One of the longest-planned housing developments in Rohnert Park, on farmland across from the Green Music Center, is inching forward.
The 1,645-home University District was approved in 2006 but has been under discussion since at least the mid-1990's. The project ground to halt in the housing market collapse.
Now its developer, Brookfield Homes, is getting back on track and reviewing their plans with city planning staff. That has encouraged city leaders who say such projects are needed to reinvigorate the city of 41,000.
"We need some new housing," Mayor Pam Stafford said. "We haven't had any in a long, long time."
It's not clear when the project might enter construction. Brookfield Homes wants to make some changes to its approved plan that will require City Council approval — and some councilmembers have expressed reservations about a few of those proposals. Also, the new plan will need further planning department analysis.
But the appearance of company officials at the council last month was taken as a good sign for a city that has seen virtually no single-family housing built in over a decade.
"I think it should be soon; I don't think it will be years out," Councilman Amy Ahanotu said Thursday.
In an effort to spur on several stalled subdivisions, including University District, the city in July said it would build a $13 million east side trunk sewer line, projecting it would make many times that back on impact fees charged to the developers.
"The economies of cities depend on some kind of growth or some kind of draw for businesses," Stafford said. "If they look at your city and there's nothing going on and there hasn't been, they think, 'Hmm, this isn't a good place to go.'"
Brookfield Homes has proposed some changes to the plan approved for its 267-acre property at Rohnert Park Expressway and Petaluma Hill Road.
Some have pleased councilmembers, who previewed them last month. Other alterations have been met with objection.
The relocation to the east of an 11-acre mixed-use commercial area won council plaudits. Also well received was the shift of the subdivision's main entry road so that it aligned with the main entrance off Rohnert Park Expressway to Sonoma State University's Green Music Center.
"We want to complement that center as much as possible," Brookfield vice president Kevin Pohlson told the council.
Over campus lunches and at other meetings, Brookfield and SSU officials worked closely on the road and commercial area realignment, with an eye toward enhancing links between the university, especially its $145 million music center, and the subdivision, said Christopher Dinno, SSU's senior director for capital planning, design and construction.
"When the (original) plan was developed, right away there really wasn't this connection," said Dinno. "There was no linkage, and now there is."
But Councilman Joe Callinan has questioned how closely many of the 1,236 detached single family homes will be to one another, suggesting that the lot coverage was too great.
"That's all house, he said.
And he and councilmen Jake Mackenzie and Ahanotu also objected to the company's removal of 26 "rural estates" from the project.
Pohlson said that the market would no longer support them and removing them would allow the company to build more homes, to make the project financially feasible.