News from the City Manager
Housing prices and rents are soaring around the Bay Area, and many people struggle to find housing they can afford. While the City of Petaluma does not control housing costs, we do provide programs that help to house thousands of our residents. This month, I'm discussing our housing programs.
I'll also continue the discussion of our annual Budget, to highlight Petaluma's Enterprise Funds. The term "Enterprise" is used because these programs operate in much the same way as a private sector business. Enterprise Funds make up a small portion of the City's overall budget, but they include some of the City's operations with which some readers may not be familiar.

John C. Brown
Housing - The long and the short view
Logan Place affordable apartments
The cost to rent or buy a home in Petaluma has increased dramatically in recent years.  According to Zillow, during the past five years, the average price of a single family home increased from $386,100 to $620,100 and the average rent increased from $1,922 to $2,636. As a consequence many people, even some with relatively high incomes, have difficulty finding a place to live at a price they can afford
Petaluma's Housing program is flexible, allowing it to change with the needs of the community. Since its inception, more than 1,760 units were built in collaboration with non-profit partners. These include rental units for families, seniors, and the developmentally disabled, and also enable single family home ownership through subsidies and first-time home-buyers programs. The City also financed two homeless shelters and five homes for transitional housing. Homes and apartments have restrictions to keep them affordable in future years. In our mobile home parks, Petaluma helps to keep rents affordable, with 343 spaces subject to our Mobile Home Rent Stabilization program.
Through the Housing programs, community nonprofits serve more than 1,228 low income citizens each year.  
What is affordable housing?
In government agencies, "affordable" means housing for low income households, i.e., those earning below the median income of an area. In Sonoma County, a family with earnings of less than 50% to 60% of the median income would typically qualify for affordable rental apartments. Qualification for affordable home ownership would be at 80% to 20% of the median family income.  
For a family of four, the qualifying annual income would range from $49,440 (low) to $98,800 (moderate). Qualifying low income families will pay $1,113 for a 2 bedroom apartment, saving them more than $1,000 / month when compared to the average market rate 2-bedroom apartment.
How do we fund affordable housing?
Over the years, Petaluma used several sources of funding to help build affordable housing with our nonprofit partners. Those funding sources include fees charged to private developers in lieu of providing affordable housing units in their projects (In-Lieu fees); Redevelopment funding; Community Development Block Grants; and fees charged to commercial projects to support the cost of providing housing for their employees (Commercial Linkage fees). In 2011, the State of California took Redevelopment funding away from cities, which reduced the amount of money available to Petaluma for affordable housing projects by $3 million a year. Losing this funding source makes it very difficult for Petaluma to subsidize affordable housing projects, which have cost the City $3.5 million to $4 million per development.
Looking to the Future
Since losing Redevelopment funding, the focus of Petaluma's housing programs is preserving and ensuring the long-term affordability of our existing affordable housing stock. By funding programs such as Rebuilding Together Petaluma, an organization that makes home repairs for low income home owners, we can prevent unsafe and unhealthy living conditions and keep people living in their homes. 

The City supports nonprofits such as Eden Housing, Burbank Housing, PEP Housing, and USA Properties by helping to finance property renovations. This financial assistance serves to extend affordability restrictions for an additional 55 years.
Petaluma is working with private developers to encourage them to include affordable units in their projects. Those who do not include affordable units must pay the Housing In-Lieu fee. As noted earlier in this column, commercial developments also pay the Commercial Linkage fee, which can be used to build affordable housing. Both of these fees will soon be under review, with possible increases to follow, as both fees were established when Redevelopment funding was still available to offset costs. The Housing Division is always looking for opportunities to build more affordable housing through new State and federal funding sources and by working with private developers. Current examples of these efforts are 23 affordable rental units that will be built as part of the Altura Apartment project, 21 rental units in a market-rate development of 142 units, and 25 First Time Homebuyer homes in a market-rate development of 198 units.
Petaluma Enterprise Funds
You might be surprised to learn the City operates businesses, categorized for accounting purposes as "enterprises."  These are called enterprises because, much like a business, they operate with revenues derived from charges to their customers. They are self-supporting, and require no contribution from the General Fund.  Enterprises include the Airport, the Marina, Petaluma Transit, and the Building Services Division. In 2016/17 these four programs account for $7.6 million of the City's $180 million budget. 
The Airport

