Brookfield Residential Properties Inc. has begun construction on a new residential complex on the corner of Rohnert Park Expressway and Petaluma Hill road, just across the street from the Green Music Center. The complex is planned to have over 1200 homes, an apartment complex, two parks, and a commercial center, encouraging a sense of community. However, the current proposition for construction can be changed to better benefit Sonoma State.
The construction that can be seen from the road is the site preparation for the first three of twelve neighborhoods, which will contain about four hundred single-family detached homes. These new neighborhoods together will be called the University District.
My question is, why would Brookfield Inc. plan to build an expensive residential neighborhood across from Sonoma State? Although the company has not yet determined the asking prices for these homes, they are expected to be more upscale than surrounding neighborhoods. According to zillow.com, the median home value in Rohnert Park is well above $400,000, and is predicted to rise 2.2% in the next year.
In addition to the new homes, a commercial center and two parks are to be built within the University District. According to the North Bay Business Journal, the 100,000 square foot commercial center will feature various shops and restaurants, and the two parks will provide a total of 73 acres of recreational space.
This semester has welcomed the largest freshman class in SSU history with open arms, but with closed residential halls. The total on-campus living space tops at a little over 3,000. Many of the nearly 1,900 new students and 7,000 returning students are struggling to find housing, and are willing to look as far as Santa Rosa and Petaluma for a place to live. Why wouldn't Brookfield Inc. take advantage of the situation, and construct more affordable housing? Yes, there is an apartment complex, but it only has 218 units. Even if each apartment housed four students, there would only be room for 872 of them. And how expensive would the units be?
The irony in naming these new neighborhoods the “University District” is apparent. These new homes are too expensive for students, and Brookfield Inc. should not ignore the obvious moneymaker by marketing homes only to wealthy tenants.
I propose a change to Brookfield Inc.’s plan. Instead of building all deluxe neighborhoods, a larger apartment complex should be built in place of a neighborhood. The apartments should not exceed two stories, in order to maintain the low building height of the rest of the community. They could be arranged in a similar fashion to Sauvignon or Tuscany Village, with units varying in size and price to accommodate residents of all price ranges. An underground parking garage could also be built in the temporary runoff basin, providing parking for both residents and students.
While Brookfield Inc. is likely marketing these new homes to residents who are involved in the university, such as professors, administration, and concert-goers, I believe they should think towards the future, and invest in the construction of several affordable housing options for students. With its commercial center and wide open spaces, the University District would become a haven for off-campus students, and provide a new and exciting scene for on-campus students.
The project was first proposed in 2006, and has been changed several times since then by the Rohnert Park City Council, says the North Bay Business Journal. It can be changed again.