Depending on your point of view, the sweeping and detailed development agreement reached between Sonoma Mountain Village in Rohnert Park and a coalition of local labor, housing and environmental groups is either legalized extortion or visionary. (For the text of the agreement, see link below.)
Either way, the impact of the agreement – which binds the 200-acre Sonoma Mountain Village and a group called the Accountable Development Coalition to a series of terms on the use of union labor, construction of affordable housing and environmental requirements – could be far reaching.
The unprecedented agreement, first reported Oct. 14 by Business Journal staff writer Jenna Loceff, sent shockwaves through many in the business community, some of whom expressed concern they could be subject to negotiating the same kind of terms to ensure the success of – or to quell opposition to – their projects.
One business leader expressed concern that outside investors would walk away from Sonoma County if they faced the same "living wage," union labor and other requirements.
Still another questioned the propriety of a private agreement on issues better left to elected public officials.
For Sonoma Mountain Village, it is clear it did not rush into the agreement with the coalition. More than two years of talks went into the agreement, which, it says, reflects its deep commitment to making the development a truly sustainable, environmentally advanced community.
Through the process, Sonoma Mountain Village officials said they found alignment between their environmental goals and those of the coalition. For instance, the 1,900-home project, which is also committed to creating 4,400 jobs on the former Agilent Technologies site, sits on the SMART commuter rail line.
In addition, Sonoma Mountain Village's commitment to One Planet zero-carbon environmental principles – the only major development in North America to do so – represents the incredible generational arc of its owner, Codding Enterprises.
Founded by community patriarch Hugh Codding, who built Montgomery Village, Coddingtown and many other buildings in the 1950s and '60s that continue to define Santa Rosa, son-in-law Brad Baker is now taking the company into a new visionary future.
And that may very well be what makes the agreement with the coalition unique to the one-of-a-kind Sonoma Mountain Village.
Sonoma County and the North Bay are a diverse collection of cities and counties that must be free to employ a range of approaches to development and to keeping jobs and economic opportunity for all residents.
Sonoma Mountain Village has much to teach us. But one official there put it, the agreement with the coalition is not "one size fits all." And it shouldn't be.
Brad Bollinger is Business Journal editor in chief and associate publisher. He can be reached at 707-521-4251 or email@example.com.
Full text of Sonoma Mountain Village CBA