Construction Industry Conference

Thursday, May 31, 2018, 8–11:30 a.m.

Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country, 170 Railroad St., Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Details and registration: nbbj.news/const18

Read interviews with the conference speakers.

Mary Grace Pawson is the director of development services and city engineer for the city of Rohnert Park. In this role, she oversees the city’s planning, engineering, building and code-compliance divisions.

Pawson is a registered civil engineer whose broad background in project planning and development for public agencies includes work on recycled-water master plans, urban water-management plans, water-supply assessments, integrated regional water-management plans, grant-writing, and rate and fee setting.

Before joining the city of Rohnert Park in 2014, Pawson spent the previous 10 years as a senior project manager for California operations of GHD, a privately held worldwide engineering, architecture and environmental consulting company based in Sydney.

Earlier in her career, Pawson worked for five years as a project manager for Concord-based Harris & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in infrastructure design and construction management projects in the education, municipal, transportation and water markets.

Pawson is past chair of the California WateReuse Association’s Legislative and Regulatory Committee, where she led a number of legislative and regulatory initiatives to streamline the development and permitting of recycled water supplies. She has been recognized as a “water leader” by the Association of California Water Agencies.

She is a graduate of Stanford University, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in civil engineering, and an honors degree in humanities.

Pawson is set to be part of a panel of local public officials at North Bay Business Journal’s Construction Industry Conference on May 31, discussing the area’s biggest construction-related challenges, such as the rebuild after the October wildfires, housing shortage and lack of industry workforce.

She talked to the Journal about the brisk pace of development and construction underway in the city, bringing hundreds of homes to market each year.

What are the most significant construction projects underway and coming in Rohnert Park?

Going on, we have our University District project, which ultimately will be 1,645 single-family dwelling units. They are in their second phase and have approvals for up to 700 lots. They’re busily working their way through that.

In our Southeast Specific Plan area will have 475 dwelling units is in their first phase of 106 lots. They’re about 40 percent through that construction.

There’s a 135-unit hotel by Cambria (Hotels & Suites) just coming out of the ground. They pulled their permits about a month and a half ago.

We have a 90-unit assisted-living facility called Clearwater at Sonoma Hills under construction.

We anticipate in the next few months we will issue a permit on a 135-unit multifamily housing complex over what we call our stadium land area in west Rohnert Park.

You won’t recognize that area in about a year. The hotel and the apartment complex will be built at the same time. A public park will be constructed. The only remaining piece of the stadium land will be a small retail parcel that we’re working with a developer on.

The most exciting thing in development is the downtown Rohnert Park–Rohnert Station project. That’s a mixed-use 425-unit, 450,000-square-foot retail complex with, at this point, a hotel proposal. They are looking to get to our City Council with an amendment to their final development plan sometime late summer. That’s essentially their planning entitlements, at which point they would be ready to prepare construction documents. Everything they’ve indicated to us is they would like to be into construction in 2019. It’s about an 18-month buildout, from the schedule they’ve been showing us.

Construction Industry Conference

Thursday, May 31, 2018, 8–11:30 a.m.

Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country, 170 Railroad St., Santa Rosa, CA 95401

Details and registration: nbbj.news/const18

Read interviews with the conference speakers.

Anything new with SOMO Village?

They have an application into the city we’re processing now with amendments to their final development plan. It doesn’t significantly change their unit count. (SOMO Living, formerly part of Codding, plans to build 1,721 homes and flats on the 175-acre former Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies campus at the southeast corner of the city.) They’re looking to adjust their development to better manage their mitigation requirements. They’re trying to concentrate their open space in a more strategic way.

In the meantime, they continue to remodel and lease up the existing buildings.

The project we’re seeing is a six-phase project. They would like to begin the first phase as quickly as they can, as soon as we get through the plan-modification process. There’s about a couple hundred homes in the first phase.

With all these projects going on, what are the most significant construction and development-related challenges you’re facing?

The city is very fortunate. The City Council and Planning Commission are very supportive of this work that’s consistent with our General Plan. We have good partnerships with our consulting community, and they are definitely helping us with the staffing resources we need to continue to support developers.

Like everyone, we’re particularly challenged in construction and building inspection right now, trying to make sure we have enough qualified people to keep up with the demands of the various developers.

Our public has been very patient with us. We’ve had some version of Rohnert Park Expressway and Snyder Lane under construction for four years. Each year, it gets a little better, and this year, we hope to be done.

Are there any other things your department is doing to adjust to the development and construction work or to plan for more of it?

We just initiated an update to our General Plan. We’re not trying to undo anything that was a part of our 2000 General Plan. But our 2020 General Plan will help make sure we’re current with state law and give people some broader, programmatic (California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA) coverage, because we’ll have an updated (environmental impact report, or EIR).

Like everybody, we’ll be looking at the balance of land uses and the relationship to transportation needs as we go through that General Plan process.

What would be most significant changes from the last General Plan?

We’re not anticipating wholesale changes to the General Plan. We’re not anticipating changes to our sphere of influence or our urban growth boundary. The areas that will continue to get focus in the General Plan are the areas west of Highway 101, where have a lot of interest and energy but less guidance in the 2000 General Plan than some of the other areas.

We’ll continue to refine and focus the Central Rohnert Park Priority Development Area, which is a couple hundred acres between the (Highway) 101 to the (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, or SMART) tracks.

Right now, the biggest thing (proposed there) is the Rohnert Station proposal. The priority development area is larger than that development and does envision walkable mixed-use development in that part of the city.

How much housing is going to be coming to the city in future years?

We’ve been bringing somewhere between 200 and 300 new housing units online every year for the last four years. I think that’s going to accelerate a little bit this year and next year. Between the University District and the Southeast Specific Plan, we have eight individual neighborhoods under construction right now.

Is Rohnert Park, outside of Solano County, one of the most active construction areas in the North Bay?

People will tell you it’s been a long time in coming. The developments we’ve been talking about were clearly laid out in our 2000 General Plan and got all their entitlements together just in time for a major recession. They started in earnest in 2014.

What is the city doing about challenges facing the local construction industry?

We need trades. We need workforce development.

Anything we can do to provide creative financing or financing guarantees for housing developers would be helpful. We have one developer who says he has people who want to buy his houses, but he needs the bank to lend the money at the rate he would like to move.

Cities can bring forward a lot of ideas. We can be flexible in the ways we process applications. But it will be some partnership with the private sector that would let that work.