Sid Commons Approval Good for Petaluma

The recent Petaluma City Council approval of the Sid Commons project is welcome news for those seeking housing and particularly affordable housing, in Petaluma.

Despite opposition from some residents close to the project in the Payran area, this project clearly provides all the necessary attributes to be a significant contribution to Petaluma.

As President and CEO of the North Bay Leadership Council I am especially aware of the housing crunch facing employees in the region and those who are searching for high-quality housing.

As I watched Sid Commons move through the approval process, I have been very impressed with the developers and their commitment to building a project that is well-designed and hits the mark in the following ways:

The project was originally proposed with 278 units on a site that the General Plan designates as medium-density residential with residential densities up to 18 units per acre. In response to suggestions from neighbors and the planning commission, the project was redesigned at 180 units. With housing needs so apparent in Petaluma, the developers still chose to reduce the numbers of units to show good faith with the neighbors. Importantly as well, the project will make available at least 10% of the units to those who qualify as low-income individuals and families. The units, unlike in some projects, will be spread throughout the project so neighbors remain unaware of the income levels of others in the complex.

Developers early in the process walked the adjoining neighborhoods to ascertain the concerns and desires of those living in the area. After doing so, the project added a public park and a public dog park. The public park was added after people expressed that young children were playing in the streets rather than in a safe environment with playground equipment. Additional greenspace was added to the project by reducing the number of buildings from 22 to 12 and increasing the building height from two to three stories. An excellent use of the property to be sure.

Adding to the amenities are access to a river walk, public access to the river and in a first for Petaluma, a project that achieves Net Zero status, which means the project will produce all the energy it consumes utilizing a robust photovoltaic system that will be state-of-the-art. This production of on-site energy will assure Sid Commons is not drawing from any outside electrical capacity.

Out of an abundance of caution neighbors have expressed concerns about two very important areas, both of which I take very seriously. First, floodplain development and second, traffic circulation in the area. In both cases the developers have hit the issues head-on.

Sid Commons is not in the floodplain of the Petaluma River or its tributaries. Moreover, the developers in scaling back the project in terms of building count and specifically where they will be building on the project site, place this project over three hundred feet from the river and well outside the floodplain. Some neighbors who know better, continue to suggest this project is in the floodplain. It is not.

In connection with the false story of Sid Commons in the floodplain is the suggestion the project will be affected by or exacerbate high-level sea rise in Petaluma. In actuality, the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) categorically debunked that notion by reporting that if a 5.7- foot sea-rise, a 100-year flood event and a King tide all coincided at the same time, the Petaluma River would rise approximately one mile downstream of the site.

As to traffic, while the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) document reports that vehicular trips in the area do not create “significant” impacts at any intersection, the developers nonetheless have created a suite of traffic calming measures including stop signs, traffic circles and curb extensions to lower traffic speeds.

While it is true that people near a project typically express concerns, it is also true that additional housing needs to be built somewhere. In watching the planning commission and city council hearings I heard more than one neighbor say it was a good project, just not where it is being proposed.” I would ask, if not here, where? Perhaps another parcel in town that nearby neighbors will find fault with? The housing shortage in Petaluma is real. It is real in the region. In that light, responsible developers who are willing to modify their projects to attempt to ameliorate neighbor concerns should be applauded. I applaud Sid Commons and believe it will be an excellent addition to Petaluma.

North Bay Leadership Council is an employer-led public policy advocacy organization committed to providing leadership in ways to make the North Bay sustainable, prosperous and innovative.  The Council includes 50 leading employers in the region.  Our members represent a wide variety of businesses, non-profits and educational institutions, with a workforce in excess of 25,000. For more information please contact Cynthia Murray at 707.283.0028 or visit us at www.northbayleadership.org.

Contact:  Cynthia Murray, President and CEO

Email:  cmurray@northbayleadership.org

Phone:  (707) 283-0028

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