City of Rohnert Park

Downtown Rohnert Park logo with images of concepts of the downtown

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Aren't We Allowing Drive-Through Restaurants?

We are not allowing drive-thru restaurants in the downtown developer for a few reasons:

--The goal of a Downtown Rohnert Park is a development centered around people, not cars. Having drive-thru restaurants would increase traffic in the development.

--Drive-thru restaurants take up a lot of space with drive-thru lanes and sign boards. We want to prioritize that space the public through plazas, seating, walking paths, and other people friendly amenities.

--The increased traffic and idling of cars would add significant greenhouse gas emissions, which would go against the goal of building a walkable Downtown Rohnert Park centered around people...not the automobile.

Will there be a spot for food trucks to come?

The final design and layout of Downtown Rohnert Park will be decided when the City partners with a developer.

However, our conceptual site maps incorporate a town square that could support our wonderful Community Services events in the future at downtown Rohnert Park!

What is the status of the trees on the site? (and the Tree Health Map)

One unfortunate issue in recent months is that some of the trees on the property are in poor health. Rohnert Park expects that 33 trees will need to be removed to ensure the public's safety when on the property.

The city was not pleased that the prior owner cut down so many trees before deciding to not proceed with the project and will remove trees only when absolutely necessary. The city's arborist has determined that 20 Coast Redwoods have declined beyond recovery and will need to be removed at some point. Plenty of new trees will be planted as the downtown is built.

Why Do We Have to Build More Housing?

We’re building housing for several reasons. One is that this region, and the state, needs more housing to make it more affordable. Increasing housing is a top priority for the City Council. Additionally, state law requires cities to build housing if we develop public property, and 25% of the units need to be affordable (

Why Are We Putting More Shops and Retail in?

Rohnert Park residents have long asked for more non-chain retail and restaurants. Concentrating those non-chain businesses in the downtown area will turn the 30-acre site into a walkable downtown. Park once and spend your next few hours wandering around the square, poking into new shops and restaurants, or simply enjoying your choice of beverage on the square.

Is the City Meeting with Design Consultants? Why is the Hotel next to the Train?

During the past year, the City has worked with Urban Design Consultants to determine the optimal places to put housing, retail, and hotel. The Hotel was situated near the SMART station as an easy way for folks getting off the train to travel to the hotel. The Achilles Heel of public transportation has always been the “first and last mile” …meaning people often must drive to public transit, which defeats the purpose of using public transit. By placing the hotel close to the SMART stop, people only need to walk a short distance to the hotel instead of driving or relying on a ride share service.

Why Aren’t the Map and Renderings More Inviting? They look cold and gray.

These designs are conceptual and focused towards showing developers the land uses (where retail, housing, and hotel could go) as well as highlighting how we want the shops and residential units to interact with the street and environment (Form Based Code). The actual design and color of the buildings may well change, as are the amenities (benches, trees, greenery) surrounding the retail and residential are subject to change.. Check out the “Form Based Code” FAQ section to get a glimpse of Form Based Code in action.

Why Are We Building Another Hotel?

Hotels can be an extremely valuable addition to a downtown area. They bring leisure visitors to the heart of a community. They can fill a market need by accommodating visitors to nearby  businesses and institutions such as Sonoma State and the Casino. Hotels can generate sales for nearby retail and service businesses and capture tourism dollars in the community. Hotels also generate significant tax revenues while creating many new jobs. 

Why Do We Have to Partner With A Developer? And why is this forecasted to take 10-20 years?

Developments like this can easily cost $200 million dollars or more. Neither the City nor developers have that kind of money to instantly pay for the development. Cities rely on developers and investors to shoulder upfront financial risk of paying for a development of this magnitude. The majority of the money to pay for the development comes from the developer and their investors…additional funding comes from federal, state, and local grants and loans, all of which take time to apply for and receive.

What is the Latest on the Downtown?

On October 24, 2023 we presented the conceptual layout of Downtown Rohnert Park, with 60,000 – 120,000 square feet of new retail, 300-500 housing units, of which 25% will be affordable, a boutique hotel, and central to the entire project, a large community square. 

So What's Coming Next?

On November 1, 2023, the City will sent a Request for Qualifications to the development community. This signaled that we are prepared to partner with a developer to begin work on Downtown Rohnert Park. On November 30th, we will host developers at the Downtown Site to answer any questions and allow the development community to see the site for themselves.

What Makes a Great Downtown Rohnert Park?

A great downtown Rohnert Park will have something for everyone. For those who enjoy new and unique food and beverage places, you can get there along the walkable blocks and streets with scattered greenery and high-class amenities (i.e. benches, playgrounds, art). For those who want to slow down and enjoy the scenery, those same walkable blocks and streets will lead to pocket parks and a central green space/community square. Others may want to try out downtown residential living, taking advantage of the SMART train Rohnert Park Station being a stone's throw away.

Put simply: a great downtown is a place centered around people and the environmentnot the automobile.

What Will Be In the Downtown?

Market Rate Housing. We plan on having between 300 and 375 market rate housing units. Having housing on the property is important, because it will help pay for the affordable housing and the retail establishments in the downtown. Also, we will need to have at least 300 housing units on the property so we can comply with the Surplus Land Act.

