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Springs Splash - March 2016 - Thomas Martin


Springs Splash - March 2016 - Thomas Martin

by Tom Martin

Housing Crisis Generates Open Letter Seeking Public Hearing

Will the City Council listen and act on the issue of affordable housing? That’s the question the authors of an “Open Letter” asked the Council. 

The Open Letter was drafted by the Spiritual Action Group (of the Sonoma United Methodist Church) and the Sonoma Valley Housing Group (Springs residents). 

Their plea is for the Council to hold an open public hearing on affordable housing, adoption of a rent increase moratorium, and no-cause evictions. There are increasing reports of evictions followed by property improvement and enormous rent increases. Fewer workers serving the businesses and winery/tourist trade can afford to live in Sonoma Valley.

In January Dave Ransom and Frank Windes of SAG and Mario Castillo of SVHG presented their case to SCA. They reported an increase in evictions followed by 40% rent increases in both permanent stock and mobile home parks. They noted a case where a two bedroom and bath location in the Springs rented for $2,000/month. Families unable to pay these sums must move to perimeter cities and towns, some as far as Lake County

What’s Happening in The Springs?

At the moment Mid-Pen housing is constructing sixty units of affordable housing to be followed with forty units of senior housing. It’s likely the initial units won’t be available until late 2016 or early 2017. When completed this housing will help. But will it be sufficient? How high will rents be in these units? 

Speakers at the SCA meeting raised several questions. If landlords wish to repair dilapidated structures why are county housing permits so expensive? The prohibitive cost of fees counters the intent of landlords who wish to improve properties. If rents increase who will see that wages rise accordingly? Is rent control an answer to the problem? How are the homeless along Sonoma Creek to be housed? How can a Springs agricultural/pastoral setting be maintained when multi-unit housing  becomes the norm?

Supervisor Susan Gorin will chair an important Housing Meeting on Wednesday, March 16 at Altamira Middle School. Add your voice!

The Sonoma Urban Growth Boundary is 16 Years Old!

Sonoma voters passed an urban growth boundary (UGB) in 2000 that limited growth to land within the city boundaries. Growth was limited to the few remaining Open Spaces within the city limits. The effect has been a continual increase in home and rental values that are to the detriment of working people. Also, for the most part, the price of land rendered it economically viable only for large investment firms wishing to build multi-unit dwellings, hotels, and resorts. It also added pressure to develop areas adjacent to the city. The Sonoma UGB has a twenty-year lifespan – 2020. The issue will be revisited in the next four years. 

Two quotes from the ballot arguments in 2000 are instructive.

“There is no evidence that the UGB will increase housing costs. In fact, in other Sonoma County cities with UGB’s, housing costs rise less quickly than in cities which don’t have UGB’s.”—Larry Barnett, Evelyn Berger, Wylie Hartman

“Sonoma is not like any other city in Sonoma County. Prices for land and homes will increase. The pressure put on properties to develop outside the UGB will multiply. The open space and agricultural areas you enjoy will be in jeopardy.” ­—Phyllis Carter, Louis Ramponi, Irving J. Mills

Healdsburg’s Housing Crunch Alarms Citizens

The Press Democrat reported (2/4/16) in a Healdsburg citizens’ poll that 7 in 10 residents “are worried about the lack of housing for working families.” Mayor Tom Chambers stated, “a married couple making $120,000, or about 160 percent of the Sonoma County median income could not qualify to buy in Healdsburg.” The P-D reported city officials lay part of the cause on the city’s 16-year-old growth management plan.

OK, Sonomans, Get Ready for the Open Hearing!

The issue of housing is paramount for residents of the Sonoma Valley. If the Sonoma City Council accedes to the request for an open public hearing, residents from across the Sonoma Valley should make every effort to attend and contribute their ideas and comments.