Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Redevelopment Agency gave Futrell $200,000 "deferred loan" for Seventh Street Apartments

The Santa Rosa Redevelopment Agency took just half an hour at a 3/27/00 Special Meeting to unanimously approve a $200,000 "deferred loan" to developer Hugh Futrell, for his Seventh Street Apartments project.  The board's discussion at the meeting indicates that the loan was in fact a contribution intended "to facilitate housing", pursuant to the Agency's Downtown Housing Demonstration Program.

At that time, the Redevelopment Agency members were Chairman John Picchi, William Arnone, Charles Evans, Wally Lowry, and Mike McKeon.  Redevelopment Programs Coordinator Jocelyn Lundgren introduced the item, commenting that:

"This is being proposed as a market rate project, consistent with the Agency's Downtown Housing Demonstration Program. The objective of that program was to facilitate market rate residential units downtown."

The minutes detail,

"The loan terms being recommended include a 3% deferred loan with a 20 year term. There is a low probability that the Agency's loan will be repaid in full. Because the project economics are marginal, the Agency's decision on whether or not to approve this loan is a policy decision based on whether the Agency thinks it would like to contribute $200,000 to this project to facilitate housing as opposed to it being an economic decision.

Staff recommends that the Agency, by resolution, approve this loan commitment in the amount of $200,000. A precommitment letter is included in the Agency packet that lays out the specific terms. Also, Debbie Kerns from Keyser Marston is present as well as Hugh Futrell should there be questions.

Mr. Lowry discussed wording used in the documents and thought it may be confusing.  Ms. Lundgren stated it is a policy decision as to whether there is a grant or not, and staff is recommending that it be in the format of a deferred loan. Wording will be corrected in the final version of the loan documents." [emphasis added]

And later,

"Mr. Arnone asked if the loan would be forgiven if the developer retains ownership and doesn't refinance for 20 years. Ms. Lundgren stated that is correct. She stated the logic behind forgiving a loan at 20 years is that, after 20 years pass, it is pretty much already forgiven." [emphasis added]

The board had apparently discussed the proposal before, and some members were familiar with it:

"Mr. Arnone referred to pages 42-45. He asked if the punitive conditions were going to be retained that were discussed in the January proposal. Ms. Lundgren referenced the precommitment letter, starting at page 16 and going through 23, as being the terms that are being proposed today to the agency for approval.

Ms. Lundgren commented there had been a meeting of the Project Review Committee where this project was discussed. Mr. Lowry stated the Agency should know that what is being proposed today evolved as a compromise between the proposal from Mr. Futrell and what was agreed to by Keyser Marston."

The San Francisco office of Keyser Marston Associates, Inc. apparently helped put the deal together.  Its website says,

"Keyser Marston excels at fostering creative partnerships between public entities and the private marketplace, resulting in the creation of exciting and revived places where people want to shop, play, work and live.

Our team provides comprehensive consulting services spanning a myriad of land uses - from affordable housing and transit-oriented developments to military base reuse and major mixed-use developments. While we have been instrumental in making major developments happen, our resume also includes many smaller scale projects that are equally important to us."

The minutes report,

"Debbie Kern, Keyser Marston Associates, commented her group had compromised and agreed to exclude those provisions from the final agreement. The 22% is against all of the income in the entire project and includes the rent from the apartments and the office space. We are not just looking at only the restricted units; it is against everything and it wasn't a true reflection of the economics of the project. It is in Mr. Futrell's economic interest to refinance to get more money out. After he receipts all of his deferred fees, we'll be sharing 50/50."

The Redevelopment Agency apparently intended Futrell's $200,000 "deferred loan" to be no more than a one-time "demonstration":

"[Executive Director Stephen F. Burke] commented this arrangement is based upon a demonstration program.  This is an opportunity to see what other projects might come forward and is not precedent setting.

Chairman Picchi stated that the resolution is clear that the circumstances are unique. On the down side, there are more than 20 units so we are paying less than $10,000 per unit and that, compared to money we have put out on other projects, is a good deal and puts the housing downtown where we want the housing." [emphasis added]

And in conclusion,

"Mr. Lowry stated Mr. Futrell has been the only developer willing to put housing downtown." [emphasis added]

The Other Santa Rosa wonders whether Futrell was also the only developer the Redevelopment Agency gave $200,000 to support a downtown housing project...

