By MATT BROWN
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Rohnert Park City Council on Tuesday approved changes to a long-stalled housing project just north of Sonoma State University that could add up to 1,645 homes starting as soon as next year.
The University District development, Rohnert Park’s first large housing project in 24 years, was approved in 2006, but ground to a halt during the recession. Last summer, developer Brookfield Homes revived the project with proposed changes to the plan to reflect the shifting housing market.
The revised plan on 300 acres west of Petaluma Hill Road includes 130 more medium-density homes and about 400 fewer high-density, multifamily units.
“There is a significant shortage of housing in California,” Councilwoman Gina Belforte said. “I don’t doubt that these places will go quickly.”
Brookfield plans to start grading lots this year with building construction starting at the beginning of 2015, company vice president Kevin Pohlson said in an interview.
“This is a good project,” Vice Mayor Amy Ahanotu said. “Let us move it a little faster.”
The new plan includes two parks, bike trails and a commercial plaza.
It also scales back the commercial and mixed-use space by about 75,000 square feet. The commercial space will be moved directly across Rohnert Park Expressway from the $145 million Green Music Center in the hopes that concertgoers will patronize the new shops and restaurants.
City Manager Darrin Jenkins said developers could attract a boutique hotel to the commercial center.
“This project is really a bellwether for Rohnert Park’s improving economy,” he said.
The reworked plans that Brookfield previewed last year eliminated large rural estate homes in favor of more marketable low- and medium-density units.
Council members at the time said that Rohnert Park needed the larger homes to attract business executives and university officials. Brookfield added 26 rural estates back into the revised plan approved Tuesday.
“I think we need the big lots,” Mayor Joe Callinan said in an interview. “The estate lots bring in a different kind of resident to the area.”
In an effort to spur on the stalled subdivision, the city is building a $13 million eastside trunk sewer line, projecting it would make many times that amount back on impact fees charged to the developers.
“I think we have a specific plan we can be proud of,” Councilman Jake Mackenzie said. “I am very pleased we have come to this point.”
You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.