Details of the new 60-acre development planned by Hanna Center on Agua Caliente Road
After announcing plans to bring affordable housing and other developments to a 60-acre property on Agua Caliente Road in January, the Hanna Center recently unveiled some of its specific project details.
“Ever since the early 2000s, Hanna has been looking in to possible ideas for development,” Randall DeVoto, a Hanna board member, said about the vacant 60-acre parcel of land that sits between Arnold Drive and Sonoma Creek. “Everything that we're bringing onto the campus has a role.”
Neighbors to the project have vocally opposed any development on the site for decades, eager to protect the rural character of the region.
Draft plans show space for a hotel, a vocational training center, a senior center and up to 668 housing units — 20% of which are deemed affordable. DeVoto said the affordable and workforce housing components would be constructed and managed by Burbank Housing, a Sonoma County-based housing nonprofit that built Firehouse Village on Second Street West, among many other regional projects.
Approximately one-third of Hanna’s property — 20 acres — of open space would be left undeveloped for bike paths and natural habitats such as Sonoma Creek.
The proposal aims to create 1.3 million square feet of residential living space, which includes market-rate and senior housing. Another 10,000 square feet would be reserved for commercial space to support residents living on site. And the proposed hotel will occupy 15 acres on the north side of the campus, which will create revenue to offset the cost of the affordable housing.
“We'll have a child development center, we'll have adult day care, we'll have vocational training. Those are all benefits to the community,” DeVoto said.
But for residents like Stephanie Moore, who moved to Agua Caliente Road in 2010 from San Francisco, Hanna’s proposal is urbanizing a rural area. Especially when paired with other major regional projects like the redevelopment of the Sonoma Developmental Center, the Springs Specific Plan and the hotel and housing complex planned on the former Paul’s Resort site
“So many people waited a lifetime to move here and enjoy Sonoma as it is and to get out of the hustle and bustle,” Moore said. “To think about a little mini city across the street there is really sad.”
Moore said she recognized the need for housing in the community, admonishing the wildfires which have burned hundreds of homes in Sonoma County since 2017, and the meteoric rise in housing costs since she bought her home in 2010.
In the past 15 years, the median price for a home in Sonoma County bottomed out at $325,000 in 2011. And while real estate site Redfin reported a 44.7% drop in total home sales year over year — housing prices have remained stubborn, with the county’s median home price reaching $829,000 this year.
The Association of Bay Area Governments, which assigns housing goals for the nine counties that make up the Bay Area, required Sonoma County to identify where 3,824 units of housing could fit in its unincorporated communities over the next eight years.
“It'd be nice if they spread it out more amid the county,” Moore said. “(Hanna is) talking about building this massive development... All this without any regard to how it will impact the rural environment.”
Moore posted to social media and other residents of Sonoma Valley echoed her concerns.
“Between this, the Verano project and SDC, we are doomed,” Linda Bryan, a resident of the west side of Sonoma, said.
Catherine Donahue, the vice president of finance and facility for the Hanna Center, said the environmental review of the property will hopefully allay some fears of neighboring residents. It’s not clear when the EIR will be completed.
“We very much so understand the concerns that have been raised by neighbors and we're trusting in the process,” said Donahue. “There will be mandated and required public hearings once the draft environmental impact report is released.”
The need for additional housing in Sonoma Valley is growing, particularly for low-income residents, seniors, young parents and essential workers who have struggled to find housing in recent years, DeVoto added.
“Sonoma Valley is hemorrhaging children because families can’t afford to live here,” Kim Jones, a coordinator with the housing advocacy group Sonoma Valley Collaborative, told the Index-Tribune in December. She said leaders need to respond to regional housing needs as an “all hands on deck” crisis.
Hanna’s addition of commercial space and a hotel will help fund the affordable, workforce and senior housing, according to the proposal.
“We have revenue-generating enterprises, and then we are subsidizing those enterprises that we want on the campus that don't bring the revenue,” DeVoto said. “Hanna wants to provide a sustainable source of revenue.”
While the proposal is just getting out of the gate with initial community notices and public meetings, the project is years away from breaking ground, Hanna officials said.
Regardless, the litany of new projects proposed near Arnold Drive have some residents on edge about everything from fire safety and evacuation times, to the loss of open space.
“I didn't expect to spend my golden years with 10 years of construction across the street,” Moore said. “Most of the people who live in our neighborhood chose to live here because of the quiet, rural environment, not because we wanted the convenience of a Starbucks across the street from us.”