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City Manager's Blog

Apr 06

Council Goals focus on Housing and Communication

Posted on April 6, 2017 at 9:58 AM by Raina Allan

Last month the City Council began its annual goal setting process, hosting a work session attended by more than 35 residents and property owners. During the work session, the Council and public began formulating a number of goals for fiscal year 2017-18. Areas of greatest interest included affordable housing, economic development, parking, City finances and communications; with the Council expressing the greatest interest in continuing to expand the City's affordable housing efforts.

In the last two years, the City has made significant strides forward to address housing affordability in our community. The City's work has focused on three main areas: partnering with local housing service providers to expand housing programs, working with affordable housing developers to implement affordable housing projects, and adopting new housing policies. These efforts have resulted in over $3.9 million invested in affordable housing programs and projects.  Below is a breakdown of the programs and projects:

  • Measure S: Voters approved a 2% increase to Transient Occupancy Tax, dedicated to affordable housing services and programs
  • Emergency & Transitional Housing ($84,000): NSCS assists families in need and offers assistance to find permanent housing
  • Rent Stabilization & Temporary Emergency Shelter Services ($60,000): NSCS provides qualified families facing rent increases and at-risk of displacement with assistance and emergency services during significant weather events
  • Affordable Unit Stewardship ($82,000): Housing Land Trust (HLT) of Sonoma County monitors existing affordable units, supports affordable unit homeowners, and places qualified families in new units
  • Rental Unit Rehabilitation Loan ($53,000): Helps off-set rental unit maintenance costs and offer incentives to limit rent increases
  • Utility Discounts ($70,000): Extended water, sewer, electric, drainage discounts to all affordable complexes and increased discounts on monthly residential electric charges for qualified customers
  • Housing Support Programs ($5,650): Fair Housing Sonoma County assists with tenant/landlord issues and provides education for property owners/managers/tenants and City hosts Property Owner/Manager Outreach Meetings to update on City housing initiatives and receive information on rental market conditions
  • 1201 Grove Street (24 units/$1,777,000): Sold the property for development of a 24 unit affordable rental project which will begin construction shortly
  • 721 Center Street (8 units/$1,815,000): Purchased 8 multifamily rental units for affordable housing purposes, enabling low-income families to remain in their homes
  • 110 Dry Creek (37 units): Approved 37 low and moderate income rental units
  • Sorrento Square (6 units): HLT placed 6 lower-income families in affordable units
  • Chiquita Grove (4 units): HLT is qualifying families for 4 affordable units
    • Combined, 1201 Grove St, 110 Dry Creek, Sorrento Square, Chiquita Grove and 721 Center Street have/will provide 79 affordable units

As the City Council continues its goal setting process, affordable housing is expected to be at the forefront of the discussion. The Council is currently working to re-establish the Community Housing Committee whose initial work assignment is anticipated to include recommending revisions to the City’s housing policies to ensure they align with the City’s housing goals and objectives. 

During the goal setting session Council also identified the need for greater communication and more transparency, expressing interest in developing a City-wide communication and public outreach strategy. These efforts would continue to build on the communication strategies that have been implemented over the last two years as we continue to cultivate broader community engagement opportunities, particularly with our underrepresented populations. In addition to continuing our Community Conversations neighborhood meetings, we have expanded our neighborhood outreach efforts to include a new Coffee with the City community meeting that will be held at the SHED every three months. This is a casual meeting, hosted by me and City department heads, where residents and businesses are invited to come and learn about City projects and ask questions. 

We also continue to increase our efforts on social media, expanding use of Facebook pages for the City, Senior Center, Fire Department, Community Services and SmartLiving Healdsburg, as well as Twitter. The City’s website also continues to deliver information to our community, reaching 162,413 visits in 2016, up 53% from 2015. Several technological improvements have also enabled us to improve access to information including creation of the GoHealdsburg app which enables customers to pay their utility bills or report a concern in our community electronically and launching, a tool residents can use to access the City’s budget.

As we continue our efforts, we welcome your feedback on how we can better communicate what’s happening in the City.

David Mickaelian
City Manager

Jan 11

Looking Back On 2016

Posted on January 11, 2017 at 8:37 AM by Kim Murray

As we look forward to the New Year, it is always important to look back and reflect on some of our accomplishments over the past year. Housing has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds and a top priority for the City Council this year. As 2016 has come to a close we can all celebrate the many housing successes and accomplishments we achieved as a community this year. Even with these success, there still much work to do.

