Before/After: Courthouse Square looking south down Santa Rosa Avenue. Slide the bar above to the left to see what change could look like under this alternative.

Alternative 1: Vibrant Core



This alternative seeks to create a vibrant, big city downtown core around Courthouse Square and to strengthen connections between that location and other parts of the planning area. Under this scenario, the Courthouse Square area would see the construction of tall new buildings along Third Street between E Street and Morgan and on key City-owned catalyst sites. Standards would require that new buildings at these locations be a minimum of 6 stories tall and there would be no maximum building height limits. The intent is to foster a compact, high-density core where a cluster of the tallest buildings downtown exists today and to step down in height from that location to integrate with the scale of surrounding neighborhoods.

Catalyst projects under this alternative would include redevelopment of the Sears site at First and A Streets in the Santa Rosa Plaza mall and the City Hall Complex on Santa Rosa Avenue. Additionally, the plan would support the long-term transformation of the Santa Rosa Plaza Mall into a “lifestyle mall” featuring an entertainment venue and offering “experiential retail” to shoppers from Santa Rosa and the wider region should the mall owners elect to pursue that path.

With this alternative, the bulk of new housing through 2040 would be accommodated in the greater Courthouse Square area, although there would also be residential mixed-use development on the SMART site west of Railroad Square, along Santa Rosa Avenue between Maple and Julliard Park, and in the former industrial buildings flanking the rail line between Wilson and Donahue. Under this scenario, Maxwell Court would retain an employment-oriented focus and a new Production-Distribution-Repair (PDR) designation would be created to preserve viable service commercial or light industrial businesses in the area that wish to remain and grow to remain, while also allowing for compatible new maker-oriented uses to establish. The PDR designation would also apply between West Third Street and Sebastopol Road in the vicinity of Roberts Avenue.

Given that the Courthouse Square area is the primary of focus of future growth under this alternative, key strategies for improving connectivity include:

  • Reconnecting Fourth Street between Railroad Square and Courthouse Square with a new multi-modal road-way that runs through Santa Rosa Plaza.

  • Activating connections under US 101 at Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Streets space for pop up retail, food sales, performances, and/or a skate park, as well as public art and lighting to promote a sense of safety.

  • Providing new bicycle and pedestrian connections/amenities along A Street between Fourth and First Streets.

  • Creating a “fare-free” downtown transit zone with frequent (under 10 minutes) shuttle service between Railroad Square and Courthouse Square.

  • Reconfiguring pedestrian access across Third Street to Courthouse Square.


This alternative is projected to result in approximately 7,000 new housing units and 3,620 new jobs in the planning area by 2040.

This alternative is projected to result in approximately 7,000 new housing units and 3,620 new jobs in the planning area by 2040.

Concentration of New Housing Units


Land Use and Circulation Diagram