Will Carruthers, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
This weekend, Santa Rosa celebrated its 150th birthday. But, despite its age, Sonoma County’s largest city has never really grown up.
At a September 10 meeting of the City Council’s Economic Development Subcommittee, city staff presented the conclusions of a forthcoming report on why the city lacks tall residential buildings downtown and unveiled a plan to encourage developers to build them.
The report, based on suggestions from the Council of Infill Developers, will suggest legislative tactics to encourage developers to build market rate and affordable housing projects on vacant and underutilized land within the city, a process known as infill development.
According to the report, the reasons for developers’ reluctance include:
–Market demand for tall buildings with less parking remains “unproven,” making developers wary of investing in Santa Rosa.
–A perception from developers that the city’s staff and politicians lack enthusiasm for taller buildings.
–Prohibitively high permitting fees discourage developers from building higher.
Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/santa-rosa-city-council-to-consider-density-incentive-plan
Jake McKenzie and Teri Shore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
If we stay on track with city-centered growth and greenbelt protection, Sonoma County can usher in new era of thriving, affordable neighborhoods in cities and towns near jobs, schools and transit. If they stray, we could face a generation of scattered development on the urban edge and across the countryside that will cost us far more in public health, climate costs, congestion and loss of water and environmental quality, to say nothing of the natural beauty and the high quality of life that we love and enjoy in Sonoma County.
The tragic loss of homes in the October fires and the critical need for more affordable homes countywide is prompting a bold new look at how we revitalize our communities in Sonoma County. Greenbelt Alliance and our allies are looking forward, not backward, to meet the challenge of providing affordable homes to people who are vital to our communities and economy: teachers, doctors, restaurant cooks, winery and vineyard employees, young professionals and families and others. And we are convinced we can do this while ensuring the protection of our health and environment.
That is why we support investment in housing in our downtowns and existing neighborhoods to provide housing across the income spectrum while upholding environmental protections and longstanding growth policies. We reject recently published claims that we need to weaken environmental standards in order to recover and rebuild after last year’s fires.
To the contrary, our county has the chance to be on the cutting edge of creating a new generation of climate-friendly neighborhoods as we rebuild and invigorate new development.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/8599327-181/close-to-home-building-boldly
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
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Finley Community Center Auditorium, 2060 W. College Ave, Santa Rosa
How much additional housing can — or should — your Santa Rosa neighborhood be asked to absorb?
The city is seeking feedback from the public Monday on its plan to dramatically increase housing densities throughout the city, especially downtown and near its two train stations.
The plan calls for increasing incentives known as density bonuses for developers that could allow up to 100 percent more housing units on a particular property than regular zoning would allow.
“This is an important tool in our tool chest to address the housing crisis,” said David Guhin, director of planning and economic development. “It’s not going to solve all of the issues, but it’s an important one.”
Currently, developers who build affordable units in their projects can be granted the right to build up to 35 percent more units than normal.
Read more at: Santa Rosa may boost housing densities in exchange for affordable units | The Press Democrat –
Hannah Beausang, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER
As Petaluma’s housing market continues to constrict, the city council Monday unanimously voted to relax regulations on the construction of additional living spaces on residents’ land and in their homes.
The updates to the city’s zoning ordinance, driven by three state laws signed into effect last year, are intended to make it easier for residents to build accessory dwelling structures, or “granny units” that are attached to their residences or built separately on their properties. It also creates a new classification and associated rules for converting an existing bedroom in a single family home into independent living quarters, or a so-called “junior second unit.
”Accessory dwelling units are regarded as an economical way of providing housing for a wide range of family members, care providers or local employees inside the footprint of existing neighborhoods.“
Businesses and people in Petaluma are looking for ways to create more affordable housing and this is a brilliant strategy,” said Rachel Ginis, the founding director of Novato-based Lily Pad Homes, a nonprofit that supports education about the development of second units and sponsored the junior second unit legislation.
Read more at: Petaluma crafts granny unit policy | Petaluma Argus Courier | Petaluma360.com
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
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