Santa Rosa approves dense ‘pocket neighborhood’ to meet housing goals

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Local real estate developer Robert Upton has a novel housing concept for the north end of Acacia Lane in Rincon Valley, a design he says will bring homeowners together.

Upton, a principal partner of Glen Ellen-based Campus Properties, said the 2.5-acre lot at 746 Acacia Lane is perfect for a “pocket neighborhood,” a planned community of smaller homes that often surround a shared open space.

The estimated $16 million development, called Acacia Village, will consist of 25 detached, owner-owned homes, with three floor plans of about 1,000, 1,600 and 2,000 square feet. Most of the parking will be located on the north and south ends of the development and 19 of the homes will face each other, sharing the common green area.

Upton said the pocket neighborhood concept is popular in the Northwest but uncommon in Santa Rosa.

“It encourages a sense of community and encourages interaction between neighbors,” Upton said. “In a neighborhood like this, people will know more than half their neighbors.”

That’s a much larger share than is found in many suburban developments, he said.

The Acacia Village project was approved by the Planning Commission on June 27. Susie Murray, a Santa Rosa senior planner, said the project is consistent with the general plan and meets the “housing requirements of all Santa Rosa residents.”

Murray said the project was granted a “density bonus” of five homes over the allowable 20-unit maximum, because three of the units have been designated for low-income property owners.

“It was a great project,” said Murray, highlighting the need for both higher density and affordable housing. “We need housing no matter how you slice it.”

The project calls for extending Winding Creek Avenue from Breeden Street to Acacia Lane. During the June 27 Planning Commission meeting several neighbors from Breeden Street and Winding Creek Avenue raised concerns about the impact of such an extension.

Residents said they were worried about maintaining the privacy and security area residents have enjoyed for decades.

Residents also raised concerns about the density of the project and whether there was enough available parking, as well as the proximity of the garbage bins to the intersection of Breeden and Winding Creek.

For his part, Upton said the projects meets the urgent housing needs of the city. Upton, who lost a home in Glen Ellen during the 2017 North Bay wildfires, said unique housing concepts like Acacia Village can bring both housing and community to Santa Rosa.

“This is what we want to do as a community — we don’t want sprawl,” he said.

Acacia Village calls for: 10 single-story, 2-bedroom cottages; 9 two-story, four-bedroom homes; and 6 two-story, 4-bedroom homes. All will have 160-square-foot “usable porches” with enough room for a table and chairs, another design that will encourage community and interaction among neighbors, Upton said.

Upton said he’s now looking for a builder who can become an owner-partner in the development. He hopes to break ground next spring.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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