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Santa Rosa housing project replacing Journey’s End forges ahead after investor pulls out

The 532-unit apartment project at the site of the former Journey’s End mobile home park is edging closer to planning approval, a key step that the largest housing project in Santa Rosa’s development pipeline could secure by the end of the year.

But half of the development team has pulled up stakes, leaving the project in search of another investor.

The 3575 Mendocino project, named for its address in north Santa Rosa, would add a mix of market-rate and low-income senior apartments to replace Journey’s End, which was severely damaged by the Tubbs fire in 2017. Two Journey’s End residents died in the wildfire as it burned over the hills and into the city, and 117 of the park’s 161 coaches were destroyed.

Now, nearly three years after the disaster, all remaining coaches have either been demolished or removed from the site, and efforts to secure planning could meet the city’s muster by the end of the year, said Efren Carrillo, director of government and community relations with Burbank Housing, which is working on the more affordable units in conjunction with other developers.

Site work over the course of 2020 also has involved removing an old swimming pool and dead trees destroyed by the fire, he said.

“Despite how long it’s taken us to get here, having a clear site does provide a clear visual that says, ’We’re not giving up,’ ” Carrillo said.

The apartment complex has been pitched as a joint venture, with the affordable component headed up by Burbank Housing and another developer, Related California.

The market-rate side was to be spearheaded by Darius Anderson, a Sonoma-based developer and lobbyist who is managing member of Sonoma Media Investments, which owns The Press Democrat.

His subsidiary on the project, North Bay Mendocino Partners, “dropped out and is no longer a part of the project,” said Karen Massey, a Burbank Housing official who has been managing the redevelopment project.

“There is not a market-rate developer currently in the project,” Massey said by email Friday evening.

Attempts to reach Anderson and Jay Wallace, a business partner, through Anderson’s Sacramento-based lobbying firm, Platinum Advisors, were unsuccessful.

The project is expected to begin environmental review before the end of the month, with hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council possible by the end of the year, Carrillo said. A city planner overseeing the project confirmed that timeline.

But even on that schedule, it would still take another year or two to build out the complex, which calls for 162 apartments for low-income senior tenants and 370 market-rate units. And that’s assuming developers secure the needed funding for the project, which in February was roughly estimated at more than $300 million in a combination of private funding, low-income housing tax credits, grants and loans.

“You’ve got to be patient through permitting and entitlement,” Carrillo said. “We hope that this next phase where we enter public review of our environmental document, that we can really demonstrate to the community that we’re not giving up, and we’re really focused on creating this investment in the community.”

The cost of the market-rate development previously was estimated by an investor at roughly $250 million. The affordable housing estimate is about $85 million, down slightly from the $90 million estimate Burbank Housing offered in February at a city meeting and still subject to change.

“Being able to stack financing for developments like these is not for the faint of heart,” Carrillo said.

The 162 units that are to be reserved for low-income tenants will first be offered to former Journey’s End residents who were displaced by the Tubbs fire, which forced the site’s closure. How many will return won’t be known until much later in the development process, Carrillo said, adding that he expected at least a few dozen to return.

The 370 market-rate units, a centrally located park, a community building and other amenities would round out the 13.3-acre site.

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

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