More than a year after the Tubbs fire destroyed the Estancia Apartments and displaced more than 100 longtime residents, work is underway to rebuild the Larkfield-Wikiup development, the largest multifamily housing complex in unincorporated Sonoma County lost to the firestorm.
The 5.5-acre Old Redwood Highway development, which originally featured 70 market-rate apartments, is being rebuilt as a 96-unit complex slated to include six affordable units, property owner Brandon Broll said. Apartments could be move-in ready by late 2019, he said.
Sonoma County officials touted the project, expedited through the approval process, as a collaborative effort that led to a greater number of housing units and below market-rate rentals. Broll is a Truckee resident who owns Broll Investments, which acquires and revamps apartment complexes. He said it’s the first multifamily development he’s built from the ground up.
“I was hearing all these firsthand stories and really emotional stories of people who lost everything, and I was going ‘How can I help?’ … I knew one thing I could do was move very fast and try to get as many units in there while still making it aesthetically pleasing,” said Broll, who bought the property in 2012. “It feels good to be able to contribute.”
Renamed the Sonoma Ranch Apartment Homes, the project will include an estimated 40 one-bedroom units, 48 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units, ranging from 720 to 1,293 square feet, Broll said. Monthly rents could span from $2,000 to $3,000, with affordable units renting for about $900 to $1,000. Broll previously accepted more than a dozen housing vouchers, and he plans to accept those Section 8 vouchers on at least six of the new units, he said.
The complex will have new perks — soundproofing, EV chargers and energy-efficient roofing and windows, he said. Sonoma County officials worked closely with Broll on the project, assisting with a transition from septic to sewer service, changing zoning to allow for a larger number of units in exchange for affordable housing and expediting permits and referrals, a county spokeswoman said.
Permit Sonoma Director Tennis Wick said a permit process that could normally could have taken months was reduced to weeks. Without an affordable housing component, design review could have at least a year, but was cut to less than four months, spokeswoman Maggie Fleming said.
“These are long time tenants who lost their homes … hopefully, they can move back into even better homes than they had before,” Wick said. “And the community gets multifamily homes, which it needs.”
Sonoma County Supervisor James Gore said Broll connected with the county soon after the fires, and the project illustrates a constructive “partnership” between a local government and a developer.
“Here we have example of something that’s coming back better,” Gore said. “It’s better for energy, it’s better for groundwater, it’s got more units, so it’s better for housing, and for the first time, it has set-aside units for affordable housing. This is the epitome of rebuilding better.”
Rebuild marks progress
Meanwhile, 17 homes have been completed in the greater Mark West area, extending east to Knights Valley, according to county data. More than 340 homes are under construction in the region, about three quarters of the houses being built in the unincorporated county.
Fairfield-based Silvermark Construction Services, which in June celebrated the completion of the first rebuilt home on Willow Green Place, has finished nine homes in the area, said Vice President of Operations David Hosking. It’s in the process of building 41 homes, he said, the majority rebuild projects for fire victims, with some for-sale lots.
This story is part of a monthly series in 2018 chronicling the rebuilding efforts in Sonoma County’s four fire zones: Coffey Park, Fountaingrove, the greater Mark West area and Sonoma Valley. Read all of the Rebuild North Bay coverage here.