Report outlines disparities among Sonoma County's neighborhoods

  • Community activist David Rosas purchases a tamale from street vendor Maria Elena Duran on West Avenue in the Roseland neighborhood community within Santa Rosa, California, on May 30, 2014. (Alvin Jornada / For The Press Democrat)

A shiny black Acura pulled to the side of West Avenue on a recent morning as the driver bought some $1.50 tamales from a vendor who sets up her portable shop on the sidewalk every day.

"You don't see beat-up cars or junkers in yards," said David Rosas, a Roseland activist and school board member.

Traffic was picking up as students in buses and on foot headed for Sheppard Accelerated Elementary School.

"Kids walk down the street," Rosas said, suggesting that Roseland is much like other Santa Rosa neighborhoods and not a haven for gang members. "The only difference is they're brown."

But there's a social and economic gulf between the Roseland area where Rosas lives and the upscale neighborhood 5 miles to the east, situated between Summerfield Road and Annadel State Park.

The real-world disparity is sharply illustrated in a new report by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services, which recently ranked the county's 99 census tracts according to a human development index — a measure of well-being that includes health, education and income factors. The index is expressed on a scale of 0 to 10.

Roseland Creek, located between West Avenue and Stony Point Road south of Sebastopol Road, had the lowest index at 2.79, well below that of Mississippi, the lowest ranked of the 50 states at 3.81.

East Bennett Valley, an affluent, nearly all-white census tract, had the county's top index at 8.47, far above Connecticut, the top-ranked state at 6.17.

Henry Slatoff, a retiree who moved from San Jose to Bennett Valley five years ago, acknowledged the stark differences between this manicured corner of Santa Rosa and neighborhoods across town.

"It's disturbing, but it doesn't surprise me," said Slatoff, 69, who regularly walks his dog from his home to nearby Spring Lake and Howarth parks. "It just illustrates the gap that's around the whole country between the haves and have-nots."

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