Sonoma State University received unanimous approval from the California State University Board of Trustees to purchase a 90-unit apartment complex in Petaluma to be used for faculty and staff housing.
The project is a multifamily, four- and five-story complex nearing completion by Basin Street Properties on a 2.17-acre parcel adjacent to the Petaluma Marina. The complex, located roughly 10 miles south of campus, will be leased to faculty and staff with leases ranging from one to three years.
“We are excited to be able to move forward with this landmark acquisition,” said SSU President Judy Sakaki. “This will allow us to address Sonoma State’s housing needs in an immediate and significant way.”
Sean Flannery, President of Basin Street Properties said, “Basin Street Properties is proud to be working with SSU to achieve the goal of providing much needed housing for faculty and staff. This represents a great example of the public and private sector working together to meet an important need in the community.”
According to a recently completed housing demand study, the University is currently in need of 118 rental units and 174 for-sale units for faculty and staff. Joyce Lopes, Vice President for Administration and Finance and Chief Financial Officer for SSU, said the university originally looked at acquiring land to build workforce housing but shifted to purchasing one already under construction after hearing about the availability of the Petaluma complex.
“This arrangement is going to help us address our housing needs four to six years sooner than if we had to build it ourselves,” said Lopes. “We also end up taking ownership of a high-quality project, which will be a tremendous asset for us.”
The $42 million acquisition will be funded through a combination of University reserves and the issuance of Systemwide Revenue Bonds. SSU officials said it will be purchased at or below its appraised value, and the cost of operation will be covered by rental income. The property will be owned and managed by the Sonoma State housing program. While SSU faculty and staff will have top priority, excess inventory could be made available, by agreement, to employees of other regional public colleges and universities.
President Sakaki, who lost her home in the fires of October 2017, told the trustees that she knows “firsthand just how challenging it is to find housing” in the Sonoma County area. “The housing crisis has had a severe impact on Sonoma State,” said Sakaki. “In addition to adding more stress to the quality of life of our employees, we are finding that one in every five job candidates who are offered positions at Sonoma State have turned us down this past year due to the high cost and lack of availability of housing.”
The acquisition of the Petaluma complex is the first step in a multi-year SSU housing initiative. Sakaki announced in October that Sonoma State has set a goal of providing on-campus housing for half of all students by 2040. Currently about 30 percent of the university’s 9,300 students live in residential suites and apartments on campus. The first phase, which is still in the conceptual stage, calls for building 400 to 600 housing units for freshmen near the Zinfandel Village suites on the west side of campus.
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