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MidPen breaks ground on senior apartments in Sonoma

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Behind the name

Celestina Garden Apartments are named in honor of Celestina Vailetti, matriarch of the Vailetti family, longtime Sonoma community members who previously ran their family business on the site. Celestina will turn 91 on the day of the groundbreaking and her birthday will be part of the celebration.

Bulldozers are beginning to level the vacant three acres adjacent to the Fetters Apartment complex on Sonoma Highway for a new affordable housing complex for seniors – dubbed Celestina Garden Apartments.

MidPen Housing, a nonprofit affordable housing developer, will build 37 one-bedroom apartments and three two-bedroom apartments. There will be community meeting and fitness spaces and a 9,000-square-foot community garden to be shared by Sonoma Charter School students and the Fetters and Celestina residents.

The project’s groundbreaking is slated for today at 11 a.m. at 125 Dorene Way. It is expected to be completed in fall 2019.

The senior complex will be built on the northwest side of the site at 17310 Sonoma Highway. Eight of the units will be reserved for extremely low-income households, 10 units for very low-income households and 21 units for low-income households.

Extremely low income is defined as families that earn between 30 and 60 percent of the Sonoma County median income. Rent varies depending on income.

The proposed rents, based on income, will range from $456 to $980 for one-bedroom units (between 553 and 623 square feet) and from $535 to $954 for two-bedroom units (of 791 square feet).

The senior housing will look very similar to MidPen’s adjacent Fetters Apartment complex. That housing development began providing 60 low-income families with affordable rental apartments in 2017.

Fetters currently provides 19 one-bedroom, 22 two-bedroom, and 19 three-bedroom apartment homes for low-income households. According to MidPen, Fetters received 669 applications in just two weeks and 90 percent of those applicants either lived or worked in Sonoma County.

“There is a critical need for affordable housing for seniors and families in Sonoma Valley,” said 1st District Supervisor Susan Gorin the day before the ground breaking. “Moving forward both MidPen projects on Highway 12 have been an important priority for me,” said Gorin. “This project forges a strong connection with seniors, families and students sharing community garden space, playground and Operation Bikes relocated from Teen Services to the plaza. This project is an amazing anchor for the emergence of a revitalized Springs community.”

When complete, the new neighborhood hub will include the two intergenerational affordable housing communities, the shops at Vailetti Plaza (due to open next month), a community garden, bicycle and pedestrian trails, a retrofitted shared-use 1.4-acre playground for nearby Sonoma Charter School and community residents and other neighborhood improvements.

Financing for the $20 million Celestina project was provided through both public and private sources including the Sonoma County Community Development Commission, the Sonoma County Housing Authority, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, the Federal Home Loan Bank Affordable Housing Program, Wells Fargo Community Lending and California Community Reinvestment Corp.

The architect on the project is MBH Architects and the contractor is Midstate Construction.

MidPen Housing was founded in 1970, when a small coalition of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, UC Berkeley and Stanford faculty and other community leaders came together to address concerns over the lack of affordable housing in the Bay Area.

MidPen now claims to be one of the nation’s leading nonprofit developers, owners and managers of affordable housing developments. In the 45-plus years since MidPen was founded, the nonprofit says it has developed more than 100 communities and 8,000 homes for low-income families, seniors and special needs individuals throughout Northern California.

Behind the name

Celestina Garden Apartments are named in honor of Celestina Vailetti, matriarch of the Vailetti family, longtime Sonoma community members who previously ran their family business on the site. Celestina will turn 91 on the day of the groundbreaking and her birthday will be part of the celebration.

MidPen’s director of housing development for the North Bay, Ali Gaylord, estimates that it will take about 18 months to complete the $20 million project. A wait list for applicants age 62 and up to live in the complex will open in May or June, 2019.

Residents will be chosen by lottery in a process similar that of the Fetters units.

Gorin explained that MidPen cannot legally restrict the apartments to Sonoma Valley residents but she said that MidPen succeeded in housing Sonoma Valley residents or workers in more than 90 percent of the units of Fetters Apartments.

“I expect them to be successful with Celestina Apartments as well,” she said.

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.