Homeless Talk Calendar

Friday, June 30, 2017

What Does Success Look Like?

In recent meetings of the City Council, both the Council members and the City Manager have complained that they are unclear “what success looks like” in their planning and execution of programs funded to respond to the homeless housing crisis.  I’ve asked many within the homeless service and resident community what their successful outcomes would be to achieve the goals of the City’s Housing Action Plan, for both the short-term and longer-term.  Here are some ideas which have been suggested:

Short-term Homeless Program Successful Process Outcomes
  1. A complete and detailed Scope of Work and Performance Outcomes for Catholic Charities contract, including sheltering and transitioning to permanent housing for residents of the Family Shelter, Sam Jones, Safe Parking, and Palms Inn for 2017-2018. For example, moving from temporary housing to permanent housing could be considered an upgrade, as could moving from shelters to transitional housing.
  2. The expansion of use of CHAP and recently-approved Safe Parking Program funds to insure continuation of 80 safe parking spaces in the City.
  3. The establishment of a legal support service which assists complaining tenants of rental housing and shelters to file grievances in appropriate public entities in a timely manner.
  4. The collaboration of the Sonoma’s cities with the County of Sonoma on an application to California’s No Place Like Home funding, targeted at developing and supporting permanent housing models designed for chronically homeless, with serious mental illness.
  5. The identification and establishment of a Safe Haven Outdoor Navigation Center with security and sanitation, with staff capable of assisting campers to improve their ability to qualify and be accepted in permanent housing.
  6. Collaboration with the County and other stakeholders to produce 2200 or more units of homeless-targeted low and no income housing.
  7. Convene the recipients of the Affordable Housing Pilot Project, recently awarded by the City, and strengthen their capability and interest in working with the City’s homeless service providers to insure that residents of the City’s shelters and encampments obtain access to the resulting housing units.
  8. Securing additional Section 8 Housing Voucher landlords, especially for  VASH voucherholders.

Longer-term Homeless Program Successful Process Outcomes
  1. The development of a system, in collaboration with the County of Sonoma Community Development Commission, to place Santa Rosa’s homeless population into the housing units which have been, or are currently being, developed with public funds.
  2. The development and completion of a homeless community and service provider-engaged public planning process for the 2017-2018 City Homeless Service contract RFPs.
  3. Strengthen the ability of Community Development and Housing Authority staff to work together to support private development projects to include the maximum financially achievable affordable units, as early in their planning process. 
  4. The development and completion of a comprehensive set of performance impact outcomes for each of the contracts and scopes of work funded by the City and County which minimize service agency confusion and duplication, and maximize successful placement and retention of residents in permanent housing.
  5. The expansion of the capacity of shelters and limited stay facilities to include pets.

Affordable Housing Successful Impact Outcomes
1.    The number of individuals contacted, enrolled, assessed, or receiving services from a particular organization by facility.
2.    The number of individuals whose housing is upgraded, the number of individuals in permanent housing, or the number of individuals whose days of homelessness in the preceding 30 days has decreased. This includes the average number of days residents stay in shelters, transitional facilities, or subsidized limited length housing.
3.    The number of homeless individuals enrolled with an organization who have earnings, increased their earnings, are employed full-time, or increase their number of hours worked over a given month.
4.    Measuring individuals who have no drug use, whose health has improved, or whose mental health status increases.
5.    The number of youth who are reunited with their families, attend school, or earn their GED.
6.  The number of those who continue their residence in permanent housing upon placement from a shelter or limited length facility for at least two years increases.  The average stay in permanent housing upon placement from shelters of limited length facilities increases.    



Santa Rosa's Open Data Portal - Homeless and Affordable Housing Data

Greetings!

The City of Santa Rosa's website contains information on the performance of the City in addressing the homeless and affordable housing crisis.

Homeless Services in Number of People per Quarter

Affordable Housing Completed by Fiscal Year

Code Enforcement Cases Open Through March 2017


Check out these, and lots more performance data

And there's even a map of the Homeless Encampments.  The map combines census and police incident reports all over the town in the last six months, and identifies 13 locations where there are more than 9 people sleeping outdoors.  By far the most people are along the Joe Rodota Trail (75), followed by downtown's 101 overpasses (67), Bennett Valley Hwy 12 extension (47), and Bicentennial Hillside (30).  All others have less that 15 each.

Bennett Valley Extension and Bicentennial have high fire risks.  101 overpasses has the highest calls for service (703 - 35% in response to phone calls), followed by Joe Rodota Trail (219), Bennett Valley Hwy 12 Extension (119), Railroad Right of Way between W. College and W. 9th (85). and SR Creek east of Farmers Lane (81).



All this and lots more cool stuff at the Santa Rosa Data Portal

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Producing Homes Yourself

Greetings!

