Developer seeks changes to downtown Santa Rosa apartment project to avoid additional costs, delays

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Nearly two years after Santa Rosa officials gave a developer the green light to convert a former winery into what could become downtown’s largest apartment complex, he’s seeking changes to his proposal to avoid unforeseen costs and delays.

The long-planned redevelopment of the DeTurk winery complex in the West End neighborhood was approved in January 2017 by the Santa Rosa City Council. The council overruled a lower board’s denial of the 185-unit project, saying it aligned with city goals to build more housing near its two train stations and included much-needed affordable units.

But construction has not yet started on the project. Developer Rick Deringer cited unforeseen costs associated with remodeling the winery building — work he said was not required by building codes in a previous version of his plan. He’s now proposing an altered blueprint, which went before the city’s Design Review Board and Cultural Heritage Board on Thursday.

Deringer has proposed adding a four-story building on the east side of the property not included in the original plans and a new fourth floor on a previously approved building, while retaining about 25,000 square feet for commercial use.

The winery complex sits on 3.4 acres, bordered by Donahue, Ninth and Eighth streets and the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit tracks. Its commercial tenants include Criminal Baking Co. and Ringtime Fitness.

In addition to the 185 apartments — 15 of which would be reserved for very low-income tenants — the project calls for a new restaurant and space for a farmer’s market, said Deringer, who also hopes to attract a grocery store to the property.

Deringer said he wants to change the project’s design to avoid digging up the old brick winery’s concrete flooring, installing new foundation supports and testing soil 10 feet beneath the building for toxins. Deringer estimated the work would take a significant amount of time and could cost between $800,000 to $1 million.

“I’m just looking forward to getting this done,” Deringer said in an interview.

Instead of excavating, Deringer has proposed moving 44 of the proposed apartments that would have been in the historic winery into the new four-story building and the new fourth floor.

Members of Santa Rosa’s Design Review Board were supportive and on Thursday offered number of design recommendations, such as moving away from a metal component that one board member described as resembling cargo containers and another called “cartoonish.”

Deringer said Friday he would take their suggestions into account. He hoped to secure formal approval for the new design in February.

If he gets the OK, construction could start in July or August, he said.

The proposed changes came forward shortly after the city approved a development incentive that could allow him to build additional units while retaining most of the commercial space.

The City Council on Tuesday gave final approval to the incentive, allowing projects near Santa Rosa’s two SMART stations to build up to twice as many market-rate apartments than would be allowed otherwise by city density restrictions.

A city planner said Deringer would be eligible to build up to 272 units on the winery property. At this point, Deringer has not applied for extra market-rate residential density.

“We spent a tremendous amount of time working with the city on that legislation,” Deringer said. “We would like to take advantage of that new density bonus, but we’re not going to do that until we can establish that the economics will be covered.”

He plans to move forward on the construction of the project, whether or not he decides — and gets approval — to build additional units.

Speaking at Thursday’s public hearing, Deringer cited fears of a recession in 2020 as a reason for his urgency to start construction.

“In real estate, it doesn’t look very good for the 2020 year,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Will Schmitt at 707-521-5207 or

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