Sunday, July 25, 2004


Councilman Martini to move Taft Street to SR developer's vineyard

Santa Rosa Councilman Mike Martini plans to build a $4 million, 40,000-square foot, 200,000-case winery near Windsor, in partnership with Santa Rosa developer Joe Keith. Martini is a partner in Taft Street Winery in Sebastopol. Taft Street will relocate to an acre and a half of Keith's 28-acre vineyard on Jensen Lane northeast of Windsor. Keith is President of developer/builder Cobblestone Homes in Santa Rosa.

The North Bay Business Journal said (7/24, "Taft Street's grand plans"),

"The arrangement would give Mr. Keith a winery tenant to supplement income from winegrape sales to Taft Street and others, and Taft Street would get access to municipal water and sewer and be closer to a grape supplier, according to Mr. Martini."

It's not clear whether Taft Street already buys grapes from Keith's vineyard, or just that it might do so when the winery relocates there.

Martini and Keith also are associates through their membership in the Sonoma County Alliance. Cobblestone/Keith and Taft Street/Martini are both current members. Martini has been a member since 1991, and the countywide developer's lobby hired him to be its paid Executive Director two years ago, while he was Santa Rosa's Mayor. Current Mayor Sharon Wright was SCA Director 1986--2001.

Announcement of Taft Street's proposed relocation raises the question of how long Martini and Keith have been working together to plan the project, and whether Martini might have participated in any Council actions related to Cobblestone/Keith during that period. Martini may also have to consider whether he should abstain from any Council actions affecting Windsor's water and sewer, such as its access to Santa Rosa's pipeline to The Geysers.

Taft Street has applied to Windsor, and the Town is hiring a consultant to do an environmental impact report on the winery project. Keith's vineyard is not in Windsor now, but is slated for annexation and ultimate residential development in 15--25 years. It appears the new winery might preempt or delay that proposed future housing. The NBBJ said,

"Before the relocation could happen, Windsor would need to insert language in its General Plan and zoning ordinance about continued agricultural use on the property, approve a winery use permit, then pursue annexation through the county's Local Agency Formation Commission."

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


NBC fat cats dedicated to promoting public policy

A brief Press Democrat business page item today (7/20) reported that San Anselmo consultant Don Duncan has been appointed executive director of the North Bay Council.  The story said,

"The North Bay Council is a group of employers, selected by invitation, that promotes policies it believes will benefit the North Bay in six key areas--transportation, housing, education, environment, economic development and health care.  Members include Kaiser Permanente, Bank of America, Sonoma State University and The Press Democrat."

North Bay citizens ought to be aware of any self-appointed, invitation-only, issue-oriented activist organization with members as prominent as just those listed.

According to the NBC website, here:,

"Thirteen years ago, leaders from eight Marin companies founded the Council on a simple premise: We can accomplish more by working together.
Today, the Council has grown to include 30 private employers in Marin and Sonoma counties. We represent a broad spectrum of industries, professional services, non-profit employers and educational institutions, with a workforce in excess of 20,000."

The website says the current members include:

Autodesk, Inc.
Bank of America
Bank of Marin
Dominican University of California
Fireman's Fund Insurance Company
Frank Howard Allen Realtors
Guide Dogs for the Blind
Infineon Raceway
Kaiser Permanente
Lanahan & Reilley LLP
LucasArts Entertainment Company
Lucas Digital Ltd.
Lucasfilm Ltd.
Lucas Learning Ltd.
Lucas Licensing Ltd.
Marin General Hospital
Marin Independent Journal
Matsen Insurance Brokers
Medtronic AVE
Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Meuller & Naylor
North Bay Business Journal
Northbay Family Homes
Novato Community Hospital
Pacific Gas & Electric Company
Press Democrat
Sonoma State University
The Vick Group/Smith Barney

You can follow the links to their individual websites.

Members of the current NBC board of directors are:

ChairmanRobert Griswold
     President & CEOBank of Marin
Vice-ChairSteve Page
     President & General ManagerInfineon Raceway
     Chip Nielsen, Partner, Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor
Chairman Emeritus
     Gordon Radley, Retired, Lucasfilm Ltd.