This video explains what the City of Santa Rosa is doing to allow homeowners to produce additional homes on their property.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Safe Parking Closures

Hi Greg, 

First let me clarify that Safe Parking isn't closed completely. It unfortunately is being consolidated though. This is obviously something we would never want to have to do unless we literally had no other options. We feel that we are at that point. As you know on July 1st we are experiencing a very concerning funding loss of close to $400,000 due to the loss of state ESG. Over half of that loss affects the Family Support Center. Last week the County approved moving the Safe Parking funding to close some of the gap for the Family Support Center. We have been out of safe parking funding for many weeks now, and Catholic Charities has valued this program so much we have been funding it with no grant funding up to this point as we have been trying to avoid this scenario. However with what we are facing with the funding gap, we financially can't do that anymore. Especially since despite the shift that happened with the Safe Parking funding we still have a substantial funding gap of we are trying to make up to avoid having to reduce any other programs. This was publicly discussed in the County budget hearings last week as well as at the City Council meeting last week. 

In terms of the participants, we are going to fit every single person we can into our parking lots where we have existing staff and restrooms, and for those that want to get into shelter we will be prioritizing these participants. We will use every single resource we can to avoid anyone having to begin parking on the streets. 

We are not closing the program completely, but unfortunately the spots are being reduced. Additionally a clarification in the statement in an earlier email is that it will include spots for families, individuals with disabilities as well as single adults. We are hoping this is temporary, and have been informing our partners that we hope this is temporary so that we can re-activate the site if funding comes back. They have almost all been open to that. 

If there is any creative idea of what we can do to avoid this I am super open to figuring it out or if there is another provider who has the resources to do the program we will do all we can to support them. 

This is never a situation that we want to be in, and in particular this hits home for me personally. This was one of the first programs I was involved in opening. However I am not giving up either, and hope that this is a temporary issue. 

If you have any other ideas or creative solutions we can pursue or support I would love to help with moving that forward. Thank you for reaching out. If others have questions I am happy to answer them. 

Jennielynn Holmes, MPA
Senior Director of Shelter and Housing 
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa
465 A. Street, Santa Rosa, CA 95401
707-800-2372 (cell)
707-542-5426 (phone) 
jholmes@srcharities.org

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chanate Sale Questions

Sonia E. Taylor
306 Lomitas Lane
Santa Rosa, California 95404
707-579-8875

19 June 2017

Shirlee Zane, Chair
James Gore
Susan Gorin
Lynda Hopkins
David Rabbitt
Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
575 Administration Drive, Room 100 A
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Via email

Re:              Chanate Complex, Approval of the Disposition and Development Agreement
Item 30 on the June 20, 2017 Board Agenda

Chair Zane and Members of the Board of Supervisors:

As you all know, I have requested a thirty day continuance of this hearing.  This request is based on the fact that the Disposition and Development Agreement package (hereinafter “DDA”) before you for adoption is 169 pages long (1/2”+ of paper printed double sided), and is very complicated and detailed.  Although the package was released early, it still took me until Thursday evening, June 15th, to complete my first reading and review of the package.

Due to the complexity of the document, I had multiple questions to be answered.  Additionally, as a result of reading the DDA I discovered the existence of a number of documents I was unaware of previously, and couldn’t have known about prior to reading the DDA.  The County has made an attempt to have relevant documents posted on their Chanate Complex website, but it is unfortunately not complete -- for example, I was surprised to learn that there is a third appraisal of the property.[1]

I believe that the DDA is the final and definitive document regarding this project, no matter what previous documents say to the contrary, so I think it’s important for me – and for all of us – to understand exactly what it says.  Receiving answers to all of my questions, and receiving all the documentation I’ve requested – with adequate time to evaluate it – will allow me to express a better informed opinion about the project.  And that, I hope, will help the Board make a better informed decision about the DDA and the project.

I am certain that you want to ensure that you are able to make the best decisions possible for the County, and I believe that you understand that the better informed the public is, the better decisions you will be able to make representing us.  Please approve a continuance to allow me and other members of the public to be fully informed so we can effectively participate in our government.

Since I cannot rely on a continuance being granted, however, the remainder of this letter will cover what I do understand about this project and the DDA.  This letter should be considered in conjunction with my previous communications to the Board on this project, including my February 6, 2017 letter, my June 14, 2017 letter, and my  June 16, 2017 email letter.

THE SALE OF THE REAL PROPERTY:

Even if all that the DDA was accomplishing was a straightforward sale of real property (which I dispute, later in this letter), there are significant problems and unanswered questions in that regard.

1.  On October 28, 2015, the County issued its Notice of Surplus Property with regard to the Chanate site.[2]  This Notice contained the following definitive statement:

“Any proposal that offers less than $15 million for the purchase of the property will not be considered.”

The County did not receive any responses to this Notice.  Since responses to these types of Surplus Property notices are generally from governmental or quasi-governmental agencies, or non-profits such as affordable housing developers, it’s probably no surprise that this definitive requirement of a minimum purchase price of $15 million resulted in no takers.

2.  On February 3, 2016, the County issued its Request for Proposals for the Chanate site, stating:

As indicated in the County’s Surplus Property Notice, the County expects to generate at least $15 million in payments to Sonoma County.”

