State, housing advocacy group support OK of Cloverdale affordable housing project

The 75-unit project will come up for a vote at a Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday.|

A top official of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as a Sonoma County affordable housing advocacy nonprofit sent letters of support for the proposed Alexander Valley Family Apartments to the city of Cloverdale.

The state official, Melinda Coy, senior housing accountability manager, sent a four-page letter to Cloverdale City Manager David Kelley and Assistant City Manager Kevin Thompson, reiterating that such affordable housing projects for low- and very low-income earners are bound by state regulations.

The Housing Accountability Act “was recently amended to expand and strengthen its provisions as part of an overall recognition of the critically low volumes of housing stock in the state,” Coy said in her Jan. 4 letter. The law limits what local government can do to deny or alter such projects such as reducing density.

The 75-unit project by Pacific West Communities of Eagle, Idaho, will come up for a vote at a special Planning Commission meeting at 6:30 p.m.Tuesday.

The development has generated opposition from nearby neighbors because of traffic and parking concerns, and remarks of concern from the local school district superintendent.

Although supportive of ongoing affordable housing projects in the city, Cloverdale Unified School District Superintendent Betha MacClain believes this and other housing projects in the city need mitigating measures, such as the construction of ball fields, sidewalks and parks, put forth by the developers that will benefit and protect the area’s student population.

Developer fees are not sufficient to offset the impact of this and other projects in the pipeline, MacClain said.

City planning commissioners requested design changes, such as more trees and increasing open space as conditions that must be met to gain approval of the project.

“It is HCD’s understanding that these modifications were requested despite the project’s demonstrated compliance with the city’s general plan and zoning development standards applicable to the site …,” Coy wrote. “The city should evaluate the application of such conditions for consistency with the HAA (Housing Accountability Act).”

The nonprofit Generation Housing Sonoma County, a Santa Rosa-based local affordable housing advocacy group*,sent the commission a letter on Dec. 23 expressing its “strongest support for the immediate approval” of the project on Asti Road, north of Railroad Avenue, in Cloverdale, which includes farmworker housing.

It pointed to “inherent racism” in some of the remarks made by project opponents, as well as commissioners at the last hearing, Nov. 2, on the proposal.

“We cannot ignore the inherent racism apparent in some of the stated opposition to this project,” the letter continued. “While we will not give the specific comments any additional airtime by repeating them here, multiple racially charged comments — both explicit and implicit — were made by planning commissioners and the public alike during the … meeting. Allowing explicit racism, or even unconscious bias, to drive housing project decisions only perpetuates racism in our communities and strengthens the structural racism that persists in our housing policies and systems. We cannot stand for this.”

Generation Housing said delaying approval of the apartments threatens the project’s funding, “and thus delay doesn’t just temporarily derail the project, but could end it.”

It was signed by Jen Klose, executive director of Generation Housing Sonoma County, with additional signatures from representatives of Corazón Healdsburg, Santa Rosa Community Health Centers and Burbank Housing.

Press Democrat attempts to reach Planning Commission Chair Michael Shanahan for reaction to the letters were unsuccessful.

If the Planning Commission approves the project, it won’t need the approval of the Cloverdale City Council to move forward. However, the council could take it up if someone appeals the Planning Commission’s decision.

Though Deborah Howell, CEO of Alexander Valley Healthcare, suggested at the Nov. 2 Planning Commission meeting that the city might consider limiting low- to very low-income housing in Cloverdale because of the burden of cost on the health care system, the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Sonoma County took a very different viewpoint.

In a Dec. 29 letter to the Planning Commission, the foundation supported the project and cited “a severe shortage of affordable housing that makes housing a core health issue and an urgent one for the communities we serve.”

It said a recent health needs assessment identified affordable housing as the No. 1 issue necessary to improve health in the region.

Project neighbor Richard St. Angelo wrote a letter to the city saying “making the staff report on the project, with all its attachments, available on Jan. 6, only five days before the meeting on Jan. 11 is outrageous — it gives me, my neighbors and my attorney only three working days for review, analysis and response. It will effectively preclude me and my neighbors from having expert representation.”

He urged Cloverdale officials to postpone Tuesday’s meeting.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article misidentified Generation Housing Sonoma County. According to its website, it is a Santa Rosa-based nonprofit housing advocacy organization committed to increasing the supply, diversity, and affordability of housing in Sonoma County. It promotes effective policy, sustainable funding resources, and collaborative efforts to create an equitable, healthy, and resilient community for everyone.

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at or 707-521-5209.

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