WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa renews business-friendly zoning policies


Santa Rosa made permanent or extended 20 changes to city codes intended to boost economic development across the city.

Santa Rosa City Council chambers at city hall.

Measures that delay the collection of permit fees, streamline permitting of small projects and give landlords more time to find new tenants for vacant buildings were all passed by the council Tuesday night.

“These measures are actually the heart and soul of what will be our economic recovery,” Councilman Jake Ours said.

The bulk of the changes were first implemented in 2010 in response to the recession and high commercial vacancy rates. Before then, owners of properties that didn’t conform to current zoning were allowed to continue their so-called “non-conforming uses” if they did not have a lapse of more than six months. If the use lapsed longer than that, the old land use was automatically replaced by the new zoning.

But the previous council extended that period from six months to 24 months to make it easier to find tenants for existing buildings. With that two year period now expired, the council needed to decide whether to extend extend the provision and if so for how long.

Officials from the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce urged the council to extend the measure until 2015.

Residents the Burbank Gardens Neighborhood, however, objected to another extension for a vacant used car lot on Santa Rosa Avenue. Judy Kennedy worried that an extension would allow a vacant car lot to retain that designation through 2015.

Such extensions won’t promote development of the site, and what happens is such vacant lots “stay there for 40 years and the neighborhood vision and the vision of the General Plan is lost,” she said.

The council agreed to an exemption for that neighborhood, citing its importance for the downtown.

After some debate about whether the extensions should be to 2013 or 2015, the council supported the later date and approved the changes unanimously.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com.

3 Responses to “Santa Rosa renews business-friendly zoning policies”

  1. Bob Whittaker says:

    Hans Dippel? Please how is this guy even considered as a candidate. Isn’t he basically a professional suck up and winery clown? He is a triumph of form over substance. He has no ideas and a fake spanish catch phrase (“Razon Para Creer”) which is supposed to pander to the Hispanic vote. All he does is drop names and swig wine. How is he qualified to do anything but continue the big giveaways to big business?

  2. Brian Brown says:

    I believe that Hans Dippel is having a major influence on the course and direction of the Santa Rosa City Council. Because he is running as a pro-business candidate and a creator not a spender there may be adjustments being made to protect their incumbent positions.

  3. Kay Tokerud says:

    My only beef here is that one area has been singled out to continue to enforce the “six month rule” that says if a use is discontinued for six months, then the current use is lost. All other non-conforming properties in Santa Rosa now have 24 months to get a new tenant before they lose their use. This innappropriately named Park and Gardens area, which is the commercial strip on Santa Rosa Avenue just below City Hall has no Parks or Gardens in it. This area has been repeatedly dogged by City officials resulting in vacant eyesores due to the City’s reluctance to allow any new development or expansions in that area for years. In their “vision” of making this into a vibrant smart growth village, they have stifled all development.

    Because busybody Judy Kennedy can see this strip from her home she has lobbied the City for years to clear out all the “bad elements” from the street. The City’s planning and restrictions have only made matters worse. Many businesses have tried to come in but have been refused. I know because I led the fight to prevent the the Gateways redevelopment project from demolishing the whole area. Once again, the city has listened to one extremist who for personal reasons has caused the City to decide not to allow this area to benefit from the “aggressive economic measures” that all the rest of Santa Rosa enjoys. Maybe this is Santa Rosa’s way of punishing these property owners for their part in funding the lawsuit against the Gateways redevelopment project.

    As everyone knows, the State passed a new law abolishing all redevelopment projects in the entire State. So, the City’s deliberate attempt to facillitate the obsolecence or the “blighting” of this area for redevelopment has resulted in the underdevelopment and vacancies we see there now. If the City hadn’t had these abusive policies then that area would have seen some good new commercial development during the last upswing in our economy. At this point, this last move may permanently cripple the improvement of this area.