This is interestingly a less definitive statement about the sale price of the real property.

The County only received two responses to this RFP, and the selected developer is paying far less than the originally demanded minimum $15 million.

3.  There are three appraisals for this site, dated, September 10, 2014, July 29, 2016 and (apparently – I haven’t seen a copy) October 27, 2016.

Even with possession of these appraisals, and time to review and comprehend them, it is difficult to determine whether the sale price to the selected developer is indeed the best price and/or represents fair market value.  I have asked for all documentation showing the assumptions and calculations the County has used to determine that $6 million to $12.5 million is the “fair market value” of this real property.  Without that information it is very difficult for me, or anyone, to ensure that the taxpayers of Sonoma County are being well served by this real property sale.

In my February 6, 2017 letter to the Board, I asked “What was the purchase price proposed by the Johansen proposal, for the 400 units they were proposing?”  Knowing this information would allow all of us to evaluate the financial terms of the two proposals, apples to apples, for 400 units.[3] I have never received an answer to this question, and without this answer it is impossible to evaluate whether the sale to Gallaher, et al., is a better deal for the County taxpayers.

Although the Brown Act allows the County to conduct real estate purchase/sale negotiations behind closed doors, the irony is that in the case of this sale of real property, if the County had held any portion of those negotiations in public, it is possible that another developer could have offered the County more money and better conditions than those being offered by the County’s selected developer.  It wouldn’t have been good for the County’s selected developer – secrecy works for him – but it could have been very good for the County taxpayers.

The Board is required by law to sell County-owned real property for “fair market value.”  Since originally the County set that value at $15 million, which is significantly more than the selected developer will be paying, it is imperative that the public to be able to verify the fair market value independent of simple County assertions. 

4.  After recent public outcry about the sale price of this site, the County has created a new way of assessing the value of the property – the “value of the sale.”  To the best of my knowledge, this is not a term of law, but is instead something the County has created to attempt to show that this sale of County-owned real property is a “good deal” for the taxpayers, in spite of the low sale price.

As with the assessment of “fair market value,” it is impossible to determine whether the “value of the sale” is a good deal for taxpayers without knowing the assumptions, calculations, etc. the County used in establishing this “value.”  I have requested this information, but have not yet received it.

In the Summary Agenda Report accompanying the DDA, staff alternatively attempts to explain this “value” as a “community value” of the sale.  While, of course, there is value to the community if this site is developed in an acceptable fashion, that does not relieve the County from having to obtain “fair market value” for the sale of this property.  County staff speculates that the value of the property to the developer, after construction of improvements, is $300 million, and I’m not sure how they arrived at that conclusion. 

The Report contains a discussion and table attempting to show this “community value.”  This table takes credit for the monies that will be spent by the developer to build the legally affordable housing.  Of course, there will be a cost for this housing, but the County cannot take credit for this – County law requires developers to provide a minimum of 20% affordability on a project such as this.  Further, while the developer will have to spend the money to construct said housing, he also will own it and receive all the benefits of ownership in perpetuity. 

Additionally, a missing portion of this alleged “community value” is the cost to the County taxpayers if the County were to renew their lease for 10 years at 80% of “fair market value” for the County Morgue and the Health Services Administration.  These amounts must be included in any attempted recitation of “community value,” because that information it would another factor that would allow the Board to determine whether the developer’s purchase price is indeed acceptable, let alone “fair market value.”

Further, due to the terms of the DDA (paragraph 3.17.2), it is clear that the developer can sell or otherwise transfer this property at any time, and immediately be relieved of all the requirements of this DDA.  Therefore, the County can hardly count on this invented “value of the sale.”  The July 29, 2016 appraisal I do have a copy of clearly states that the value of this property with entitlements alone is $30,640,000.

Using the July 29, 2016 appraisal and  the County’s own estimates, the County’s selected developer could apparently spend $8.76 million to purchase the property, $1 million to conduct the required environmental review, and $606,000 to obtain entitlements for the site, for a total of $10366 million, and then immediately sell the property for $30.64 million (or even more), realizing a profit of $20.274 million without having to build anything.

The entire concept of “value of the sale,” or “community value of the sale” is irrelevant, and is rendered useless by the provisions of the DDA.  The Board is required, acting on behalf of all of the County, to obtain “fair market value” for this County-owned real property.  Further, the Board’s responsibility is to get the best deal possible, it is my – and other members of the public’s – responsibility to ensure you have done so, and there is inadequate evidence to show that you have accomplished that task. 

DEVELOPMENT PROJECT:

No matter how many times Board members and County staff state that this is just the sale of real property, it is not.  Repetition of an erroneous statement doesn’t make it accurate. 

