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1,694 homes, retail commercial to be built over next two decades

ROHNERT PARK -- The city Planning Commission recommended approval of the 175-acre Sonoma Mountain Village redevelopment at the former Agilent Technologies manufacturing campus in southeast Rohnert Park, a project that would accommodate  4,400 residents and as many temporary and permanent jobs as it’s built over one to two decades.

The commission voted 3-0 on July 22 to recommend the City Council approve five project-entitlement matters:

Final environmental impact report

Amendments to the city General Plan

Establishment of form-based codes in the city’s Zoning Ordinance for special areas and for the project, specifically

Final development plan, conditional use permit and rezoning from the existing Limited Industrial district to Planned Development

Development agreement

Brad Baker, chief executive officer of Codding Enterprises, owner-developer of the project, said the entitlements give a wide range of flexibility with the project.

“We’re looking into starting with niche things like hospitality and housing,” Mr. Baker said. “We need more critical mass before we get to the retail space.”

The project would be built in three to six phases over 12 to 20 years, depending on market conditions.

Codding purchased the property in 2005 and submitted its first proposal in 2006. The current version calls for 1,694 homes with 198 second units. The development agreement calls for 254 units set aside for households earning 80 percent of the average median and 254 “affordable by design” units for residents earning 80 percent to 120 percent. The agreement also exempts 350 units from the city Growth Management Ordinance because they would be built on the already developed northern portion of the property.

The proposal also includes 825,307 square feet of commercial, retail, hotel and other space in a number of buildings. That includes adaptive reuse of the existing buildings Agilent vacated in 2003. Codding has renovated 270,000 square feet of the existing space for tenants such as AT&T, Comcast, DC Power Systems, Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster and Codding Steel Frame Solutions.

The project is estimated to offer 1,704 office jobs, 732 jobs in service and retail, 140 civic jobs, 640 construction jobs and 1,198 regional technology and service positions, according to the final environmental report.

Also included are 27 acres of parks and open space in 12 small parks and a village square.

As proposed, the project would increase the city’s population by 9.4 percent and result in increased traffic on Highway 101 and surrounding thoroughfares such as Petaluma Hill Road, connected to the east side of the property via Valley House Drive, according to the final environmental report.

A sound wall would be built across from the north edge of the property to limit road noise for existing homes, but such a structure would block driveways if built along Petaluma Hill Road, according to the document.

The Planning Commission opted for the Codding proposal, rather than a scaled-back alternative recommended in the environmental-impact document. The approved proposal included a better range of housing types, more sales-tax revenue for the city, greater employment opportunities, green and sustainable practices and features, and improved public safety with a new police and fire station.

Codding’s sustainable action plan, consistent with the company’s stated goal of earning a One Planet Community certification for the project, includes targets of 98 percent diversion of waste from landfills, 82 percent reduction in emissions from transportation and 60 percent reduction in municipal water use. Plans for reaching those goals include total sourcing of climate-control, water heating, lighting and electrical loads from sustainable sources, such as the large photovoltaic array installed at the property in 2007.

Other sustainable plan elements include car sharing with low-emissions vehicles; lease language for grocers, restaurateurs and farmer’s market vendors to seek organic and fair-trade products; monitoring through 2020; and access to a planned SMART station along the tracks that run along the west edge of the property.