Elnoka development back on track
The road to building Elnoka, a 68-acre senior development on the western edge of Oakmont off of Sonoma Highway, has taken another turn as a new proposal has been officially filed with the City of Santa Rosa.
Since the developer, Oakmont Senior Living (OSL), bought the property in 2005, the company has tried to come up with a housing project that can pass muster with politically potent Oakmonters next door, city planning staff, city politicians, and the general public.
But the ride has been long and bumpy. Over 10 years ago there was strong opposition to a proposal for a multi-age housing project with a commercial component. Plans eventually moved toward the concept of senior housing and senior-oriented facilities.
The latest iteration, filed earlier this month with city planners, calls for a state-licensed Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) that would encompass 676 rental living units for those 60 and older, made up of 74 cottages, 528 senior apartments, 62 units in an assisted living and memory care facility, and 12 units of employee housing.
Elnoka’s amenities would include a recreation center, swimming pool, sports and bocce courts, pet parks, community gardens, and walking and bike trials.
Various ideas of a CCRC have been discussed in recent years, with OSL making changes and revisions along the way after input from Oakmonters and others before filing an application with the city.
The property, much of which is currently vacant, falls within the jurisdiction of the City of Santa Rosa, as does neighboring Oakmont. Services such as sewer, water, and police and fire coverage would be provided by the city.
Elnoka would be a gated community, with main access from Sonoma Highway, and another access from Melita Road. It is anticipated that a traffic signal would be required at the Sonoma Highway entrance, very close to the signal at Melita Road and the highway.
As designed, there would be no public access point between Elnoka and Oakmont. An idea floated to run the proposed Sonoma Valley Trail through Elnoka has been nixed by OSL, but OSL officials have said they will provide an easement for the bicycle trail along the Sonoma Highway frontage of the property.
It’s anticipated that a full Environmental Impact Report will be required, analyzing potential traffic, noise, and other environmental impacts. There will be public meetings, plus a number of hearings at the city level.
OSL project manager Steve McCullagh attended a meeting of Oakmont’s Community Development Committee (OCDC) on June 8 to lay out the specifics of the latest proposal and ask for support. The OCDC will eventually make a recommendation about the project to Oakmont’s governing body, the Oakmont Village Association (OVA) Board of Directors.
At the OCDC meeting, McCullagh touted Elnoka as helping to meet the increasing needs of Sonoma County’s aging population. As an illustration, McCullagh said that OSL’s Varenna and Fountaingrove Lodge developments in Santa Rosa have 167 and 62 people on their respective waiting lists, representing a two- to three-year wait.
As for potential traffic impacts, McCullagh said at the OCDC meeting that traffic “Would be an issue wherever we build,” but that, according to a traffic consultant, the senior development would generate 43 percent less traffic than if it was developed according to what the city’s General Plan would allow under current zoning density.
McCullagh also said that vans, buses and town cars would be available for Elnoka residents to use to frequent businesses outside the development. The current proposal has no onsite commercial component.
Support from Oakmont officials has always been a priority for OSL ever since Oakmont was instrumental in forcing OSL to abandon a plan for multi-age housing around 10 years ago.
Eventually the CCRC concept began to be discussed between OSL and Oakmont, with an agreement signed and recorded in 2012 stating that the OVA would “actively support” a CCRC project, which at the time had the development at 619 units.