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Santa Rosa women's shelter set to expand


The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday tentatively approved a controversial women's homeless shelter expansion as long as the project avoids rankling neighbors with noise and traffic.

The board voted 5-0 to support Redwood Gospel Mission growing from 30 to 50 beds if it meets a number of conditions to ease concerns about neighborhood impacts.

County planners will craft the conditions, and the board is expected to formally approve the project Oct. 8.

"We're very happy and encouraged by this," said Jeff Gilman, executive director of Redwood Gospel Mission, which operates The Rose shelter on Wildrose Drive in a pocket of county land surrounded by west Santa Rosa.

Neighbors raised concerns that adding 20 beds to the two-thirds of an acre site would add noise, traffic and ruin the calm of the neighborhood.

The board will review the project one year after the shelter expands and could revoke its use permit if it doesn't comply with the conditions.

About 40 supporters of the shelter filled the board chambers, some with large, colorful paper roses pinned to their chest.

A group of about a dozen residents turned out, and some, such as David McGillicuddy, voiced concerns that adding more homeless women to the site would put a strain on the neighborhood.

"Enough is enough," he said. "The place had 30 beds. That's enough. Fifty is too many. It's a quiet neighborhood and it needs to stay that way."

Gilman said that the expanded site would accommodate 20 women from the mission's program for women recovering from addiction who currently live at a facility known as Manna House in northwest Santa Rosa.

Supervisor Efren Carillo, who represents the neighborhood, said there is a need for more homeless services in Sonoma County.

"It is the basic necessity of shelter, the basic necessity of recovery," he said. "I don't need to look beyond myself to recognize that these issues are real."

Carrillo is currently in a recovery program for alcohol addiction after his July arrest on suspicion of prowling and burglary.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane said that the board would be watching to see if the shelter can alleviate neighbors' concerns.

"There's always going to be concerns from neighbors; there's no doubt about that," she said. "You have to work with neighbors. You have to be good neighbors. If I have the opportunity to give beds to homeless women, you bet I'm going to do it."

Gilman said that being able to expand to 50 beds will allow the Christian-affiliated mission that survives on donations to apply for a $150,000 grant to complete the project that would add 2,000 square feet to the shelter.

Supervisor Susan Gorin expressed concerns about space for parking and emergency vehicles at the site before tentatively supporting the project.

"The need is huge, but I'm really concerned with parking and having additional people on that tightly constricted space," she said.

Gorin added that she wanted to have clear metrics to review the project in a year.

Neighbor Glen Jenkins said in an interview after the meeting that the shelter is not serving more homeless women since the additional beds will be filled by women living at Manna House.

"The neighborhood isn't trying to shut down homeless women," he said. "My concerns are about noise and traffic. We will see the whole picture over the coming year."

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Brown at 521-5206 or matt.brown@pressdemocrat.com.