Builder details twists, turns of Santa Rosa planning processEditor's note: A four-year, five-month saga of red tape and delay of a Santa Rosa development detailed here by developer Oakmont Senior Living is sad. But what's even sadder is that, as many in the business community have expressed all too often, it is not unique in the city of Santa Rosa.
The Elnoka property near Oakmont is designated in the General Plan for development of medium-density housing. But as someone said recently, the General Plan, which is designed to guide development after intensive study and open public meetings, is in reality treated by many public officials more like a target, at best, or just ignored, at worst.
Oakmont Senior Living has built dozens of retirement and other types of communities throughout California and the West, including Varenna at Fountaingrove and the long-delayed gay and lesbian retirement community Fountaingrove Lodge.
Elnoka started out as a pretty straight-forward medium-density residential project in 2004. But as the chronology here shows, the process toward approval morphed and re-morphed.
Over the course of this process, the company found that just as one member of the Santa Rosa planning staff came up to speed on the proposal, he or she was reassigned and replaced by someone new. That occurred, the company said, three times.
A part of the project was designated as medium density, then changed to low.
No rezone was said to be required, then it was. No Environmental Impact Report was said to be required, and then it was. Each change triggered new fees, applications and public and neighborhood meetings, many of which became contentious with project opponents.
Developers and business people in similar situations most often take their lumps and resist speaking out because they fear even more costly delays. Not this time.
The question after reading this chronology should be: "Would a reasonable person see this as the normal planning process or unnecessary delay and obstruction?"
You decide. (Italics are added at key points.)
Oakmont Senior Living will be referred to throughout this document as OSL. Oakmont Senior Living has no affiliation with the Oakmont Housing Community located on Highway 12.
February 2005 The Elnoka property is purchased by OSL. Total 63 acres.
March 2005 Kou You property, which borders Elnoka Village and is part of the city's Plan Development, is offered for sale by Dave McKenney, the representative for the Japanese owners.
July 2005 Meetings with Bill Mabry of OSL, Mr. McKenney (representing the Kou You property) and the city's senior planner and zoning administrator to confirm that this parcel was designated Medium Density within the General Plan.
August 2005 After the senior planner and zoning administrator for the city confirmed that this five-acre parcel was designated for Medium Density housing per the General Plan, a purchase price was then established and OSL bought the property.
October 2005 Determination was made by Planning that the avenue for development of the Elnoka 9.52 acres and the recently purchased Kou You property of five acres would only require a modification to the Policy Statement through a Conditional Use Permit.