A long-vacant property in west Santa Rosa could take a big step Tuesday toward becoming a new residential development as part of the second major effort from Sonoma County supervisors this year to ease the region’s housing crisis by selling publicly-owned land.
The Board of Supervisors is set to vote on a plan to sell the county Water Agency’s old headquarters to the Community Development Commission, which intends later to sell the site to a housing developer after soliciting public input. The county would loan the commission the property’s appraised value of $4.2 million to fund the purchase.
Current estimates from the county indicate the 7.5-acre site at 2150 W. College Ave. could support some 170 housing units, with between 32 and 50 apartments affordable to a family of four earning an annual income of $49,560 or less per year.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to create affordable housing in an area that is perfect for it,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district includes the site. “It’s next to a transit center, an aquatic center, a park — and it’s a wonderful opportunity for families.”
The deal could follow the board’s other effort underway to sell 82 acres of county-owned land off Chanate Road in the Santa Rosa hills, including the former Sutter Medical Center complex, to a housing developer. Supervisors are set to take their first of two scheduled votes on that sale — which could produce a mixed-use community with as many as 800 rental apartments, plus veterans’ housing and other amenities — at the same meeting Tuesday.
In both instances, supervisors are betting they can help expand the increasingly tight supply of available homes by allowing the construction of new housing on county-owned lands.
But while the Chanate Road real estate deal is almost approved, Tuesday’s vote on the College Avenue site is the initial part of a longer process: The county is planning a series of public meetings to gather community feedback, with the first set for Aug. 2 at 6 p.m. at the Finley Center.
Hopkins said she wants to gather as much public input as possible, aiming to have community members “guide the decision-making process” as much as possible.
The Water Agency and the Community Development Commission are separate legal entities, and county supervisors serve as the board members of both. By becoming a short-term owner of the West College Avenue site, the commission will be able to make the most of the final transaction, according to Margaret Van Vliet, the commission’s executive director.
“We do probably have the most expertise about how to structure affordable housing and move a project forward,” Van Vliet said. “We’ve got relationships with developers, (and) we understand the complicated state and federal tax credit programs and all that goes into affordable housing. So I think it’s just a helpful, facilitative role for us.”
Development of the site has been on the table since the Water Agency completed its move to its current Santa Rosa headquarters in 2013, but previous attempts to sell the land were unsuccessful. Santa Rosa City Schools scrapped plans for a charter school on the property in 2015 after heavy criticism from parents and teachers.
“We have been wanting to do this for quite a while,” said Mike Thompson, an assistant general manager of the Water Agency. “We’re very happy that we’re finally going to be able to do that.” Supervisors would fund the purchase of the site with proceeds from a $4.2 million note issued by the county and purchased by the county treasurer.