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Sonoma County renews effort to sell Chanate Road property for housing

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Call it Chanate 2.0.

Sonoma County supervisors are once again seeking to sell a nearly 72-acre property in northeast Santa Rosa to an affordable housing developer, reviving an effort started more than three years ago that triggered a neighborhood rebellion and a legal challenge that ultimately forced the county to cancel a deal with a prominent local homebuilder.

The property in question is at 3313 Chanate Road, site of the old county hospital and later Sutter Medical Center. It was slated by the county to be one of Santa Rosa’s largest single housing projects in recent memory.

But the legal setback prompted the county in October to walk away from a multimillion-dollar deal with developer Bill Gallaher, who wanted to build 867 housing units on the sprawling site, including rental apartment buildings three or four stories tall, a prospect that neighbors vehemently opposed.

In December, supervisors voted to start all over again, and county staffers last week solicited financial offers from about 650 organizations, including five local Native American tribes.

Prospective buyers are limited, under state law, to designated public agencies and “housing sponsors” that would focus on building affordable housing, with parks, schools or other government facilities as alternatives. For housing sponsors, the property would carry a 55-year deed restriction for affordable housing.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9284804-181/sonoma-county-renews-effort-to

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Santa Rosa’s new granny unit policies spur secondary home spike as city works to build housing

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

New data shows Santa Rosa received more applications to build “granny units” last year than it had in the entire preceding decade, evidence that the city’s efforts to spur housing just about any way it can is starting to yield results.

Property owners last year applied for permits to add 118 secondary homes, small living spaces adjacent to traditional single-family residences, according to new city data. The number of applications was well above the previous record of 33 in 2017 and exceeds the 85 applications for secondary homes from 2008 to 2017.

Vice Mayor Chris Rogers recently touted the record application figure on Twitter and emphasized the “symbiotic relationship” between a homeowner with a secondary unit and the renter living on their property.

“It creates, hopefully, an affordable housing unit while also helping somebody who may be struggling to live here as well,” Rogers said in an interview.

Thirty nine applications for secondary homes in 2018 were submitted in areas leveled by the October 2017 fires, which destroyed about 5 percent of Santa Rosa’s housing stock. Rogers noted that efforts to make it easier and less expensive to build secondary homes were not the sole change Santa Rosa made to address its housing shortage but was part of “a whole array of housing reforms we needed to make to give people places to live.”

The number of units jumped after the City Council, acting in the wake of the 2017 fires, approved a set of changes to make it easier for homeowners to build additional small housing units on their property in conjunction with state deregulation efforts.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9207543-181/santa-rosas-new-granny-unit

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$10 million state grant spurs future Windsor veterans housing project

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

American military veterans can face many challenges readjusting to civilian life, but a planned housing project in Windsor hopes to ease the plight of former servicemen and women on the North Coast who are unable to find housing.

The $30 million Windsor Veterans Village is years in the making, and a $9.9 million state grant announced last month will help make the vision a reality, supporters say.

Plans for the 60-unit complex call for one- and two-bedroom apartments and community gathering spaces just west of the Town Green. Construction is set to begin in April and wrap up by the end of 2019.

The housing development is meant to assist veterans who are struggling to regain their footing, said Joe Millsap, spokesman for Veterans Resource Centers of America, the Santa Rosa-based nonprofit behind the effort.

“The idea is that while this is permanent support housing, they don’t live there forever, but they can,” said Millsap. “The success stories are when they’re completely reintegrated into society and self-sufficient. If they don’t quite get there, that’s what the complex is for and they can stay indefinitely.”

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9005178-181/10-million-state-grant-spurs

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Sonoma County embraces denser urban developments

Hannah Beausang, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors unanimously approved Tuesday a slate of policy changes intended to pave the way for new types of housing, encourage the construction of smaller, more affordable units and help simplify development in certain areas after last year’s wildfires destroyed more than 5,300 homes.

The policy revisions, which only apply to urban areas where sewers are available, created a category for so-called cottage housing, or clusters of smaller units intended to provide options for people who earn too much to qualify for low-income housing but can’t afford market-rate units. It also created the possibility for building housing in some business and industrial districts, allowing workers to live close to jobs or transit hubs.

