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Santa Rosa considers bold plan to remake Coddingtown area

By KEVIN McCALLUM

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A bold plan to encourage higher density housing near the future commuter rail station near Coddingtown mall is winning praise for its embrace of sustainable development principles but also criticism from some worried about its impact on their private property rights.

The city is putting the finishing touches on its North Santa Rosa Station Area Specific Plan, a $500,000 guide for the development of the half-mile around the future SMART station on Guerneville Road.

The plan calls for sweeping changes to the 987-acre area that by 2035 would make it almost unrecognizable from its current automobile-centric suburban landscape.

“It’s going to be a great transformation for that part of Santa Rosa,” Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, told the commission.

The plan envisions 2,941 new housing units, more than a million square feet of office, retail and industrial space, and the creation of nearly 6,000 new jobs in the area around the mall, extending south to West College Avenue and east of Highway 101 to include the Santa Rosa Junior College.

The plan would rezone 1,300 parcels to allow higher density housing, including apartment buildings of up to five-stories with 40 units per acre. A similar “transit village” environment has been proposed for the area around the SMART station planned for Railroad Square.

The idea is to get more people living in an around the train stations to support ridership, and also to build the infrastructure that will make it easy for people to get to the station by bicycle, foot and car.

Several bicycle and pedestrian paths are proposed, including a bridge to span Highway 101. SMART also is proposing 350 parking spaces at the station.

But some major questions are being raised about the plan, including whether it is realistic, who’s going to pay for it and how the city plans to acquire the property needed for the road extensions, bike paths and other improvements.

Patti Cisco, chairwoman of the Planning Commission, said that “keeping our expectations in line with reality” was important when considering the long-range goals of the plan.

“I just really hope that the public remembers that this is a long-term plan,” Cisco said. “It’s going to take a long time.”

She added that the amount of new construction proposed in the plan is “definitely going to occur in a different economy than we’re facing now.”

The elimination of the city’s redevelopment agency was on the mind of Commission Peter Stanley, who noted that the city’s ability to pay for the upgrades has been “severely diminished.” He worried that the city would lean too heavily on private developers to make the improvements.

“It’s complicated to make high-density projects work,” said Stanley, an architect. “They are very complicated, very expensive projects. They take a real partnership.”

He expressed concern that the plan seemed to already have run afoul with mall owners.

Coddingtown development manager Kirstie Moore, in an 17-page letter to the city, praised the overall vision of the plan, which she said “embodies an exciting vision for the future of the northwest area of Santa Rosa” and “will truly revolutionize the way that people live, commute, work and experience life” in the area.

But she said the mall is “extremely concerned” about the plan, especially the bicycle and pedestrian route from the proposed Highway 101 bridge across the southern mall property to the station. Moore said the plan threatens to eliminate 30,000 square feet of retail space and 469 parking spaces, as well as significant right-of-way that would needed for the extension of Coffey Lane and installation of roundabouts on Range Avenue.

Stanley said he’s a supporter of the bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101 because of the way it makes a key east-west connection for the area. But he said if the plan relied on paths across private properties that don’t want them then it would be “doomed for failure.”

“I don’t think a plan that requires getting into fights with private property owners is one that’s worthwhile,” Stanley said.

Representatives of the Greenbelt Alliance, Sonoma County Conservation Action, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, and the Accountable Development Coalition all spoke in favor of the plan.

They urged that the plan require, instead of merely encouraging, affordable housing targets of 20 percent low income housing, 20 percent moderate income housing, and 60 percent market rate.

Doug VanDeren, who lives on North Dutton Avenue near the proposed station said his main concern is just being able to get his car out of his driveway in the future.

“I can just see the traffic congestion becoming very substantial,” VanDeren said.

City staff took copious notes and vowed to return to the commission in June. Public comments on the environmental report for the plan are due by May 29.

The commission will then make a recommendation to the City Council, which must approve the plan and the numerous changes to the city’s General Plan it requires.





18 Responses to “Santa Rosa considers bold plan to remake Coddingtown area”

  1. Canthisbe says:

    Two questions: who profits and who has a better idea?

