Santa Rosa Takes Steps to Incentivize Downtown Development for More Housing

The Santa Rosa City Council took a huge step toward a more livable, climate-smart city center on Tuesday, January 8 by voting unanimously for a new policy to incentivize more homes near jobs and transit.

The Housing Density Bonus ordinance offers supplemental density bonus provisions to projects in the Downtown Station Area Specific Plan or North Santa Rosa Station Area Specific Plan. This should be a major boost to the growth of new homes near the city’s two SMART stations.

Importantly, this decision narrowed the scope of the Supplemental Density Bonus to areas near the two SMART stations, rather than citywide as originally proposed. The provision allows certain eligible projects to increase residential density up to 100% above the existing General Plan limit, provided that affordable housing and community benefits are included. 

Greenbelt Alliance had at first raised serious questions and concerns about a citywide approach with staff and the Planning Commission related to review under the California Environmental Quality Act. As approved, the revised ordinance relies on the provisions and environmental review of the Downtown Station Area Specific Plan and the North Santa Rosa Station Area Specific Plan. These plans are relevant, appropriate, and had a full public review, along with input from Greenbelt Alliance and many other allies, neighborhoods, and stakeholders.

Narrowing the scope of the supplemental housing density bonus ordinance has the additional benefits of reducing fire and flood risk by focusing increased development and populations in the urban core away from the wildland-urban interface and floodplains. These benefits were reflected in the revised environmental review document.

The housing density bonus provisions are critical to the update to the Downtown Specific Area Plan that kicked off recently and is on a fast track. Greenbelt Alliance is partnering with the city, neighborhoods and downtown businesses to craft a revised blueprint for a thriving downtown Santa Rosa. Get involved by contacting North Bay Regional Director Teri Shore.

Photo: Teri Shore

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