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News: 05/15/2014

Elnoka developers back with new plan

The developers of Elnoka, a major project off of Sonoma Hwy near Melita Road, are back with a revised plan that turns the 68-acre property into a gated community for seniors ages 60 and older.

The Elnoka property, currently vacant and within the boundaries of the city of Santa Rosa, borders Oakmont.

At an April 29 meeting of the Oakmont Village Association (OVA) Board of Directors, Steve McCullagh, a project manager for the developer, Oakmont Senior Living (OSL), detailed changes in a plan that had gained the OVA’s support 16 months ago.

OSL’s Elnoka is a separate entity from Oakmont, and previous OSL attempts dating back seven years to develop some of the property as multi-family apartments ran into a political buzz saw from many in Oakmont and the OVA. Oakmont demanded that anything built on the property should be oriented toward seniors. Senior housing and nursing facilities had once been planned at that location in the 1990s by another developer.

Under pressure, OSL abandoned the concept of a multi-age housing complex. This proposal had gone through a lengthy Environmental Impact Review (EIR) process with the city of Santa Rosa, but the EIR was never finalized or approved.

Then in October of 2011, OSL changed gears and introduced a proposal for the entire 68-acre property, one that involved a majority senior housing for 55 and older (mostly units in three story buildings), with recreational facilities, employee housing, an assisted living and dementia care facility, and 5,000 square feet of commercial space.

In December of 2012, the OVA and OSL entered into a legal agreement which stated, in part, that the OVA would “actively support” the project, which at the time totaled 619 units altogether. OSL never filed any new plans with Santa Rosa as it was busy with other projects, and then came back to the OVA at its April 29 meeting with some changes.

According to McCullagh, research had led OSL to conclude that there was market demand for a different mix of housing, one which included the building of many more single story individual homes (ranging from 1,200 to 2,400 square feet), and a decrease in the number of units in the three story buildings. Also, the commercial space and the employee housing components have been removed. The number of housing units now total 479, a decrease of 23 percent from the last plan. Other components include a 75-unit care building, recreational facilities, dining hall and dog parks.

Everything on the property would be part of a state-licensed Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), which offers long-term continuing care services, ranging from in-home medical calls to dementia and assisted care in an on-site facility. CCRC rules require that all residents be 60 years of age or older.

Elnoka would have two gated access points, one at Melita Road and one at Sonoma Hwy. CalTrans has previously approved a stoplight at the Sonoma Hwy. entrance.

McCullagh said in an interview that CCRCs allow residents to, “stay in the same development without ever having to move off site.” OSL has two other CCRCs in Santa Rosa, Varenna at Fountaingrove and the Fountaingrove Lodge.

At the OVA board meeting on April 29, Wally Schilpp, an Oakmont resident who has been involved in negotiations over Elnoka with OSL and the city for close to seven years, said the current proposal is, “as good as we will ever see.”

“This is an outrageously good plan,” said Schilpp,” who praised OSL which he said “bent over backwards to solve all the problems we bring up to them.”

The 2011 agreement between OSL and the OVA detailing OVA support will have to be tweaked slightly to reflect the new changes, and then have to be approved by the OVA board, most likely at its May 20 meeting.

McCullagh said that after OVA approval, he hopes to file a new application with the city within the next six months.

At the moment, it’s unclear what the city planners will require of OSL and the revamped Elnoka project in terms of environmental review. Though an EIR was still in the works for the original multi-age family housing proposal back in 2011, it’s not known what might be able to be used from those original environmental studies.

City of Santa Rosa planner Erin Morris, who was the last one assigned to Elnoka, said that since OSL hasn’t officially filed a new application yet, she didn’t want to speculate.

McCullagh said he wondered if an EIR would be necessary for this current version of Elnoka.

“Probably the least amount of (environmental) impact would be a senior project like this,” McCullagh said.

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