Homes for Sonoma previews modulars designed to house wildfire survivors

The Homes for Sonoma open house, showcasing its first new modular home Thursday at Kendall Jackson Wines and Estate just north of Santa Rosa, attracted more than 50 local officials, 20 fire survivors, along with members of the design/build team responsible for working with architects and small home manufacturer Wolf Industries of Battle Ground, Washington.

Special guest speakers included Rep. Mike Thompson and Windsor Mayor Bruce Okrepkie.

Windsor will be the first location for five of the 480-square-foot preassembled homes. Town Councilmembers Debora Fudge and Mark Millan announced that they want to increase the number of these homes from five to 40 in coming months to help those displaced by fires have temporary dwellings. They said the town is approaching local property owners and collaborating with Barbara Banke, chairperson and proprietor of Jackson Family Wines, to identify possible parcels of land that could accommodate up to 35 more Homes for Sonoma cottages in the Windsor area.

Thompson, D-Napa, said it is heartening to have good news and to see a local team that recognized a need for temporary and transition housing step up to make it happen.

'This is a textbook example of what a public-private partnership can achieve, and a model for the way we should do things moving forward,' Thompson said.

He noted that the region has lost five percent of its entire housing stock after having already fallen behind with a housing shortage.

Each modular house has been constructed with fabricated components and comes to the site preassembled – enabling speed of construction while mitigating the challenge of limited labor and building materials across Sonoma County. Homes will be available to residents for one to three years, and then can be relocated and repurposed as accessory dwelling units (ADUs, or "granny units").

During the ceremony, organizers announced that this event marks the beginning of a larger program involving a new generation of compact apartment-style detached dwellings forming unique temporary neighborhoods for fire survivors, and one that could also serve as a potential community-based solution for short and long-term affordable housing. Twelve cottages will be manufactured initially with more to come as funding is acquired.

In addition to the homes in Windsor, two more Homes for Sonoma cottages are slated to be part of the Habitat for Humanity project on a portion of Medtronic's campus in Santa Rosa's Fountaingrove neighborhood donated to serve as another temporary wildfire recovery community.

Caroline Shaw, chief communications officer for Jackson Family Wines and a Homes for Sonoma board member, said occupants will move into these homes in late October or November once the site has been prepared with gravel pads for each unit, walkways, a central parking lot (with two spaces for each unit) underground water, sewer and electric utility hookups along with outdoor community lighting.

Burbank Housing prioritized a list of potential occupants for these five cottages and has selected the first tenants in collaboration with the property owner of the Windsor site. Burbank is the landlord, management agent and owner of these cottages.

Daily Acts, an environmental education nonprofit in Petaluma, is providing a template for the garden areas and has applied for a grant to coordinate and install planting drought-tolerant landscaping throughout this community.

The 480-square foot air-conditioned cottage measures 12 feet by 40 feet, with a 12-by-12 bedroom and closet, full bath, kitchen and family room that can also serve as a dining area. The kitchen features a sink, stove, refrigerator, cabinets and track ceiling lights. Bath amenities include a walk-in shower, vanity sink and space for an over-and-under washer/dryer.

The entrance has exterior lighting and a covered porch. French style double doors adjacent to the kitchen lead to a 12-foot-square foot outdoor patio deck. Dual pane windows and wood grain laminate flooring are installed throughout. The structure comes with R-21 insulation and meets all California building code requirements.

'The town of Windsor is very innovative and has been extremely helpful,' said Robin Stephani, founder of 8th Wave and construction manager for Homes for Sonoma. 'Town Manager John Jansons, Town Councilmember Debora Fudge and Community Development Director Kenneth McNab worked with our design/build team to find a suitable site and helped to develop zoning policies that allowed for this unique and timely solution.'

To date, donors have contributed over $1 million to design and build these first cottages, and another million is coming from Tipping Point, a non-profit organization fighting poverty in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In addition to contributions from Tipping Point's Emergency Relief Fund, other major donors include the Sonoma County Vintners Foundation, Hamel Family Foundation's Fogerty Fund, North Bay Fire Relief Fund -- including a contribution from Redwood Credit Union, Rise Up Sonoma, Albertson's Foundation, Lowe's Home Improvement, and Rebuilding Together Petaluma.

The total cost of each cottage is $100,000, including $84,000 for materials and labor plus $16,000 for site preparation and utility connections. Monthly rent is $850.00, a fraction of the cost of a market-rate single bedroom apartment.

General Contractor Wolf Industries of Battle Ground, Washington – home improvement professionals and a builder of modular tiny houses -- is manufacturing the cottages. Each 15-ton home is being shipped by flatbed truck to Sonoma County by Wolf's special transport, installation and integration team to handle cottage offloading, positioning and setup.

HFS collaborated with architects, local businesses and municipal officials to design and build a neighborhood of compact cottages.

The Homes for Sonoma all-volunteer executive committee includes Samantha Kraesig, founder and creative director of Flight LLC – a Santa Rosa brand, and visual design agency; Dan Blake with the Sonoma County Office of Education; Principal Aaron Jobson with Quattrocchi Kwok Architects; Jane Hamilton from Rebuild Together Petaluma; Caroline Shaw from Jackson Family Wines and Efren Carrillo, director of government and community relations with Burbank Housing.

QKA's Aaron Jobson created the design for Homes for Sonoma. 'These cottages are a fulfillment of a dream – a goal to help our community rebuild and to provide for our neighbors who need affordable, high quality housing.'

This project was recently honored with a citation at the 21st semiannual American Institute of Architecture Redwood Empire Chapter awards gala in the social responsibility category.

Homes for Sonoma executives say these initial five units are prototypes. Phase 2.0 could include developing a number of Accessory Dwelling Units with below market pricing and a variety of floor plans. Two and three bedroom units are currently on the drawing board. The organization is also working with developers to change the structure to make the units less expensive to build without sacrificing quality.

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