A long-delayed Santa Rosa development project trying to balance the competing goals of historic preservation and high-density housing cleared a key hurdle this week.
The City Council late Tuesday overruled a lower board’s denial of the DeTurk Winery Village project, and instead gave the proposed 185-unit complex its unanimous approval and glowing praise.
“This checks just about every box that we have to check,” Mayor Chris Coursey said. “It’s what this city needs.”
The ever-evolving effort to repurpose an underused warehouse complex just east of the historic DeTurk Round Barn has run into numerous obstacles over the years — most notably the recession — but more recently the resistance of the city’s Cultural Heritage Board.
The seven-member board has oversight of the project because the 3.5-acre industrial property along the rail line is in a historic preservation district and includes the original DeTurk winery complex, which dates to the 1870s.
The board rejected the project in November after a series of meetings, in effect saying its members didn’t think the four-story buildings were an appropriate fit for the historic neighborhood of mostly older single family homes.
The developer, Rick Derringer, asked City Council to overrule its lower board, and it was happy to oblige. Council members pointed out the project is precisely to type of development the city wants – high density, close to the train station, mixed-use and including affordable housing.
“We have to act boldly as a council and as a community to satisfy out housing needs and this is a bold move,” Councilman John Sawyer said. “We can accomplish our housing goals with quality projects, and I think that’s what we’re doing tonight.”
The city hopes to build 5,000 new housing units by 2022, nearly half of them affordable. City planners are encouraging developers to incorporate affordable units into their developments with the promise their applications will be prioritized in the plan review process, said Clare Hartman, the city’s deputy director of planning.
Developers can still opt to pay a fee to the city instead of including affordable housing in their projects, a fee the city then uses to help such projects get built elsewhere. The fee for this project, depending on the unit sizes, would likely have been several hundred thousand dollars.
The city believes incentivizing developers to build so-called inclusionary housing into their market-rate developments is the fastest, most cost-effective and equitable way to expand the city’s affordable housing stock, Hartman said.
Isaac DeTurk built two brick winery buildings on the property beginning in 1879, later constructing a round barn that has been preserved by the city and serves as the heart of the West End neighborhood. Both brick buildings are eligible for inclusion on the California Register of Historic Places, which means they are protected historic buildings whose essential character must be preserved as part of the project.
Derringer, whose company Odyssey Development has owned the industrial property north of Western Farm Center since 2005, originally won approval in 2008 for 73 condominiums on the property, but the recession hit and the project went nowhere.
At one point, Derringer proposed using the warehouse to assemble three-wheeled Chinese electric vehicles originally developed by defunct start-up Aptera. He now leases space in the buildings to several business, including a fitness club.