High-density Healdsburg housing plan raises concern

In slow-growing Healdsburg, a proposal for 40 single-family detached homes is almost certain to stir controversy, especially if they are squeezed onto a 3-acre site.

That's what happened Tuesday night when residents turned out in force at a Planning Commission meeting to protest the "Midtowne-Healdsburg" project, which they said was a bad fit for the neighborhood and would pack people and homes in like "sardines."

"We're shoehorning in a project that's simply too dense," agreed Planning Commission Chairwoman Jil Hales, who like her fellow commissioners could not support the proposal on the 3.2 acres on the east side of Healdsburg Avenue, between Monte Vista Avenue and Ferrero Drive.

"You've tried to squish too much in there," Commissioner Kathi Engler told the development team from DRG Builders of Pleasant Hill.

Rather than vote to reject it outright, the commission continued the matter to allow the developers to resume talks with city staff and make modifications.

Commissioner Jerry Eddinger noted the project could actually be more dense, but not with single-family homes. Commissioners said that by redesigning the project to create some "eight-plexes" or apartment units it would create more open space overall.

While there was some support for the architectural style of the two-story houses, they were criticized for their six-foot proximity to each other, canyon-like lack of sunlight on the sides and small, average 2,200-square-foot lots.

Residents in neighboring Piedmont Terrace said it would lead to traffic headaches on their streets, and make it even tougher to make turns to and from Healdsburg Avenue at peak times.

"We'll have collisions," resident Mike Williams told the commission. "It's 10 pounds in a 5-pound bag," he said of the density of the project.

Traffic consultants said although the project would result in 383 additional daily vehicle trips, levels of service at nearby intersections would be within acceptable levels.

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