Before an overflow crowd Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors tentatively agreed to proceed with the sale of county-owned land where a developer wants to build 800 rental units.
A final vote is scheduled for July 11 on the county’s proposal to sell the 82-acre site near the former Community Hospital on Chanate Road to developer Bill Gallaher for between $11.5-12.5 million.
The land is located in Santa Rosa, and the city will hold hearings within the next 18 months on the building, zoning and planning requirements of Gallaher’s proposed development, which includes 50-60 units for qualified homeless veterans.
Not less than 20 percent of the 800 units will be for very low-income households for at least 55 years. Very low-income in Sonoma County is an annual salary of $41,300 for a family of four that would pay $1,033 a
Between 200 and 250 residential units would be for senior households for at least 55 years, and not less than 20 percent of the senior units will be for very low-income households.
The proposal also includes maintaining three parcels totaling 45.5 acres of existing open space land. Only 13 of the 82 acres will be developed, according to Gallaher’s proposal.
Read more at: Sonoma Supes OK Sale Of Hospital Site For Controversial Housing Project – Petaluma, CA Patch
J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
An undeveloped Santa Rosa meadow long regarded as open space but included among some 82 acres Sonoma County wants to sell to a housing developer would be officially preserved under a multi million-dollar real estate deal that could be approved starting in less than two weeks.
The Board of Supervisors is set to cast its first vote June 20 on an agreement to sell the sprawling site of the county’s old Chanate Road hospital complex to a team led by Santa Rosa-based developer Bill Gallaher, who envisions building a mixed-use community with as many as 800 rental units, plus veterans housing and a variety of community amenities.
That agreement, if finalized, would require Gallaher’s team to secure a conservation easement for a 10-acre parcel that includes the oak-shaded meadow at the end of Beverly Way. An easement would ensure the parcel is not paved over after the county sells the site, an outcome neighbors feared when they realized four months ago that the meadow was included in the sale even though it has been marked for years by a sign declaring it part of the Paulin Creek Open Space Preserve.
Gallaher’s team originally wanted to determine the future of the meadow after the county finalized the sale and the project passed through Santa Rosa’s planning process. But Komron Shahhosseini, Gallaher’s project manager, said he was comfortable with the requirement the meadow be preserved.
Read more at: Deal reached to protect Santa Rosa meadow in sale of Chanate hospital property | The Press Democrat
Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Dr. Panna Lossy is no political gadfly. You won’t find her queuing up every Tuesday to address the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors during the public comment portion of the weekly meetings.
That’s because Lossy, a family care physician who has been practicing in the community for more than 20 years, works long hours caring for patients at the Vista Family Health Center in Santa Rosa or teaching the next generation of family doctors at the Santa Rosa Family Practice Residency.
But in recent weeks, Lossy and other local physicians have turned to activism, targeting the county’s plan to sell the 82-acre site of the former Sutter Medical Center off Chanate Road in Santa Rosa to a local developer who wants to build up to 800 new housing units there. Though the deal has not been finalized, developer Bill Gallaher and his team would pay between $6 million and $12 million for the property, depending on the number of housing units ultimately built.
The sale, which could soon become final, would be the county’s largest sale of land in recent history. Championed by Supervisor Shirlee Zane, whose district includes the property, the sale also represents a significant effort on the part of the county to shore up the supply of available housing units at a time of rising rental prices.
But Lossy and other members of a new health care advocacy group called H-PEACE are waging an uphill battle to slow the sale and project, which they call a “giveaway” that flies in the face of the property’s more than 100-year history and tradition as a health care safety net for the county’s low-income residents.
“I was just shocked. I was just floored — both that they were selling it so cheaply and that there hasn’t been more public process,” Lossy said. “It seems so shortsighted to sell this huge community asset when there are so many external forces that are making it very difficult to provide care to a vulnerable community.”
Read more at: Local health care advocacy group blasts sale of Chanate Road campus | The Press Democrat
Janis Watkins, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County’s stunning rural beauty, pristine coast, charming small towns and scenic wine valleys are unique characteristics that draw visitors by the thousands. The boom in tourism has many benefits, including more jobs, increased tax revenues for the county and cities and a lively social vibrancy. But that success has also brought impacts.
Affordable housing in Wine Country has been hit hard by the tourism boom. Although tourists didn’t cause the housing crisis, tourism has exacerbated it. Residents are seeing the loss of housing stock to owners of second homes, Airbnb rentals and outside investors drawn by our local charm, who gentrify or “scrape and replace” neighborhood homes.In Healdsburg, an affluent visitor destination, 21 mostly Hispanic families suffered mass eviction by an outside investor. Some neighborhoods are hollowed out, degenerating into a set of part-time strangers. Low-paying tourism jobs are increasing, worsening the affordable housing deficit.
The increased number of tasting rooms, with evermore intense events, raises the specter of “Napafication.” Rural residents experience traffic congestion, loss of rural character, noise and out-of-scale alcohol tourism-related development. Two-lane Highway 12 is already over capacity with traffic, especially in the northern Sonoma Valley where special events attract more than 170,000 people annually. Approved and modified permits for five facilities alone will add another 25,000 vehicle trips. Similar over-concentration occurs on Westside Road and in the Dry Creek Valley.