This is not only the sale of real property, the County is actively participating in (and it’s a requirement of the DDA at Section 3 and elsewhere, and in Exhibit D to the DDA) the development of a “master plan” and “Conceptual Project Plans” for ultimate development of the site.  At paragraph 3.4 of the DDA the County commits to working for the developer to facilitate the approvals at the City level, at taxpayer expense.  Paragraph 3.4 states, in pertinent part, as follows:

“ . . . County staff will work cooperatively with Developer to assist in coordinating and facilitating the expeditious processing and consideration of all necessary Project Approvals by City. Reasonable out of pocket costs incurred by County in connection with such efforts shall be borne by Developer upon Developer’s approval of such costs, which approval shall not be unreasonably withheld. . .”

In other words, the taxpayers will be paying the salaries, etc., of County staff who will be assisting the developer with their City permitting process.

After extensive closed door secret negotiations, this DDA memorializes many required elements of the ultimate development.  The public has had virtually no opportunity to provide input into these elements, which include 20% legally affordable housing, senior housing, veterans housing, 2 miles of trails and removal of Sloan House and the Bird Rescue Center from the site.

The public may like these elements, and the development plans might be great – I certainly think that 20% very low income housing is good (although I’d prefer more) – but there’s no question that the public has been excluded from participation in development of these plans, and should be allowed to comment on the proposed development plan before the County requires them, and certainly before the County takes the action to approve the within DDA containing those elements. 

THE DDA CLEARLY FAVORS THE DEVELOPER, NOT THE COUNTY:

Nothing in the DDA prevents the selected developer from selling the property at any time.  If he were to sell the property, the new owners would not be bound by the DDA.  As stated at paragraph 3.17.2:

“Neither the holder of any mortgage or deed of trust on the Disposition Property nor any person or entity, including any deed of trust beneficiary or mortgagee, who acquires title or possession to the Disposition Property, by foreclosure, trustee’s sale, deed in lieu of foreclosure or otherwise, shall be obligated by the provisions of this Agreement to construct or complete the Improvements on the Property or to guarantee such construction or completion.” (emphasis added)

Nothing in the DDA guarantees the benefit of the bargain for the County.  Instead, a careful reading of the DDA shows that the County is essentially giving the developer the land for free, there are no up-front financing costs for the developer, and the developer gets County services for free to help him get his entitlements.  And as soon as he has the entitlements, the developer can then sell the land for a huge profit.  To say nothing of the multiple other ways enumerated in the DDA that the developer can get out of the deal at little ($100) to no cost.

This is a gift of public funds and assets in violation of our Constitution.

Other terms of the DDA that favor the developer, and not the County, are:

In Paragraph 2.2 the cost to the developer of additional units above 400 was reduced from $16,250/unit down to $13,800/unit.  Although it is stated nowhere in any of the documentation, I believe that this reduction is a gift to the developer because he can no longer develop Parcel J.  Parcel J was erroneously included in the original sale, and although the developer will be required to record a conservation easement on Parcel J (if the sale is ever concluded), he will also get the benefit of that tax deduction, rendering the necessity for lowering the potential maximum sale price moot.  This “negotiation” was all to benefit the developer; there is no benefit to the County.

In Paragraph 2.3, the developer is required to deposit the enormous and burdensome amount of $100 (yes, you read that correctly) as independent consideration, which is all the County is guaranteed to keep if the sale does not go through.  It’s difficult for me to express what a bad deal I think this is for the County.  This taxpayer thinks that this independent consideration ought to at least reflect the time and materials costs the County has incurred during RFQ/RFP and negotiations.

In Paragraph 3.11, the developer is required to maintain a general commercial liability policy in the amount of $2 million per occurrence for bodily injury, personal injury and property damage.  This hardly seems like an adequate amount for a development project of this size.  The developer should be required to maintain the same insurance as any County construction project of similar magnitude, list the County as an additional insured on his policy, and have a hold harmless clause for the County.

In Paragraph 2.11.2, it appears that the County will be paying for all utilities until the Closing.  The County certainly should pay the utility costs for County occupied buildings remaining on the site, and as needed to keep other County-owned buildings in good condition prior to their demolition, but why does this DDA contemplate the County taxpayers paying utility costs that the developer will no doubt be incurring during development of this site?
Within 10 days of the approval of the DDA, the developer has to deposit $2.5 million dollars into escrow (Paragraph 2.2).  When the property closes, developer gets a credit for that deposit against the purchase price, less the “independent consideration” deposit of $100, which the County gets to keep.  According to Paragraph 5.4, if the agreement is terminated because (and apparently only because) of an uncured default by the developer, the County can keep $500,000 of the $2.5 million deposit as “County damages” – liquidated damages.  If the agreement is terminated for other reasons, the County is obligated to pay back the full $2.5 million (minus the $100).  In BOTH cases, if the agreement is terminated, the County will pay simple interest on the deposit they’re returning.  This is startling, and not in a positive way.

Further, even more startling, it appears that the County will not get paid for this real property until the development project closes, as defined in Paragraph 2.7 and elsewhere in the DDA.  This could be as long as 3 years (or more) after the date the DDA is approved and executed.  For this consideration, the County gets $100.  And perhaps, ultimately, the $6 to $12.5 million purchase price (although without any interest).  In the meanwhile, during this lengthy period, the developer’s only consideration is the deposit of $2.5 million.  Presumably the County could earn interest on that $2.5 million, but I hardly think this is adequate consideration.

