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Latest Census figures highlight Windsor's desirability

Sandra Shriver, right, watches her grandchildren, Tayler, 8, and Anthony Ciarasso, 5, play ball at Vintage Oaks Park, on Mitchell Lane, in Windsor on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.

(Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 5:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 1:53 p.m.

While some will say there's no there there, Windsor residents will tell you it all depends on what you're looking for.

For many families, Windsor, the newest of Sonoma County's nine cities, has exactly what they're looking for: Good schools, reasonably priced housing, great parks and, above all, a sense of community.

These gut feelings are borne out by estimates from the Census Bureau's latest American Community Survey. From 2007 to 2011, Windsor racked up some of the most enviable demographic statistics when compared to the eight other incorporated cities in Sonoma County.

Windsor has the highest median household income, $77,157, and the lowest share of residents living in poverty, 4.1 percent. Also, the town, with a

population of about 27,000, has both the highest homeownership rate, 75.7 percent, and the lowest share of residents living in apartment complexes, 8.3 percent.

The median value of an owner-occupied home is $424,200, significantly less than the median prices for owner-occupied homes in Sebastopol, $545,900; Healdsburg, $551,200; and Sonoma, $596,800.

That's one of the reasons Jenny Delgado and her husband, Jonathan, chose Windsor as the place to raise their two young children.

Jenny Delgado, who was born and raised in Santa Rosa, is a freelance bookkeeper, and her husband, who was born in Puerto Rico and has lived all over, is a sales representative for a global pharmaceutical company.

The two met in 2007 at a local Monday Night Football party shortly after his job brought him to Sonoma County. His territory includes the North Bay and part of the Bay Area. Both have offices at home and probably could live anywhere they want.

Jenny Delgado said they had friends, young couples with young kids, who lived in Windsor. They were impressed with how you could get "more house" for your money.

"It's such a great place to live if you have a family," she said, adding that Windsor feels like "more of a family community" than other cities.

That is no accident, Councilwoman Debora Fudge said.

"This is a town that was built by the citizens who live here," Fudge said, contrasting its growth since incorporation in 1992 to cities whose growth is dominated by housing and commercial development interests.

"The citizens in our town took management into their own hands and made Windsor happen," she said.

Fudge, who moved to Windsor in 1990, said runaway growth during the 1980s caused a crisis of identity. Windsor was a bedroom community where county officials were approving a flood of housing construction. In the late 1980s, the county was approving 1,000 units a year, she said.

"It was only houses and no infrastructure, no new schools, no grocery stores," Fudge said. "During the big housing boom, we only had one major grocery store, and I would have to wait 45 minutes in line to buy food. Sometimes I'd go at 10 o'clock at night, when I thought there would be no one there."

That sparked a movement to wrestle control of Windsor from county supervisors, she said, adding that one of the driving goals was to create a family friendly town and to focus on "smart growth."

Donna Legge, director of the town's Parks and Recreation Department, said the town strives to maintain a "small-town character and family-friendly community" in all of its offerings, whether it's in the design of its parks or the special public events that are held throughout the year.

Legge, who moved to Windsor six years ago and has worked for parks and recreation departments in Los Angeles, Half Moon Bay and Los Altos, said Windsor's Town Council stands out for its involvement and its focus on families.

"They have a Town Council that is very involved," she said. "I think between the town in Windsor and the school district, we all speak the same language and it starts with the child and what they have access to."

Tom Lawrence, who heads the economic development task force of the Windsor Chamber of Commerce, said that in the past two decades, town officials have mostly been successful in creating a community conducive to raising families. But for Windsor to thrive, it must provide for all the needs of its residents, he said.

A 2008 economic development study found Windsor was seeing "tremendous retail leakage" to neighboring communities, Lawrence said.

"We already know people love to live here," he said. "We want them to shop here."

Lawrence pointed to missteps in the Town Green development, which over the years has struggled with a high turnover rate. He said key elements that would have brought more foot traffic to the Town Green, such as a grocery store, post office and chain drugstore, all are at the Lakewood and Lakewood Village shopping centers east of Highway 101.

But the Town Green soon could get the foot traffic it needs with Bell Village, a new project that has been approved and is currently under review. The $80 million to $100 million project would include 387 rental apartments on the old Windsorland mobile home site and an Oliver's Market, bank and pharmacy.

That's good news to Jenny Delgado, whose family is gluten-free and currently drives to the Whole Foods store at Santa Rosa's Coddingtown Mall.

"I'm so excited about that," she said. "It's important for us to shop local and I'm really passionate about food."

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.

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