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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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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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Judge nixes Chanate development

Peter Byrne, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

Evan’s final and fatal argument was that the deal is invalid because the county sold the land to Gallaher based on his proposal to develop nearly a thousand homes in a forested, riparian area riffling with wildlife without doing an environmental review of the impacts.

Less than a week after the conclusion of a three-hour trial to decide the fate of a deal to develop housing on county-owned acreage surrounding an abandoned public hospital complex called Chanate, a superior court judge has issued a deal-breaking decision.

On Thursday, Judge René Auguste Chouteau issued a ruling that the Sonoma County Board of Supervisor’s approval last year of an agreement to develop Chanate with developer William Gallaher must be “vacated.” The controversial deal cannot go forward as planned.

A lawsuit filed by the 200-member grassroots organization Friends of Chanate called for the development agreement to be overturned on several counts. Chouteau agreed with only one of the counts, but that was enough to send it back to the board of supervisors for the indefinite future. The deal can only be revived if the county and the developer conduct an environmental review of proposed project, which is a lengthy, expensive process that doesn’t guarantee the housing and commercial project will be approved.

Read more at https://www.bohemian.com/northbay/judge-spikes-chanate-agreement/Content?oid=6630635

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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

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Proposed 867-unit Chanate Road housing project gets critical reception at Santa Rosa neighborhood meeting

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Hundreds of people crowded into a Santa Rosa community center Monday to weigh in on a proposed housing project at the site of Sonoma County’s old hospital complex in the city’s northeastern hills.

Most reflected strong resistance to the size of the planned development and the impact they fear it would have on traffic, local schools and the character of their neighborhoods, among other concerns.

The project as currently envisioned would include nearly 870 housing units at the 82-acre county-owned site off Chanate Road. It was presented for feedback at a neighborhood meeting at the Finley Community Center, a step required by the city before the developer applies for planning permits.

The crowd of more than 300 community members often erupted into cheers and applause — or even some booing, when appropriate — to reflect the severity of its displeasure with plans that one commenter described as a “monstrosity.”

Of particular concern to those in attendance was the impact to traffic on Chanate Road, which is predominantly two lanes and serves as a main thoroughfare in the area. Critics are deeply concerned that placing hundreds of new residents right off an already congested route would make getting around even more difficult, particularly during commute times, and potentially exacerbate difficult evacuations during a disaster like last year’s wildfires.

“Every route that you had there was cut off,” said Frank Schulze, who lives near the project site, describing roads in the area during the October firestorm. “The only way to get the hell out of the way of this fire was to come out Chanate Road and go down onto (Mendocino Avenue). That was it.”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8471490-181/proposed-867-unit-chanate-road-housing

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Sonoma County approves sale of old Santa Rosa hospital site to housing developer

J.D. Morris, THE NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL
Sonoma County has approved a deal to sell an 82-acre former county hospital site where a developer plans to build 800 rental units, housing for veterans, a grocery store, an amphitheater and other amenities.
County leaders have touted the sale to Bill Gallaher, a politically connected Santa Rosa developer, as a clear-sighted move to meet an urgent regional need — expanding the housing supply, especially for renters, who’ve seen rates skyrocket in recent years.
The deal was approved 5-0 by Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday.
The health care complex is centered around the former Community Hospital, built in 1936 and vacated in 2014 after Sutter Health moved into its new hospital off Mark West Road. The aging building did not meet current seismic building standards and racked up costly maintenance bills, according to the county. Much of it is slated for demolition under Gallaher’s proposal.
Though a sale of the property was first raised as a possibility more than a decade ago, the deal approved Tuesday has faced strong criticism from neighbors, health care advocates and others since it was first unveiled as a proposal in February. Opponents raised concerns about the loss of health care services on the site and the future of open lands on the property.
But proponents, including Gallaher’s representative, have emphasized all along that the details of the project will ultimately be Santa Rosa’s permit and planning process is complete, and officials expect that period to last about 18 months.
Read more at: Sonoma County approves sale of old Santa Rosa hospital site to housing developer | The North Bay Business Journal

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Sonoma supes OK sale of hospital site for controversial housing project

 
PETALUMA PATCH
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
month.
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

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Deal reached to protect Santa Rosa meadow in sale of Chanate hospital property

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

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Local health care advocacy group blasts sale of Chanate Road campus

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