RP planners skeptical about proposals
Rohnert Park commissioners have many questions for downtown proposals during ‘very preliminary preview’
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By Jud Snyder  August 1, 2014 12:00 am

Rohnert Park now has two plans for a Downtown RP. At Thursday’s July 24 Rohnert Park Planning Commission meeting, Joe Guerra, consultant on the staff at SunCal, the Irvine-based development firm that now owns RP’s State Farm Insurance Company’s property, presented a plan for Downtown RP based on the Windsor downtown park. 

But chances are it won’t work. The four commissioners present (John Borba was absent)  were skeptical and had too many questions. Last week’s meeting was only a “very preliminary preview,” noted Marilyn Ponton development services manager, and it only concerned the State Farm’s 30 acres on RP Expressway and State Farm Drive east to the SMART commute rail tracks.

Guerra said SunCal has plans to keep the almost three-acre plot of parkland at the southeast corner of RPX and State Farm Drive. It would have two retail buildings on the access driveway to the one-story office building (which will be torn down) and the driveway would run all the way to the commute train depot. Across the driveway would be more retail shops with apartments above them. The rest of the property would be multi-family apartments and condos. He calls it Rohnert Crossings.

Windsor’s downtown with its park and mixed use two-story buildings is 2.4 acres, Guerra noted, and his offered parcel is larger by almost two acres. The commission spent two hours debating his plans, including public comment from Nancy Kaufman, Juanita Salisbury and three others. The commission praised their “intelligent input” to the debate. David  Grabill, Sonoma County’s affordable housing guru, scolded the city for its lack of housing for low- and medium-income families. “It’s the worst in Sonoma County.”

Kaufman said, “The commission needs a lot more public input. It seems to me the City Center idea here is more of a buffer between the City Center (north of RPX) and all the housing planned for the rest of the property.”

Commissioner Susan Adams said,  “I’m terribly concerned about the number of residential units planned for this property. When I think of downtown I don’t think of a corner piece of property.”

Commissioner Susan Haydon said, “It’s a good plan for the railroad station. I like the open spaces here, but I have mixed feelings about the rest.”

Commissioner Dan Blanquie said, “I like some of it, but my vision is to have more commercial use.”

Chairman Guidici said, “This property is an iconic piece of property. The city council will have a lot more to say about it.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Ponton had a lengthy list of questions for the consultants. The comments were scattered, some parts were “good” and some parts were “impractical.” About the only solid answers to emerge from this “very preliminary” work session were the park with green grass and trees will remain at the southeast corner of RPX and State Farm Drive and east to the railroad tracks, the insurance company’s headquarters will be torn down and the State Farm Drive name will be replaced with another name. 

Guerra said his plan was “purely conceptual.” He mentioned other SunCal projects in Dublin, Vallejo, Oak Knoll in East Oakland and near Oakley. “Our company does not build houses. We build roads and infrastructure like water and sewer facilities. The discussion Thursday night last week also included crossings of State Farm Drive to the shopping centers like Raley’s and Safeway, and also crossings over RPX to the library and City Center Drive. The overall tone was purely preliminary as Ponton emphasized. She didn’t bother to add a staff report to the package, but took many notes as people spoke.

Next stop is the RP City Council.

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