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Petaluma’s first co-op housing planned

From co-buying a home and van-living, to micro-home parks and granny units for multi-generational households, the Bay Area’s exorbitant cost-of-living has spawned many creative living solutions.

In Petaluma, wracked with its housing crisis, transportation planner Matthew Ridgway is pursuing an innovative approach of his own, seeking to build what could be the city’s first cooperative living space.

The proposed 13-unit project, which Ridgway plans to formally submit to the city within the next week, is along Petaluma Boulevard North and Payran Street, in the location of a serially-vacant property that has cycled through a handful of failed restaurants over the past few years.

For Ridgway, who grew up in the East Bay Area and fell in love with Petaluma several years ago, the project is a way to both encourage more sustainable living habits and create a space where he and his family can afford to live together.

“The idea is that you live in a community with people you know and love, and you look out for each other,” he said. “We have three sons all in their 20s now. We can’t afford to buy them homes in the Bay Area, so this is an opportunity for them to continue to live here and allow us to take care of our aging parents.”

The project, called 890 CoOp after its address number, spans approximately 14,000 square feet, Ridgway said, describing all 13 units as modest in size, with the smallest measuring 500 square feet.

Shared facilities in the project’s proposed 3-story design are to include a kitchen, outdoor spaces, workshops and a gym, he said, along with some retail space on the bottom floor.

Ridgway says he hopes he and his close family and friends will occupy roughly half of the 13 units, while the remaining will be rented to interested community members.

According to the project’s website, two of the 13 units will be offered at affordable rates in compliance with the city’s inclusionary housing policy, which gives developers the options to either pay a fee or include affordable units.

The development proposal also points to a focus on sustainable building elements, including onsite solar, living roofs, stormwater collection and renewable wood resources.

Along with its focus on sustainability, streamlined living spaces and communal living atmosphere, the project is also relatively uncommon in its family-sponsorship and ownership.

Whereas most developments are handled exclusively by development firms, the CoOp is fully funded by Ridgway, who purchased the property earlier this summer using what he called the “entirety of our savings.”

“This is not a traditional, for-profit business venture, this is a passion project that fills our demands as a family, and we hope serves the community’s needs as well,” he said.

Dave Alden, a civil engineer and local use advocate that also heads the Know Before You Grow advocacy group, is a consultant on the project. He speculated why Petaluma hasn’t seen a cooperative housing project before.

“I’m not an expert, but my observation is because co-ops don’t come from large developers, they require an unusual set of circumstances and a group of people behind it, who go forward and build a co-op they themselves want to live in,” Alden said.

Following formal submission of the project proposal in the next week, Ridgway and Alden are looking at an April 2021 completion date, should it pass approvals.

(Contact Kathryn Palmer at kathryn.palmer@arguscourier.com, on Twitter @KathrynPlmr.)

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