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CC Ciraolo

A Vision for Equitable Development in Petaluma

California is facing an extreme affordability crisis driven by the interrelated housing shortage, economic inequity, and climate crises. We are not building enough housing in the Bay Area to support residents of all income levels.  The region’s zoning restrictions pose challenges in building the dense, mixed-use, affordable developments necessary to address our housing crisis. 

This is a particular barrier in wealthier neighborhoods, where zoning laws prohibit low-income residents from being a part of their more affluent communities.

However, high-resource cities like Petaluma are reevaluating their zoning restrictions to consider mixed-use developments to spur economic growth while welcoming more residents to their communities.

The Downtown Petaluma Housing & Economic Opportunity Overlay proposes to support housing and mixed-use development in a portion of the Downtown area by modifying several zoning restrictions — including building height to densify its development.

The applicant proposing the overlay is the EKN Development Group, which includes the development of a new Appellation Hotel as part of the plan. The proposal of the hotel exceeds Petaluma’s current zoning requirements, yet the proposal is expected to support 328 jobs (222 annually) and provide $55,000,000 in economic activity to Petaluma.

Zoning that facilitates a denser, mixed-use downtown can spur commercial growth beyond the hotel development. In taxes alone, the hotel’s revenue is projected to bring over 40 million dollars of revenue to the city in the first 25 years of operation, which will benefit the larger downtown area, the City of Petaluma, and Sonoma County. To support the creation of affordable housing, the Overlay will provide $220,000 in Commercial Development Housing Linkage fees to support affordable housing development throughout the city.

Density increases like the proposed Downtown Overlay promote climate SMART (sustainable, mixed-use, affordable, resilient, transit-oriented) housing and development. Climate SMART development mitigates climate impacts by facilitating 15-minute walkable neighborhoods and reducing vehicle miles traveled. Building more housing in already established urban areas avoids sprawl and the destruction of habitats that serve as heat sinks and carbon banks, all of which provide high-value climate benefits.

Density increases combined with fair and inclusive zoning policies can make housing accessible to everyone and cities more equitable. Petaluma residents may be concerned about the historic integrity of their community; however, new buildings developed within the overlay would be subject to the same discretionary review processes otherwise required by the city and state. It’s critical to ensure wealthy communities like Petaluma are zoned to support both market-rate and affordable housing while supporting a thriving economy for residents across income levels to enjoy.

Click here to learn more about the Downtown Petaluma Housing & Economic Opportunity Overlay.

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