Downtown Housing Development

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Addressing time, certainty, and cost to develop housing downtown.

In an effort to address regional housing needs and intensify the vibrant and thriving economic center that is its downtown core, the City of Santa Rosa is looking for ways attract infill developers to construct housing of all affordability levels.

The city is addressing policies, fees, and practices across all aspects of development to bring higher density of transit-oriented housing to downtown. Below are eight key areas that highlight those efforts to build up Downtown S.R.

Political Will

  • Adopted the Santa Rosa Housing Action Plan
  • Identified the creation of Downtown Housing as a Tier 1 priority for 2018/2019 directing staff and resources to support policies and incentives to infill development in the downtown core
  • Allotted to support the creation of development agreements and disposition of land for housing 
  • Authorization to use of city property in the downtown to develop housing 

Discretionary and Ministerial Process

  • Creation and approval of City Council Ordinance ORD-2018-012 to increase certainty and reduce review and approval authorities for the downtown and priority development areas (PDAs)
  • Reduced the design review process from a typical 9- to 10-month duration by the Design Review Board to 3 to 4 months through the Zoning Administration
  • Reduced use permit and design review permit fees from $24,000 to $9,000
  • Created an expedited permit process to fast track permitting and approval process with preset deadlines, milestones, and commitments from both the applicant and the City for performance

Fees

  • Evaluating fee reduction, elimination, and deferral to encourage high density housing
  • Have a fee deferral program to final inspection phase

City Property

  • The City is actively looking to use its property in the downtown to support the development of housing through disposition and development agreements as well as public-private partnerships
  • City Council has given approval to utilize city property (parking lots, old buildings) in partnership with developers to create housing and activate airspace

Affordable Housing

  • The city is identifying funding sources to support the creation of affordable housing including an annual Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) and a housing bond
  • The city is considering allowing up to 100% density bonus in select areas of the city to produce affordable housing, senior housing, and the development of child care facilities

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) 

  • The current Downtown Specific Plan supports up to 10 stories
  • The City received an $800,000 grant to update the Downtown Specific Plan to increase height and reduce parking, and this process is anticipated to be completed in 8 to 12 months
  • Streamlining opportunities for certain infill projects, transit-oriented development, and projects consistent with the Downtown Specific Plan

Infrastructure

  • The City has invested in its water and sewer infrastructure to provide the water supply and wastewater treatment capacity for future build-out. Additional investments have been made to the distribution and conveyance systems to address downtown development. Continued investments will be made with the goal of supporting housing and the increase in transit oriented development in the downtown
  • Downtown Santa Rosa is home to a regional transit hub served by 29 (soon to be 30) local, intercity, and regional transit lines as well as a new commuter rail station

Incentives

  • The City's Downtown has been designated by the federal government as an Opportunity Zone and will be eligible for tax benefits 
  • The City and Sonoma County are working together to develop a Renewal Enterprise District that will work to pool resources and support development of housing in key areas in the county, including the downtown
  • The City and Sonoma County are evaluating the creation of a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district to capture and redirect the incremental tax increase back into the downtown to support infrastructure and affordable housing needs