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Oakmont fighting affordable housing project

BY KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A key chapter in a long-running development debate is coming to a head in Santa Rosa as the politically influential Oakmont retirement community has stepped up its campaign to block an affordable housing project on its northern border.

Oakmont resident Wally Schilpp stands next to a 68-acre field, site of a proposal that includes affordable housing that would be open to all ages. (Crista Jeremiason / PD)

But the east Santa Rosa community may find its options to oppose the project limited by a state law that creates incentives for developers to build affordable housing and makes it harder for local cities to stop such projects.
The 4,500-member strong Oakmont Community Association is appealing the city Planning Commission’s approval of the environmental report for the Elnoka Village project on Highway 12.
The four-volume study, which cost developer Oakmont Senior Living more than $300,000 to complete, attempts to outline all the potential impacts from the plan to construct a 209-unit complex on nine acres at the eastern entrance to Santa Rosa.
Oakmont residents call the project completely inappropriate for their neighborhood. They say the four-story building is too big for the site, will ruin views of Annadel State Park, will choke the two-lane highway with traffic and will leave its future residents far from services.
But mostly they object to the affordable housing component of the project, which will set aside 61 rental units for very low- to moderate-income residents of all ages.
Oakmont resident Wally Schilpp, an active opponent of the project, said Elnoka Village should be restricted to seniors because that’s what the zoning called for before it was changed nearly a decade ago with little public input.
“We have nothing against affordable housing. We want affordable housing for seniors,” says Schilpp, co-chairman of the Oakmont Property and Development Committee.
But David Grabill, a Santa Rosa affordable housing advocate who is counsel to the Housing Advocacy Group, said that kind of exclusionary attitude has led to Santa Rosa being the most economically segregated city in Sonoma County.
“That area of Santa Rosa badly needs some diversity, social and economic,” Grabill said.
That’s why in 2002 Grabill’s group sued to force the city to designate more properties throughout the city for affordable housing. To settle the suit, the city agreed to change the zoning on several larger parcels. One of those was the Elnoka property, then owned by a Japanese development firm whose plans had stalled. Planning documents were amended to change the parcel from one slated for a senior care center to medium density, multi-family use.
The change wasn’t well publicized at the time, and Oakmont residents were largely caught unaware when they learned of it years later.
“Everything was done legally and openly, but the outreach for stakeholders involved was probably less than the residents would have liked,” said Wayne Goldberg, former director of Community Development.
In 2005, Bill Gallaher, the developer of the controversial Varenna at Fountaingrove and Fountaingrove Lodge retirement communities, purchased the 68-acre Elnoka parcel. Various versions of the project have been winding their way through the city’s planning process ever since.
Oakmont residents didn’t understand the higher density use in store for the parcel until around 2007, when formal rezoning of the property became necessary.
“Oakmont folks went ballistic when they figured out the site next door to them might have some multi-family housing,” Grabill recalled.

Sharing property line
Schilpp said Oakmont residents know something will be built on the property someday. But residents bought homes with assurances that the adjacent property was to be a senior care facility. They now have a right to wonder whether their property values will suffer given the size of the structure and other impacts, he said.
John Felton, 86, says he shares a property line with the project. “I can spit in their backyard,” said the retired electrical engineer, who lives on Silver Creek Circle.
He said he worries not only about the four-story structure that could rise up to mar his hillside view but about what kind of neighbors low-income folks might make. Aware that it sounds wrong to say so, Felton said he worries about problems if his future neighbors “don’t have the sense of pride of ownership.”
But Bill Mabry, a partner in Oakmont Senior Living, said many in Oakmont misunderstand the affordable housing component of the project.
The affordable units aren’t subsidized by taxpayer money. They simply have lower rents for people who can demonstrate they are low or moderate income, definitions defined by percentages of the area median income. The units are integrated into the project, with low-income people living among those paying full market rates, he said.

Eligible for density bonus
In exchange for building the affordable units, the project would be granted a “density bonus” that allows it to build more units than it would otherwise. Instead of 162 units, the project would be granted 209 units, a 29 percent increase.
That’s just too many units for the site, Schilpp said. Portions of the building spill over into an adjacent parcel that was never designed for the higher density housing, something that will require a lot line adjustment to which Schilpp objects. “The building will not fit,” he said.
Opponents of projects often begin their attack at the environmental report stage, but in this case, the fight over the environmental impact for Elnoka may be Oakmont’s best shot.
The state law that created density bonuses as a way of encouraging developers to build affordable housing also streamlined the approvals process for such projects, leaving local jurisdictions limited flexibility to require project changes.
“Once you have certified that an EIR is complete, then when the project comes back through and it’s a density-bonus project like this is, it’s very difficult to say no,” said Chuck Regalia, Santa Rosa’s director of Community Development.
With the help of attorneys and land use consultants, Oakmont opponents are raising a range of formal objections to the project, but Mabry said he believes their real objection is simple:
“Everyone talks affordability, and everyone likes affordability, and it’s a really nice idea as long as you don’t build it next to my house and my subdivision,” he said.
The City Council was originally scheduled to consider the appeal Tuesday. That will now occur at a time yet to be determined.





