Thursday, June 9, 2016

Santa Rosa Planning Commission - Roseland Area/Sebastopol Road Specific Area Plan Review, June 9th


Thanks to our friend, Duane Dewitt, and his friends Trish and Greg Tartarian, for this letter expressing the concerns of many residents of Southwest Santa Rosa.

June 8, 2016

Jessica Jones, Senior Planner, City of Santa Rosa
Community Development Department
City of Santa Rosa
100 Santa Rosa Avenue, Room 3
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 543-3410 

RE: Comments on the Roseland Area/Sebastopol Specific Plan and Roseland Area Annexation projects Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) (City of Santa Rosa 2016)

Dear Ms. Jones:
We have read through the Roseland Area/Sebastopol Specific Plan and Roseland Area Annexation Projects Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) (City of Santa Rosa 2016) and we would like to express our deep concerns about three issues; the intensive development proposed in the Specific Plan Area, new roadways planned that will move many cars through the Specific Plan area that will increase dangers for pedestrians, and a severe lack of parks in the area to serve the existing residents and the many proposed new residents.

Intensive Development in the Specific Plan Area
The Roseland Area has seen more development that is medium to high density development than in other areas of Santa Rosa, except near the Coddingtown Shopping Center. We need affordable housing in Santa Rosa, but it does not need to be concentrated in our area of Roseland.

The Roseland Area has gained 8,147 new residents between 1990 and 2013, an increase of 76 % (page 3.12-1). By comparison, the rest of the City of Santa Rosa grew by 49% and Sonoma County by 10% between 1990 and 2013 (page 3.12-1). Renter-occupied housing represents a greater share of units in the Plan Area (54%) compared to the City (47%) and County (40%) (page 3.12-1).

As residents who live, work and own property in our neighborhood that is within the Annexation Area, we support development along Sebastopol Road and north along the Joe Redota Trail. 
However, the proposed Specific Plan Area shows Hearn Avenue as Medium-High density and Transit Village Medium density, as shown on the Proposed Land Use Plan (page 2.0-17).We understand this reflects the new transit hub that is to be located at the Southwest Community Park.

However, along with this proposed increase in density along Hearn Avenue, there has also been a proposed change from very low residential along Burbank Avenue to Medium –Low residential development. As one of the last undeveloped areas in the area of annexation, Burbank Avenue should not be developed as Medium-Low residential development; it should remain as Very Low Residential to support park lands and maintain the current scenic road designation, rather than become contiguous with growth along Sebastopol Road and Hearn Avenue, which are larger streets that can better handle the increased population, vehicular traffic, and infrastructure.

The plan proposes 5,759 single-family and 3,039 multi-family units in the Specific Plan Buildout, an increase of existing conditions of 2,358 and 1,244 units, respectively. Figure 10, Planned and Proposed Development in the Plan Area, identified the number of proposed projects that have been approved for the Plan Area, which includes 1,301 units, of which 318 are affordable units and 983 are market rate units. However, Figure 10, contains several errors and did not include several proposed development that are already included in the April 2015 City of Santa Rosa Pending Development Report, including Lantana Place (2875 Dutton Meadows) with 96 units of multi-family and Stony Village North (2729 Stony Point Road) with 40 units detached. This increases the number of Market Rate Units to 1,023 and the Affordable Units to 414for a total proposed all units to 1,437 not the 1,301 units identified in Figure 10.

We need to ensure that affordable projects are distributed more equitably throughout all areas of the city, rather than concentrating them in one already high-density quadrant, such as the Specific Plan Area.

Higher-Speed Roadways Crossing Through Specific Plan Area
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Network of Santa Rosa, created in 2011, provided background information used in the Transportation Section (Chapter 5) in the Santa Rosa General Plan 2035, in which Burbank Avenue (which has already been classified as a Scenic Road) was identified as a Class II Bicycle Road. However, in the Specific Plan, there are several new local roads proposed along the east side of Burbank Avenue.

Roseland Creek Elementary School is located on Burbank Avenue and currently supports 405 students with a capacity of 700 students. Some of the children walk to school, but the majority of students are driven to school. With the current number of students in the school, traffic is stopped on Burbank Avenue for the parents waiting to pick up their children between 7:45 - 8:30 am and between 2:30-3:30 pm. If we increase the number of roads connecting to or bisecting Burbank Avenue, the resultant heavy increase in traffic will create even more, major traffic congestion on Burbank Avenue.

