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Lets Build Affordable Housing Now

Author: Shirlee Zane
April, 2017 Issue

Given the scarcity of housing and the pressure it places on prices, the real question is: What is the strongest solution to ensure housing opportunity for all?

If you follow the daily news, then you know I’ve said many times that Sonoma County is in the midst of a housing crisis. The lack of housing is impacting almost everyone in our community at most income levels. From students to seniors, the need for affordable housing is demonstrated by high rents, a vacancy rate of less than 1 percent, and sharp increases in rents and home sales prices.

Given the scarcity of housing and the pressure it places on prices, the real question is: What is the strongest solution to ensure housing opportunity for all? We have an exceptional opportunity before us now, but it will require community support and political will to bring more housing opportunities for people in Sonoma County.

The former Sutter Health Hospital site located on Chanate Road will always be a sacred place where life was brought into this world, wounds were healed and lives were blessed.  For me, the Chanate property was where I spent several years as a hospital chaplain, helping counsel patients in their most desperate hours of need. 

That property holds a special place in my heart as I know it does for many in our community.  That’s why I was honored to vote with my colleagues on the board of supervisors to move forward with the sale of the Chanate campus property.  Under the redevelopment plan, as proposed by the Chanate Community Development Partners, the property will become a cherished place, once again, where affordable homes will be built and families will make new memories. 

Over the last two years, the county took very seriously the desires of our community when initiating the Request for Proposals (RFPs) to develop and sell the property. At the Feb. 2, 2016, board of supervisors meeting, the board authorized the issuance of the RFPs for a master developer for the repurposing/redevelopment of the Chanate campus as prepared by the facilities ad hoc committee. The county worked to ensure that the proposal process was fair and that any redevelopment plans would enhance the existing neighborhoods, protect open space and provide the affordable housing our community so desperately needs.

In the face of our housing shortage, county departments and the board of supervisors are committed to looking for opportunities to use government-owned lands to create housing. This new development represents the county’s largest recent land sale and best chance to maximize the property’s use for affordable housing. 

The redevelopment plan will remove the hospital buildings that are unsafe for habitation and construct up to 800 multi-family homes. For many, it will be the first time realizing their American dream, including 200 homes for seniors and 55 homes for veterans.  Of the homes built, 20 percent will be made available for low-income households. (For example, a household of four with an annual income of $41,300.)

In addition to the 14-acres of housing, the redevelopment plan will preserve 68 acres of open space, develop two-miles of walking trails, and include a new park to walk our four-legged friends.  A local neighborhood retail shopping center is also proposed, helping reduce vehicle trips down the hill.  It was a pleasure working with local residents to ensure these amenities were a high priority in the proposed development.

The vote to sell the Chanate property is only the beginning for this project.  The property is within the City of Santa Rosa’s jurisdiction, and therefore, the city will collaborate with our community on the next development steps, which include traffic studies, environmental reviews and public outreach.  I’m grateful the city has already been actively involved in this project, and look forward to continued collaboration with them on this and future projects that address our critical housing needs.

Thank you to all of our community members who attended our public hearing on this project.  The board greatly appreciated your input.   I encourage our community to continue their involvement as this project moves forward with the City of Santa Rosa. We must work together to approve ambitious and creative projects that expand our affordable housing stock, while enhancing our quality of life.

Recently, I was uplifted by a note I received from a constituent who lives in close proximity to the Chanate properties. The note read: “Thank you and your staff for all the work you did, regarding the development of the Chanate property. You followed through with the ideas expressed at the community meeting last fall. The approval of Mr. Gallaher as property developer was a wise choice. He is well known for doing outstanding work and we are sure we will be proud of his product.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane is chairwoman of the board of supervisors for 2017. She served on the County’s Chanate properties ad hoc committee that was formed to develop recommendations regarding the best short-and-long-term uses of County property on the Chanate campus. The supervisor views this as a legacy project; her vision is for a development that complements the surrounding neighborhood and provides benefits to all Sonoma County Residents.




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