Measure P seeks to increase construction of homes in Healdsburg

POSTED: 10/17/18

Author: Kevin Fixler

Publication: The Press Democrat

Kenny Peterson of Ghilotti Company works with a crew mixing lime into the soil for stabilization at the Healdsburg Family Apartments under construction on Tuesday. July 17, 2018.(BETH SCHLANKER/ PRESS DEMOCRAT)

A ballot measure that seeks to address the housing crunch in Healdsburg by raising a voter-approved cap on construction of new homes will be decided in the November election.

Under the current cap, first approved by voters in 2000, the city allows a maximum of 30 new homes per year — though that limit exempts affordable units meant for those making 120 percent or less of the area’s median income.

If passed by voters, Measure P would allow an average of up to 80 new housing units per year. At least 50 units must be apartments, set aside for low- and middle-income renters.

The new income-restricted units envisioned under Measure P would be for tenants making up to 160 percent of the area’s median income, or roughly $134,000 per year for a family of four.

Supporters say the change is intended to meet demand for working families.

“This is really targeting that ‘missing middle,’ ” said Vice Mayor David Hagele. “People in that range don’t even have options. To me this is something that is worth a shot to get some multifamily units built.”

City officials say the change is needed to keep working families housed in Healdsburg. Since the voter-approved cap passed, most new housing has been market-rate homes for sale, with few apartments.

Supporters say Measure P is not a lone solution to Healdsburg’s housing crunch but rather another device to help meet current demand for rentals.

“Everybody agrees that it’s this housing type that has been lacking in development for the last few years in Healdsburg,” said Councilman Joe Naujokas. “We constructed Measure P so it really hits those notes, and addresses the housing that’s really kind of in sore need, in the middle-income tier. It’s not guaranteeing that this number of units is built, it’s not putting any public funds toward it, and it’s not a housing fund. It’s just loosening the rules.”

No formal campaign has coalesced in opposition to Measure P, which requires a simple majority for passage. That’s in stark contrast to Measure R, the failed 2016 ballot measure that sought to remove the growth ordinance’s restrictions altogether and polarized the city of nearly 12,000 people. Voters resoundingly rejected the measure, with 60 percent casting ballots in opposition.

“It went down in flames,” said Councilman Shaun McCaffery. “But many of those same people vehemently against Measure R are strong supporters of Measure P.”

The loosened growth limits are being touted as a compromise to promote more housing construction in one of Sonoma County’s priciest real estate markets. In the past year, the median sale price for a home in Healdsburg is $730,000, while the monthly rental rate is more than $3,300, according to San Francisco-based housing service Trulia.

However, Jim Winston, a 28-year resident and the original author of the city’s growth management plan, said he feels conflicted about the benefits of such a revision. Healdsburg, he said, is at a “tipping point” for development.

“Growth is fine, I have no issues with that,” said Winston, who called his official stance on Measure P neutral. “It’s healthy, and we need it to be viable, but it needs to be in a sustainable way and at a sustainable rate, and I think this is taking us away from that.”

He agreed more rentals are needed in the city, but that it should be for people with incomes of 120 percent and below the area’s median income — a target for affordable housing the current growth ordinance already exempts.

Hagele and other council members acknowledged more housing for lower- income residents should be part of a larger development strategy, but that city housing research has found middle-tier units are also necessary to meet local demands.

“There’s a huge gap of people who need that kind of housing in Healdsburg,” said Hagele, a commercial real estate finance broker. “We need more multifamily housing, not condos for people from outside the city to use as a second home. This truly is, in my opinion, all sides working together to come up with what I believe gives developers a chance to build something that works for them, and for the community.”

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