Affordable Housing. We plan on having between 100 and 125 affordable housing units. Affordable housing is another critical piece of the downtown. The Surplus Land Act requires the City to make a percentage of housing units affordable before we can partner with a qualified developer; adding between 100 and 125 units of affordable housing to our community meets the state's intent on delivering more affordable housing and meets our City Council's goals of developing a vibrant community and improving infrastructure and neighborhoods. 

Hotel. There are benefits to having a hotel at the downtown property. Tourism supports the local economy by increasing the money spent at nearby stores and other attractions and generating taxes from visitors. Having the hotel next to the train station allows visitors to take the SMART train from Sonoma County Airport or the Bay Area, thereby reducing traffic in and around Rohnert Park.

Retail. This is the engine that will drive downtown Rohnert Park. Our 2022 Retail Market Analysis states that we can support up to 140,000 square feet of new retail and restaurants. Based on community feedback, we will look for developers who can deliver unique casual and fine dining options, along with brewpubs, entertainment venues, and gift/clothing shops. 

Parks and Open Spaces. Key to our downtown will be community parks, pocket parks, and of course, a central community square. Rohnert Park boasts outstanding community events throughout the year, and we are looking forward to having those community events in the downtown community square. 

We asked two downtown questions in our 2023 Community Survey: what is important in a downtown and what types of businesses should be in a downtown.

When asked what is important in a downtown, we found that a majority of people want:
-new restaurants
-places to sit and socialize
-more outdoor events and festivals
-greenery and open spaces
-a downtown that is walkable.

When asked what types of businesses people want to see, we found that significant majority of people want:
-casual restaurants
-entertainment venues
-gift and clothing shops
-fine dining

What Will it Look Like? And What's Form Based Code?

The goal is to make this a walkable downtown where each building connects and blends together -- regardless of whether the building is a two-bedroom apartment, a hot new restaurant, or a fun and quirky retail business.

That is what Form Based Code is -- designing buildings and areas that are inviting, appealing, and work with the existing area and landscape. Below are two examples of traditional "zoning" and Form Based Code.

Richmond CA Form Based Code
Traditional Zoning vs Form Based Code - Richmond, CA

Savannah, GA Form Based Code
Traditional Zoning vs Form Based Code - Savannah, CA

Traditional zoning is more concerned with the function of the building (i.e. what it will do). This is one of the reasons why our (U.S.) cities have retail in one place, industrial and manufacturing in another place, and residential in another place. If you want to learn more about U.S. zoning and impress your friends and family, check out the video below!

Form Based Code focuses on the look and feel of the buildings. City blocks should be walkable and filled with interesting things to look at, from nice park benches and trees to the facades of the buildings themselves. 

If you are interested, and want to learn more about Form Based Code and start your journey in becoming an urban planner, check out the great introduction video!

What about traffic?

The downtown project will increase traffic in the area. We will take numerous steps to minimize the impact, such as:
  • Continue to coordinate the timing of our traffic lights
  • Provide safe ways to walk and bicycle to and from downtown
  • Providing room for ride-sharing services to operate outside of the flow of traffic
  • Promote public transit- starting with the adjacent SMART station
  • Designing streets to promote the smooth flow of vehicles
  • The pedestrian friendly downtown design will encourage visitors arriving by car to "park once" and then walk to wherever they would like to go. 

Can We Have More Parks and a Larger Community Square?

Possibly, it depends on the developer the City partners with. However, parks, green spaces, and a large community square is something the City knows is important and will be a vital part to the downtown. This, along with affordable housing and ensuring retail gets built are the City's priorities for downtown development.

We are looking forward to seeing our wonderful Community Services events in the future at downtown Rohnert Park!

Why Hasn’t The Project Happened Yet?

The vacant 30-acre State Farm property was privately owned from 2010 to 2022. Because the property was privately held, the City could not take the lead on downtown development.  

Now that we own the property, we are in a better position to deliver. We will partner with a qualified developer, and the City can have a greater say in how the land gets developed. We have owned the property since April 2022 and these types of projects can easily take many years to complete. We cannot make guarantees on timing given the economics of development. We will eliminate some of the challenges faced by prior owners. For example, we do not place to include office space as we don't need it in Rohnert Park. Also, we don't plan to build a parking garage, which can be very expensive, but instead provide parking on streets within and adjacent to the property. While timelines are uncertain, the previous work we have done to prepare the site,  coupled with the City owning the property, will accelerate development.

Do We Have Enough Water to Support this New Development?

The City has three sources of water supply: groundwater, water purchased from Sonoma Water and recycled water. Together these three sources of supply form a very robust water portfolio that allows the City to meet planned demand even in drought years. The recycled water irrigates our parks and street medians, landscapes at schools and some businesses, Roberts Lake, Foxtail Golf Course and Sonoma State University.

There is a critical shortage of housing in Sonoma County; by reducing waste and practicing conservation we can increase housing, build the other features of downtown, and have enough water. Residents use less water than ever before. Our residents are using 16% less water now than compared to 2013, even with the addition of new homes. In addition to expanding the use of recycled water, new residential development is designed to comply with strict water use standards. All new housing must have low-flow plumbing and drought tolerant landscaping. In the long run, even accounting for dry years, Rohnert Park’s water supply can meet the needs of our current residents and the new housing if we conserve.
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