The Santa Rosa City Council made the right decision when it stood by our city's long-term vision for Railroad Square and voted against moving forward with John Stewart's scaled-back development proposal (“Death of a grand vision at RR Square,” Editorial, April 25).
The site in question is perhaps the most important vacant parcel in Santa Rosa. With the SMART train scheduled to begin running in just two years, our city has an incredible opportunity and responsibility. We must ensure that any new development boosts the economy, protects our neighborhoods and enhances the vibrant downtown area. The City Council's courage to stay true to these values is a necessary step in fulfilling the vision adopted in the most extensive public outreach effort the city has ever undertaken.
Unfortunately, the proposed development sought only to complete one element of the project initially conceived. Millions in public dollars were originally set aside for the development of the entire site, not just Stewart's property. Although the developer gave his commitment to develop the full site, in the end he sought only to complete one element of the project. The project that came before the City Council did not meet the needs for the area in either economic development or integration with the surrounding neighborhood. Our tax dollars need to be used for what is right for the property.
The property's proximity to the future SMART train station means our regional economy and quality of life is dependent on the development decisions made. Our community needs development that ties into the vitality that transit will bring.
Stewart's original project was submitted prior to SMART being funded. The voters in their wisdom approved SMART knowing it would have an impact on the future planning of Santa Rosa. The best course for this site is to work in partnership with the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District to seize the demand that will be created when trains begin running in order to spur vital economic growth in our core area and create housing and jobs that are available for the entire community. Activity brought by the train will lead to increased interest in this site and a better climate for the right development to take place.