To provide reasonable and adequate consideration for the County, the deposit should be increased at specified times (such as every 6 months).  After all, the property is being tied up while the developer spends 6 months to draft the Conceptual Project Plans, and that has to be completed before the developer will even begin the entitlement process with Santa Rosa.[4]  Then the Santa Rosa entitlement process is estimated by the County to take between 12 and 18 months.  There needs to be some incentive for the developer to work expeditiously, and once the entitlement process starts, to cooperate with the City.  To provide this incentive for the developer, and to provide better consideration for the County, this DDA should be amended to require the deposit to increase every 6 months, to eliminate payment of interest on the developer deposit in all circumstances, to require a significantly larger independent consideration deposit, and to require the amount of “County damages” to also be raised every 6 months.  Otherwise the developer has exclusive rights to the property for a relatively minimal deposit, gets interest on his deposit no matter what, and it only costs him $100.  

Essentially, the County is giving their favored developer an exclusive agreement for $100 with an unspecified term on 80 acres.

Again, this is a gift of public funds and assets in violation of our Constitution.

CEQA:

Please refer to my June 14, 2017 letter on this subject.

OTHER TERMS OF THE DDA:

Paragraph 6.11 of the DDA is quite disturbing, as well, and I find it hard to believe that the Board has consciously approved of it.  This paragraph provides as follows:

“Any alteration, change or modification of or to this Agreement or the Project Agreements in order to become effective, shall be made in writing and in each instance signed on behalf of each Party. County, acting by and through its County Administrator upon the approval of the County Counsel, may approve alterations, changes or modifications to this Agreement and the Project Agreements without further approval of the Board of the County as may be requested by Developer’s construction lender or lenders, or as otherwise agreed to by the Parties, provided such alterations, changes or modifications do not materially increase or decrease the legal, equitable or financial obligations or rights of the County hereunder, or decrease the amount of the Purchase Price.” (emphasis added)

Further, at Paragraph 6.5, the County Administrator can apparently designate anyone to act on her behalf, albeit under certain conditions.

What this means, to be blunt, is that the unelected County Administrator (or potentially another unknown unelected person) can modify the DDA at will under rather generous conditions, without knowledge of either the Board or the public, at the sole request of the developer.  The possibilities for alterations to the DDA that would be unacceptable to the Board and/or public are endless.  I’m certain that my definition of a “material” change would be different than that of the County Administrator or her designee. 

Even more disturbing, I can no provision in the DDA requiring that any such alterations, changes or modifications ever be made public, or even that the Board ever be informed of the changes.

This is an unacceptable delegation of the Board’s responsibility.

PUBLIC PROCESS:

I have been working with City and County staff and elected officials for over 15 years supporting and opposing multiple large and small projects, especially supporting projects concerning the construction of residential housing of all types.  By far, the process the County has undertaken for this project is the least transparent and most dismissive of the community that I have ever experienced.

I find it hard to believe that you consider the process you have undertaken acceptable.  I’m sure that you believe that everything you have done to date on this project has been in compliance with laws regarding secrecy and disclosure.  And perhaps that’s technically true.

However, your collective behavior has completely negated the public’s right to receive all information concerning the actions you are preparing to take, their right to be fully informed as to the actions you are preparing to take, and their right to be able to be effectively heard on the actions you are preparing to take.

Government is not designed to be efficient.  It is designed to be fair. This fairness is assured only by a completely transparent governmental process that allows the people to know and understand what their government is doing.

As the League of California Cities states:  “[T]he Brown Act is a floor, not a ceiling for conduct of public officials.”  A similar statement applies to the Public Records Act.

In spite of the assertions in the documentation provided to the Board for Tuesday’s hearing on the DDA, there has been virtually no public process.

Only one public meeting was held, on October 14, 2015.  According to the County’s own records, 173 people attended that meeting, 150 from the area around the project.  Also according to the County’s own records, the purpose of that meeting was not to solicit input on either the sale or on the development of the site, but was instead – according to Chair Zane – to:
  • Provide an overview of the Chanate Campus and share the Board’s interest in developing this legacy property in the best interests of the community.
  • “Solicit information and ideas from stakeholders about desired amenities and improvements to the Chanate Campus that will provide an enhanced quality of life for the neighbors.
“[Zane] indicated that information gathered from the meeting would be used in developer solicitation and master planning process for the property.”
So, by the County’s own words, the purpose of this one public meeting was not to allow the interested public and stakeholders to comment about either the sale of the site or about any development proposed for the site, as repeatedly and erroneously claimed in the DDA and elsewhere, but was instead to gather information to then be used in preparation of the Request for Proposals for the site.

In fact, the following pertinent question was asked by an attendee at this October 2015 meeting, according to County records: 

“How can we offer opinions when we don’t know what’s planned?”


