The housing crisis throughout Sonoma County is one of very few issues that concern every single resident, and city and county officials have all agreed that “housing for all” is the most important problem that we collectively need to solve. The solutions to the crisis will come in numerous forms with a variety of positive impacts. As a community, it is incumbent on each of us to find the “how to” of each solution instead of the “why not.”
We have an opportunity right now to have our actions speak louder than words by collectively supporting the redevelopment plan for the Chanate Road campus, the site of the former Sutter Hospital in Santa Rosa.
The Chanate campus is a fantastic opportunity to provide some relief from the housing crisis that we have created. This project would provide up to 800 residential units. Particularly exciting is that at least 20 percent of these units would be affordable to very low-income households including more than 100 to 250 units for seniors and an additional 50 to 60 units for very low-income veterans. The proposal also includes a perpetual conservation easement of the 10 acres known as Parcel J, which adjoins another 35 acres of existing open space lands.
Financially, the county taxpayers will benefit from the sale of the real estate as well as replacing a $1 million per year expense with $1 million per year-plus in property tax income. The county and developer can be commended for the extensive work they have done to put this proposal together.
Over the past 25 years, voters have supported urban growth boundaries around every city, as well as community separators between the UGBs, in order to protect our communities from urban sprawl. It has been universally agreed that any significant housing project must be inside city boundaries. The Chanate campus project meets the standards of city-centered growth as well as creating a walkable mixed-use community with high-quality housing and commercial uses that complement the surrounding neighborhoods. This is the only project currently being considered that will have such a strong impact toward easing our housing problems. Every development proposal will have its strengths and weaknesses. The city of Santa Rosa and the proposed developer are well versed in the entitlement process, and both are prepared to mitigate any perceived weaknesses to the fullest extent possible. As in every land-use project, there will be numerous public hearings and opportunities for all residents and interested individuals to provide input into the ultimate project details prior to its approval.
The Sonoma County Alliance, Santa Rosa Metro Chamber of Commerce and North Bay Association of Realtors have formed a Housing Task Force to help our cities and counties find solutions to our housing crisis. Collectively, we represent more than 5,000 members reaching well over 40,000 employees and their families. We support the “housing for all” mantra and enthusiastically support the Chanate campus project.
Ultimately, this is a project that we can all be very proud of. It has taken 10 years just to get the project to this point, and our communities housing needs are urgent. There is no magic bullet available to solve our housing crisis, and further delays will only compound the problems and challenges ahead. The Chanate campus project is a significant step to provide some housing relief.