John King, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
In a region where housing advocates proclaim the virtues of adding apartments and condominiums to the cores of established cities, Santa Rosa shows how difficult such a transformation can be.
No Bay Area city has been more aggressive at cutting developer fees and speeding up the review process. City officials recently took potential builders on a bus tour of potential sites. This month, the City Council and Planning Commission gave their initial OK to a plan that would allow as many as 7,000 new units downtown.
Despite all this, the only housing under construction near historic Courthouse Square is a modest building with 17 apartments. Developers are intrigued but wary. Blueprints for approved projects are gathering dust.
The problem isn’t lack of will, or neighbors fighting growth. Pin the blame instead on basic economics — the underlying dynamics that make city-centered growth a less-than-sure thing, no matter what planners and the obvious need for housing might suggest.