Good question, and goes to the heart of the purpose of that meeting.  The County response was:
“This is an initial meeting, and the process of community outreach and meetings will continue in the future, as we have more information to share and the master plan process for the property begins.”
As became apparent though the County’s actions, however, the County never had any intent to conduct any sort of community outreach and meetings.
Instead, the County chose to conduct the solicitation, receipt of and evaluation of the RFP responses entirely in secret, although to the best of my knowledge, there is no legal requirement for doing so.  Further, I could not even obtain a complete copy of the RFP responses until Monday, February 6, 2017, one day before the last hearing on this project.  Instead of this process, the County could have chosen to invite the public and stakeholders to review the RFP responses and used their opinions as additional information in the selection process for the ultimate developer of the site.
On June 21, 2016, the Board of Supervisors accepted the RFP responses on the consent calendar, with minimal Board and public comment.
Next, the County also chose to conduct the negotiations for sale of the property to the selected developer behind closed doors.
It is unclear when direction to begin these negotiations was given.  According to the Summary Agenda Report for the 2/7/17 hearing: “September 8, 2016: Board of Supervisors in closed session authorized General Services to begin Exclusive Negotiations with the Gallaher development team,” and, further, that “In September 2016, your Board directed General Services to negotiate an Exclusive Negotiations Agreement with the recommended Developer. The Exclusive Negotiations Agreement (ENA) sets out the principal business terms and the terms of sale as will be defined in the future Development and Disposition Agreement (DDA).”

Checking the Board agendas for September 2016, however, I discovered that there was no noticed Board meeting on September 8, 2016, and the first September 2016 mention of these closed door negotiations was on the September 13, 2016 agenda – a closed session was listed, although the identification of the negotiating party for the purchaser was not identified.

When did the Board give direction to commence exclusive negotiations with the selected developer?  Please provide me a copy of the agenda and staff report concerning this direction.

It is also unclear exactly what was discussed in these closed sessions.  The Brown Act clearly allows for the County to have conducted closed door negotiations “regarding price and terms of payment for the purchase, sale . . .” of this real property.  However, the Brown Act is to be construed narrowly, and the phrase “terms of payment” means that what could be discussed behind closed doors is the form, manner, and timing that the sale price will be paid.

In any event, it’s clear that the public was completely excluded from the entire process surrounding the sale and proposed development of this site.

Then the Board held its February 7, 2017 hearing in which you adopted the Agreement to Negotiate Exclusively. 

Since that time, there has been no public outreach, and no solicitation of community input.  Instead, the Board authorized unelected County staff members to negotiate the within DDA in behind closed doors.

As further evidence of the County’s utter and complete dismissal of the public, in my February 6, 2017 letter I asked a number of questions, requested responses, requested documents, and made specific requests of the Board.  To date I have received no response from the Board in any way, shape or form.  I have received the documents I requested in that letter (because I independently pursued their production), but most of the questions remain unanswered (one of the questions was only finally answered when I received and read the DDA), and the Board did not respond to my requests in any way.  If the Board actually had any intention of facilitating public comment, they would have directed someone to at least answer my questions.

The County’s position apparently is that all public input will take place when the City of Santa Rosa commences their review and entitlement process. 

To say that this is unacceptable is an understatement. 




CONCEPTUAL PROJECT PLANS:

The DDA memorializes what was already alluded to in the Agreement to Negotiate Exclusively:  The unelected County Administrator (or her designated representative) and the developer will develop Conceptual Project Plans for this site that will form the basis for everything that is submitted to Santa Rosa to commence the entitlement process (see paragraph 3.3 of the DDA, along with other locations in the DDA).  They will do this in secret, without input from the public, or even the Board, with the final plans completed (and I presume made public) when they are finalized 180 days after Board approval of the DDA.

Just to be clear, these Conceptual Project Plans are not “nothing.”  They will include preliminary site plans and elevations, and all of the elements required by the DDA, which is quite far along the process of planning for the ultimate development.  All without public comment.

As the attendee asked at the October 2015 meeting:  “How can we offer opinions when we don’t know what’s planned?”  It’s clear that there have been multiple possible times at the County level when the public could have been invited to comment on what is planned, but the County has and continues to thwart that public input.

While the public will have an opportunity to comment on these development plans when this project goes to the City of Santa Rosa, by then the proposed project will be fully formed.  Santa Rosa will find themselves in the unpleasant and unenviable position of having to be the “bad guys” if they determine that the secretly developed Conceptual Project Plans are flawed.

On top of that, the County and the developer are moving forward with their Conceptual Project Plans without having any idea what will be allowed to be built on the site, and where.  As yet, there is no EIR, there is no seismic study, and there is no geotechnical study for the site, or any other studies that may be required.  All of those studies may necessarily significantly alter the developer’s and County’s plans for development on the site, to say nothing of the City’s plans for development on the site.

If the Board approves this DDA now, you will be agreeing that it is acceptable to create development plans of this level and detail, entirely in secret, by unelected County staff and the developer.  I hope that you will agree that this is unacceptable.

