Sonoma's Broadway low-income housing project to break ground in fall

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It’s been over a year since the Satellite Affordable Housing Association received approval from the City of Sonoma to build a 48-unit housing project on Broadway, across from Train Town.

The City Council approved the project – in fact, denying an appeal to the Sonoma’s Planning Commission earlier approval – on Jan. 29 of 2018.

In the intervening 19 months, the 2-acre lot at 20269 Broadway has continued to sit empty, weeds growing freely, but no construction has yet begun on what will eventually be the Altamira Family Apartments. The reason: Satellite Affordable Housing Association, or SAHA, was not chosen for a highly-competitive tax credit program in 2018, and had to wait for the calendar to roll around to apply again.

This year things are different. According to SAHA’S Adam Kuperman, “We are excited for construction to begin this fall.” His excitement is due to the reservation of almost $2 million in annual tax credits, that essential component of fundraising for affordable housing projects, which SAHA missed out on last year.

“Altamira’s recommendation for tax credits means that SAHA is awarded the tax credit with an opportunity to develop a partnership with an investor to purchase the tax credits over a 10-year period,” explained Kuperman, a senior project manager with the Berkeley-based SAHA.

The credits come from a federal program dubbed Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, the largest source of new affordable housing financing in the country. According to the National Housing Law Project, “The LIHTC program does not provide housing subsidies. Instead, the program provides tax incentives, written into the Internal Revenue Code, to encourage developers to create affordable housing.”

The $1.98 million reserved for the Altamira Family Apartments is far from the total amount that it will take, said Kuperman. He promised additional details on funding, total costs and a construction timeline would be forthcoming in a matter of weeks.

The Altamira affordable housing project will consist of a total of 48 one-, two- and three-bedroom units, for extremely-low and low-income candidates, as well as 75 parking spaces and a community building. After Planning Commission input, the design was modified in several ways, including dropping the three-story buildings initially proposed and slightly reducing the number of total units.

While the Altamira project navigated a lengthy process in earning approval from City Hall, a significant portion of neighborhood opposition to the project was directed not at the project itself but at the Lodge at Sonoma, a high-end hotel at the corner of Broadway and Clay Street. Neighbors complained of early-morning, loud and disruptive truck activity at what they say is a non-permitted “loading dock” the hotel had been using on Clay Street.

A recent use permit request to remodel the Lodge at Sonoma’s restaurant (formerly the Carneros Bistro) revitalized neighborhood complaints about the loading dock, though the restaurant remodel permit did not touch on the issue.

“There will be a Use Permit (amendment) shortly that will address the loading dock but we are still working with the applicant to determine the scope of the amendment and required technical studies,” said Kristina Tierney, associate planner with the City of Sonoma.

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly described the Sonoma Planning Commission’s role in the approval of the SAHA development proposal. The commission approved the project and an appeal of that approval was filed by a project opponent and denied by the City Council.

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