Opportunity Zones

Housing in and around Santa Rosa, and the greater Sonoma County area, is hitting capacity. Rising home prices and rents—exasperated by the loss of structures in the October 2017 Wildfires—has left the area with a dearth of options, especially for lower incomes families and residents.

The City of Santa Rosa is taking a multi-prong approach to the development of housing—particularly affordable housing—in its downtown, including initiatives for a federal opportunity zone (designated for downtown and Roseland), a renewal enterprise district created with the county, tax-incremental financing and a housing bond (to be voted on in November).

Opportunity sites for such development include, but are not limited to, properties around the current Downtown SMART station and its property north of the station, as well as of a variety of city and government sites (including parking lots and old buildings) on the east site of Highway 101 (refer to the map below)

Downtown Opportunity ZonesAbove: blue represents city/government properties; orange is parking lots and garages; yellow is other development opportunity sites.

City Fees Max

In addition, the city is prepared to allow a maximum fee on high-rise, high-density housing development in an effort to bring down per-door fees. Current fees for high-density residential projects pencil out to about $29,057 per unit.

For market rate high-rise multifamily properties, the city is proposing capping fees to the first two or three floors (depending on zoning) dedicated to residential housing on a given property conforming with the boundaries of the Downtown Station Area Specific Plan and the General Plan Downtown Core Boundary. Zoning restrictions are as follows:

  • In the Downtown, with CD-7 or CD-10 Zoning: Four or more stories in height, with at least three floors dedicated to residential use.
  • In the Downtown with CD-5, TV-M, TV-R, R-3-18, or R-3-30 Zoning: Three or more stories in height, with at least two floors dedicated to residential use.

Examples of how those costs would look are as follows:



A proposed Incentive Program has an additional fee incentive specific building affordable housing units on a site pursuant to the City’s Inclusionary Policy. The additional incentives would consist of a temporary reduction in Park Impact and Capital Facilities fees for affordable units to $2 per square foot for Park Impact Fees and $2 per square foot for Capital Facilities.

Assuming an average unit size of 800 square feet, affordable and inclusionary projects would cost $3,260 per unit under the Incentive Program versus $13,167 per unit under the existing fee schedule, illustrated here:


In addition, the City will offer a water and sewer impact fee deferral program for eligible downtown housing that have a minimum of three floors dedicated to housing. That program will have two options:

  • Option 1:  Deferral of water and wastewater demand fees for eligible projects until 75% of the residential units are occupied or for 6-months after final inspection, whichever is sooner.
  • Option 2: Finance the water and wastewater fees for 5-years with interest.

Deferral offers an estimated $1,700 per unit incentives.


For any development to receive these per-room fee incentives, it must break ground before August 2023. “Breaking ground” is defined as securing a foundation permit.