Developer appeals to 2017 law to advance stalled Sevastopol affordable housing project

Critics of SB 35 argue that it removes local control over proposed property developments. Weeks, however, thinks the law is the baton needed to push cities that aren’t moving fast enough to build much-needed housing.

“The objections that are being raised, I think, are largely centered on attempts to advance some of Sevastopol’s strong environmental values, which there is nothing inherently wrong with,” Weeks said. “But our problem is that we can’t afford to delay housing and we can’t reduce the number of units because we’re in a housing crisis.”

“The Bad Site”

Unconvinced, nearly 300 Sevastopol residents signed a petition opposing the development.

Submitted to the city in March 2021, according to public records, the petition was delivered a month after Pacific Communities decided to seek construction approval under SB 35.

Among the organizers of the petition is Jacque Lefler, a 31-year-old resident of the Bears Meadow neighborhood, just east of the proposed Woodmark Apartments site.

His main concern is the potential ripple effects caused by the size of the project – more traffic on Bodega Avenue already crowded, traffic pollution, excess cars parked in nearby side streets and increased noise.

Emergency evacuations out of town, where one-lane Bodega Avenue serves as a major thoroughfare, can also be complicated by adding more people, Lefler added.

She is frustrated with the developer’s use of the SB 35 to try to push the project forward despite local opposition.

“It’s kind of like they’re pushing their way into small communities with these huge projects without worrying about the impact on the community,” Lefler said.

Marcia Lavine, 75, has also expressed concern about the impact the project would have high-density traffic, especially on narrow roads where sidewalks are not always present and where the cars are already s’ stop to allow oncoming traffic to pass. direction.

These streets could become much busier as people try to avoid Bodega Avenue, she said.

She also worries about the row of tall heritage trees anchored to the back of her Washington Avenue home, which abuts the northern end of the development.

“This is not the right site for a project like this,” Lavine said.

a long way to go

Traffic and environmental issues aren’t the only reasons people oppose the project, according to Guzman.

Pointing to public comments made by nearby residents and members of the city’s design review board, he believes underlying racial bias is fueling their reluctance.

Guzman said a member of the Design Review Board was concerned that multiple people might try to cram into a one-bedroom unit. He said he believed the person made the statement because half of the units in the project would be reserved for local farmworkers, who are mostly Latinos.

Guzman said that most agricultural workers who currently occupy farmland surrounding Sevastopol, as well as other parts of the western county, have to commute from Santa Rosa or further to reach their work because it n ‘there is no affordable housing near their workplace.

The Woodmark Apartments project would mean they would live close by, reducing their travel times and expenses, he said.

“Our communities must show that there is a level of responsibility to provide housing for those who have built a multi-billion dollar” in the region, he added, referring to the low wage of workers hotel and wine industry.

“They don’t want brown people living there,” he said. “The sad thing (is) we want the sweat of the farm workers, but we don’t want to help take care of them.”

The Woodmark Project’s one-, two-, and three-bedroom units would be priced for families with incomes between 30% and 60% of Sonoma County’s median income area, Alexander said.

That average income translates to $103,300 a year for a family of four, according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Families reaching this income range would not be charged more than 30% of their annual salary for rent, Alexander said.

Lefler and Lavine deny that race is a problem. Instead, they say they have problems with the development plan itself.

Small space, big worries

Garcia Anabel, 41, has lived in Sonoma County for 21 years and works as a day laborer, though she has 10 years of experience picking grapes from vineyards, she said.

The high rents in the area forced her and her family, consisting of her husband, two children and stepfather, to live in a two-bedroom apartment in Santa Rosa. Her stepfather and her husband are both farm workers, Garcia said.

Sharing the small space comes with sacrifices: little privacy, no room for visitors and the constant worry of being parking in a street ticket beyond the posted time limit, she said.

While she would be interested in living in Sebastopol, which is closer to the Graton Labor Day Center where she’ll find work, Garcia said co-workers warned her about the city’s high rents. She said she’s cleaned studio apartments around the city — where the rent is $1,800 a month.

Additionally, she said finding affordable housing has been made more complicated because she does not have a Social Security number, which is sometimes a requirement to apply for housing.

“We are worried,” Garcia said. “In September, the rent changes.”

Svanstrom, director of planning for Sebastopol, said her department would decide whether the project was approved using the criteria set out by SB 35.

Alexander said she thinks the city “will have a hard time” finding a reason to reject the development in accordance with the requirements set out by SB 35. She was excited to see the project go ahead, she said. declared.

“I’ve been working on this project for over three years, so I’m delighted to be able to submit an entry,” she said. “We have worked very hard to ensure that this project meets all city standards.”

You can contact editor Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or [email protected] On Twitter @nashellytweets.