Santa Rosa developers look to build up instead of out for new housing

SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KGO) -- Our commitment to Building a Better Bay Area is about tackling the big issues that affect our quality of life. Housing is one. We all know there's a shortage of housing in the bay area. And skyrocketing housing prices is contributing to the problem.

In the North Bay, the 2017 wildfires destroyed five percent of the housing in Santa Rosa. But now things could be looking up thanks to some developers looking to build up instead of out.

At the 4th Street Deli in downtown Santa Rosa, they're used to big crowds .

After a quarter of a century there, co-owner Pete Mogannem sees lines as an indicator of economic health.

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"Nothing wrong with people," he said.

He may see many more if Santa Rosa and Assistant City Manager David Guhin get their way.

"Up, we need to go up," said Guhin.

That's up as in high-rise housing, and a cultural change of the skyline and philosophy. After inviting developers on a bus tour through town, Santa Rosa has drawings and proposals for high rise housing as high as 15 stories, and plans to fast-track building by streamlining the permit process while incentivizing height. The parking structure on 5th Street qualifies as a prime candidate for re-purposing.

Freedman: "What is the advantage of vertical?"
Guhin: "We can bring more smart growth in a concentrated way instead of sprawling out to the rest of the county."

As Santa Rosa points out, this is the biggest city between San Francisco and Portland.

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High rises in city centers draw people.

People draw business.

And, it's all good for the tax base in a city has been financially stressed since the fires.

The North Bay Fires played a part in this. Santa Rosa already had a housing crisis before those flames destroyed close to 3-thousand homes, and 400-thousand square feet of commercial space.

"I think there is a younger generation that would love to stay in their hometown," said Peter Rumble, who runs the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce. "They would love to live and work here. Build a family here. But who face an economic choice that makes it difficult to live here."

That said, the plan is not popular with everyone.

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"Look at the redwood trees. You want a build ugly building behind that?" asked long-time resident Elle Janda.

We did find more supporters than nay-sayers.

"We have growth and we need to expand," said Randy Keller, who lost his home to fire in Fountaingrove.

Such progress may also mean an even longer line for that deli sandwich on 4th Street.

Freedman: "Would you build a bigger deli?
Mogannem: "If there is a way, why not?"

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