11 Responses to “Oakmont fighting affordable housing project”

  1. James Bennett says:

    What the residents of Oakmont are fighting is ‘Sustainable Development’.Zoning changes that you were’nt aware of,even though you thought you were pretty aware.An inexplicable resolve to reconfigure your area even though none of your neighbors called for it.A complete disregard/disconnect responding to your community and its concerns.Is’nt Sustainable Development grand?You are not alone.People all over are going through the same thing.This is’nt the same ‘game plan’ you grew up with.The whole game changed(yes,without a vote).Got some free time?Would you like to know what’s motivating this nonsense?Want to do the right thing and REALLY be of service to your community?Google:Freedom Advocates.This website was started by a city councilman from Orange Co.(Michael Shaw) that saw these serious improprieties in his district and decided to stand up against it.Think this situation is unfair?This Agenda has MUCH more dark baggage.Read up.Stand up.For your self, and for the kids.

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  2. NOTUTOO says:

    Oakmont resident Wally Schilpp, an active opponent of the project, said “Elnoka Village should be restricted to seniors because that’s what the zoning called for before it was changed nearly a decade ago with little public input.”

    I absolutely agree with this statement. The Oakmont community should be maintained for senior living as should Elnoka Village.

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 8

  3. Mike says:

    My dear bear,

    I believe a high economic tide raises all boats, or people in this case. Obama prints money like there is no tomorrow and there will be no tomorrow if he continues. He is swamping the boat with spending the money he is printing. In his mind there is no revenue problem just a spending problem. He can’t spend it fast enough on public health care, public pay and pensions and for things like affordable housing.

    My elitist cronies want their rental properties maintained and so do the neighbors who live next to the rentals.

    Pride of ownership or rentership should be a basic for those who own or rent property. The city and country would be a better place if more citizens believed in this standard.

    No bear, because I worked hard all of my life, I have not been visited by poverity just as most people have not in this society. Too bad you don’t have more trust and faith in our system. You might have a different view. Forward!

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  4. verne williams says:

    \republican spending\
    LOL

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 4

  5. Mary says:

    “But Bill Mabry, a partner in Oakmont Senior Living, said many in Oakmont misunderstand the affordable housing component of the project.
    The affordable units aren’t subsidized by taxpayer money. They simply have lower rents for people who can demonstrate they are low or moderate income, definitions defined by percentages of the area median income. The units are integrated into the project, with low-income people living among those paying full market rates, he said.”

    This guy, Mabry, is so full of it. “not subsidized by the taxpayer” means that the other normal tenants must make up that difference. SO, this amounts to a TAX on the other people living there.

    TANSTAAFL ! – there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch !

    If somebody is paying BELOW MARKET RATES, then someone else is paying more to make up the difference. If not, then we could ALL pay below market rates for EVERYTHING. Wouldn’t that be nice??!!

    “That area of Santa Rosa badly needs some diversity, social and economic,” Grabill said.

    Can you believe this political correctness?? NEEDS diversity?? Spoken like a true communist. Hey Grabill, I can find you some low life gangbangers who want to live next door to you.

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  6. bear says:

    Hey Mike. Affordable housing in most places is a joke, because nobody expects landlords to maintain properties for the lower classes. Enforcement is being reduced as I write due to revenue shortages caused by republican spending.

    So where would you like low-income people to live? Mexico? Next door to you? Or in some dump that your elitist cronies fail to maintain, then overcharge for? Then go after renters for “damages” that are really a lack of maintenance?

    Were YOU, even once, a low income person?

    Why or why not?

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  7. bear says:

    The entire Oakmont development (not to mention what’s across Highway 12) was urban sprawl and a blatant giveaway to the developer.

    So now its turnabout. OUR urban sprawl is better than YOUR urban sprawl?

    Does the Oakmont developer or his family have anything to do with this new project?

    BTW Highway 12 traffic was trashed by Oakmont long ago.

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  8. good one says:

    Jeeze, what does the City of Santa Rosa have against Oakmont? Let’s see, the city is refusing to maintain the reclaimation pond so Oakmont will not be able to use recycled water for the golf course, the City wants to make Oakmont the new bicycle mecca with painting bike lanes down Oakmont Drive, the City is now looking to allow VERY low income units (four stories tall)to be built within feet to the already established senior community. Oakmont has been a senior community for almost 50 years.

    Is that the way your mother taught you to respect your elders, hum????

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  9. John says:

    Badly needs diversity? Really?

    WOW!

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  10. Alix Shor says:

    Affordable housing does not equal a “housing project.” Many people, especially in today’s economy, simply cannot afford high rent. We are not talking about a bunch of dope dealers and thieves moving in next door. We need to get over the idea that affordable housing equates to developing a slum.

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  11. Mike says:

    “Affordable housing” is taxpayer funded housing. Not everyone likes “affordable housing” when some else is paying for it. There is enough low income housing in Santa Rosa. Much of it needs to be rehabed due to the rundown nature of the structure.

    What is not needed is low income housing in a prime living area like Oakmont. I live miles from Oakmont but I know the area. The progressives running Santa Rosa want to spread their “equality” to all areas of the city. They aren’t just happy with redeveloping housing next to their SMART train in Railroad Square.

    I too want affordable housing in the form of lower property taxes, lower outrageous sewer fees, and downtown parking that I can afford to use.

    The Santa Rosa City Council needs a new direction toward developing the city financially, not continuing down the path of a utopian future.

    Thumb up 25 Thumb down 17

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