HOUSING:

As an advocate for legally affordable housing for 15+ years, you’d think I’d be thrilled by this project.  And, I am happy that the developer is proposing to build very low income housing, which is much needed in our community.

Just to be clear, though, Board members and County staff can stop lauding their “achievement” for “getting” this developer to build 20% of the total housing as legally affordable units.  County regulations require that any developer of this site build 20% legally affordable units.[5]

I don’t think 20% legally affordable housing on this site is adequate, and you can rest assured that I will be asking Santa Rosa to require the developer to increase the amount of affordable housing.  If you had had a public process, I would have asked the same of the County, and perhaps I would have been persuasive.  Hard to say, since we didn’t have the opportunity to have the discussion.

I also have multiple questions about other details related to this development.  After as thorough a reading of the DDA as I have had the time to complete, and in spite of previous assertions and allusions (including in the Summary Report for this very item), there appears to be NO requirement for all of the housing to be multifamily, or for all of the housing to be rental housing.

As you know, I have asked the General Services Department the following questions about this developments housing:

1.  It appears the only required rental housing in this project is the legally affordable housing (including affordable senior housing), Veteran’s housing and all the market rate senior housing subject to Exhibit F of the DDA.  Is that correct?  Could the remainder of the residential units on this site be for sale units?

2.  Will the project all be required to be multi-family housing or could all or part of the market rate housing be single family housing?  Will the legally affordable housing be required to be multi-family housing (with the possible exception of the Veterans housing)?

3.  Throughout the DDA, the requirement of the developer is that the legally affordable housing “shall include a mix of sizes and bedroom counts generally consistent with the Project’s overall mix of Residential Units.”  Why isn’t the legally affordable housing required to a mix of sizes/bedroom counts that are consistent with the need in Sonoma County?  The way the DDA is currently structured, the developer could chose (for example) to build mostly one bedroom market rate units, which would mean that the legally affordable units would also mostly be one bedroom units.

The answers to these questions matter, and will affect my opinion of this proposed development plan.  I would hope that these answers would affect your opinion of this proposed development plan, also.

If this development project will consist of largely market rate for sale units that are single family detached dwellings, for instance, that would not only be contrary to assertions made to date, but would be a much less desirable development from my perspective.

We are in a housing crisis.  We need to be building the maximum amount of legally affordable housing, and all market rate housing must be built in a manner so that it is as affordable as possible by design.

If this project will no longer be an entirely multifamily rental project, including the market rate housing, it will not be serving the County or the populations of people who need housing in our community.  In fact, if this project is going to be 80% single family detached for sale housing, it’ll be great for the developer, but lousy for our County and City. 

My question about the number of bedrooms the legally affordable housing will have is quite relevant – the greatest need is for true affordable family housing containing 3 and 4 bedrooms.  While building studio, 1 and 2 bedroom legally affordable units is better than nothing, there should be a requirement that this developer be required to building the legally affordable units in bedroom mixes that provide the range of affordable housing our County needs, not what is cheapest for him to build.

On the subject of the possibility that the Veterans’ housing could be SRO’s, I have to state emphatically that I am opposed to this prospect.  Additionally, this possibility, now contained in a legally binding document, is a brand new possibility that no one has had an opportunity to consider or comment on, including the Board.  The County is spending a comparatively enormous amount of money in a separate project to house Veterans in “tiny homes.”  Why is this developer being allowed to do anything other than build actual complete housing units for Veterans on this site?

It is unacceptable for you to shirk your responsibilities by saying that these decisions will be Santa Rosa’s “problem.”  This Board is approving a very detailed DDA with what no doubt will be detailed development plans forthcoming from the County and the developer.  You are all responsible for the details in this contract, and I request you to demand something better than this.

SONOMA COUNTY AND CITY OF SANTA ROSA RELATIONSHIP:

Having lived in Santa Rosa since 1989, I am well aware that Sonoma County and the City of Santa Rosa have at times had a contentious relationship.  I have, however, never seen that sometimes contentious relationship reduced to a flat out threat in a legal contract.

Paragraph 3.4 of the DDA clearly issues what I can only characterize as a County threat to the City – if the City doesn’t approve at least 650 units of housing on the site, the County will contemplate entitling the project themselves. 

It is clear that the County is more concerned about the developer’s and their profits than about what is best for this site, or even possible on this site, and what is best for the City of Santa Rosa and its residents.

I have asked just exactly how the County contemplates to entitle the project should they be unhappy with the entitlements Santa Rosa approves, and have as yet not received a response.  Please explain to me exactly how you contemplate to grant entitlements for a property wholly within City limits that will need City sewer and water (at a minimum).

Additionally, this same paragraph 3.4 states that the County staff will work to coordinate and facilitate to ensure that the developer gets his entitlements and permits as quickly as possible, and the developer will only be responsible to pay for the County’s out of pocket costs in this regard, not any of the other County costs such as staff salaries.

Why is the County going to expend County taxpayer monies for staff salaries to benefit a private developer?

