With the acknowledged need for more housing in Sonoma, it may come as good news that construction is under way, or should start soon, on at least three residential developments inside city limits – all on the same well-traveled residential street.
A total of 32 units on West Spain Street, including seven set aside as affordable housing units, are coming on the market this year or soon thereafter, between Fifth Street West and Sonoma Highway. How affordable they will be for the housing-strapped working family, however, remains an open question.
One of these developments will be at 841-845 W. Spain, currently a collection of eight shaded cottages on a two-acre property. The current owner is Steve Ledson, who went through the application process that started in May 2012 and ended over a year-and-a-half later with final city approval, in November 2013.
“Once a project is approved you’ve still got to get all the plans approved and engineered,” said Ledson, an experienced area developer who seemed resigned to the process. “There’re just so many agencies, nowadays – they’ve got to sign off. It’s a pretty expensive process.”
Plans for this development are for 18 single-family dwellings, including four affordable housing units as stipulated in the City’s General Plan, which calls for 20 percent affordable housing in new developments. They will be arranged around a horseshoe drive to be called Nicora Place, with attached garages, common areas and new trees surrounding the property.
Ledson referenced a very similar project of his called Boccoli Street, on West MacArthur at Second Street West. That also has a horseshoe drive circulating in front of the houses, with similar design features. Twenty-six homes are in the Boccoli development, eight more than the 18 planned for Nicora.
Some of the current residents on West Spain complained about the 60-day notice to vacate, and have sought a consultation with a housing advocacy lawyer. “Two months is not enough time for these families to find a place to move to,” said local advocate Mario Castillo. “I agree that not much can be done, but we still need to bring it light.”
Given that the project was approved over two years ago, and the 60-day notice is standard in Sonoma County, their hopes to fight past the 60-day notice seem slender. There is no “just cause” condition for eviction or vacation of a premises in Sonoma County.
Just to the east, on the other side of the street, work has begun at 800 W. Spain. Seven townhouse units are going up – one of which is designated as an affordable housing unit. That project was approved by the city in late 2014, and construction is well underway, though when the units will come on the market for rental or purchase is not yet known, though the market price will probably be close to $700,000.
The 800 W. Spain property is the site of the former Hansen Hatchery, at one time determined eligible for the historic registry, but which was demolished in 2014 when the elderly resident of the farmhouse became unable to care for the property and it was red-tagged. (A similar situation occurred more recently on Broadway, but that story came to a happier ending when the community stepped up to assist Irma Castillo in her fight to stay at the home in which she has lived for 40 years.)