Dr. Ruben Arminana
     President, Sonoma State University
Massey Bambara
     Market President, Bank of America
Larry Brackett
     President, Frank Howard Allen Realtors
Ken Clark
     Publisher and Editor, North Bay Business Journal
Dr. Joseph Fink
     President, Dominican University of CA
Tom Forster
     Director of Operations, Lucasfilm Ltd.
Roger Grossman
     Publisher, Marin Independent Journal
Kent HarveySr.
     Vice President, Treasurer, and CFO, Pacific Gas & Electric Company
Patricia Kendall
     Medical Group Administrator, Kaiser Permanente
Gene Kunde
     Chief Operating Officer, Birkenstock
Daniel J. Lanahan
     Partner, Lanahan & Reilley LLP
Pat Mackin
     VP & General Manager, Medtronic AVE
Mike Parman
     Publisher, Press Democrat
Bob Phillips
     President and CEO, Guide Dogs for the Blind
Jeff Post
     President & CEO, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company
Margaret Sabin
     CEO, Marin General Hospital & Novato Community Hospital
Mike Sutton
     Executive Vice President, Autodesk
NBC Executive DirectorDon Duncan

North Bay Region corporate cats don't get much fatter than those on the list.

So what does the North Bay Council do?

"Our members are dedicated to achieving the long-term economic sustainability and quality of life in the North Bay by collaborating with other business and civic leaders to promote sound, regionally-focused public policy.

We believe North Bay employers have a responsibility to be involved in programs and policies that support our community and its future. Through philanthropy, volunteerism, community service, and by successfully employing thousands of local residents, our members are major contributors to the quality of life in the region."

Friday, July 16, 2004


SRJC uses EIRs to design buildings

Santa Rosa Junior College vice president Curt Groninga told the Press Democrat that for at least 22 years, the JC has designed and planned buildings in tandem with the consultants who prepared the Environmental Impact Reports that evaluated their impacts. 
Carol Benfell reported 7/16 ("SRJC parking garage stirs opposition"),
"Groninga said the college worked hand in hand with the company doing the environmental studies, and used that information as it became available to guide the building design.  He said he didn't expect anything new to come out of the public hearing [set for Monday 7/19 at the Steele Lane Community Center].  'We have never in 22 years experienced an EIR changing the design of a structure,' Groninga said. 'The EIR guides the institution as we design and plan the project.' "
Santa Rosa School Board member Hugh Futrell--a developer himself--says that's not consistent with State law:
"' The core position of the California Environmental Quality Act [CEQA] is a complete environmental review before the decision point on the project,' Futrell said.  He is not suggesting the college is acting in bad faith, Futrell said, but it does give the appearance that SRJC is committed to the project no matter what is said at the public hearing."  He also questioned whether the structure would be consistent with the Santa Rosa General Plan.
The PD said the school board voted unanimously Wednesday to send a letter commenting on the EIR, and "questioning the legality of the design and the propriety of designing a building in detail before the public has been heard." 
The JC proposes to build a 5 1/2 level, 1,100 space high-rise parking structure on Mendocino Avenue at Pacific, where there is now a ground level parking lot: "The proposed SRJC parking garage would be the biggest and tallest building on campus, with 356,000 square feet of floor space and a clock tower that rises 97 feet from the ground."
The PD story didn't say why Futrell and the School Board have taken a critical interest in the JC's proposed garage.  We might expect Futrell and Groninga to be allies: both were involved in the 1998 Downtown/Railroad Square R/UDAT process, and Futrell and SRJC have current or planned developments in Railroad Square.
Futrell is building Railroad Square Terrace between Fourth and Fifth Streets, and plans to construct one or more retail/office buildings on Davis Street.  The JC plans to house its Culinary Arts program in the proposed Food & Wine Center in Railroad Square, using some of the money from bond Measure A voters approved March 2002.
The PD reported 2/28/02,
"When voters cast their ballots Tuesday for or against Santa Rosa Junior College's $251 million bond measure, they may be determining the future of Sonoma County's proposed Food and Wine Center.  Measure A promises a new library, additional classrooms and better parking facilities For SRJC, as well as a major expansion of the Petaluma campus.
But also tucked into the measure is $4 million to relocate the junior college's culinary arts program to the Food and Wine Center, targeted for construction in 2004 on a 6.5-acre site near Santa Rosa's Railroad Square.  That amount is one-fifth of the $20 million estimated cost of the center, which would also include a farmers market and boutiques.
While wine center proponents said a no vote on Measure A will not kill the project, they acknowledge that a yes vote could go a long way to building confidence in donors and speeding the project's completion."     

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