The Press Democrat by Kevin McCallum
A plan to rezone land around the future Coddingtown SMART train station heads to the Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday where a skeptical reception may await it.
The plan seeks to encourage higher-density housing around the Guerneville Road station, make it easy for people to get to and from the planned station and generally improve the neighborhood’s economy and quality of life.
But council members are likely to pepper city planners with questions about how improvements ever will get funded and how major property owners, such as Coddingtown mall, will be affected.
“This plan is aggressive and far reaching, and in that reach I don’t believe all of the affected parties and the nature of those effects have been fully determined,” Vice Mayor John Sawyer said.
The $500,000 North Station Area Plan is the companion document to a plan passed in 2007 to guide development around the downtown Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station eyed for Railroad Square.
Together the plans aim to steer the city away from the auto-dependent lifestyle that has dominated the state since World War II and toward a more sustainable, transit-oriented society.
The idea is to get more people living in and around the station to support ridership for the $360 million train system and to build the infrastructure that will make it easy for people to get to the station by bicycle, foot and car.
The North Station Area Plan, largely funded by grants, won praise from the city Planning Commission, which passed it unanimously earlier this month after some changes.
By increasing the potential housing densities on 1,319 properties in a half-mile circle around the Coddingtown station, the plan envisions adding 2,941 housing units and more than a million square feet of office, retail and industrial space to the area.
All told, the city sees 6,000 jobs being created in the area, which stretches down to West College Avenue, and east of Highway 101 to include Santa Rosa Junior College.
But owners of Coddingtown mall have raised concerns about maps showing new streets and paths crossing their land with little discussion of how those properties would be acquired.
Sympathetic to such concerns, the Planning Commission voted to eliminate a bicycle path proposed across the Coddingtown’s north parking lot. But the mall still has significant issues with the plan, including who’s going to pay for it.
“The mall has valid concerns about what the plan shows given the new reality that we don’t have redevelopment anymore,” Councilman Scott Bartley said.
The plan is proving less controversial than the 2007 Downtown Station Area Plan. Bartley said he hasn’t received a single email about it. But he expects the lack of funding will be a key part of the council’s discussions.
The city has come up with a “grand vision of the future” without a plan to pay for it, and it runs the risk of burdening the private sector with the costs, Bartley said.
Sawyer said while he knows many regions of the state embrace transit-oriented development, it “feels a little imposed” to him locally.
He said he shares many of the concerns Coddingtown’s owners have raised about the project.
“They were really saying, ‘Great idea folks, but how are you going to make this work?’” Sawyer said.
He said he respects the work that’s gone into the plan, but he had problems with way the downtown plan changed zoning to allow three-story apartment buildings next to small historic homes and has similar issues with this one.
“I have many, many more questions than I have answers,’ he said.
Other features of the plan that could prove controversial include a proposed relocation of the Northwest Santa Rosa Branch of the Sonoma County Library to make way for development and the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101, estimated to cost $13.5 million to $20 million.
The public hearing on the issue is to begin at 5 p.m.
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 email@example.com.
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