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Santa Rosa gives final approval to 54-unit apartment complex for homeless and low-income residents

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

More than 50 studio apartments for homeless people in Santa Rosa are awaiting a final piece of funding before workers break ground on the project at the southwest corner of College and Cleveland avenues.

Arcata-based developer, builder and property manager Danco Communities received approval last week from the city zoning administrator to proceed with construction, clearing the last government hurdle for the 54-unit development, which is set to rise on what is now a 1-acre gravel lot.

All of the units except one reserved for an apartment manager will be made available to low-income and formerly homeless people, about 1,800 of whom live in Santa Rosa, according to an annual count earlier this year overseen by the Sonoma County Community Development Commission.

The project is one of several that Danco Communities is pursuing in Northern California; a similar apartment complex in Eureka is set to open by Christmas Eve. The Santa Rosa project is backed by about $10.5 million from a state bond measure voters approved in November, said Chris Dart, the company’s president.

“The need has been there for years, but the funding hasn’t been there to back it up,” he said.

The project is the latest seeking to offer permanent shelter for homeless people in Santa Rosa. Last year, the city saw a former firehouse in the Junior College neighborhood converted into a seven-unit apartment complex for homeless veterans. The city is eyeing both the former Bennett Valley Senior Center and the Gold Coin Motel on Mendocino Avenue as future housing that could shelter more than 100 homeless people.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9760008-181/santa-rosa-gives-final-approval?sba=AAS

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Santa Rosa City Council to consider downtown height incentive plan

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

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Op-Ed: Building boldly towards the future

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

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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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Altamira project gets go-ahead

“Striving to better,” William Shakespeare warns in “King Lear,” “oft we mar what’s well.”

An undercurrent of that sentiment pervaded the Sonoma City Council meeting Jan. 29, when city officials denied an appeal of a controversial affordable housing proposal – paving the way for construction of a 48-unit low-income development at the south end of Broadway, and dashing the hopes of project critics who argued it was too big, too dense and too out of character with surrounding neighborhoods.

As skeptics reminded the crowd multiple times at the Monday meeting – it would be the densest housing development in the history of Sonoma.

As if, during a housing crisis, that’s necessarily a bad thing.

Opponents of the project urged the council to do its “due diligence” and order an environmental impact report on the proposal in order to better vet potential parking, traffic and noise implications — studies which city staff had already conducted, but whose conclusions were unsatisfactory to project opponents.

The council, while acknowledging the understandable concerns of the neighbors over a project of this size in their neck of the woods, made little haste in refuting the appeal and, in the words of Councilmember Gary Edwards, getting “shovels in the ground” on this small fraction of a much-needed infusion of affordable housing stock in the Valley.

Read more at http://www.sonomanews.com/opinion/7945368-181/jason-walsh-altamira-project-gets?sba=AAS

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Petaluma apartment project passes key hurdle

A proposal for a 184-unit rental apartment complex in the heart of Petaluma won the approval of the Petaluma Planning Commission Tuesday, a critical first step in moving the long-stalled project forward as the city faces a grim housing crisis.

After three years of seeking community input and altering plans based on feedback from citizens and city officials, representatives from Stockton-based A.G. Spanos Companies now face a yet-to-be-scheduled city council hearing for additional approvals, including granting access across a city-owned parcel for a road that’s part of the North River Apartment project at the intersection of Petaluma Boulevard North and Oak Street.
Read more at http://www.petaluma360.com/news/7912963-181/petaluma-apartment-project-passes-key

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Santa Rosa may boost housing densities in exchange for affordable units

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 –

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Petaluma crafts granny unit policy

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

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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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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