After several years of planning and false starts, followed by 21 months of construction, during which two full winters have (almost) come and gone – each season bringing record-breaking rains and frequent additional delays – the long-planned Fetters Apartment complex in the Springs has been completed, and the brand new area has just welcomed its first occupants.
Even the neighborhood’s beloved palm trees, temporarily displaced from the construction site, have been returned, and the dusty lot they once towered over has now been transformed into a handsome, path-paved, green-lawned, family-friendly housing campus.
“We’re still wrapping up construction, doing a few final tidbits,” said Scott Johnson, construction manager for Midpen Housing, the Foster City-based builder and manager of the medium-sized 60-unit facility, the largest such low-income housing project the Valley has seen in 12 years. When phase two is completed in a year or two, adding 40 additional senior-only apartments, the full complex will surpass Springs Village’s 79-units to become the Sonoma Valley’s largest affordable housing project.
“It’s exciting,” says Johnson. “We are not quite done with phase one, but the first moving vans have already come and gone, and the first residents are now in their new homes, so we’re feeling pretty good at this point.”
Johnson says the necessity of such projects is grimly illustrated in the number of applications MidPen received from folks hoping to score one of the 60 one, two, or three-bedroom apartments.
“We had a huge volume of applications, more than 800,” he notes. “It took a while to work through the qualifications of each applicant. But the heavy-lifting is all done. Many of our residents have been happily moving into their new apartments. And, as of today, we have only a few units that remain unoccupied, though we expect to have people in them very soon. We’re still working from the list of applications we’ve already received and qualified.”
For Johnson – who also oversaw the construction of Springs Village, built by Burbank housing and opened in 2005 – this is the part of the process that everyone, from the planners and construction crews to the presumably grateful residents, looks forward to the most.
“This is what the hard work is all about,” he says. “Actually, that’s all that it’s about – identifying households that would otherwise not have access to high quality, affordable housing, and putting them in a brand new home.”
Johnson says that the applications submitted came from near and far, including a good number from out of the county, and even some from out of state. Johnson says that, while such projects as Fetters are legally prohibited from favoring any group of people over another, a large number of the facility’s new residents are local, many of whom faced having to leave the area due to high rental rates in the Valley.
“We don’t have any final demographics, but I can say that the vast majority of our leasees are folks that either live or work in the Springs and Sonoma Valley area,” he says. “These are local families, some with very deep roots.”
The same, Johnson suspects, will be true of phase two, which he says should get underway soon, after a few final financial and weather-related hurdles have been hopped.
“As for the senior housing project,” Johnson says, “we do anticipate that – subject to successful state funding of our application, which should happen next month or so – and once the site has dried out a bit, we will be able to break ground on in late summer of this year.”