In 2016, we expanded our relationships with our local housing service providers North Sonoma County Services (NSCS) and Committee on the Shelterless (COTS).  These organizations provide emergency and transitional housing services in our community and assist families at risk of displacement from their homes. NSCS and COTS manage the City’s eleven transitional housing units, a critical program that stabilizes families and enables them to move into more permanent housing. We also continued our partnership with the Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County (HLT) which has helped house low income families in the 16 affordable homes at Sonata, Sorrento Square and Chiquita Grove and continues to find qualified buyers for affordable homes that remain available. HLT has been a critical partner with the City as we continue to provide housing for our lower income families through our Inclusionary Housing program. Through our partnership with Fair Housing Sonoma County we have also hosted a Fair Housing Seminar, which was attended by local property owners and managers representing more than 170 rental units in our community, providing information on fair housing, recent changes under the law and expanding access to fair housing services in Healdsburg.
One of the most exciting aspects of the affordable housing conversation has been our ability to add approximately 74 units of affordable rental housing in our community over the next 12 to 24 months. These units are a direct response to a need identified by residents at over 16 public meetings - the need to construct an additional 200 affordable units in our community over the next six years. These units will come from three different projects. We hope to begin construction of 24 units of very low to low rental units at 1201 Grove Street in 2017. We also anticipate another 42 units of low to moderate affordable rental units at 110 Dry Creek. More recently the City Council approved the purchase of another 8 units at 721 Center Street, preserving our affordable rental stock and preventing the potential displacement of eight lower income families in our community. With the addition of these affordable units we are well on our way to meeting our target. Construction of these units will increase our affordable housing stock to approximately 476 units, or 9.6% of our total housing stock, placing Healdsburg amongst the top of cities in the county with the most affordable units as a percentage of total housing stock.
As a tool to help keep rents down on existing rental properties, the City Council approved the Rental Unit Rehabilitation Loan Program, which offers property owners financial incentives to retain and improve our community’s valuable rental housing stock while also maintaining affordability through limited annual rent increases. This program is unique in that the City will offer a forgivable loan to the property owner for improvements to the rental property and in exchange the property owner must agree to keep the unit affordable over the term of the loan. The goal of the program is to improve the condition of rental units in our community while also protecting tenants from significant rent increases.
As we move into 2017 there is still much work to be done around affordable housing. Soon we will be seeking proposals for an affordable housing project at 155 Dry Creek Road (the property behind Big John’s) and, as Saggio Hills moves forward, there will be additional opportunities to build more units over time. As these projects progress it is important we hear from you.  If you have any questions or comments I would encourage you to contact the Housing Department. Here is wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year from City Hall!

David Mickaelian
City Manager

(posted on behalf of David Mickaelian - KM)

Feb 03

Proposed City Hall Remodel

Posted on February 3, 2016 at 2:25 PM by Kim Murray

One of the outcomes from City Council’s adopted goals for 2015 - 2016 was to complete a conceptual plan, cost estimates, and identify funding sources for a City owned Community Development Center (CDC). In order to better understand why it became a goal, it’s important to have a little background. In February 1997, when the new City Hall building was completed, staff from the old City Hall moved into the new building. At the same time, engineering, electric staff, planning and building staff located at the Corporation Yard moved into approximately 5,000 sq. ft. of industrial leased space on Allan Court (behind the new City Hall) currently referred to as the CDC. This relocation was intended to be temporary until a plan was created to expand facilities on the City Hall lot, to include the CDC.


In 2005, as the need for more space became apparent, City Council approved funding to lease an additional 2,500 sq. ft. of space. At the same time, the Council directed staff to look into constructing a city hall building annex within the three-year lease period for the CDC space. On March 3, 2008, staff presented a report prepared by ArchiLOGIX including a Preliminary Design Study. The project was tabled until a funding source was developed.


The current CDC building itself is a warehouse, which holds 22 to 25 employees. The City spends approximately $85,000 annually in rent and utilities. The interior requires significant upgrades in order to properly house City employees. Based on the cost of rent, utilities, and capital improvements the City set off to explore what it would cost to build a building on the adjacent City owned property next to City Hall.


In August 2015, the City Council City approved an agreement with Gelfand Partners Architects to create a conceptual design for a City owned CDC. Approximately 7,000 sq. ft. of space would be required to replace the current CDC. However, it was determined that if the City were to reconfigure the interior of City Hall approximately 3,500 sq. ft. of new space would be required to accommodate the CDC operation. Upon review of the existing City Hall space and square footage required to replace the current CDC, Gelfand Partners Architects found a reconfiguration of the existing City Hall to be the most efficient path.  


The goal of a relocation of the CDC and incorporation into a reconfigured City Hall is to eliminate an ongoing rental expense, create a more resourceful and improved experience for our residents when working with the City, significantly improve overall energy efficiency, reduce our carbon footprint, decrease the City’s utility expense, and provide a better work environment for staff.


The City of Healdsburg will be hosting a public meeting providing information about the proposed City Hall remodel and improvements where City staff and representatives from Gelfand Partners Architects will review the process and recommendations for the remodel. The meeting will be held Thursday, February 11 at 5 PM in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 401 Grove Street.


For additional information, please visit or call 707.431.1137.


David Mickaelian
City Manager

(posted on behalf of David Mickaelian - KM)