Please explain why you have not only chosen to exclude the public almost entirely from this process, but have also deliberately and intentionally chosen not to form a “partnership” with the City of Santa Rosa for this development.  While Santa Rosa, of course, would not be a party to the sale of the County’s real property, the County could have chosen to work cooperatively with Santa Rosa from the beginning of this process.

I am not an expert in DDAs by any stretch of the imagination.  But even I can see the numerous locations in the DDA where the County is held harmless by the developer, potentially to the City’s detriment.

This real property is wholly contained within the City of Santa Rosa, and Santa Rosa will have total responsibility for evaluating the Concept Project Plans, evaluating the total project, evaluating all the required studies, and will be the agency issuing all of the entitlements for this development.

The fact that you not only have excluded Santa Rosa almost as completely from the process as you have excluded the public, and then compounded that exclusion by threatening the City, is deeply disturbing.

PARCEL J:

While I am pleased that the Board finally realized that protection of Parcel J has long been contemplated, and is required, I am unhappy with several missing conditions in the DDA with regard to the protection of Parcel J.

1.  There is no excuse for selling Parcel J to the developer, even with the requirement that a Conservation Easement be applied to the parcel at closing.  Ownership of this parcel should remain with the County, and the County should immediately protect Parcel J.

In fact, there appears to be no provision in the DDA about what happens to Parcel J if the sale and/or development of this project by this developer is terminated for any one of multiple reasons, although the County has acknowledged that this Parcel must be protected in perpetuity. 

What provision has the County made to protect this parcel in the event this sale never closes?

Further, as referenced above, since it will be possible for this developer to transfer or sell this property at any time, and the new owner will thereafter be able to evade the requirements of this DDA, does that mean that any new owner would be under no obligation to protect Parcel J?

2.  The reduction in the sale price to this developer because he cannot develop on Parcel J is absurd and unacceptable, as discussed above.

3.  There is no Exhibit to the DDA that sets forth the required Conservation Easement to be applied to Parcel J.  This lack makes me question whether the County is serious about the protection of Parcel J.

I believe the County should amend this sale to this developer to remove Parcel J, should keep Parcel J in County ownership, and then should either transfer Parcel J to the Open Space District (or other similar agency/organization), and should cause the immediate and permanent protection of Parcel J.

PROBABLY A MINOR CONCERN:

In Paragraph 2.4.5, the County approves that OSL Construction, Inc. is an acceptable licensed general contractor for this development project.  As of Monday, June 19th, at 7:00 a.m., OSL Construction, Inc. contractor’s license is under suspension for nonpayment of Workers’ Compensation Insurance (which expired on May 1, 2017).  Perhaps this is an oversight, or perhaps it has been paid by now and the Contractor’s Licensing Board website hasn’t yet been updated, but it is still concerning.




CONCLUSION:

I hope that you all have read and thoroughly comprehended the DDA that is in front of you for approval.  I hope that you all also have read all of the correspondence you have received about this DDA and this project.

If you have, I believe you will conclude that the speed and secrecy with which you have been conducting this property sale and project is not serving the County, the County taxpayers, or the public.

You have already had to endure one embarrassing situation surrounding the proposed development of Parcel J; I would hope that you now realize that there are enough other problems with the within DDA that you are willing to demand more time to educate yourself and the public about this project.

Please continue the consideration of this DDA for a minimum of 30 days, if not longer. 

Thank you for your consideration.  I look forward to responses to my questions contained in this letter.

Of course, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or require additional information.

                                                            Very truly yours,





                                                             Sonia E. Taylor
           


Cc:              Caroline Judy, Sonoma County Director of General Services
Santa Rosa City Council
            Santa Rosa Planning Commission
David Guhin, Santa Rosa Director of Planning & Economic Development
            David Gouin, Santa Rosa Director of Housing & Community Services           
Sonoma County Housing Advocacy Group
            Accountable Development Coalition
            Sonoma County Transportation and Land Use Coalition
            J.D. Morris
            Kevin McCallum
            Paul Gullixson



[1]  The “surprise” existence of this third appraisal, dated in October 2016, is particularly disturbing since it was not even alluded to in the materials for the February 7, 2017 hearing, and clearly existed long before that hearing.
[2] It is unclear if the Board knew that they were providing direction to take this action, or if they even did provide that direction.

[3] I have heard from a reliable source that Mr. Johansen was actually offering more per unit for the base 400 units than did your selected developer. 
[4] Curiously, the up to 6 month time period for completion of the Conceptual Project Plans doesn’t appear to be considered when County staff is stating timeframes for the development of this site.  As a result of this omission, it is likely that Closing, under the best of all possible circumstances, will occur no earlier than 18 months from completion of the DDA, but could extend well beyond 2 years.
[5] While the current City of Santa Rosa requirements are for only 15% legally affordable housing, Santa Rosa is apparently planning to require a much higher percentage of legally affordable units in projects they approve in the future, making it likely that the 20% would be a minimum for Santa Rosa as well as the County.