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Sonoma’s Planning Commission to reconsider SAHA’s affordable housing project

Updated renderings of the entrance to the townhouses for the affordable housing development at 20269 Broadway. (SAHA)

CHRISTIAN KALLEN,

Varied setbacks, less regimented building layouts, an expanded color palate and a more “organic feel” will be proposed for the Altamira Affordable Housing project, in its second hearing before the Sonoma Planning Commission on Thursday, Nov. 9.

The project, developed by Satellite Affordable Housing Agency (SAHA) for the 1.98-acre vacant lot at 20269 Broadway, includes 48 residences of one-, two- and three-bedroom units for extremely-low and low-income candidates, plus parking for 75 vehicles and a community center. The Planning Commission heard SAHA’s presentation, and comments from neighbors and other area residents, at their previous meeting in September. An Oct. 12 meeting to reconsider was canceled due to the fire emergencies.

At the Sept. 28 meeting, the Commission voted 4-1 to continue the discussion, asking that SAHA incorporate a series of modifications to its proposal. These included design modifications to present greater diversity in appearance, traffic calming measures on the site’s parking aisles, and more landscaping and potential tree plantings on the Broadway face.

Although SAHA has made neighborhood outreach efforts since the project was first proposed almost two years ago, objections to the project continue – sometimes including an ongoing dissatisfaction with the Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa’s “loading dock” area on Clay Street. Though the Lodge’s operations are not part of SAHA’s purview, issues of noise, traffic blockage and air quality do impinge on the potential residents’ quality of life – issues which have been raised, and which have increased calls for an Environmental Impact Report under CEQA regulations.

City staff, however, do not recommend an EIR in their report, which reads in part, “…based on the Initial Study and taking into account the comments received during the public review period, there is no substantial evidence that the project may have a significant effect on the environment...”

But there remains a vocal opposition to the Altamira project as currently conceived. Sonoma resident Daniel Payne, who said he works for what he calls “the largest general contractor in the state” (Webcor Builders of San Francisco), recently submitted a letter to the Planning Commission: “The last thing any of you want to do is approve a project that is bad for its tenants, which in this case are the more disenfranchised members of our society.”

“We’ve put a lot of effort into stakeholder communication with neighbors, the city, and county for almost two years,” said project manager Adam Kuperman of SAHA. “We think we’ve represented the feedback we’ve received through our revised design, and look forward to presenting it Thursday.”

Also on the Planning Commission’s agenda for Nov. 9 is a 30-unit apartment at 655 W. Spain St., revisions to a four-lot subdivision at 1040 Fifth St. E. to allow for the removal of an additional tree, requests for two setback exceptions for a 742 Second St. E. residence, and similar zoning exceptions for properties at 579 First St. E. and 472 Church St.

This is likely to be the last Planning Commission meeting with its current roster of five sitting members. The Planning Commission is set up to include seven members, and an alternate. The City Council has revised the appointment procedures for this and other city commissions, to take effect this month pending the City Council meeting of Nov. 6.

Applications for this and other city commissions have been extended until Nov. 13, due to the fire emergency. New commission members may be appointed as early as Nov. 20, according to Sonoma’s City Manager Cathy Capriola.

The Planning Commission meets at 177 First St. W., at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9.

Email christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.