$20 million secured for affordable housing near future SMART station

The $20 million in newly secured funds should be enough to move the Meridian project forward, according to the developer.|

A long sought after plan to build housing next to Petaluma’s newest train station has obtained some crucial funding.

The developer behind Meridian, an affordable housing project planned for a site next to the forthcoming Petaluma North train station, announced it has received $20 million from a statewide funding initiative that will be put toward financing the $86.67 million development.

The Meridian project now has $46.49 million in secured funding, said project manager McKenzie Dibble from Danco Communities, the Arcata-based affordable housing developer behind Meridian.

Remaining financing is expected to come from tax credits, she said, which could cover about $40.17 million – nearly half of the project’s cost.

Earlier this month, the developer applied for the most recent round of credits from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, which administers state and federal low-income housing tax credit programs. Dibble said she expects to find out by Dec. 6 whether they were awarded the credits.

Housing for the site, which sits next to the planned Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train station at Corona Road and N. McDowell Boulevard, has been in the works for at least six years. But a previous housing project on that site, led by Lomas Partners, fell through after a community group, Petaluma Community Alliance, filed a lawsuit against the city in April 2020.

Danco Communities took over the project in 2021, and is spearheading it in partnership with SMART and the city of Petaluma.

The recently allotted funding was actually part of a $30.2 million transportation grant, Dibble said, with SMART and the city of Petaluma receiving the remaining $10.2 million for their own transportation-related purposes.

The grant was provided by California’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program, which in turn comes from a larger statewide initiative, California Climate Investments, which was created to invest in efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment.

The program contributed $757 million in funding to projects seeking to build “affordable housing in job-rich, walkable neighborhoods” in 16 communities across California, according to a news release.

The new, nextdoor Petaluma North station could be completed as early as 2025, connecting residents of east Petaluma to the existing SMART rail service extending from Larkspur to the Sonoma County Airport, with plans to go as far north as Cloverdale.

The Petaluma City Council gave final approval for the station in May, opening the door to new funding sources such as this one. SMART also played “a pivotal role in securing this vital funding award,” said SMART Board Chair Eric Lucan.

A new bus stop, expanded sidewalks and bicycle paths will be built around the rail station once it is completed, according to city staff.

Under its current design, the Meridian project will have seven buildings with 131 affordable housing units broken down into 33 studios, 29 one-bedroom apartments, 36 two-bedroom apartments and 33 three-room apartments, one manager’s unit, and 153 parking spots, all on a 5.29-acre site.

Units will be targeted to families and individuals earning between 20% and 60% of the area’s median household income, which in Petaluma is around $100,000 per year.

The plans stipulate that 33 apartments be designated as “Permanent Supportive Housing” for residents who have experienced homelessness. They will receive access to healthcare, employment and personal goal support, tying into the city’s goal of expanding such supportive services as part of its Homelessness Strategic Plan.

The site will also include a small coffee shop, community garden, basketball half-court, a recreational area for youths ages 13 to 17 and a “tot-lot” for children ages 2 to 12, according to the city’s project description.

The project “will transform an empty lot on McDowell to a thriving neighborhood with robust transportation options,” said the city’s housing manager, Karen Shimizu. “At the same time, the development will increase Petaluma’s affordable housing opportunities without sacrificing our climate goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.”

You can reach Staff Writer Jennifer Sawhney at 707-521-5346 or jennifer.sawhney@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @sawhney_media.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:
  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.