Food court, housing in Roseland Village renewal project approved by Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

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A taste of Mexico is coming to Roseland as an outdoor food court serving Oaxacan cuisine this summer, the first tangible element of a long-awaited redevelopment project on the site of a former shopping center.

The Mitote Mexican Food Park will temporarily fill about 7,000 square feet of the 7-acre site on Sebastopol Road at West Avenue, serving as a placeholder for future development of about 10,000 square feet of shops, according to a development plan approved Tuesday by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

Octavio Diaz, owner-chef of the Agave Mexican Restaurant in Healdsburg, will operate the food court, which will make use of shipping containers and portable tables, chairs and lighting.

“This is a great way for us to deliver some benefit to the community right away,” said Ben Wickham, affordable housing director for the Sonoma County Community Development Commission.

The commission’s plan for Roseland Village, unanimously approved by supervisors Tuesday, also includes 175 apartments and a future public library.

MidPen Housing, a Foster City affordable housing developer, would build 75 affordable apartments, while another company, UrbanMix Development, would build 100 market-rate apartments, a prospect cheered by the supervisors and county officials.

“You guys have been phenomenal,” Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said, congratulating the commission staff for accomplishing “a huge uphill climb” on the redevelopment project intended to jump-start improvements to the predominantly Latino area annexed into Santa Rosa in 2017.

It took 30 years to get a community park in the Moorland neighborhood adjoining Roseland, Hopkins said.

A 4.4-acre park dedicated to Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old fatally shot by a sheriff’s deputy in 2013, was opened last year, fulfilling a longstanding need for the Moorland community. Political pressure in the wake of the shooting prompted city and county officials to reach an annexation agreement two years ago.

“Maybe we’re on the goal line,” Supervisor Susan Gorin said, noting that redevelopment of the shopping center site had been discussed for decades and was sidelined by the recession.

“I can see a whole lot of family gatherings happening, around the clock,” she said, referring to the food court, which has been nicknamed “Plaza Temporal.”

“This is a big day for us,” said Margaret Van Vliet, executive director of the county commission, which purchased the property for about $3.5 million in 2010.

The project, however, has a long way to go and still needs a financing plan, she told the supervisors.

No one from Roseland was present Tuesday to comment on the vote, but the project has picked up one opponent.

John Paulsen, who owns a retail center just south of the redevelopment site, told supervisors their project would infringe on parking spaces that serve his tenants, including the Camacho Market. In an interview, Paulsen said the parking is protected by an easement jointly approved by his father, Viggo Paulsen, and Hugh Codding when they co-developed the center in 1955.

Paulsen said he has appealed the Santa Rosa Planning Commission’s approval of Roseland Village last month, prompting a review by the City Council.

Wickham said county officials have spoken with Paulsen and are “well aware of the situation,” declining any additional comment.

Three tenants on the redevelopment site — Dollar Tree, the Roseland branch library and the Roseland Boys and Girls Teen Club — will be allowed to remain until Santa Rosa approves the project plans.

Those buildings will be demolished, but Wickham said the county is helping the library find an interim location for use until it returns to Roseland Village.

Construction of the food park will start after Cinco de Mayo, with an opening in early summer, he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @guykovner.

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