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Santa Rosa to hear public comment on plan to meet upcoming housing goals

Santa Rosa wants residents to help develop a plan to meet the city’s state-mandated housing goal of permitting nearly 4,700 new homes over the next eight years, increasing the city’s housing stock by 7%.

State law requires that local governments create homebuilding plans — called “housing elements” — to ensure cities and counties hit their housing targets and create enough homes for people of all income levels.

Bay Area jurisdictions, including in Sonoma County, must finish their plans for the upcoming eight-year housing cycle — between 2023 and 2031 — by early next year.

Residents can view a draft of Santa Rosa’s housing element online and share comments on the plan during Tuesday’s City Council starting at 1:30 p.m., or submit written comments at www.santarosaforward.com by July 1.

As part of its plan, the city is required to identify hundreds of individual lots that are zoned and ready for different kinds of residential development. The plan also outlines policies aimed at incentivizing large apartment buildings in the downtown core, where the city hopes to concentrate much of its new homebuilding.

The plan would also make it easier to build accessory dwelling units, and includes other strategies to increase housing production.

Despite a rash of new construction in recent years, the city has approved only about 75% of its housing goal of more than 5,000 units for its current housing cycle, which ends this year, according to state housing data. It’s even farther behind on its goals for homes specifically for low- and very low-income residents, which make up about 1,700 units of its overall housing target. The city has approved just 60% of its low-income goal and 43% of its very low-income goal.

Santa Rosa is far from the only jurisdiction that’s failed to reach its homebuilding goals in recent cycles. In turn, to compel cities and counties to more forcefully confront their housing shortages, the state is now threatening fines, lawsuits and wresting away permitting authority from municipalities it deems aren’t doing enough to plan for growth.

Michael Lane, state policy director with Bay Area think tank SPUR, said to reach their upcoming housing goals, cities like Santa Rosa should focus on speeding up approvals for multifamily developments near amenities such as parks, schools and retail shops. Developers blame the sometimes yearslong local approval and permitting processes for running up costs and stalling out projects.

“ (The housing element) is a tremendous opportunity to overcome the past track record by doing active planning upfront,” Lane said.

Unlike most jurisdictions in the Bay Area, Santa Rosa saw its upcoming housing goal decrease 7% from the prior cycle to 4,683 total units. Its target for low-income and very low-income homes, however, increased 12% to 1,919 units.

City officials have said they are considering taking on a portion of unincorporated Sonoma County’s upcoming housing goal, which jumped from 515 units to 3,881 units.

Some of the largest planned or under-construction developments in Santa Rosa include:

  • 3575 Mendocino Ave. (420 units)
  • 888 Fourth Street (108 units)
  • 1 Santa Rosa Ave. (119 units)
  • Caritas Homes, city block between A and Morgan streets (128 units)
  • The Cannery at Railroad Square, 3 West 3rd Street (129 units)
  • Yolanda Apartments, 325 Yolanda Ave. (252 units)
  • Tierra de Rosas, 665 Sebastopol Road (175 units)

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian

Ethan Varian

Housing and homelessness, The Press Democrat 

I've lived in California for most of my life, and it's hard for me to remember when the state hasn't been in a housing crisis. Here in Sonoma County, sharply rising housing costs and increasing homelessness are reshaping what was long considered the Bay Area’s “affordable” region. As The Press Democrat’s housing and homelessness reporter, I aim to cover how officials, advocates, developers and residents are reacting to and experiencing the ongoing crisis.

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