On New Year's Day, a small group of defiant community leaders from Santa Rosa's Roseland neighborhood met at the old Albertsons parking lot on Sebastopol Road.</CW>
Using a 100-foot tape measure and thick sticks of colored chalk, the group drew on the parking lot asphalt the outline of a one-acre plaza that has been the centerpiece of years of redevelopment planning and neighborhood meetings.
Sketched out in pink and blue, the boundaries of the plaza cut through a corner of the Dollar Tree store, as well as the abandoned supermarket that some here say stands as a symbol of government inaction.
"We wanted to see what it would look like in reality," said Theresa Champagne, a 30-year resident of Roseland who is part of a loose-knit community group that for years has been tracking the halting redevelopment planning for the dilapidated shopping center.
When the county purchased the property last March for $3.5 million, some Roseland residents began to believe that the six years of planning might finally bear fruit. The purchase represented a crucial step toward realizing the county redevelopment agency's plan for a mixed-use neighborhood center with affordable housing, commercial retail and a one-acre plaza.
However, the Feb. 1 deadline for the elimination of redevelopment agencies in California could force the sale of the property.
If the Sonoma County Community Development Commission, or CDC, which oversees the county government's redevelopment zones, cannot meet its long-term debt obligations after the loss of property tax revenue, then it could be forced to sell assets such as the seven-acre Roseland property.
"We were so close to getting started," said Jeff Gross, a Roseland general contractor.
Gross, who has participated in planning meetings for the future neighborhood center and plaza, said he and others thought the transformation of the space was "a year away."
Maria Quintana, who along with her husband owns David's Shoe Repair across the street from the Albertsons parking lot, said she still holds out hope that something productive will become of the county-owned land. She and others say that unless the county sells the property, there's still hope for a "Roseland Plaza" and neighborhood center.
Two days after outlining the plaza in chalk, the proponents convened a "post-CDC Roseland Group meeting" to identify alternative sources of funding, such as the federal government's new market tax credit program that seeks to spur revitalization in low-income areas.
"It's the closing of one door and the opening of another," Quintana said.