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Future Santa Rosa housing project taking shape at Journey’s End site

A coalition of Bay Area developers and investors is finalizing plans to transform the former Journey’s End mobile home park that was mostly leveled in the 2017 Tubbs fire into one of Santa Rosa’s largest housing projects.

More than 500 new rental apartments are slated for the vacant 13.3-acre site on Mendocino Avenue, where rebuilding has been on hold while hundreds of homes rise across other parts of Santa Rosa burned in the 2017 firestorm.

Though the long-awaited, roughly $340 ?million project is months away from any approval and years away from construction, it comes with promises of much-needed housing and community amenities on a busy Santa Rosa artery - and a plan to prioritize requests from any displaced Journey’s End resident who wishes to return.

“It’s considerably more than I ever expected them to do,” said Linda Adrain, a longtime Journey’s End resident who plans to return. “It’s fancier than I expected it to be, it’s got more things going for it. I’m probably going to cry, realistically.”

The slow-moving project got a shot in the arm in January, when the City Council unanimously approved a formal closure of the mobile home park in a report required by state law and local ordinance. That report noted that most park residents like Adrain would receive “mitigation” payments of about $4,500, in addition to forgiven rent and utilities since the fire and insurance proceeds.

Adrain credited Ramsey Shuayto, whose family owns the park site, for not turning a blind eye to former Journey’s End residents while he and developers grappled with how best to move forward.

“If we would have lived anywhere else, we would have all been on the street,” Adrain told the City Council.

The new complex at 3575 Mendocino Ave. will be led by two development teams handling the affordable and market-rate components, with an estimated total of 532 units.

Burbank Housing of Santa Rosa and Related California of San Francisco will head up construction of 162 units for low-income seniors, accounting for about 30% of the units on site and enough to restore the housing previously provided by Journey’s End. The mobile home park lost 116 of its 160 units in the Tubbs fire, which killed two Journey’s End residents.

Construction of the income-limited units is expected to cost about $90 million, with funding sources including tax credits and federal grants, said Karen Massey, a Burbank Housing official managing the redevelopment project.

“What we’ve done over the last two years is really to provide support to the prior residents, and also to work our way through the closure process,” Massey said, noting that development of new affordable housing would be contingent on securing federal and state funding.

Former residents of the mobile home park will be offered a home in those new units, said Burbank Housing spokeswoman Laurie Lynn Hogan, but Burbank is waiting to clear “a few more hurdles” in the planning process before starting a formal interest list. “So it’s still too early to say how many of the former residents will accept when the time comes,” Hogan said.

The development of up to 370 ?market-rate apartments will be done by North Bay Mendocino Holdings - a group helmed by Darius Anderson, a Sonoma-based developer and lobbyist who is managing member of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.

Anderson’s development partners on the Mendocino project include Jay Wallace, an official at Anderson’s development firm, Kenwood Investments; and David Gensler, a former design firm executive who now is a vineyard manager and investor.

Gensler estimated the cost of the market-rate portion of the development at roughly $250 million. He added that the development team would include another capital partner whose identity was “not ready for prime time.”

The 532 units mentioned in the project’s preliminary designs equate to 40 homes per acre, the maximum allowed by city rules. While the developers have no plans to request extra density, they are set to seek a waiver to city parking mandates. Their designs include 650 spaces for vehicles, more than 200 fewer than would typically be required, according to a summary of planning information.

Apartments would be built in complexes up to four stories tall ringing a central park of about three-quarters of an acre, according to the plans. Early designs also call for a community building and a range of amenities including a gym, business center and possibly a pool.

A city-hosted public meeting on the project this week was brief because of its sparse attendance. The lack of questions prompted a light-hearted request near the session’s end from Larry Florin, CEO of Burbank Housing: “Can you just stamp the plans now?”

The project went before the city’s Design Review Board last week for a preliminary review. An application to develop the project is expected to be formally submitted by the end of February, said Massey, the Burbank Housing official.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or will.schmitt@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @wsreports.

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