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State grant offers major boost to Santa Rosa housing projects

The state’s recent approval of $9.5 million in grant funding for long-planned mixed-use projects in downtown Santa Rosa is being hailed by local and state lawmakers as a “massive shot in the arm” to boost much-needed housing.

Sen. Mike McGuire’s office announced the state had awarded the funding, via the Infill Infrastructure Grant Program, in a press release Wednesday.

The grants will benefit four downtown housing projects that are considered “climate smart” and will total 400 mixed-income units, as well as create retail and civic spaces, the release said.

“For years, neighbors along with city leaders have been working to move these transformational projects forward and it’s exciting to see the hard work pay off,” McGuire said in the release. “The state was truly impressed with the community’s vision and unified approach, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to partner.”

McGuire, housing advocates, and county and city leaders spent over a year working to secure the funding, the release said.

The Infill Infrastructure Grant Program is intended to encourage infill housing — projects built on unused or underused land — by providing gap funding for infrastructure improvements necessary for the infill projects, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development website.

One of the projects is Phase 1 of Caritas Homes, an affordable housing component of Caritas Village, a city block-sized complex between A and Morgan streets that is being developed by Catholic Charities and will include a homeless services hub. Burbank Housing is the developer for the project’s housing component.

The long-stalled Cannery at Railroad Square, a project that seeks to revitalize the the old cannery building along the SMART tracks, will also get funding support from the grant, as will the development of an eight-story mixed-use apartment building at 425 Humboldt St., and a seven-story, mixed-use building at 1 Santa Rosa Ave.

The housing developments have been fully approved and will be ready to break ground once financing is complete, the release said. The grant funding is intended to speed that step.

Funding from the grant will support various infrastructure improvements for each project like sidewalk replacement, stormwater retention, urban greening and landscaping, according to the application submitted to the state by Renewal Enterprise District.

The Renewal Enterprise District is a joint powers authority comprising Sonoma County and Santa Rosa.

“These projects are a true win-win, and underscore the importance of multi-agency, interdisciplinary collaboration. Having a clear understanding of how the transportation network is tied to infill, equity-focused housing and economic development, and how all of these components work together, enabled us to successfully compete for funding,” said county Supervisor Chris Coursey, who represents downtown Santa Rosa and is also vice chair of the Renewal Enterprise District Board of Directors.

In addition to the housing projects, the grant will support the creation of a southbound right turn pocket lane at the Third Street and B Street intersection.

Pocket lanes are designed for cyclists to ride past backed-up traffic.

After years of tepid housing growth and the loss of more than 3,000 homes in the city to the 2017 fires, and another 30 or so in the Glass fire last year, Santa Rosa’s pipeline for new housing is fuller, with a clear emphasis from the City Council on expediting new construction.

Santa Rosa officials have eyed the downtown for housing and have made efforts to attract denser development and reshape the city’s downtown core — goals outlined in the city’s Downtown Station Area Specific Plan.

“These projects will provide sorely needed housing and long-overdue community investment and revitalization to our city’s core,” Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers said in the release. “We are thrilled to partner with the State of California to move these projects forward and deliver climate smart housing.”

Local leaders expect that more housing downtown, near walkable areas and public transit like the SMART passenger rail station, will result in fewer cars on the road.

You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or emma.murphy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MurphReports.

Emma Murphy

County government, politics reporter

The decisions of Sonoma County’s elected leaders and those running county government departments impact people’s lives in real, direct ways. Your local leaders are responsible for managing the county’s finances, advocating for support at the state and federal levels, adopting policies on public health, housing and business — to name a few — and leading emergency response and recovery.
As The Press Democrat’s county government and politics reporter, my job is to spotlight their work and track the outcomes.

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