A year from now, when Santa Rosa city staff estimates they'll be able to put a full report together regarding the annexation of Roseland, the City Council likely will suffer a case of sticker shock.
The cost of bringing Roseland into the Santa Rosa city limits was estimated in 1996 to cause an annual net loss of $1.5 million to the city budget. In 2008, dueling estimates from the county and the city put the cost to the city at $1.7 million and $2.7 million, respectively. No matter whose numbers you believe, it's a good bet that the price tag hasn't shrunk over the years.
But the City Council should look beyond the balance sheet for a reason to annex Roseland. Here's one: It's the right thing to do.
Bringing Roseland officially into the city is a goal – some would argue a promise – that has been talked about for decades. The County of Sonoma, which ostensibly governs this community of some 7,000 residents, long has urged the City of Santa Rosa to take Roseland off its hands. The city, while paying lip service to the logic and necessity of taking Roseland into the fold, has hesitated again and again, citing costs and complications.
Meanwhile, Roseland is pretty much left to its own devices. This hasn't necessarily been a terrible thing. The community has rallied to transform Cinco de Mayo from what once was an annual battle with the police into a true community celebration each May 5. Roseland's schools have become models for other districts that face challenges with large numbers of economically disadvantaged and non-English-speaking families. Its main street, Sebastopol Road, is for the most part a vibrant commercial corridor (the one glaring exception being the former Albertson's shopping center, the plans for which have been a victim of Gov. Jerry Brown's grab of redevelopment funds).
Even for all of its charms, Roseland is the neglected stepchild of local government. The county, waiting for Santa Rosa to annex the area, is reluctant to invest in needed infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks. The city, already reeling from years of financial setbacks, is reluctant to take on this extra expense.