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Healdsburg City Council candidates

MEL AMATO

Age: 80

Occupation: retired engineer; led campaign to preserve Healdsburg Memorial Bridge

Education: bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering, Case Institute of Technology; MBA Finance, Wayne State University

Party affiliation: Republican

Position on loosening growth cap: yes

Also: promote a balance of industries

.

DAVID HAGELE

Age: 47

Occupation: founder of commercial real estate financing firm

Education: bachelor of business, Pacific Union College

Party affiliation: Republican

Position on loosening growth cap: yes

Also: increase outreach to Latino community

.

TIM MEINKEN

Age: 63

Occupation: small winery owner

Education: bachelor of business, Notre Dame; MBA, Northwestern University

Political affiliation: No party preference

Position on loosening growth cap: no

Also: create parking areas outside downtown Healdsburg for employees; consider a parking garage

.

SHAUN MCCAFFERY (incumbent)

Age: 41

Occupation: mechanical engineer

Education: bachelor of science, UC Davis

Political affiliation: No party preference

Position on loosening growth cap: yes

Also: create more parking with innovative ways to increase turnover

.

JOE NAUJOKAS

Age: 46

Occupation: software development manager

Education: bachelor of science, foreign service, Georgetown University

Party preference: Democrat

Position on loosening growth cap: yes

Also: developers should be required to include 50 percent affordable housing in their projects

.

GARY PLASS (incumbent)

Age: 63

Occupation: real estate agent and private investigator; retired police sergeant

Education: SRJC graduate

Political affiliation: Republican

Position on loosening growth cap: yes

Also: build a parking public parking structure, possibly behind Bear Republic brewery

.

More PD election coverage:
http://www.pressdemocrat.com/topics/?t=election_2016

PD endorsements:
http://www.pressdemocrat.com/topics/?t=endorsements_2016

The struggle to balance housing needs and growth is the dominant issue in Healdsburg in the November election, when voters will be asked to lift a strict cap on the number of new homes that can be built.

The overriding question is essentially how to build more homes at lower prices without overdeveloping the community of 11,000 people and losing its vaunted small town charm.

The debate centers around Measure R, which would more than double the number of market-rate homes allowed per year, something backers say will create desperately needed multi-family and rental housing.

Supporters say strict growth control has driven developers to build tourist-serving projects and million-dollar homes.

But opponents say there is no guarantee passage of Measure R will lead to more affordable housing and will hand the City Council broad new powers to change growth patterns without voter approval.

“Measure R is the talk of the town now,” said City Councilman Shaun McCaffery, one of two City Council incumbents running for re-election.

Both sides cast the stakes in sweeping terms.

“It will make or break our town,” said Maureen Mosley, a retired Healdsburg postal worker actively campaigning against the measure. If it passes, she said, “there will be no way to control the growth.”

Not so, say supporters. A vote for Measure R will give young families and the middle-income workforce being priced out of the community an opportunity to live in Healdsburg, according to Mayor Tom Chambers, who is not running for re-election.

“Vote yes on Measure R to give your parents, kids and grandchildren a chance to live in Healdsburg,” he stated.

Opponents, including Healdsburg Citizens for Responsible Growth, have mounted a campaign against it, walking precincts and collecting $31,000 so far to defeat Measure R. They want to retain the tight growth control ordinance that was put in place by voters 16 years ago, largely in response to big subdivisions cropping up on the edge of town.

Supporters of the measure have reported $6,500 in contributions.

Despite the passions on both sides, there is near uniformity about Measure R among the candidates vying for three seats on the City Council. Five of the six support it, including incumbents McCaffery and Gary Plass.

The only candidate against Measure R is Tim Meinken, a winemaker making his third bid for election after two unsuccessful attempts.

At a candidates’ forum last week, he described himself as “the only true progressive” in the race, endorsed by the Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action, both of which are against Measure R.

“Healdsburg has an affordable housing problem,” Meinken acknowledged, but said Measure R won’t fix it. Instead, he said, the city should take inventory of the property that it owns to determine if affordable housing can be built on the parcels, come up with funding and move forward on “shovel-ready projects.”

State law exempts affordable housing units built for very low- to moderate-income people from local growth controls. But government-subsidized funding for such projects has become increasingly challenging. Another proposal on the Healdsburg ballot, Measure S, would help fill that need, raising more than $500,000 annually for housing programs by increasing the hotel bed tax by 2 percent.

Measure R was born out of a recognition that more housing is needed for the “missing middle,” families and workers that make too much to qualify for subsidized housing, but not enough to buy a home in Healdsburg.

The median price for a single-family home in Healdsburg was $870,750 for the first eight months of this year, according to The Press Democrat housing report

But skeptics don’t believe Measure R will lead to appreciably cheaper housing.

If successful, the measure would scrap an ordinance approved by voters in 2000 limiting the number of new market-rate homes to an average of 30 per year.

It would be replaced by a “growth regulator” allowing 70 units per year, or 420 homes over an initial six-year period. Those would be allocated according to a housing plan approved earlier this year by the City Council with most — 240 — going to apartments, duplexes and triplexes, and 100 going to high-density, single-family housing typical of cottage courts or clustered housing.

The remaining 80 allocations would be reserved for conventional single-family homes, typically on parcels of one-seventh of an acre, or less.

Developers also would be required to double the percentage of affordable units in their projects from the current 15 percent to 30 percent. Those would be deed restricted units spread out among low-, moderate- and middle-income families.

City Council candidate Mel Amato, a retired engineer, said it’s a simple case of supply and demand. If growth is too restricted, the price of housing goes up. Measure R isn’t a magic bullet, he said, but it will result in affordable housing for “all income levels and particularly for people who work and want to live in this town.”

David Hagele, a real estate finance broker who is making his first bid for council, cited a neighboring family in Parkland Farms that had to leave Healdsburg because they couldn’t afford it any longer. Monthly rents on a typical house there run from $3,000 to $3,600, he said, with landlords requiring first and last month rent and a security deposit.

“That’s the fabric of our community and we’re losing that,” he said.

McCaffery said the problem with the existing growth ordinance is that it does not distinguish between a 400-square-foot home and a 4,000-square-foot mansion, and as a result developers build the large homes that deliver more profit.

A larger pool of building allocations would presumably make it easier for apartments and multi-family projects to go forward.

If Measure R passes, the City Council would modify the housing action plan every eight years, in conjunction with the state-mandated revision of its Housing Element, the portion of the city’s general plan that details housing inventory and needs.

Skeptics, however, say there is nothing to keep the City Council from opening up the floodgates to development if Measure R passes.

But City Council candidate Joe Naujokas, a software engineer, said the housing plan came out of a long participatory democratic process over the past few years and the City Council should be trusted to do the right thing.

“I feel it’s a good plan we can get behind,” he said.

Meinken argued that if growth restrictions are relaxed there will be increased pressure for the city to expand beyond its boundaries.

But Plass said there is a voter-approved growth boundary and Healdsburg has other natural constraints such as the Russian River, agricultural areas and neighboring Windsor.

He dismissed fears that a council majority will be able to loosen the growth limits overnight if Measure R passes, saying “that’s not the way it is.”

You can reach Staff Writer Clark Mason at 521-5214 or clark.mason@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter@pressdemocrat.com

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