SDC 1,000 units is a good deal

Posted on November 5, 2022 by Sonoma Valley Sun

I’m writing to encourage members of the County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors to support the Eldridge, SDC Specific Plan’s preferred alternative of 1000 housing units. The BOS will have to weigh stilted and conflicting claims about SDC but one fact stands clear: in a housing crisis where overall lack of supply is a critical issue, building many more units is a cure the BOS has already called for.

Given the County’s post-fire need for more housing, 1000 units at SDC is appropriate. 25% will be deed-restricted and with additional missing middle and affordable-by-design units we are looking at approximately 500 units at below market rate prices. This is a good deal, one congruent with AFFH, Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing state law.

SDC is in an urban service area (USA), one of 12 in the County where development is supposed to go. This is not sprawl into rural Greenfields. The SDC core is a Brownfield development site where future County RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment units) must go. Sonoma Valley needs to take its fair share of County housing. After all, the unified urban area here is equivalent to the fourth largest city in the County.

There is not plenty of room elsewhere in Sonoma Valley. The City of Sonoma is most likely not going to take one housing unit extra because of strong LDCP, low-density character protectionist, influence on local policy and decision making. Elsewhere is a magical-thinking California place that SDC protectors appeal to, but does not exist. Hopefully the new City Council, City Manager, and Planning Director can change the channel and the City take on more Valley smart growth.

The Springs area of Sonoma Valley is already highly dense and poor, not fair to put all unincorporated infill on the least wealthy folks. Consider the housing needs of the 5000+ essential workers in the Springs who make less than $50,000 a year who might like a new deed-restricted home or rental in a nice location. Low-density character protectionism has spiked housing prices all over Coastal California; 500 below market rate homes at SDC is a much-needed affordability windfall.

Sonoma Valley can’t keep building walls around the wealthiest, most benefit-rich areas in the world. The SDC site is surrounded by TCAC (Tax Credit Allocation Committee) highest resource opportunity areas. Fire risk and future development impacts in Sonoma Valley need to be balanced by ensuring that highest TCAC areas get their fair share of AFFH and density, not a Green get out of jail free card on equity.

There is more than plenty of green space and green protection in the SDC Plan. The Greens have already gotten a lot, they don’t need the moon and heaven too.

I urge the BOS to resist pressure to keep Sonoma Valley as a fantasy island for First World wealthy who want no density in their backyards. Hold out for the 1000 units. The higher the number of units, the more that will be affordable.

It’s time to counteract well-versed CEQA-stalling tactics to foil about all housing development and that artificially restrict supply. Call on Rob Bonta to fast track the expected SDC CEQA lawsuits. Sonoma Valley needs room at the inn for the actual, high percentage of affordable housing that will be built here from the SDC Specific Plan. Otherwise, the Sleepy Hollow Stasis will continue and Sonoma Valley housing and land costs will continue to go beyond the stratosphere.

— Fred Allebach, Sonoma Valley

Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA