Rohnert Park OKs huge mixed-use project

A split Rohnert Park City Council on Wednesday approved a $1 billion Codding Enterprises’ housing and commercial project that has been hailed as a model for environmentally responsible development.

It is to be developed on a 175-acre site that formerly housed the Hewlett-Packard and Agilent manufacturing campus, on the city’s southern edge.

The project is “exactly what we need in terms of stimulating economic development in this city,” Councilman Jake Mackenzie said of the project, called Sonoma Mountain Village.

Mackenzie, Mayor Pam Stafford and Vice-Mayor Gina Belforte voted to approve a general plan amendment changing the designation of the area from limited industrial to mixed use, which allowed the project to proceed.

On that key vote councilmembers Amie Breeze and Joe Callinan — who voted to approve the project’s environmental impact report — voted no.

They argued, respectively, that that the project was wrong for Rohnert Park, would strip the city of land that could be used for industrial development and proposed too many residences.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Breeze.

The development would add 1,694 residential units, from apartments to single family homes, to the city and with them a projected 4,400 residents by 2022. It also foresees 825,000 square feet of commercial, retail and office space.

Callinan said the project “has great potential” but would add too many new residences. “My gut is just telling me that it’s too many houses,” he said.

Breeze said that changing the property’s designation would eliminate the possibility of future industrial development on the land. And she went further than Callinan in her criticism of the project, saying it represented a short-term view of economic and real estate development that did not fit with Rohnert Park.

“I think mixed use sounds like a good idea but I don’t see it working in Rohnert Park,” she said.

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