Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa planning officials hope a new 12-page document holds the key to unlocking the future for a city center replete with new, taller mixed-use buildings and vibrant ground-floor commercial spaces that draw in foot traffic.
A draft plan for Santa Rosa’s future downtown will go before the City Council and Planning Commission on Tuesday afternoon in a joint meeting at City Hall. It’s predicated on the idea that Santa Rosa’s “suburban downtown” needs to “grow up” to better accommodate its population of roughly 180,000, according to Patrick Streeter, a city planner overseeing the effort.
“The direction that we got from council was that they want to see us go big and go bold with a new idea for downtown,” Streeter said. “That’s what we’re hoping to deliver to them on Tuesday.”
The plan redesign comes as Santa Rosa has fallen well behind the housing growth goals it set more than a decade ago. The city has slashed fees and tried to streamline its development processes, but a large apartment tower — coveted by officials as proof of concept and a precursor to future tall buildings — has yet to materialize.
Santa Rosa’s “big city” downtown would include new apartments for residents and places to work for downtown employees, aided in part by a new method of determining height limits meant to encourage taller buildings near Old Courthouse Square.
This new method, which would replace the more rigid current height caps, involves city-determined ratios of floor area to lot size. In theory, it could allow for much taller buildings than Santa Rosa sees now, including the potential for a 20-story building with more than 600 apartments and some commercial space on the site of the defunct Sears at the downtown mall, according to city documents.