Santa Rosa has an excellent opportunity to save taxpayer-owned assets and serve the community at the same time.
The political decision-makers on the Santa Rosa City Council can avoid being penny wise and pound foolish regarding houses bought by the city with taxpayers' money. The house on Bayer Farm, a local landmark on West Avenue in Roseland, is a good example of how to help struggling communities during these difficult economic times. Because Roseland has few community amenities, the city has tried to help by purchasing a plot of land for a park in the most underserved area of the city.
Top money was paid to purchase the farm from Bayer family members who were living there a few years ago. After the city began a community garden on site, the process began to plan for a developed park as well.
Though we and others advocated saving the farm house and converting the building for use by the community, the highly paid consultants hired by the city for the development plan ignored conservationists. Demolition of this very expensive house has been recommended, though renovating and retrofitting the house would be the "sustainable" thing to do.
An example of such a sustainable success story is the Laguna de Santa Rosa offices, which are located in a restored house, work done with volunteers and donated money at no cost to taxpayers.
Now, as the city has been found to have ownership of other houses with occupants not paying fair rents, it is an optimal time to revisit this matter of the Bayer Farm House. The farm house could be rented out to an organization such as Land Paths to use the second floor for offices while the first floor could be used by the community.
Community members could be involved in the retrofitting of the building with local youth training and vocational training programs being involved for experience sake.
This could also be done with the other houses the city owns, rather than having these community assets demolished, squandering taxpayers' money.
Recent news stories point out that the city owns at least five houses that were all habitable and occupied when they were bought by the city. The city paid a market rate price for those homes. Considerable amounts of tax monies have been spent for these buildings. If the city would work with local community groups to maintain all of these homes and put them to use benefitting the community, taxpayers could be served rather than fleeced.
One example is having the smaller houses rented or sold to veterans service organizations such as the North Bay Veterans Resource Center, the focus of a Tuesday story about housing needs.
With the preservation of the Bayer Farm House as an example for a community based resource, we could begin to save money and serve the community at the same time. There are many willing volunteers in Roseland who would willingly step up to help in maintaining these community resources. Plus there are many needs in the community which can be served by saving what many long time Roseland residents view as assets. The Bayer Farm House as well as the other homes the city has purchased on Burbank Avenue and McMinn Avenue can be put to good uses and serve us well.