Healdsburg advances North Village project, bringing mix of housing, hotel to city’s northern gateway
The Healdsburg City Council this week approved its second-largest residential project ever, which includes more than 220 units of senior housing and is tied to construction of a 108-room luxury hotel.
The North Village project by Southern California-based Comstock Homes will include a mix of affordable housing in addition to the senior living community. The development's 110 income-restricted units will range from homes targeting those people making 50% of the area's median income, or an annual salary of about $38,000 for an individual, up to 160% of the area's median income, or roughly $105,000.
The council met Monday to decide the fate of the disputed development, which last month overcame a legal challenge from a group of local environmentalists who claimed Healdsburg had not appropriately accounted for the greenhouse gas emissions connected to the hotel. A Sonoma County Superior Court judge tentatively sided with the city in February in the suit filed by Sebastopol-based California River Watch, allowing the project to move forward.
With a final ruling expected by early May, the City Council forged ahead inside an empty City Hall chambers given growing precautions over the coronavirus. The council voted 4-1 to approve the project at the city's northern entry point, on Healdsburg Avenue near Highway 101 north of Simi Winery. Mayor Leah Gold was the lone dissenter, asserting the small Wine Country city of roughly 12,000 people didn't need another hotel.
The action grants initial approval to move forward with the 301 housing units, which will provide 80 multi-family homes — 50 of which will be located above as much as 12,000 feet of commercial retail space. Completion of the affordable housing units provides a path for constructing the hotel, which will also feature a 100-seat restaurant and rooftop bar, spa and event center.
The 32-acre North Village project still requires a second vote at the City Council's next scheduled meeting in April. Once that happens, the development will become second in size behind the city's Parkland Farms neighborhood, which includes 346 single-family homes.
'Over the last couple of years, we've seen this chamber filled with people saying, 'Do something, do something,'' Councilman David Hagele said Monday of residents' demand for more housing. 'We can't swing hammers. What we can do is approve projects. There are a lot of layers to the discussion regarding hotels and I think there's a way to craft projects that are win-win for the community and allows us to get what we need.'
Longtime Healdsburg resident Bob Comstock founded Comstock Homes in 1991 and has built thousands of homes across California, including the Sorrento Square neighborhood in Healdsburg. Comstock and his wife, Sandy, also own Comstock Wines in Healdsburg's Dry Creek Valley.
'No project is easy in the climate that we're in today, but it has been the goal of the Comstock company to provide what we understand is most needed in the community, and that's housing,' said Debra Geiler, Comstock's director of entitlements. 'It's been a lot of hard work to get here, and we look forward to implementing the project.'
As part of the development agreement, Comstock will pay up to $2 million toward a fire department substation estimated to cost $7 million. The substation was previously planned as part of the agreement to build the Montage Healdsburg luxury resort, which is scheduled to open by the end of the year. Comstock also committed to $250,000 toward city connectivity improvements, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars to mitigate lost tax revenues that typically go to pay for city public safety services, such as police, fire and medical response.
'In an ideal world, I would rather not have the hotel. In the end, it's a question of compromise,' said Councilman Joe Naujokas. 'Given all that, I think that what I'm looking at in front of me satisfies my desire to have a good mix of elements that, in the net, are going to be a great benefit to the community.'
Gold, who last May was also the only council vote opposing the city's development plan of the northern gateway, remained unconvinced. At Monday's meeting, she again implored her council colleagues to insist there be no new lodging built on the property formerly known as Quaker Hill, which Comstock bought in 2017 for $10.3 million.
'I like everything about it, except for the hotel,' Gold said of the North Village proposal. 'I don't feel that it's my responsibility to maximize the profits of developers. I believe it's my responsibility to represent the interests of the residents of Healdsburg, and the residents of Healdsburg don't need another hotel.'
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 .