The board also altered the county’s policy for how density is assigned to each housing unit in certain zones. That allows for smaller units that can be rented at lower prices, such as micro-apartments under 500 square feet and one- to two-bedroom apartments, to count as a fraction of a unit. Previously, the code allowed a single unit to be any size, making it more attractive for developers to build larger units that generate higher rents.

Now, in an area where 10 units are allowed, a developer could choose to build 10 three- bedrooms units, 15 one-bedroom units or 30 micro-apartments.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8870843-181/sonoma-county-embraces-denser-urban

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Board of Supervisors approves mining amendment, employee fire leave, more

Will Carruthers, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Tuesday heard public comment on six lawsuits against the county, approved an amendment to the county’s mining ordinance and granted county employees affected by the fires 40 hours of leave time.

Friends of Chanate

The Supervisors received public comment on six lawsuits against the county before discussing the cases behind closed doors. One of the suits, Friends of Chanate vs. County of Sonoma, alleges that the County gave a local developer a sweetheart deal in its sale of a plot of public land.

Friends of Chanate argues that Bill Gallaher, a local developer, bought the 82-acre parcel of county land for between $6 and $12.5 million, far below the assessed value of the land, $30 million.

“That property was worth more than $6 million, even if you build only 40 luxury homes on the land,” a Friends of Chanate member said during the public comment period.

In late July, a judge in the lawsuit canceled the sale, disagreeing with the County’s assessment that the land deal was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act.

Mining Ordinance Amendment

The Board of Supervisors amended a sentence of the County’s Mining Ordinance to “clarify that setbacks to critical habitat do not retroactively apply to quarry sites” affected under a new definition of critical habitat passed as part of the 2012 General Plan.

The amendment will allow two quarries located within 47,383 acres defined as Tiger Salamander critical habitat based a map from the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to operate.

The two affected quarries – Stony Point Quarry and Roblar Road Quarry – were granted permits to operate before the new rules went into effect.

Stony Point Quarry has been active for 90 years while Roblar Road Quarry received permission to operate in 2010, before the new definition was passed, according to a staff report.

“There was never any expectation that the setbacks would apply to these quarries, and these setbacks were not intended to apply retroactively,” the staff report states.

John Barella, the owner of the quarry, first applied to develop the land in 2003 but the project has been significantly delayed by environmental lawsuits. In 2014, a three-judge panel approved Barella’s plans in a lawsuit brought by the Citizens Advocating for Roblar Rural Quality.

In 2017, Barella restarted the process of applying forpublic approval for the quarry and applied for a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this year.

When asked by Zane why the item was before the board, a county staff member said that Roblar Road Quarry “will be proposing some changes to their conditions of approval and you will see that project come before you next month.”

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/sonoma-county-board-of-supervisors-september-11-2018

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Study: Sonoma County getting older, more reliant on commuters

Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County is heading into a period of powerful change: The rising number of senior citizens will outpace growth in working-age residents, increasing the county’s reliance on workers who live in other parts of the Bay Area.

A shortage of affordable housing is compounding the demographic shift, forcing more and more people to commute into the county every day to fill employers’ need for workers.

Those projections are addressed in a new, wide-ranging report from county economic development officials. The report, the 2018 Unabridged Sonoma County Indicators, is a virtual almanac of facts about the local economy, housing market, environment and health of residents.

The report is one of many released in 2018 that offer a wealth of socioeconomic data on the county. The compilation of statistics comes in a year where officials have been studying both threats and opportunities for the county and the greater Bay Area.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/business/8664855-181/study-sonoma-county-getting-older

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Healdsburg set to limit future downtown hotels, require affordable housing offsets on new projects

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Amid a growing public outcry over the proliferation of hotel rooms downtown, Healdsburg’s city council has asked staff to draft a new ordinance banning any more hotels in the town’s central retail hub.

The council’s directive, issued Monday, follows a surge of complaints from residents over the past year and a recent community survey that showed support for slowing hotel growth.

In addition to barring hotel construction in the downtown core, the ordinance would create new affordable housing requirements and limit new lodging projects within the wider downtown district to five or fewer rooms, with no more than five total rooms on each side of downtown streets.

The affordable housing mandate, which received unanimous support, would require developers of hotel rooms to create one affordable housing unit for every five hotel rooms built, or pay a yet-to-be-determined fee that would go toward a fund aimed at creating such housing.

