RIBBON CUTTERS Most of the Healdsburg City Council showed up at Monte Viña Apartments on April 25 to officially open the city’s Scattered Sites affordable housing apartments. From left, Ron Edwards, Evelyn Mitchell, Mayor David Hagele and Chris Herrod.

Last Thursday, April 25, saw the official opening of Monte Viña Apartments, one of four “Scattered Sites” projects located in Healdsburg, under the management of Burbank Housing.

“Today is a milestone for our community,” Mayor David Hagele said in his opening remarks, and for once it wasn’t just political hot air: This was the culmination of years of innovative effort by the Healdsburg City Council and Hagele himself, whose “day job” is as a commercial real estate broker.

Healdsburg Scattered Sites (HSS) are a collection of four communities located in the City of Healdsburg totaling 90 units: Canyon Run Apartments in the Parkland Farms area; Piper Street Apartments and University Street Apartments, both near Rec Park; and, the last to open, Monte Viña Apartments, at 1302 Prentice at the corner of March Avenue.

The Monte Viña project, and all four of the Scattered Sites, came into being following local uproar when low-income, primarily Hispanic families were uprooted when out-of-town developers purchased a nearby apartment house in 2015.

A similar dislocation occurred in 2018, and Healdsburg’s growing commitment to affordable housing and funds from Measure S to finance low-income housing provided motivation to keep those families in Healdsburg and add to the affordable housing stock.

Genesis of the Project

As Hagele remembered it, “In late 2018, I received a call from a broker checking in on the local market as he was about to bring the Monte Viña Apartments to market. After catching up for a bit and before ending the call, I asked a very simple question, ‘Do you think the sellers would be interested in letting the city take a run at the purchase?’”

As it evolved, the city entered into negotiation with the landowner only after the first bidder was told that the owner was unwilling to evict the residents and deliver a vacant property. That bidder dropped out, and Hagele contacted then-City Manager David Mickaelian to start the wheels turning on a purchase.

The city’s current housing director, Stephen Sotomayor, started working in Healdsburg about the time the Monte Viña purchase was made. “We were tired of seeing families lose their housing in Healdsburg because their properties are being bought and converted to market-rate rents, which are mostly unaffordable for those that work here,” he said.

Healdsburg partnered with Burbank Housing, a Sonoma County nonprofit that works to build, develop and manage affordable housing in the North Bay. Cobbling together direct investment from the City of Healdsburg and a city loan, plus a state tax credit to cover the property’s remaining $4 million purchase price, the decades-old apartments were purchased and a complete renovation undertaken.

Remodel and Reconstruction

“The entire building was largely ripped down to the studs,” Sotomayor said. “That was to address  some of the concerns that were found during construction. You open up walls and sometimes you find things that need to be remediated.”

Sotomayor said that was true of all four of the Scattered Sites projects, all of which had previous owners who also kept rents low at the trade-off of ongoing maintenance. “I would say that all of these Scattered Sites, from a remodel perspective, were challenging,” he said.

But the end result has prevented the older apartments from being converted into market-rate units, which would evict the long-term tenants who are the very residents targeted by affordable housing advocates.

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) from the Association of Bay Area Governments requires the city to provide a given number of affordable units every eight years—which has led to several new building projects, such as the 58-unit Dry Creek Commons currently in development, and also a Burbank Housing project.

An Ark for Housing

The Scattered Sites are examples of what’s called “acquisition rehab,” or as Sotomayor likes to call it, “naturally occurring affordable housing”—appropriately abbreviated as NOAH.

All four are currently at full occupancy, providing low-income housing in 90 units for individuals and families in Healdsburg. The general rental range for apartments with the Healdsburg Scattered Sites is between $1,000 – $1,800 per month depending on the income, household size and unit.

The Acoma Court apartments, across the street from Monte Viña, are a bit more expensive. An 800-square-foot, 1-bedroom apartment was quoted at $2,100 a month.

The April 25 ceremony did not include a tour of the newly-remodeled apartments, and Mayor Hagele was happy to explain why. “The 23 units are now leased up and occupied by 65 residents who call Healdsburg home,” he said.

“These units are now deed-restricted affordable units,” he continued. “Our neighbors living here today have the security and peace of mind about their living costs knowing they no longer need to worry a change in ownership could mean they can no longer afford to live in Healdsburg—our home.”

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


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