New affordable apartments set for site of Santa Rosa Christmas tree lot

A new housing project in west central Santa Rosa that promises to provide dozens of affordable apartments is taking shape on a busy corner just north of Highway 12 best known as a Christmas tree lot.

Plans call for a 41-unit, five-story apartment building branded Dutton Flats on the corner of West Third Street and Dutton Avenue.

All of the units would be limited to tenants earning between up to 30 to up to 60 percent of the area’s median income, about $84,000 for family of four.

The latest proposal put forward by developer Loren Brueggemann, co-owner of Minneapolis-based Phoenix Development Co., envisions ?15 three-bedroom, 15 two-bedroom and 11 single-bedroom apartments.

Rents will start at $501 a month for the smallest units and run up to $1,455 a month for the three-bedroom apartments, which Brueggemann called a “pretty amazing price.”

Neighbors were “generally supportive” at a pre-development meeting earlier this week, city planner Andrew Trippel told the Santa Rosa Design Review Board on Thursday. Concerns voiced about the project included the busy nearby intersection, as well as a desire that the project include some outdoor playing space, Trippel said. He added the project would be required to include a traffic study before moving forward.

The project would include 41 parking spots, one for each unit - the minimum amount of parking required. Preliminary designs feature white stucco exterior walls with lime-green accents.

Brueggemann said he hopes to break ground by late this year or early 2020. Construction is set to take a year, with tenants moving in by early 2021. Speaking to the design review board, he was optimistic that the project would nicely fit into the west Santa Rosa neighborhood.

“It was probably the easiest neighborhood meeting I’ve ever been to,” he said.

The concept received a favorable reception from the Design Review Board and some suggestions to improve the project’s aesthetics, including areas where landscaping could spruce up the roughly 1-acre property.

“Echoing other comments you’ve heard today, this is a great project, and I hope it gets underway lickety-?split,” Scott Kincaid, the board chairman, said toward the end of the hearing.

Phoenix is partnering with Irvine-?based nonprofit Integrity Housing on the $19 million project, which is being financed with the help of about $10 million in low-income housing tax credits, said Anjela Ponce, executive vice president and founder of Integrity Housing.

Ponce noted that Integrity and Phoenix have worked together before and said the project could provide much-needed low-cost housing near transit in Santa Rosa - especially in the wake of the October 2017 wildfires that destroyed about 5 percent of the city’s housing stock.

“More than anything, with the recent fires, there’s a huge need to get people back in housing,” she said.

Integrity also will provide services to residents including classes in English as a second language, computing, career building and financial management, Ponce said, with the hope of putting tenants in a position to buy their own home some day.

Phoenix also is the developer of the 72-unit Pullman Lofts project a few blocks from the city’s Railroad Square train station. Brueggemann said he hoped to soon resolve an insurance issue hanging over that delayed project, which was approved in mid-2015. The move-in date for occupants is set for early 2020.

“We’re on the 1-yard line,” he said Friday.

The lot at Dutton and Third has for several years been the seasonal home of a Christmas tree sales operation run by Mark Lazzini. Reached by phone Friday, Lazzini said he was hoping to squeeze one more year out of the site before relocating nearby.

“I’ll find something else on that side of town,” he said. “I’m not quitting yet.”

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or

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