Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa’s effort to entice more developers into downtown projects appears to be paying off, but plans for a new apartment building north of Old Courthouse Square may soon test whether new incentives can turn pretty pictures into needed housing.
Zach Berkowitz, the owner of a commercial building at 404 Mendocino Ave., is proposing to build a six-story, 135-unit apartment complex in two buildings on his and neighboring properties.
If approved by the city, the project could be ready for occupancy in 2020, and would provide the kind of affordable, infill housing the city and downtown business community desperately needs, Berkowitz said.
“We were talking about it before the fires, but when the fires happened it was just one more reason to generate housing downtown,” he said.
The October fires destroyed more than 3,000 homes in Santa Rosa. The city has since tried to streamline the rebuilding process and encourage developers to construct apartments downtown and near transportation hubs such as the SMART stations.
Berkowitz’s project would be the first to benefit from the faster permit process the city instituted after the fires, including limits on the role of the Design Review Board. The proposal gets its first public hearing before that board Thursday.
For the project to become a reality, however, the city is going to need to do more to incentivize downtown housing, a conversation that Berkowitz said is encouraging but far from complete.