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‘Toothless, vague, limited to hopeful intentions’: Judge upends Sonoma Developmental Center plans


A judge delivered a stunning setback to Sonoma County planners Friday, upending the approval of plans for the redevelopment of Sonoma Developmental Center.

It’s a decision that could stall, at least temporarily, a proposal to turn the 133-year-old campus into a residential and commercial community.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Bradford DeMeo, weighing a lawsuit filed by a coalition of Sonoma Valley citizens groups, ruled the county violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to clearly define the number of housing units allowed; address the cumulative impacts of a pending project at neighboring Hanna Center; respond to community concerns in the draft environmental impact report; and adequately gauge impacts on biological resources and wildfire evacuation.

Glen Ellen residents have been voicing those concerns loudly and frequently for several years. However, they have found little traction in convincing the county or the California Department of General Services, which is overseeing the sale of the state-owned site, which at 945 acres is one of the largest redevelopment projects in Sonoma County.

DeMeo’s ruling now resets the conversation and gives hope to community members who have been advocating for a scaled-down project at SDC, rather than the 1,000-housing-unit plan put forth by developers Keith Rogal and the Grupe Company.


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Zones offer development potential


Will there be a rush of new development in the Valley’s Springs neighborhood stemming from Highway 12’s inclusion on a new list of state-designated “opportunity zones”?

That will depend on whether developers are lured to Sonoma by the Trump administration’s tax-friendly program.

The concept of opportunity zones was part of the Trump administration’s tax overhaul – more formally known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. It offers tax breaks to investors who fund new developments in designated low-income neighborhoods. Last Wednesday, President Trump held a press conference about the program and its ability to revitalize “distressed areas.”

“Our tax cuts have kicked off a race to invest in opportunity zones beyond anything that anybody in this room even thought,” said Trump at the press conference.

The opportunity zone criteria required a neighborhood to have at least 20 percent of its residents living at or below the poverty level, or median family income below 80 percent of the regional median income.

Based on that criteria, California officials selected nearly 900 census tracts for the new program, including three in Sonoma County.

Sonoma County’s three zones are downtown Santa Rosa, Roseland and the Highway 12 corridor in the Springs. The Springs zone runs for three miles along the west side of Highway 12 from north of Donald Street to Madrone Avenue.


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


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.”


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Sonoma supes OK sale of hospital site for controversial housing project

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