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Santa Rosa seeks to lure business with zoning


Zoning changes designed to make it easier for businesses to locate in Santa Rosa were lauded by the City Council majority Tuesday as wise economic development policy but lambasted by others as handouts to developers and private property owners.

Corrick's in downtown Santa Rosa will be opening a wine tasting area for Ancient Oak Cellars inside the store. (PD FIle)

The council unanimously approved giving wineries and breweries more flexibility to operate tasting rooms and production facilities in the city, in some cases without any land-use permits.

But proposals to rezone the 12.5-acre Yolanda Avenue property once proposed for a Lowe’s Home Improvement store and another aimed at allowing large grocery stores in the city’s southeast without use permits got mired in the council’s deep political divide.

The four-member majority supported the changes as ways to remove what it deemed unnecessary obstacles to businesses and boost jobs and sales taxes.

“We are developing a site that will attract a user that will be a money generator for the city,” Councilman Jake Ours said of the Yolanda Avenue property.

But Councilman Gary Wysocky said didn’t think the city should have spent $70,000, most of it for an environmental review, to make development easier on a property when the city is kicking the nonprofit food bank FISH out of its long-time home for lack of funds.

“Here we are just writing a check to a private property owner,” Wysocky said.

A key obstacle in developing the site has been a 2.7-acre parcel zoned for medium density housing, which to change would require an amendment to the city general plan. To remove the impediment, the city proposed finding other sites in the city that could accommodate those 35 additional housing units.

The council agreed to increase the housing density on a 18.2-acre site on Montecito Avenue in Rincon Valley by 35 units, and on a 4.6-acre undeveloped site at 1865 Meda Avenue near the fairgrounds by 13 units.

But it rejected adding 48 additional units to a 7.7-acre site on Petaluma Hill Road after neighbors complained about the traffic, noise and crime they worried would result from a 100-unit complex beside their single-family homes.

Housing advocate David Grabill said he supported additional sites for affordable housing in the city, but also said the way the city was doing it essentially would eliminate all significant review for a future big-box project.

“This is clearly a back-door way of getting a big box into that Yolanda Avenue site,” Grabill said. “The city needs money, yeah. But you don’t need to put Friedman’s and Mead Clark and other good solid longterm local business out of business in the process.”

Zoning changes aimed at making it easier to open a grocery store in the southeast, an area of the city that has been labeled a “food desert” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, also ran into opposition from the council minority.

Councilwoman Susan Gorin said she was concerned that in the council’s “zeal to re-tenant a vacant space” the city would harm its chances of getting a large grocery store where the general plan has long envisioned one on Petaluma Hill Road.

She also said she had concerns about the traffic impacts of some future project and the loss of public input that would occur because the new store wouldn’t need a use permit.

“The public would have absolutely no information about the tenant moving in there until the ribbon cutting or design review,” Gorin said.

Wysocky questioned the federal definition of a food desert, noting there is a Trader Joe’s and Costco and Target with groceries in the area. He also said the designation was based on arbitrary boundaries and 12-year-old census data.

He called it “mind boggling” that someone living right across the street from Lola’s Market on Petaluma Hill Road could be considered by the federal government as living in a “food desert.”

He, too, made the issue one of community input.

“Do we want to have neighborhood input into what goes into that neighborhood or do we not? Do we want to be like Houston, Texas, or do we want to be like Santa Rosa, California?” he said.

But Ours said the point was to help people who didn’t have sufficient access to groceries. “We have a problem. We have a place where people can’t buy groceries, and we’re looking for solutions to that problem,” Ours said. “What we’re trying to do is improve the living conditions of people, and anybody who’s against that, I don’t understand.”

Earlier, several speakers praised the zoning changes making it easier for tasting rooms, wineries and breweries to open in the city, especially in the downtown, commercial and industrial areas.

Keven Brown, owner of Corrick’s stationery store on Fourth Street, wants to add a tasting room for Santa Rosa’s Ancient Oak Cellars. Previously, he would have needed a special use permit, a process that costs thousands of dollars and can take weeks. Now all he’ll need is a building permit. “We’re very excited to be the first to take advantage of this, but certainly not the last,” Brown said.

Ours said Corrick’s was “on the ropes,” but that the new rules will help the long-time business to survive.

Gorin noted that in the past the primary way the city pushed for a livelier downtown was by encouraging higher density housing, which has largely failed to materialize. But she said enticing tourists and others downtown with more alcohol-related amenities could accomplish some of those same goals.

Santa Rosa is sometimes slow to change with the times, said Vice Mayor John Sawyer, noting it wasn’t long ago that the city worried about whether restaurants should be allowed to serve wine to diners at outside tables.

“It takes Santa Rosa a long time sometimes to come of age,” Sawyer said. “In this case, perhaps decades.”