    Who profits first is the City Planning Dept because it is spending lots of time on this thereby justifying the dept’s budget and staffing. Second is all the consultants they use (and hope to get a job at if they get laid off). Third is Smart because the main thrust of this to generate some riders for the train and Smart only contributed $10K to the $500K for the “study”. Fourth, will be the contractors who get hired someday to build the $20 Million bridge over 101 for bikers. Fifth will be the lawyers who represent the property owners whose property gets condemned for bike path and stuff like that,sixth will be some of the property owners who can get higher densities,etc. etc and last and absolutely least the public who will pay for all this.
    As to who has better idea – the market place. Reduce the government’s interference with the market and let it decide.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  2. Jim Bennett says:

    Billy C.: Good post.

    BTW: ‘Flat Earthers’ and the ‘Tin Foil Hat’ I beleive are terms picked up at ICLEI rah-rahs (that we pay for),
    but ‘looney-tunes’ was trade marked by Disney.

    They tell ‘em how to plan and how to think.
    They expect us to go with the program too.
    NO!

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  3. Steveguy says:

    ” Transit connected ” for whom ? I live in a fairly rural Windsor area, and the bus is within walking distance. I used it often to go to work or my kids place in Kenwood.

    ” No more water” is another fallacy. It is political water policy that restricts water system development, not availability.

    They restrict more rural living on purpose within walking distance to a bus stop, and would rather you live above a tattoo parlor or a Starbuck’s in the name of ‘TRANSIT’.

    Heck, I even catch the 60 Bus, hit the Golden Gate bus and be at my brother’s place in San Francisco in a few hours. I own a car, but at times it is easier. He lives on Nob Hill so parking is a huge issue. 30 minutes sometimes to find a spot 4 blocks away.

    The train will never come into my travel equation. I have lived near Coddingtown and it is very hard for me to see a reason to use the train.

    Only time will show the fallacy of the vote for the train. Alas

    On the humorous side, maybe the progressives don’t post here much because they can’t figure out the reCAPTCA puzzle? Just sayin’

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

  4. Flat Earthers says:

    Thank God the tin foil hat brigade are the vocal minority instead of the voting majority.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 15

  5. GAJ says:

    Thank goodness our existing infrastructure is well maintained and funded so we grandiose new plans can be put into effect.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 5

  6. Billy C says:

    You would think the train would be built to service the city’s instead of building city’s to support a train. So far I have not seen the new vision of Santa Rosa take hold. The green way is in shambles the bike sculpture is rusting and the majority
    of cyclist are homeless people. The City,County and state finances are a mess.
    We can not afford to maintain all our streets,parks or public buildings.
    What the heck are we doing forging ahead with this?
    Ask yourself who is behind this? what are the motives? Who benefits?
    Do you really want to give up your car?
    live in a 5 story box by the tracks?
    over a tattoo or massage parlor?

    Our future has been decided for us
    if we do nothing.
    This is a politically controlled operation that has been set in place
    years ago. Stopping it will not be easy but it is possible. Many progressives who
    support the “SMART” train ,growth and “one bay area” are running for office.
    As they are mostly democrats they have had easy ride to office but look at the damage that has been done.
    One only has to look at how we where lied too manipulated in to the “SMART TRAIN” Boondoggle. These Transit Villages are more of the same.
    Lets elect people who have our best interest in mind and not sell us down the tracks.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 4

  7. Grey Whitmore says:

    Didn’t take long for the ICLEI/Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists to jump on this.

    Nice to see the loony-tunes out in force.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 16

  8. Flat Earthers says:

    I truly don’t get you folks sometimes. The very idea of government spending money on infrastructure… gasp… the abject horror. (where in the hell do you s’pose the money came from for the infrastructure you’re currently enjoying?)

    “The plan envisions 2,941 new housing units, more than a million square feet of office, retail and industrial space, and the creation of nearly 6,000 new jobs.”

    All of the above would be accomplished with private investments by private companies operating in the free market… you know…. the market that you all swear by.

    “1300 parcels would be re-zoned to allow for higher density units”… For those of you who missed this little gem… this is the government reducing restrictions on what you can do on your own private property… again, thought you flat-earthers were all about this.

