Hanna Center proposes 60-acre development in Agua Caliente
The Hanna Center is proposing to expand its influence in Sonoma Valley with a 60-acre development to bring mixed-use housing, a hotel and commercial shops to Agua Caliente Road.
Hanna officials sent letters on Jan. 9 to residents near the proposed site for a series of community feedback meetings in a “smaller group setting,” which took place Jan. 17, 19 and 20 at the center.
A Jan. 17 press release by Hanna Center CEO Cameron Safarloo said planning for the proposed development began after Sonoma County’s Housing Element identified the 60-acre parcel as a potential site for future housing.
“We are working on a site plan for the project, and public input at this early state will be helpful. We plan to file an application with the county in mid-2023,” Safarloo said about the proposal’s site plan.
Though planning is in its infancy, the Hanna Center is looking for partners to develop affordable, market-rate and senior housing, “but no definitive decisions have been made.”
The Hanna Center serves youth and their families who have experienced trauma through academic, career and clinical services. The center provides a continuum of care for students to graduate from high school, pursue vocational training and become part of the community with its transitional housing program.
A preliminary proposal
The proposal is still in its “preliminary phase,” according to the letter sent to neighbors, but the goals of the project are clear: create new opportunities for Hanna residents, build new housing and establish a sustainable source of revenue to support the nonprofit Hanna Center.
“(We) envision a project that includes a mix of senior, market-rate, workforce and affordable housing,” Safarloo said in the release. “The plan proposed new amenities such as neighborhood-serving retail and preserved open space.”
The Sonoma County Housing Element, which is still under review by the state’s department of Housing and Community Development, suggests as many as 668 housing units at the Agua Caliente site. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors must find room in the unincorporated areas of the county for a total of 3,824 units of housing, as stated in its Housing Element.
A “large percentage” of the housing at Hanna would be protected for seniors and low-income residents, according to a dedicated webpage on the Hanna’s website, with senior housing functioning as part of a continuum of care, a plan coordinating services and opportunities for program participants.
Those who would qualify for the affordable housing make 80% or less of the area’s average median income, which in Sonoma County was $91,607 in 2021, according to the U.S. Census.
Approximately 20 acres of the proposed site will be left undeveloped for “uses such as bike riding and walking paths.” That leaves approximately 40 acres of the site for commercial and residential development. Hanna Center owns 170 acres throughout Sonoma Valley, and the 60 acres identified have never been developed.
The Hanna Center project proposes 8,000 square feet of commercial space to help cover the cost of the proposed affordable units, which may take shape as a hotel.
“We are considering a hotel on the site to offer accommodations for guests of senior housing residents, Hanna guests as well as visitors to the area,” the press release said.
The proposal also considers the addition of “a preschool/child development facility and a vocational training center,” which could provide a source of mentoring and job training for program participants at Hanna Center.
The letter to neighbors from Hanna Center made its way onto social media, where neighboring residents responded with mixed-feelings.
Some worried the addition of hundreds of residential units and a potential hotel could create problematic traffic along Agua Caliente Road and Arnold Drive. These commenters likened the project to the Sonoma Developmental Center redevelopment plan, which could add up to 750 housing units just up the road in Eldridge.
“Wow, here we go again. More traffic, need for police, fire protection and what about the water?” wrote Michele Wagner, a resident of El Verano. “After the SDC deal, it’s disturbing.”
Others defended the proposal as a practical solution to address Sonoma Valley’s unaffordable housing crisis. As of Dec. 31, the average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Sonoma is $2,100 – a 6% increase over the previous year, according to Zumper, a rental marketplace site.
“Sonoma is embarrassingly behind other counties in availability of affordable housing and there is pressure to fix that. Our lack of affordable housing puts the burden on other Bay Area counties to provide relief,” Darlene DuCharme wrote.