Santa Rosa is in desperate need of homes and apartments, and city officials are pulling out all the stops to make it happen, including waiving development fees and relaxing rules on a scale not yet seen in the area.
In March, the Bay Area Council business association invited dozens of developers, investors, architects, brokers and others in the building industry on a tour of Santa Rosa to scope out the city’s potential. The response was overwhelming — the council filled a bus in 48 hours, and nearly 70 people ultimately joined the trip. Developlers walked away with a new appreciation for the area after touring Santa Rosa and seeing first-hand empty land, vacant buildings, parking lots and garages that could be turned into housing.
Officials estimate Sonoma County has a shortage of 30,000 homes after the 2017 wildfires. While rebuilding has begun and communities are bouncing back, officials feel it still isn’t enough. The city is looking to build multi-family rental apartments to house those that don’t want to or cannot rebuild. And Santa Rosa officials are considering raising downtown building height limits, now capped at 10 stories, and reducing parking requirements.
In addition, they hope to increase the city’s density and population by making downtown Santa Rosa more vibrant. Developers hoping Santa Rosa will be the next hot market still have to win support from the community. Local residents are on board with the city’s redevelopment efforts and of attempts to revitalize the area, but are concerned about the challenges and issues that may arise, including more traffic, less parking, and lower-income residents being priced out of the area.