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Housing construction permit pace picks up in Solano County

The pace of new housing projects under review continues to accelerate in Vallejo with 2,141 residential building permits under various stages of review. The totals include both single family dwellings and multi-family units.

The numbers compare to the entire 2021 fiscal year, when the city issued only 37 residential building permits. As a result of so few permits then as of June 7, only one newly built home was for sale in Vallejo, compared to 27 in Fairfield and 50 in Vacaville, according to the Zillow website for Solano County.

Housing needs by region

The report on the 2022 fiscal year third quarter building activity by Vallejo Planning and Development Services Department Director Christina Ratcliffe comes as housing continues to take a higher profile in Solano County cities.

In March 2021, the Journal reported that the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) had approved Solano County’s share of meeting the latest regional housing needs allocation, or RHNA, at 10,992 units.

Solano County and its seven incorporated cities subsequently elected to form a sub-regional entity, City County Coordinating Council (the 4Cs), to develop the housing needs allocation methodology for the subregion.

The 4Cs allocated housing goals for each of the Solano County Subregion’s jurisdictions using four income tiers: very low, low, moderate and above moderate. Slight numerical revisions from the ABAG’s approved 2021 allocations were made for each city and the unincorporated county, based on updated population growth projections.

In the final RHNA subregional plan adopted by the 4Cs in September 2021, Vallejo was allocated 2,900 units to build for the eight-year period from January 2023 through December 2030, including 690 units for very-low-income households, 369 for low-income households, 495 for moderate income, and 1,346 for above-moderate-income households.

So far, as Director Ratcliffe pointed out in her June 7th testimony to the City Council, all residential building permit requests now under review by the city are for market rate dwellings. City councilors noted that, if all permits now under review result in finished homes, the city will substantially achieve its 8-year goal for above-moderate-income housing set by the RHNA subregional plan.

However, Vallejo also has new housing projects under construction intended for moderate and lower-income families and singles (the 132-unit Oakwood Apartments), and for those transitioning from homelessness (the 75-unit Sacramento Street Apartments).

Projects underway in Vallejo

One of the example uptick in permit activity is on a hilltop site in the far southeast corner of Vallejo.

Unless one lives on one of the streets in the Waterstone planned community adjoining the site, which lies on the east side of Columbus Parkway just north of I-780, the magnitude of the project is not readily apparent.

Viewed from Columbus Parkway, which connects I-80 to I-780 in an arc generally bisecting Vallejo’s northeasterly sectors, the earth-moving equipment could just be grading the site in preparation for widening the road.

However, plans filed with the City of Vallejo by developer Tri Pointe Homes, Inc., headquartered in Incline Village, NV, and Irvine, CA, show 185 new residential lots in Phases 2A and 2B of the Waterstone subdivision, which is part of the former Bordoni Ranch property. Independent Construction Company of Concord is performing the mass grading for the subdivision.

Judging from 2021 sale prices of the nearest new homes in Waterstone and continuing market appreciation, these new homes may range in price from $875,000 to well over $1 million.

Site grading also recently began on 5 acres of vacant land at the northwesterly corner of Magazine Street and Sonoma Boulevard for the market-rate Oakwood Apartments. Developer/owner Aventis - Sonoma LLC of Walnut Creek secured planning approval on March 1, 2021, for a 132-unit multi-family project.

The developer filed building permit applications on April 18, 2022, for apartment units in six 3-story buildings, plus an 8,008-SF clubhouse. Director Ratcliffe informed the City Council on June 7th that the Building Division is now reviewing the building plans. Ghilotti Construction Company, with offices in Santa Rosa, San Rafael, and American Canyon, is in charge of the site work. HDO Architects-Planners of Walnut Creek is project designer.

Two other Vallejo residential projects, one under construction and the other in early planning stages, are aimed at supplying affordable housing with social support services to help reduce homelessness, according to plans filed with the city.

The Sacramento Street Apartments (see May 23, 2022, Journal article) are under construction at 2118 Sacramento Street, with housing modules manufactured off site by Vallejo’s Factory_OS at its plant on Mare Island. The project is slated for completion in February 2023 and will provide 75 apartments for chronically homeless families and individuals.

A second project, Broadway Village, was awarded a $12.1 million Homekey Grant by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, which the Vallejo City Council voted to accept following a 3-hour-long public hearing on June 7, 2022.

That project is proposed for a .53-acre site on Broadway at Mini Drive, just south of the city’s boundary with American Canyon, and remains subject to building plan check and development agreement approvals.

Broadway Village is a joint effort by the City of Vallejo, which will own the facility; SHELTER, Inc., of Concord, as the operator and services provider; and Firm Foundation Community Housing, a nonprofit, affordable housing developer based in Castro Valley.

If approved, the 48 studio apartments would also be built using housing modules fabricated by Factory_OS. The facility would provide on-site support services for chronically homeless individuals with mental or physical disabilities and would include an on-site manager’s apartment for 24-7 supervision.

Progress in Fairfield and Vacaville

Residential builders in the cities of Fairfield and Vacaville have continued to set the pace for Solano County, with applications for new homes in both cities beginning to pull out of the pandemic-induced slowdown in Spring 2021 and accelerating this year.

Fairfield’s RHNA targets adopted by the 4Cs in September 2021, show that of the 3,069 units assigned to the city, 792 units must be for very-low-income households, 464 for low-income, 539 for moderate income, and 1,274 for above-moderate-income households. Vacaville was allocated 2,595 units, comprised of 677 units for very-low-income households, 404 for low-income, 409 for moderate income, and 1,105 for above-moderate-income households.

Between October 2020 and February 2022, Vacaville building permit records indicate that the city approved plans for single-family dwellings on 347 residential lots, including Robert’s Ranch, Villages A, B and C; Montessa Subdivision; and Morningside at Vanden Meadows.

During the same time span, the city also approved building plans for 284 apartments, including the Harbison Townhomes, the Peabody Road Apartments, and the Creekside Garden Apartments. All three are market-rate rental projects, which serve moderate-income singles or families, many with insufficient incomes to purchase a home.

In a June 1, 2021, article, the Journal reported that “Fairfield is one of California’s hottest markets in 2021,” according to Asst. City Manager Dave Gassaway, because of its moderate prices, proximity to major urban areas and its location as the North Bay’s commercial hub. In the first 4 months of 2021, single-family building permits in for review at Fairfield’s Building Department totaled 600, a 70% increase over the 2020 pace.

On December 21, 2021, the City of Fairfield adopted an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, to develop and preserve more affordable and mixed income housing. The California Comeback Plan signed by Governor Newsom in July 2021 included a Local Housing Trust Fund (HTF) Program for state and local provision of 42,000 housing units over a 2-year period, in an effort to address housing barriers that result in homelessness.

To participate in the HTF program, each city must create and fund an initial HTF and demonstrate an annual budgetary commitment for operations of its HTF. The Fairfield City Council’s Resolution authorized an initial $1 million fund allotment and a $45,000 annual commitment to fund ongoing operations “for the benefit of extremely low- through moderate-income households” in the city.

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