    “The idea is to get more people living in an around the train stations to support ridership, and also to build the infrastructure that will make it easy for people to get to the station by bicycle, foot and car.”

    This all sounds simply horrible. Far better to continue to do things the way we always have. Why evolve.

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  9. Jim Bennett says:

    With an ICLEI adherant government in place there will ALWAYS be never endless funding for oppressive ‘Smart Growth’ comin’ down the bike path.
    In fact MTC is extorting our public officials with $200. BILLION of YOUR misappropriated tax money.
    You’re paying for over priced traitors to implement the destruction of your Freedoms.
    Well, look at the bright side, if the quality of the gulog is substandard, the chosen union builder will be insulated fron liability.
    The serfs can’t sue.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 7

  10. Joyce Garcia says:

    Okay…what is it about spending does our govt officials NOT GET? There is so much wrong with this mentality, I don’t get how they even got into office!

    Where is the money coming from? It’s not like the Redevelopment is going to fund this project with TAXPAYERS MONEY, since they no longer exist. How is this going to be funded during one of the WORST economic situation this Nation has seen….EVER?

    And for those who support it….what are you people thinking? Money does not grow on trees nor can it be printed like the irresponsible officials in local and national offices would have you think! Besides all the questionable problems with projects like this…I was sure that we can all agree that we cannot continue to spend money we do not have! If you all are willing to spend money from your children and grandchildren…then you won’t mind me asking you for a loan for the house I want right? So…leave me the number to your account and I will be sure to gladly thank you on Tuesday for sharing your wealth!

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 6

  11. Follower says:

    Thank god someone is working hard on a solution to my excess income problem. It’s really stressful knowing that I have all this extra money left at the end if the month after I pay all my bills & TAXES!

    I was planning to start spending it all at the new Casino but this sounds much better.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 7

  12. Dave Madigan says:

    The bike coalition and the other progressive green radicals are for this.

    That should show that this plan is bad for the rest of us.

    How about just saying No!

    (and no…I am not one of the agenda 21 ICLEI people. Any post that has those terms in it gets ignored by me.)

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 8

  13. Jim Bennett says:

    Before I allow them to take our Freedoms and force us into a ‘Transit Village’
    ‘Human Settlement’ gulog…
    I’ll be in a smaller box than that.

    This is Smart Growth.
    Smart Growth IS UN Agenda 21.
    Here’s Dr. Michael Coffman’s
    Smart Growth Fraud:
    http://www.newswithviews.com/Coffman/mike.htm
    Or Youtube form:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMfUva0w8QA
    This is what your ‘public servants’ have signed US up for with their ICLEI membership.

    Might be time to put down the pop corn and get involved.

    It is YOUR movie.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 10

  14. wilson says:

    Only one slight problem here. We don’t have enough drinking water for what we already have built here in Sonoma County. Approval of a project without the availability of drinking water is a violation of CEQA, not that’s stopped anything around here. Maybe someday we’ll learn.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 10

  15. Richard James Emory says:

    This project has the ring of an old socialist East German housing project. Just what the liberal progressives on the city council want for the sheep they want to herd into these apartments.

    It’s more of the “we will take care of you” liberal mentality. We will provide the housing, the transportation and you will work with joy in your heart.

    You will ride your bicycles or walk to where you shop, play and drink.

    If you like noise, being told where to live and how to live, this is your future. For many, we prefer to live in a single family home where we can raise our children and live a quiet life and get to work they way that suits our needs, not government needs.

    Thumb up 25 Thumb down 7

  16. bear says:

    Two questions: who profits and who has a better idea?

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

  17. Smart Growth Advocate says:

    The purpose of the station area plans along the SMART line are for the purpose of rezoning and redesigning the area to be better transit-connected, and to facilitate new development that will improve the commercial viability of the area. The public improvements will be paid for as federal, state, and local funds make it possible. The private projects will be financed by investors and developers.

    Your obvious ignorance on this topic is all I need to know about your fantasy of fitness for an Assembly seat. You’re not ready for the big leagues yet.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 23

  18. There is a big differences between planning and action, I wonder where the money is going to come from?

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 10

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