Cloverdale council to consider appeal of affordable apartment development
As the Cloverdale City Council considers an appeal to the controversial Alexander Valley Family Apartments, Mayor Todd Lands will seek to refute claims he had voiced intentions to block the project.
Lands will read a statement at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting denying he told Greg Lucas, owner of the property where Alexander Valley Family Apartments is planned, that he intended “to kill the project.” Council will then review an appeal of the apartments, which gained approval last month from the Planning Commission.
“I did not say those things” to Lucas, Lands said in a phone interview Tuesday. “I will read a statement at our council meeting. Greg and I had a productive conversation.”
At issue is whether Lands could be asked to recuse himself from voting on the appeal if it was proved that he had shown bias. If the appeal is denied, construction on the project at 400 Asti Road could begin as early as next fall, according to Lauren Alexander with Eagle, Idaho-based developer Pacific West Communities. If the appeal is granted, the developer and the property owner could sue the city.
Lucas wrote to the state Department of Housing and Community Development asking for assistance with “the difficulties we are having with the current political climate in Cloverdale” and the need to “overcome blatant city interference in the approval process of affordable housing.” He said the Planning Commission, which gave the green light to the project Jan. 12, had put up “unnecessary hurdles” to approval in the past.
The state sent a copy of the letter written Nov. 11, 2021, to City Manager David Kelly, who said Tuesday the city’s attorney has reviewed the matter and “consulted with Mayor Lands.”
Lucas could not immediately be reached for comment.
Lucas’ letter “should be discussed (at the meeting) because we are obligated to act within ethical standards as council members,” Councilwoman Marta Cruz said. “And I don’t believe anyone on the council should exhibit that behavior with constituents or anyone we do business with.”
The appeal under consideration was filed Jan. 20 by a group of residents who live near the site on Asti Road and First Street near a planned SMART station. The site is zoned TOD, or transportation oriented development, which is intended for areas where transit serves at least partly as a substitute for automobile use.
City staff has recommended denying the appeal and upholding the Planning Commission’s approval as the project is “consistent with the development density established by the existing zoning and general plan policies.”
Lands said in an earlier interview that he hasn’t made up his mind on how he will vote.
“I’m not leaning either way,” he said. “I don’t think we have any control. The state controls affordable housing on TOD-zoned lots.”
Because of recently passed state law regarding the need for affordable housing, the Planning Commission was only allowed to seek changes on design elements of the project. Some nearby residents fear impacts of the one-, two- and three-bedroom three-story complex, which is partly set aside for farmworkers. They said they were concerned about traffic generated by the project built on 3.4 acres, the state-allowed extra units and cars parking on Asti Road.
In response to requests from the commission, Pacific West added trees to screen the project from Highway 101, fencing to make it difficult for people to walk out on Railroad Avenue from the apartments to access the Russian River, and put in some high-security lighting and higher-rated windows in some areas.
In its appeal, the group reiterated similar concerns and said they were worried about “quality of life-related issues.” The group, led by resident Kevin Kostoff, who lives on Lake Street near the project site, set up a GoFundMe account that has raised more than $1,600 of a $3,000 goal to pay administrative city costs related to the appeal. The GoFundMe is headlined “STOP building unsafe housing on Asti Rd.”
Councilwoman Melanie Bagby said the city is in the process of reviewing a Complete Streets program, which is now a requirement by Caltrans for funding. There will be an opportunity to redevelop a section of Asti Road, in the area where the project is being built, in partnership with the Great Redwood Trail and SMART, she said.
“There will be a lot of grant money available for the community to come together and plan a new vision for that particular area between Citrus Fair and First Street,” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707-521-5209.