The decision, which still requires council endorsement at later public meetings, comes as a response to a recent spike in hotels, namely in the downtown core where visitor accommodations have increasingly displaced local businesses.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8654337-181/healdsburg-set-to-limit-future

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Santa Rosa passes spending plan for housing bond

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Environmental aspects of the housing bond

Downtown: Projects located in the downtown and along transit corridors, areas known as priority development areas, would receive priority.

Greenbelts off limits: No projects funded with the money would be built in community separators or greenbelts, through land-use rules already prohibiting that.

Green projects: Projects that use climate-smart, all-electric or net zero construction methods would be prioritized.

The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday unanimously supported a spending plan for the $124 million housing bond on the November ballot, but only after deadlocking on the contentious issue of how much union labor should be used on projects built with the money.

Labor groups had asked the council to pass guidelines requiring 30 percent of the jobs go to union workers — 20 percent union apprentices and 10 percent journeymen to train them — arguing that people building the housing should be able to afford to live in it.

But under pressure from business groups including those representing nonunion contractors, the council deadlocked 3-3 on the full 30 percent union requirement. Moments later it voted 6-0 to approve a plan earmarking 20 percent of the jobs for union apprentices — but no job guarantees for union journeymen.

The ideological impasse, which has been simmering for weeks, frustrated many of the council members and union members who attended the meeting. Mayor Chris Coursey said it was imperative that the disagreement not imperil the bond’s chances at the ballot box.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8612091-181/santa-rosa-passes-spending-plan

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Rohnert Park City Council seeks deal on housing proposed on Press Democrat industrial property

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Rohnert Park City Council instructed staff Tuesday to negotiate an agreement with a developer seeking to build an apartment complex on industrial property owned by the parent company of The Press Democrat.

In a 4-1 vote, the council overruled city staff, who recommended an outright denial of the proposal to rezone the land for housing. Instead, council members directed staff to work out a deal with a Petaluma developer seeking to buy the property.

Members of the council suggested a portion of the project be dedicated to affordable housing units in exchange for rezoning the 6.5-acre site behind The Press Democrat printing plant, where Advanced Building Solutions hopes to construct an apartment complex with up to 156 units.

“It’s important that wherever we have an opportunity to, at this time, add to the housing stock of apartments, that this is something that we should be considering,” said Councilman Jake Mackenzie. “I think this is also the opportune time for something like this to come in front of us, when we do have a housing crisis in this county.”

City staff, including City Manager Darrin Jenkins and Planning Manager Jeff Beiswenger, urged the council to reject the rezoning application. They argued it would result in potential conflicts between future residents and occupants of the surrounding industrial parcels, and was unnecessary because of the amount of land remaining in the city to meet housing demands.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8542763-181/rohnert-park-city-council-seeks

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The fate of Chanate

Peter Byrne, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

Jeremy Nichols is a board member of the nonprofit Bird Rescue Center that serves Sonoma County, and he is troubled. The county is kicking the bird hospital out of its Quonset hut in the middle of 82 acres of public property known as Chanate.

Forested hills straddle Chanate Road as it winds through eastern Santa Rosa toward the ashes of Fountaingrove. The county has promised the land to William Gallaher, a local banker who develops senior living communities and single-family homes.

Gallaher’s partner in the deal, Komron Shahhosseini, is a planning commissioner for Sonoma County—a relationship which may pose a conflict of interest, according to a Haas School of Business ethics expert who reviewed details of the deal.

Hundreds of Santa Rosans, including Nichols, have mobilized to stop the sale, objecting to its terms at public meetings, in letters to the editor and in a lawsuit that went to trial in Superior Court last Friday in front of Judge René Auguste Chouteau. The trial took three hours, and the judge is expected to rule within 30 days on whether the development deal can go forward.

In early July, Nichols and two members of the activist group Friends of Chanate took me on a walking tour. Since the 1870s, the Chanate property has been the dumping ground for the county’s social and medical ills. It was originally the site of a work farm for low-income residents, then a public hospital complex. Now it’s ragged and falling down.

Read more at https://www.bohemian.com/northbay/the-fate-of-chanate/Content?oid=6621048