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

10 Responses to “Santa Rosa seeks to lure business with zoning”

  1. Kay Tokerud says:

    Thank God we’ve had a two year reprieve from the extremist progressives on Santa Rosa’s City Council. The oppressive, anti-property rights former majority put in place our current land- use regulations which now must be undone. Wysocky and Gorin have completely sold out to the regional smartgrowth ideology that seeks to mandate that only taxpayer subsidized high-density development will take place, aka One Bay Area. By this time next year City Councils all over the Bay Area will have signed onto what our unelected MTC and ABAG boards have cooked up in consultation with ICLEI. If the progressives get the council majority back Santa Rosa will sign onto One Bay Area rescinding the development rights of most property owners in Santa Rosa.

    How does it work? ABAG sets the housing numbers and the One Bay Area twenty-five year Plan requires 80% of all new housing to be built in PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT AREAS, which are pre-designated small land areas next to trains or buses, only about 4% of all land in the Bay Area is identified for this. The other 96% of land will only be allowed to accomodate the other 20% of housing over the 25 year period. If you are holding undeveloped or partially developed land in the 9 county bay area, get out now unless your land is in a PDA. Otherwise you could end up with a worthless property yet still be paying property taxes and other expenses. On top of the housing mandates, One Bay Area calls for 70% of new employment to be located within the small PDAs.

    I support the loosening of regulations that continue to block the efforts of entrepreneurs who could be having a positive effect on our stuggling economy. If you stifle private development and instead impose government controlled development the economy will fail. ICLEI is promoting an international agenda which is not in the best interests of Americans. In fact, having America fail is necessary before an international government can take hold. Once you realize what the true problem is, then everything will begin to make sense. We need people in elected positions who are not afraid to look at the true picture and use whatever power they might have to preserve and protect our nation from the influence of outside forces. Vote wisely.

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  2. James Bennett says:

    I was at Council for this item.

    Again. ICLEI. That’s the name of the 800 lb. gorilla in Council Chambers.

    Making important decisions in what we thought was OUR community. Bribing OUR representatives.

    The business friendly stuff is distraction.

    This is about more Smart Growth accomadation.

    Next it will be on the City’s web site map referred to as an ‘opportunity area’. Which is insider developer code for; ‘bring us a Smart Growth project and we’ll look at it’.

    Those poor adjacent home owners thought they bought an opportunity to have rural property. Maybe with a couple more single family homes/ranchettes possible in the future.

    We didn’t bargain for Smart Growth.

    We weren’t asked if we wanted our landscape transformed into something VERY different than what we chose and bought.

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  3. RICHARD says:

    ” But Councilman Gary Wysocky said didn’t think the city should have spent $70,000, most of it for an environmental review, to make development easier on a property when the city is kicking the nonprofit food bank FISH out of its long-time home for lack of funds.”

    You tell’em Gary !

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  4. RICHARD says:

    ” “Here we are just writing a check to a private property owner,” Wysocky said. ”

    You tell’em Gary !!

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  5. Terry says:

    “Do we want to have neighborhood input into what goes into that neighborhood or do we not?” – Gary Wysocky

    Wysocky, King of the NIMBYs (Not in My Backyard) mentality. Leadership requires not only rightful input from “neighbors”, but also the backbone to realize that property owners have the right under our constitution to use it as proper zoning allows. Wysocky, along with Gorin have made it near impossible for this city to grow jobs and the economy. Time to vote these two out!

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  6. Bill me says:

    We task our electeds with helping get new business in place. Yet we have Gorin and Wysocky fighting the effort. Their plan? Uh-there is no plan. Time to put both of these “used up politicians” out to pasture. It is all about JOBS! Good job staff, Mayor Olivares, and the pro-business majority.

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  7. Reality Check says:

    Steveguy, boy did you nail it. Meet the zoning criteria and one’s application should just be a matter of process. Not anymore. It’s just like the old days, before professional land use planning was supposed to remove politics from the decision.

    But now, if one is not local or unpopular for some reason, meeting the zoning standards isn’t enough. The name for this system is crony capitalism.

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  8. Congratulation to Mr. Mayor and all the City Council members and the Staff at Economic development The council unanimously approved giving wineries and breweries more flexibility to operate tasting rooms and production facilities in the city. This will be very good for Santa Rosa Growing Tourism Hotels Restaurant and Cycling community and create more jobs.
    Economics Vitality is a live and well and growing stronger in Santa Rosa.
    Ray DArgenzio
    DArgenzio Winery
    Santa Rosa Vintners Square

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  9. Dan J Drummond says:

    Let’s all get zoned! I can always use more flexibility to operate. I just hope we never have to read about a bar fight at Corrick’s. Keep smiling…

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  10. Steveguy says:

    Lemme think.. Chick-fil-a was in proper zoning, even replacing a closed eyesore fast food place.

    Properly zoned, everything, yet what happened ? After hoops and hundreds of thousands of $$$$$, it was approved. It should be open already without the hoops.

    Zoning changes ? They will still meddle and ” make their mark” to the tune of NO BUSINESS allowed. I have ZERO trust in these clowns. Oh my

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