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Rohnert Park to review proposal for 1,400 homes on 269 acres north of SSU

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Rohnert Park City Council Meeting

When: Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 5 p.m.

Where: Rohnert Park City Hall, 130 Avram Drive

A homebuilder has embarked upon the initial step to develop a major chunk of agricultural land in northeast Rohnert Park, asking the city to increase by a third the number of units allowed on the mostly vacant property long designated for housing.

The development group led by Pleasanton-based Signature Homes submitted an application to the city last month seeking to bump up the number of homes built on the 269-acre site to more than 1,400 — about 350 more units than envisioned in city’s original plan two decades ago. The property, which sits outside city limits, is one of the last sizable pieces of undeveloped land on the city’s northeastern outskirts. It is north of Sonoma State University and east of Snyder Lane, and bordered on the south by the even larger University District housing development.

On Tuesday, the City Council will review the entire proposal, which Signature Homes estimates would add 3,700 residents to the city of about 43,000 people. The study session will allow council members to weigh in on the density of the proposed development.

Moving forward will require the city to formally annex the property into the city. Rural single-family homes sit on a dozen of the 36 parcels.

The scheduled discussion comes on the heels of the county’s unanimous support of a ballot measure this November asking Rohnert Park voters to renew the city’s urban grown boundary for another 20 years. The property eyed by Signature Homes for development sits inside that boundary.

Rohnert Park also is in the midst of updating its general plan, which will set the course for the city’s growth through 2040.

A decision on the Signature Homes proposal would likely play into that process and help shape the discussion about the future look of the city’s northeast corner.

“This is not the Rohnert Park of 1999. The landscape has changed, literally and figuratively,” said longtime Councilman Jake Mackenzie. “The reality is we need to look at this proposal in the context of what do we see happening in the next 20 years.”

The Signature Homes plan envisions 1,292 single-family homes in a mix of estate properties, duplexes and triplexes and 142 multi-family units, including townhomes and apartments. To build that number of homes, the builder would need city approval to amend the original plan.

The development group also would have to meet the city’s affordable housing requirement, which calls for at least 15% of the units to be set aside as affordable.

The proposal calls for three 1-acre pocket parks throughout the subdivision in exchange for reducing the size of a planned community park from 8 acres to 6 acres. The developer also wants to build into the setbacks called for by the city along Snyder Lane and the G section neighborhood just to the north.

It has asked to narrow the Snyder buffer from 200 feet to less than 40 feet, and to eliminate the buffer with the G neighborhood altogether.

Jeff Beiswenger, the city’s planning manager, said a development buffer as wide as the one identified for Snyder Lane is unlike anything else in Rohnert Park and he could not explain its origin.

Rohnert Park City Council Meeting

When: Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 5 p.m.

Where: Rohnert Park City Hall, 130 Avram Drive

He noted his department’s support for reducing the requirement, while pushing back against building new homes so close to the backyards of existing houses in the G section, off Golf Course Drive and Snyder Lane.

“We think they’re probably being a little aggressive by just getting rid of it,” said Beiswenger. “So we want to hear what the council has to say about that.”

Phone messages and emails left last week for three Signature Homes representatives, including Gary Galindo, the company’s president, and Steve Miller, an executive vice president, went unreturned.

Their application touted the project’s contribution to new housing creation in the North Bay.

“The homes within the Northeast Specific Plan represent an opportunity for the city to make a meaningful contribution to much needed housing in the region,” the document reads. “By increasing density, the community is able to deliver homes at a more affordable price and provide a variety of housing choices to appeal to a broader spectrum of the community.”

Signature Homes is the builder of three sections of single-family homes in the city’s 1,645-unit University District, just to the south.

So far, the company has completed 116 units in the Magnolia neighborhood; in mid-2018 it started building 114 more in the Sycamore neighborhood. Construction on a 42-unit development known as Bristol is set to begin by the middle of next year.

Other builders in 2003 and 2012 submitted plans to develop the 269-acre site. Neither of those proposals moved forward.

After undergoing any initial changes requested by the council, the plan would next head to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and the Planning Commission for endorsements before returning to the City Council.

Should it receive those approvals, the overall process, including environmental review, annexation and an eventual development agreement between the city and Signature Homes, is expected to take no less than two years.

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