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City Manager's Blog

Jan 11

Looking Back On 2016

Posted on January 11, 2017 at 8:37 AM by Kim Murray


As we look forward to the New Year, it is always important to look back and reflect on some of our accomplishments over the past year. Housing has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds and a top priority for the City Council this year. As 2016 has come to a close we can all celebrate the many housing successes and accomplishments we achieved as a community this year. Even with these success, there still much work to do.

In 2016, we expanded our relationships with our local housing service providers North Sonoma County Services (NSCS) and Committee on the Shelterless (COTS).  These organizations provide emergency and transitional housing services in our community and assist families at risk of displacement from their homes. NSCS and COTS manage the City’s eleven transitional housing units, a critical program that stabilizes families and enables them to move into more permanent housing. We also continued our partnership with the Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County (HLT) which has helped house low income families in the 16 affordable homes at Sonata, Sorrento Square and Chiquita Grove and continues to find qualified buyers for affordable homes that remain available. HLT has been a critical partner with the City as we continue to provide housing for our lower income families through our Inclusionary Housing program. Through our partnership with Fair Housing Sonoma County we have also hosted a Fair Housing Seminar, which was attended by local property owners and managers representing more than 170 rental units in our community, providing information on fair housing, recent changes under the law and expanding access to fair housing services in Healdsburg.
 
One of the most exciting aspects of the affordable housing conversation has been our ability to add approximately 74 units of affordable rental housing in our community over the next 12 to 24 months. These units are a direct response to a need identified by residents at over 16 public meetings - the need to construct an additional 200 affordable units in our community over the next six years. These units will come from three different projects. We hope to begin construction of 24 units of very low to low rental units at 1201 Grove Street in 2017. We also anticipate another 42 units of low to moderate affordable rental units at 110 Dry Creek. More recently the City Council approved the purchase of another 8 units at 721 Center Street, preserving our affordable rental stock and preventing the potential displacement of eight lower income families in our community. With the addition of these affordable units we are well on our way to meeting our target. Construction of these units will increase our affordable housing stock to approximately 476 units, or 9.6% of our total housing stock, placing Healdsburg amongst the top of cities in the county with the most affordable units as a percentage of total housing stock.
 
As a tool to help keep rents down on existing rental properties, the City Council approved the Rental Unit Rehabilitation Loan Program, which offers property owners financial incentives to retain and improve our community’s valuable rental housing stock while also maintaining affordability through limited annual rent increases. This program is unique in that the City will offer a forgivable loan to the property owner for improvements to the rental property and in exchange the property owner must agree to keep the unit affordable over the term of the loan. The goal of the program is to improve the condition of rental units in our community while also protecting tenants from significant rent increases.
As we move into 2017 there is still much work to be done around affordable housing. Soon we will be seeking proposals for an affordable housing project at 155 Dry Creek Road (the property behind Big John’s) and, as Saggio Hills moves forward, there will be additional opportunities to build more units over time. As these projects progress it is important we hear from you.  If you have any questions or comments I would encourage you to contact the Housing Department. Here is wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year from City Hall!

David Mickaelian
City Manager


(posted on behalf of David Mickaelian - KM)

Feb 03

Proposed City Hall Remodel

Posted on February 3, 2016 at 2:25 PM by Kim Murray

One of the outcomes from City Council’s adopted goals for 2015 - 2016 was to complete a conceptual plan, cost estimates, and identify funding sources for a City owned Community Development Center (CDC). In order to better understand why it became a goal, it’s important to have a little background. In February 1997, when the new City Hall building was completed, staff from the old City Hall moved into the new building. At the same time, engineering, electric staff, planning and building staff located at the Corporation Yard moved into approximately 5,000 sq. ft. of industrial leased space on Allan Court (behind the new City Hall) currently referred to as the CDC. This relocation was intended to be temporary until a plan was created to expand facilities on the City Hall lot, to include the CDC.

 

In 2005, as the need for more space became apparent, City Council approved funding to lease an additional 2,500 sq. ft. of space. At the same time, the Council directed staff to look into constructing a city hall building annex within the three-year lease period for the CDC space. On March 3, 2008, staff presented a report prepared by ArchiLOGIX including a Preliminary Design Study. The project was tabled until a funding source was developed.

 

The current CDC building itself is a warehouse, which holds 22 to 25 employees. The City spends approximately $85,000 annually in rent and utilities. The interior requires significant upgrades in order to properly house City employees. Based on the cost of rent, utilities, and capital improvements the City set off to explore what it would cost to build a building on the adjacent City owned property next to City Hall.

 

In August 2015, the City Council City approved an agreement with Gelfand Partners Architects to create a conceptual design for a City owned CDC. Approximately 7,000 sq. ft. of space would be required to replace the current CDC. However, it was determined that if the City were to reconfigure the interior of City Hall approximately 3,500 sq. ft. of new space would be required to accommodate the CDC operation. Upon review of the existing City Hall space and square footage required to replace the current CDC, Gelfand Partners Architects found a reconfiguration of the existing City Hall to be the most efficient path.  

