Sonoma County Advancing New Housing & Land-Use Policies

Greenbelt Alliance is working to fine-tune several proposed new county initiatives that are likely to increase the density and number of homes, as well as people, in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County—beyond the nine city’s’ urban growth boundaries (UGB). We need you to make your voice heard at the Board of Supervisors meeting on October 23!

Greenbelt Alliance supports the County of Sonoma’s intention to forward new and innovative housing policies to advance the rebuild and recovery process after the North Bay fires of 2017. However, we also believe that it is essential that such significant changes to current housing and land-use policies be fully reviewed and done right, not rushed.

The county initiatives that are being proposed include:

  • The Workforce Housing Overlay: calls for converting lands used for decades as commercial and industrial space to residential housing, such as in the Santa Rosa Airport Business Park in between Santa Rosa and Windsor’s UGBs.
  • The Cottage Housing Overlay: allows multiple small cottage units to be built on single-family home parcels with existing sewer and water in places like Glen Ellen and the Springs in Sonoma Valley, Guerneville and Forestville in West County, and Graton and Geyserville to the north.
  • Another slate of new housing measures is coming forward soon, according to Permit Sonoma staff. Read more here.

With the above being proposed, we have asked Permit Sonoma and the Board of Supervisors to fully disclose impacts on the environment, housing affordability, fire risk, and the number and location of potential new homes along with other important information before voting on these initiatives. The Planning Commission considered our requests and deliberated for nearly four hours during a public hearing on August 30, which you can learn more about here. They then voted 3-2 to forward the initiatives on to the Board of Supervisors, who are scheduled to vote to approve them on October 23.

Even without these new initiatives, we know that an estimated 16,500 new housing units are already in the pipeline across Sonoma County. If you add the more than 5,000 homes that are being rebuilt after the fires, the total is 21,500 homes in the works with our current housing policies and zoning. According to a recent analysis by the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, the additional homes we might need can fit into existing areas designated for housing.

We must take the time to seriously consider all the impacts this amount of new housing will have on the lands and communities of Sonoma County—something that has yet to be done. Therefore, we believe these new land-use and housing initiatives are going to be stronger if adopted during the upcoming Sonoma County General Plan update—due to begin in the coming months—rather than one-by-one as stand-alone ordinances that are moving forward too quickly. Decisions that we make now will determine the future of Sonoma County for decades to come.

Please contact Teri Shore if you would like to help comment on these new housing initiatives. You can also send your questions and comments to Permit Sonoma and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors before they vote on October 23.

Photo: Harminder Dhesi via Flickr

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