There is also proposed a major road to connect Hearn Avenue to Northpoint Parkway to facilitate further development in the western portion of Southwest Santa Rosa. That would connect Northpoint Parkway, with speeds of 45 miles per hour, to Hearn Avenue – the only access from Highway 101 - crossing Burbank Avenue. The Southwest Community Park is identified as a major park with the Specific Plan that serves the Roseland Area. However, introducing these higher-speed roadways through the Specific Plan area will bisect the area with heavy, faster-moving vehicular traffic, reducing access and safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. These new roadways would also negatively impact the scenic character, aesthetic value, and natural/cultural integrity of the scenic roadway, and negatively affect the quality of life and safety for existing residents, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

Severe Lack of Parks for the Roseland Area
One of the Goals identified for the Specific Plan is “To make life and the physical environment better for plan area residents and employees.” (Page 2.0-2).  We feel this can be achieved by increasing the number of parks for the existing residents.

As stated in the DEIR (Page 2.0-1), the Specific Plan Area is 1,860 acres, which includes 1,220 acres of incorporated city land and 640 acres of unincorporated county land. The population within the incorporated city land is 18,918, while the population within the Annexation area is 6,594. Chapter 3.13, Public Services states (page 3.13-10) that the standard of six acres of parkland per 1,000 residents is comprised of 3.5 acres of city park, 1.4 acres accessible school recreational land and 1.1 acres of open space. Based on the current population of 18,918 residents in the Plan Area, a total of 113.5 acres of parks is required for the existing residents.

Although the Chapter also states (Page 3.13-13) that the General Plan 2035 Land Use Diagram shows eight proposed community and neighborhood parks in the project area, there are only five identified. All of the others are located outside the Plan Area. The Chapter also states (page 3.13-9) that there are six additional neighborhood parks identified for the project area, as shown in the Santa Rosa General Plan 2035. However, Figure 6-1actually shows parks that are outside the project area, and one on Dutton Avenue that is actually a proposed medium-density residential development, not a park.

Although it is stated on Page 3.13-14 that a sufficient number of new parks are planned in the project area to serve anticipated growth, we don’t agree with this statement is accurate, based on calculations. Not enough parkland occurs for the existing population let alone the addition of almost 10,000 people.

One of the few areas left undeveloped is along Burbank Avenue. If we assume the City is going to create parks for those areas of Roseland that are already developed, and ignore the addition of 9,662 residents approved by the proposed plan, we will still need 113 acres of parks for the existing residents. The only place to put that park acreage is on Burbank Avenue. Placing parks on the outskirts of existing development will require people to drive to the park area instead of walk.  Perhaps another urban garden, like Bayer Farm, should be built.

Within the Santa Rosa General Plan 2035 (Page 6-15) under Public Services and Facilities, the following goals are also identified:
PSF-A-5 Developing areas of the city (e.g., southwest Santa Rosa) should be given a higher priority for new park development, and underserved neighborhoods should be given priority during redevelopment and renovation of the park system. Priority for park development should also be given to areas of greatest density and areas that allow for safe and easy access and visibility. Priority should also be given to locations that minimize impacts to sensitive environmental resources that could require extensive and expansive mitigation; the most sensitive environmental resource areas should generally be preserved for more passive recreation that assures their protection.

One way to achieve this goal is to create more natural parks, like that of Roseland Creek Park, which was designed so that very little hardscape would be developed. This prevents the need for mitigation for loss of habitat for California tiger salamander.
PSF-A-9 When building new parks, consider expanding existing parks or consolidating proposed parks to provide larger acreage and greater range of recreation activities, while maintaining park standards.

One way to achieve this goal is to create a recreational park on Burbank Avenue located across from Sheppard Middle School and designate it for youth recreation only.

Based on the increased rate of growth in the Plan Area (76%), compared to the rest of the City of Santa Rosa (49%) and Sonoma County (10%), and the fact that the renter-occupied housing represents a greater share of units in the Plan Area (54%) compared to the City (47%) and County (40%), it is clear that not enough consideration of existing population and conditions is being taken into account.

We feel that the proposed planning for the Roseland Area/Sebastopol Specific Plan and Roseland Area Annexation area is far too intensive and will result in overcrowding, excessive traffic, reduced safety, and loss of remaining areas for much-needed parklands. 

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