 

The goal of a relocation of the CDC and incorporation into a reconfigured City Hall is to eliminate an ongoing rental expense, create a more resourceful and improved experience for our residents when working with the City, significantly improve overall energy efficiency, reduce our carbon footprint, decrease the City’s utility expense, and provide a better work environment for staff.

 

The City of Healdsburg will be hosting a public meeting providing information about the proposed City Hall remodel and improvements where City staff and representatives from Gelfand Partners Architects will review the process and recommendations for the remodel. The meeting will be held Thursday, February 11 at 5 PM in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 401 Grove Street.

 

For additional information, please visit www.cityofhealdsburg.org or call 707.431.1137.

 

David Mickaelian
City Manager

(posted on behalf of David Mickaelian - KM)

Sep 11

Housing in Healdsburg

Posted on September 11, 2015 at 10:16 AM by David Mickaelian

The City of Healdsburg, like many communities throughout our State, is facing a number of housing related challenges.  These challenges have been exacerbated in Healdsburg due to the recent recession, elimination of Redevelopment Funds by the State, and many have argued the limitations of the Growth Management Ordinance, which inadvertently has curtailed construction of new market rate, multi-family units for sale or rental units.  This has all become much more personal and painful for our community over the past two months with the news of families being evicted from their apartments as well as reported rent increases.

While it seems like a perfect storm of housing issues, the City has been working for some time to address these issues with short, mid, and long-term approaches in mind.

Short Term: City staff met with a number of property owners and property management firms (controlling over 650 rental units in Healdsburg) to discuss appropriate methods and approaches to rental management.  All were asked to support a Rental Advisory that your City Council approved on July 17th.  The “Advisory” provides that:

  • Property owners have an obligation to provide a measure of reliability to tenants regarding rent increases both in terms of rate of increase and frequency. Rent increases for current tenants should be reasonable and fair. A guideline for a reasonable and fair increase amount should not exceed 10% annually.
  • When significant work on a rental unit is needed that requires the tenant to be removed, the tenant is to be given the first right of return to his or her unit once repairs are completed.
  • Owners / property managers imposing reasonable rent increases should be willing to listen openly to tenants’ concerns and consider special arrangements for hardship cases when appropriate.

Safe and healthy living conditions are a shared responsibility. Property owners are expected to respect the rights of their tenants and provide a timely response to maintenance/repair requests and in accordance with applicable law.

The full text of the Rental Advisory is listed at www.ci.healdsburg.ca.ua.  We were pleased that for those in attendance, most of these requests were consistent with their current practices. In addition, Council directed City staff to work with North Sonoma Community Services, along with their partners Committee on the Shelterless (COTS), and Catholic Charities, to help those tenants who have been or are currently being displaced.  To support this effort, the City has committed funding for aid services and support staff to assist families.

Mid-Term: Eighteen months ago, the City began working on a strategy and long-term approach to resolving Healdsburg’s housing challenges.  As part of this effort, the City hosted a number of public workshops and created enhanced outreach efforts (including this website www.ci.healdsburg.ca.us/360/Housing), to better inform our residents and gain feedback on emerging policies and actions that the City can take.  One of the key themes, which emerged from the series, was an overwhelming desire from the community to increase the diversity of housing, as well as its affordability.

Like all complex issues, affordable and diverse housing in Healdsburg will not be solved easily.  The City has embarked on a process that will require modifications to the Growth Management Ordinance, new tools for creating affordable housing, removing barriers to cost effective construction and creating new paths to encourage construction of different housing types that meet the needs of changing life stages and lifestyles.  All of these issues will be addressed in a forthcoming Housing Action Plan that is a top priority for Council.  To assist with some aspects of this effort the City Council established a nine member Community Housing Committee, and asked that their first task be to draw up language for updating the GMO, in order to make it current with today’s market realities, and remove what has been identified as a considerable barrier to more workforce housing.  This language will go to the voters to in an upcoming 2016 election.  

Long-Term: Additional housing will need to be built to support our community’s workforce.  We have an obligation to support those who work in our community, provide cost effective opportunities to live in our community, and are exploring tools and techniques that have worked in other communities like ours.  To create a foundation for these actions the City has adopted a number of plans that provide our leaders guidance as we go down this path.  These documents include the City’s General Plan, the Housing Element, the City Council’s 5 year Strategic Plan, and Council’s annual goals.  The forthcoming Housing Action Plan will be a keystone in this effort as well.  These plans will help shape what housing looks like in the future, and clarify what we can be doing.

We encourage you to go to http://www.ci.healdsburg.ca.us/610/Committee-Resource to review these documents and learn more about the process, meetings and outcomes of these efforts.

David Mickaelian
City Manager