs and stools perched atop it — took up two of the square’s metered parking places from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, with the city’s OK, as part of a larger call to think about the way cities utilize urban space, billed internationally as Park(ing) Day.

A parklet is a pedestrian patch extending beyond a sidewalk into the street, intended to provide additional recreational amenities for people in areas typically devoid of them.

In Friday’s case, the parklet abutting Santa Rosa’s reunified square — a temporary one set up by TLCD Architecture, Quadriga Landscape Architecture and Planning, and MKM Associates Architects — wasn’t really in a place in need of a parklet, but that wasn’t the point.

The design firms set it up to open a conversation with passers-by about the way cities are planned — around people or cars.In Santa Rosa, the parklet producers argue, it might be the latter.

“The whole premise behind Park(ing) Day is that the majority of our open space is dedicated to the private vehicle and not to people,” said Christine Talbot, a landscape architect with Quadrica.Beyond that, the parklet’s theme was shade. Specifically, Santa Rosa’s lack of it, Talbot said.

“We came up with a concept to engage the space and talk about what we thought was important, which was shade,” she said. “I think we’re talking about public space in general, and I think in Santa Rosa there are some lovely streets with amazing trees, and then there are other streets where there is no room for trees or the trees have been stunted. Our shade canopy is not as lush as it could be.”

Read more at: Pop-up parklet comes to Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Developer drops plans for controversial Sonoma boutique hotel in favor of housing 

Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Faced with a lengthy approval process and unrelenting opposition from a citizens’ group, developers have dropped plans to build a boutique hotel project northeast of the Sonoma Plaza.Caymus Development Group of Sonoma said they are eliminating a proposed 30-room hotel, restaurant and bakery and will concentrate instead on building more housing than originally planned on the 3.4 acre site.

Dropping the commercial portion, they said, will allow for additional units over the 27 condominiums and five single-family homes they were proposing. Under the city’s general plan there could be as many as 70  residential units on the site, but the developer declined to say if they would seek the maximum amount.

They portrayed their decision as driven by the urgent need for housing in the region. They also downplayed opposition to the proposed hotel, in a neighborhood some call Sonoma’s “backyard” — a collection of Little League ballfields, a senior center, a veterans hall and Depot Park that offer a respite of sorts from the bustling tourist-dominated plaza.

The hotel on First Street East was dropped “because housing is a humanitarian crisis,” said Caymus executive Ed Routhier. “We need to step up and do everything we can.”

Read more at: Developer drops plans for controversial Sonoma boutique hotel in favor of housing | The Press Democrat –

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

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

How the state’s housing crisis happened

Angela Hart, SACRAMENTO BEE

Developers, housing advocates and some state lawmakers say it makes sense to build higher-density housing in cities, to accommodate more people, restrict suburban sprawl and preserve sensitive environmental areas. But community opposition often kills large-scale projects and leads to less dense housing.

California’s high housing costs are driving poor and middle income people out of their housing like never before. While some are fleeing coastal areas for cheaper living inland, others are leaving the state altogether.

Homelessness is on the rise. California is home to 12 percent of the U.S. population, but 22 percent of its homeless people. Cities that have seen dramatic rent increases, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, attribute their spikes in homelessness directly to a state housing shortage that has led to an unprecedented affordability crisis.

Read more at: California housing crisis has roots in slow pace of building | The Sacramento Bee

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

Sonoma County begins community meetings about West College Avenue building planned for housing 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The next public meeting is set for Sept. 13 at 6 p.m., also at the Finley Community Center, and there may be another meeting — or more — after that if necessary, officials said.

Santa Rosa residents on Wednesday night began to weigh in on Sonoma County’s plans to transform a vacant public property on West College Avenue into a new apartment complex.

At the first of at least two public meetings regarding the 7.5-acre site, county and city officials informed about 40 attendees why they see the land as a prime spot for new residences, including the property’s proximity to a transit hub and shopping, as well as the county’s perennial housing crunch.

They also heard from numerous residents who weighed in with concerns about traffic, crime and how affordable the new housing might be, among other issues.

Development of the site at 2150 W. College Avenue, the former headquarters of the Sonoma County Water Agency, has been a long time coming.

Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district includes the area, told attendees at the meeting in the Finley Community Center that she often heard questions about the property while she was campaigning for her first term last year.

“I cannot count the number of times that I heard people say, ‘What the heck is happening to that derelict Water Agency building that’s been sitting on College Avenue for who knows how long, when we have a tremendous need for affordable housing in the community?” Hopkins said.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed in June to sell the site to the county’s Community Development Commission, which plans to sell the land to a housing developer.

Read more at: Sonoma County begins community meetings about West College Avenue building planned for housing | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

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