Pissed off by years of purple tape, rebuffed repeatedly in his makes an attempt to maneuver ahead on his pet undertaking in east Santa Rosa, Invoice Gallaher vowed to maintain combating.
“I’m too ornery to surrender,” the longtime Sonoma County developer instructed The Press Democrat in July 2009. “They’ve met their match with me.”
Gallaher, the founding father of Oakmont Senior Dwelling, was talking about his plan to develop Elnoka, the 68-acre property bounded to the south by Oakmont Village — the retirement group of about 4,500 residents — and by Freeway 12 to the east and Trione-Annadel State Park to the west.
Twelve years later, the battle goes on.
On Could 1, town of Santa Rosa launched a 726-page draft environmental affect report for Gallaher’s newest model of the undertaking, the Elnoka Persevering with Care Retirement Group, whose 676 residential items would home roughly 1,000 senior residents.
Whereas it should take metropolis planners most, if not the entire summer season, to evaluate feedback and weigh revisions for the report, battle strains are already drawn. Opponents imagine the Elnoka undertaking will create far an excessive amount of visitors on Freeway 12 — which might, in flip, make it that a lot tougher for folks to evacuate in case of wildfire.
The discharge of that tome-like report marked the start of a 45-day remark interval, which ends June 15.
“We now have over 75 written feedback to date,” Kristinae Toomian, a senior planner for metropolis, stated on June 2. Many are from residents of Oakmont, and others who dwell within the quick space.
Site visitors woes and wildfire evacuations
The overwhelming majority of these emails elevate two essential considerations. The primary is visitors. The principle entrance for the complicated would require a brand new visitors gentle on Freeway 12. Including 1,000 residents to the world will additional congest that main artery — particularly throughout commuting hours.
The second main subject being raised is how the Elnoka undertaking impacts emergency evacuations, in case of wildfire. Oakmont was evacuated through the fires of 2017 and final September. On each events, recalled Oakmont Village Affiliation president Tom Kendrick, it took some folks greater than two hours simply to get from their homes to Freeway 12.
“Should you drop one other 1,000 folks within the neighborhood, an already unacceptable scenario will get worse,” he stated.
Jack Tibbetts, the Santa Rosa councilman whose district contains the Elnoka parcel, was in Oakmont late on the night time of Sept. 27, 2020. With the Glass hearth encroaching from the north, residents inched alongside in heavy visitors. “It was insane, bumper to bumper,” he stated.
“I’m a fairly pro-housing man,” Tibbetts added. “I ran on being pro-housing, and I don’t assume I’ve ever voted towards a housing undertaking. However with regards to this specific undertaking, what must be entrance and heart of our consciousness isn’t housing. It’s security.”
No matter what number of housing items the proposal finally comprises, “whether or not it’s 600 or 200,” he stated, “the questions in my thoughts are going to be: How are we evacuating these folks? And the way will we not solely keep away from growing the quantity of visitors, within the occasion of an evacuation, however truly cut back it?”
Steve McCullagh, who handles website acquisition and improvement for Oakmont Senior Dwelling and is managing the Elnoka undertaking, didn’t reply to requests for remark.
Windsor-based Oakmont Senior Dwelling, based in 1997 by Invoice Gallaher, has deliberate and developed greater than 50 retirement communities within the western United States. It isn’t affiliated with Oakmont Village, the 1,400-acre deliberate Santa Rosa retirement group of greater than 3,000 houses that dates again to 1963.
At a Could 27 assembly of the Santa Rosa Planning Fee, Commissioner Akash Kalia stated he and fellow members famous with some concern that sections of the draft environmental affect report coping with emergency evacuations from the Elnoka space depend on outdated plans, shaped by town earlier than the Tubbs, Nuns and Glass fires scarred a lot of japanese Santa Rosa and Sonoma Valley. Since then, he famous, the difficulty of wildfire evacuations in that a part of the county has develop into far more delicate.
The proposed complicated’s 676 residential items embrace 528 flats, a 62-unit care heart and 12 connected items for worker housing. It additionally options non-public and formal eating rooms, a café, swimming pool, pet parks, strolling paths, a magnificence salon and different facilities.