The Petaluma Municipal Airport operates around the clock, seven days a week, is staffed with one full-time and four part-time employees, and has a 2016/17 budget of $1.95 million. The airport houses 235 locally-based aircraft in some of the 187 hangars and 118 tie-down spaces available to area and visiting pilots. Two flight schools operate there, as do two aviation maintenance facilities, a restaurant and a host of other commercial businesses. A self-serve fueling island provides Avgas service; jet fuel is also available.
The airport reports about 60,000 take-offs and landings each year and features an automated weather observation system, a ground communication outlet, and runway lighting for night use. O perations are supported by leases on buildings, hangars and tie-downs, and with fuel sales.  Improvements such as runway and lighting upgrades are funded through grants. The airport covers its own costs, maintains a reserve, and brings visitors and businesses to town that might not otherwise come here.  
The Marina

The Marina enterprise includes operations at the Petaluma Marina and in the Turning Basin. The Marina complex on the Petaluma River features 167 boat slips for boats ranging between 22 and 40 feet in length. Just over half these slips are under long-term lease. The Turning Basin offers short-term rentals for another 80 vessels along the docks surrounding the Basin.
Marina operations and Harbormaster services are provided under a contract. The budget for 2016/17 totals $305,000. Income is generated from three sources: long-term leases; short term dock rentals; and fuel sales at the Marina complex. Like the airport, the Marina attracts visitors who spend money in our restaurants, shops, and hotels.
Petaluma Transit

The City's Transit enterprise operates a fixed route transit system and dial-a-ride Paratransit service.
There are six fixed routes in the City, with hubs on both sides of the freeway. These routes are available to all riders and connect to major retailers, local secondary schools, hospitals, downtown and other area attractions. Routes are coordinated with Golden Gate and Sonoma County Transit agencies to meet the inter-city and regional transportation needs of Petaluma's citizens.
The Paratransit program is available for those with disabilities. This program assists riders with attending medical appointments and completing shopping and other personal business transactions.
The Transit budget for 2016/17 is $4 million and is managed by two full time and one part time employee. Services are delivered under contract with MV Transportation Inc., which provides drivers, dispatching, and vehicle maintenance.
The City's fleet consists of 14 buses that operate seven days a week. Ridership for the fixed based system was approximately 400,400 trips in 2015. Paratransit trips for the same period were another 26,457.
The Transit enterprise is supported by four income sources: the "fairbox" fee, i.e., the charge to ride the bus; Federal transit funding; a share of a statewide sales tax dedicated to this purpose; and regional grants. A small amount of income is also generated from advertising. Like the Airport, the Transit enterprise also maintains a reserve.
Building Services

Simply put, Building Services is responsible for assuring that new construction in Petaluma conforms to the standards of State and local building codes, including structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, ADA accessibility, and energy efficiency. This is done through plan checking for permit applications, and with follow-up inspections by Building inspectors.
The Building enterprise budget totals $1.38 million for 2016/17 and supports six full-time positions and a contracted plan checker.  Income is generated from the fees charged for plan checking and handling permits.
Last year, the Building enterprise collected almost $1.8 million from 1,900 building permits issued, and conducted a total of 4,850 inspections. Like other enterprise functions, the Building enterprise maintains a reserve that can be used to support operations during periods when income drops below the costs of operation.
Council Meetings
Fall Recreation Classes

Due to the Labor Day holiday, City Council meetings in September are on the 12th and 19th. Regular meetings start at 7 pm in the City Council Chambers, 11 English Street, Petaluma.
Meeting Agendas

An Emergency Preparedness Fair featuring City Police & Fire Departments will be held on September 24, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., at the Deer Creek Village Shopping Center. The event is open to the public. 

Our Fall recreation brochure is available now. Don't miss out on a great lineup of classes including dance classes, our certified babysitter course, and sports programs, to name a few.