Written by Carissa Abazia

The most urgent necessity in Sonoma County right now is housing construction — encompassing both the rebuilding of homes destroyed by fire and creating enough new housing to match unmet demand. This will require building 30,000 new housing units or more to avoid losing residents who cannot find, or afford, a place to live.  This is major.

As Chair of the Speaker & Panel Committee for North Bay Association of REALTORS®, it is my responsibility to bring in experts to our weekly meetings. David Guhin, Assistant City Manager and the Director of Planning and Economic Development, is not a man with a lot of spare time. Yesterday we were fortunate to have him speak to our community of an estimated 250 real estate professionals.

It was a very informative presentation; here are the highlights.

  • 151 homes are under construction, in Coffey Park and Fountaingrove

  • 100 new permits have been approved and building will start any day; this number will double in the next couple of months

  • The first fire victim will occupy their home in a week; many more will follow

  • The city has significantly reduced the impact fees for ADUs (accessory dwelling units)

  • The City has significantly reduced the permitting fees; the city has also streamlined the process so that permits can be approved and issued in 5 business days or less

Faced with rebuilding the Coffey Park and Fountaingrove neighborhoods, Guhin is well aware that we had a housing problem before the fires, and we have a crueler housing problem now.

He talked about the housing action plan program and the areas of focus, which are: 1) increase inclusionary affordable housing; 2) achieve “affordability by design” in market-rate projects; 3) assemble and offer public land for housing development; 4) improve development readiness; and 5) increase affordable housing investment and partnerships.

It was nice to hear that the city plans on being very aggressive about pursuing residential development in the downtown core and along our transit corridors and priority development areas.

The last topic of conversation was Strategic Sonoma, a five-year economic development strategy for Sonoma County. The purpose of Strategic Sonoma is to bring the community together around a shared vision for Sonoma County, identify and prioritize Sonoma County’s economic development issues and opportunities, and reevaluate the county’s clusters of opportunity. The strategy and plan will focus the county’s economic development efforts into areas that provide the greatest opportunity for the County. To learn more, visit https://www.strategicsonoma.com.

Thanks again, David, for your time.  I appreciate everything the City of Santa Rosa is doing to rebuild our community.

To the NorBAR Chapter Members, we will be having an Alternative Builder Panel in June and a HOA Panel in July.

Thanks for reading!

Carissa Abazia