Workers have begun grading dirt on what could be the last new home development in the Oakmont senior community in east Santa Rosa.
Construction is expected to begin next spring on 36 homes at a project known as the Meadows at Oakmont. The building would take place nearly 50 years after the first homes were sold in the valley between Hood Mountain and Annadel State Park.
The 15-acre subdivision, located at the main entrance of Oakmont Drive and Highway 12, once belonged to developer Clem Carinalli. The property was acquired by developer Dennis Hunter, an occasional business partner, before Carinalli filed bankruptcy in 2009, the largest personal bankruptcy in Sonoma County history.
The property's sale was subject to review during the bankruptcy proceedings that restructured $196 million in debt owed by Carinalli to his creditors, said Ken Blackman, a former Santa Rosa city manager and a consultant for Hunter's Redwood Equities Investments LLC.
"That kind of put everything in limbo for two to three years," Blackman said.
But Redwood Equities is now free to proceed with the project, he said. The developer obtained a city grading permit earlier this month and commenced work.
The initial actions include digging a temporary retention basin, where loose soil can settle during heavy rains rather than be carried off site and downstream by storm water.
When Oakmont was first developed, the Meadows property was set aside for a large commercial area planned on both sides of Oakmont Drive. But most of the retail development never materialized, and the city eventually let nearly all the land be rezoned for homes.
As such, residents long have expected construction on the Meadows property.
"I think people are very happy to see it turned from a weed patch into a residential section of Oakmont," said John Taylor, president of the Oakmont Village Association.
Oakmont was annexed to the city in 1963, and the first homes were sold in the summer of 1964, Taylor said. Today, the community has 3,153 homes and about 4,500 residents.
Before Carinalli's bankruptcy, his partnerships with Hunter and businessman James Ratto included Santa Rosa's garbage company and the $100 million sale of land that now houses the Rohnert Park casino.
In the Meadows subdivision, two parcels are still zoned commercial, and a third is designated for a possible assisted living facility, according to city records. If those parcels are developed as planned, Taylor said, the Meadows would be the final residential project in Oakmont.
The homes at the Meadows likely will range from 1,800 to 2,200 square feet, Blackman said. That would be similar to those built at the Orchard, Redwood Equities' nearby development in Oakmont off Pythian Road.
Blackman said it was too early to estimate the sale prices for the new homes.
For the development, the Oakmont Village Association plans to assess impact fees of about $540,000. As an alternative to payment, Redwood Equities may construct a new multi-use building for the association that would include administrative office space.
Taylor acknowledged that some residents have questioned the need for the proposed 3,000-square-foot building, while others oppose its planned location near the Berger Center. The community will gather Jan. 10 for an update on the proposal.