New plan seeks to envision future for Sonoma Valley’s Springs community

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Planning effort for The Springs

The full details of each alternative, including zoning and circulation maps, is available at https://thesprings.specificplan.org.

The Springs area of Sonoma Valley has been going through some highly visible changes in the past couple of years, but it’s just a prelude to a more sweeping transformation.

Building facades have been repainted in wild and head-turning colors. Highway 12, running through the heart of the community, is repaved, along with new sidewalks, bike lanes and streetlights. And MidPen Housing, a Bay Area builder, is still putting the final touches on a 60-unit affordable apartment complex, with residents moving in and full occupation anticipated by the end of the month. In the same area, construction of MidPen’s 40 senior apartments could begin this summer or fall.

Now, area residents are being asked to choose between three alternatives to shape the future of The Springs, which encompasses Agua Caliente, Boyes Hot Springs, El Verano and Fetters Hot Springs.

The process is intended to identify opportunities for additional affordable housing and economic development, said Sonoma County Supervisor Susan Gorin, who represents the area.

“I think most people are excited with the potential for building community there. And they recognize it won’t be the same communities The Springs were a couple of decades ago,” she said.

Once a historic destination resort on the edge of Sonoma, The Springs, as it’s now known, is a culturally diverse area, with a Latino population that accounts for roughly half of the 16,400 inhabitants.

The stated goal of a new Springs “specific plan” is to gradually transform it into “a more vibrant, sustainable and pedestrian-oriented community,” with a focus on enhanced transit opportunities.

“Clearly there are challenges in The Springs in terms of housing, parking and traffic — all the things this plan is trying to address,” said Rich Lee, chairman of The Springs Community Alliance Group. “There needs to be a balanced plan that’s based on community input.”

One possibility focuses on creating a corridor of apartments and condominiums built above neighborhood-oriented restaurants, retail and services on the ground floors. It would add 652 residential dwellings and a quarter-million square feet of commercial space.

A second “moderate growth” option calls for 277 residential units and 184,000 square feet of new commercial space.

And a third “business-as-usual” alternative would continue existing zoning and allow for 44 new residences and add 141,000 square feet of commercial uses.

All of the options include creating a community plaza in the area located around the post office at Boyes Boulevard.

Approximately $2 million has been set aside in the county budget for improvements, including for potential construction of a community hub that might serve as a place for farmers markets, art exhibits, a corral for food trucks and a place to relax on a bench under a shade tree.

The three options all call for more parking, ranging from 105 to up to 420 spaces. The latter would involve building a parking garage.

The alternatives are designed to pinpoint a specific plan that will be incorporated into the Sonoma County general plan, the region’s blueprint for growth.

Lee said it is important for interested residents to get involved early on. “The more we can get participation now, the better,” he said.

A community open house to present the three alternatives for the specific plan is set for Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., at the Sonoma Charter School Multi-Purpose Room, 17202 Sonoma Highway.

Gorin said working on a plan for the evolving area is exciting.

“It’s the fun part of my job,” she said, describing is as a grass-roots effort helping the community find its voice.

She wants to set up an advisory council of community members and leaders to give input as it moves through environmental review to the Planning Commission and eventually the Board of Supervisors for adoption, perhaps in six months.

“It’s not my vision. It’s their vision. We’re providing the mechanism to make it happen,” Gorin said.

Planning effort for The Springs

The full details of each alternative, including zoning and circulation maps, is available at https://thesprings.specificplan.org.

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