In Healdsburg, 37 tasting rooms are concentrated downtown, and they will pay top dollar, driving up rents to where other types of businesses have a hard time competing. For about half the year, tourism swells the population, which puts stress on public services at local taxpayer expense. Sonoma, the other plaza town, has a similar pattern. These tourist-focused towns have fewer services and less space for locals, less diverse economies and are vulnerable to boom-and-bust economic cycles. As once thriving communities become more commercialized, and their assets degrade, they lose their unique qualities, and tourists move on to more charming locations.
Solutions are at hand. Increasingly, Sonoma County is looking for ways to preserve the robust benefits of agricultural tourism, while balancing tourism with local residents’ needs and promoting a diverse economy.
The Board of Supervisors directed development of zoning code amendments, siting criteria and standards for winery events to address the impacts of wine-related tourism. Supervisors have signaled that new development in areas of concentration will face greater scrutiny and guidelines to limit detrimental concentrations and impacts to rural character from business activity in the Sonoma Valley, on Westside Road and in the Dry Creek Valley. Developers have their sights on coastal areas. Luckily, county planners recently put a hold on a wine-tasting, brew pub and art venue proposal in the historic village of Freestone.
“Sustainable tourism” is also being discussed in Healdsburg and Sonoma. City and local leaders are considering how to create sustainable tourism, and the mayor of Sonoma is seeking coordination with Healdsburg on this effort. Sonoma County Conservation Action, a leader in grass-roots environmental issues, supports this collaborative approach. The process should involve broad outreach to residents, environmentalists and the lodging, wine and business sectors, and it should create specific enforceable measures that protect the carrying capacity of communities and balance the needs of tourism and residents.
Janis Watkins, a resident of Healdsburg, is a member of the board of directors of Conservation Action.
Source: Close to Home: The time has come to create ‘sustainable tourism’ standards | The Press Democrat
Robert Digitale, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
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
J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Sonoma County supervisors moved forward Tuesday with plans to sell 82 acres of county-owned land in the Santa Rosa hills to a well-known local developer who wants to convert the site, where the former Sutter Medical Center was located, into a mixed-use community that includes hundreds of new housing units.
The sale of the land off Chanate Road to developer Bill Gallaher and his team is intended to make a major stride toward expanding the county’s tight housing market, including the addition of more affordable units. If the sale is finalized by supervisors in several months, it would mark the county’s largest real estate and housing development deal in recent history.
The Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 to enter into exclusive negotiations with Gallaher, whose company would pay as much as $12.5 million in cash for the land. County officials say the deal is worth nearly twice as much when cost savings are considered.
Supervisor Lynda Hopkins abstained from the vote, saying she did not have enough detailed information from closed-session discussions that happened before she assumed office in January.
The closed-door discussions fueled concern from many members of the public who attended the meeting Tuesday. Residents said they felt blindsided because conceptual details of the proposed development emerged publicly just days ago.
Read more at: Sonoma County gives developer exclusive right to negotiate purchase of ex-Santa Rosa hospital site | The North Bay Business Journal
Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Crews this week began cutting down more than 150 oak trees on a Windsor site, a tangible sign that a large apartment complex is soon to take their place.
The oaks, including some old-growth specimens and many trees said to be in declining health, are being cleared to make way for a 387-unit apartment complex that Windsor officials say will provide badly needed rental housing.
After an uproar two years ago over the removal of the oaks — a species considered an integral part of Windsor’s identity and also the town’s logo — the developers redesigned the project and agreed to cut down almost 50 fewer trees than they originally planned.
“We have saved many more trees than originally approved (for removal),” said Peter Stanley, project manager for the apartment development, which is expected to break ground by the end of March. “We met the need of the community and environmental concerns by saving as many oaks as we could.”
Windsor Planning Director Ken MacNab said there are currently 274 oaks on the property and 157 are scheduled to be removed.
Over half of the trees being taken out are in poor health or have hazardous structural issues, he said.
The developers will plant 267 new oaks, resulting in almost 400 oaks on the site once the project is completed. In addition, they are required to pay a mitigation fee of $420,000 for future oak planting throughout the town.
Read more at: 157 Windsor oak trees cut down for apartment complex | The Press Democrat
Editorial Board, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
We’ve said it before. Building more houses is a surefire solution to the affordable housing crisis.
Of course, that’s easier said than done. We’ve said that, too.There are practical obstacles — unsuitable land, inadequate water supplies, endangered species protections, steep fees for the new parks, new schools and other infrastructure needed to serve new homes. Oftentimes there are political obstacles, too, everything from neighborhood opposition to a specific development proposal to reflexive objections to growth of any kind.
Is it any wonder that communities across the state are struggling to meet the need for affordable, habitable housing?
There isn’t a solution that will satisfy everyone.It’s going to take a variety of strategies to chip away at this problem, and state legislators are reviewing proposals to facilitate an approach that could produce a significant amount of new housing without sprawl: adding granny units to single-family homes.
Supervisorial candidates in Sonoma County have floated the same idea.
Consider this: Construction began on about 1,500 new housing units in Sonoma County in 2015. And that was the largest number in several years. Adding a second unit to 10 percent of the existing homes in Sonoma County would create about 12,000 new housing units. A similar increase across the nine-county Bay Area would translate to about 150,000 new housing units.
An improbable scenario? Yes, it is. But it illustrates the scale of the potential gains to be made by scattering new housing throughout existing neighborhoods.
Read more at: PD Editorial: A housing fix: Make room for granny | 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