Momentum continues to grow for the construction of a memorial park in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood where 13-year-old Andy Lopez grew up and was shot dead.
The Sonoma County Supervisors are expected to vote Tuesday on a number of possible actions in response to the shooting, including exploring the creation of a park in Lopez's name.
Meanwhile, his supporters continue to stake their claim to the site where on Oct. 22 Lopez was shot by Sheriff's Deputy Erick Gelhaus after the veteran law enforcement officer reportedly mistook the boy's airsoft BB gun for an AK-47 assault rifle. In the most recent action, Lopez supporters have planted a young oak tree near at the site, which also hosts small playground toys and a large wooden memorial decked in flowers.
"I think it's a great step forward in the healing process for our community that our local politicians are taking an active interest in trying to build a park," said Brian Bushon, a resident of the subdivision just north of the empty lot where Lopez died.
Bushon, who has supplied several playground toys at the site, has been lobbying county supervisors to make the park a reality. "A good community has a good park within walking distance," he said.
The Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday whether to direct county officials to "report back in 60 days with plan and financing recommendations to create a park in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood dedicated to Andy Lopez."
The park-related action is part of a larger agenda item of possible board actions that stem from a Nov. 5 public hearing on the shooting. Proposed actions include creating a community and local law enforcement task force; supporting state and federal legislation on gun and replica weapon control; exploring law enforcement training for alternatives to lethal force.
Other actions include exploring the cost and feasibility of providing law enforcement officials with lapel cameras and conducting town hall meetings next year to discuss such topics as neighborhood violence, social equity and justice, and law enforcement tactics in different communities.
The idea of building a park in the neighborhood is not new. Both the Santa Rosa and Sonoma County general plans call for one to be built in the area.
In fact, the original plans for the 10-acre residential subdivision that sits just north of the site where Lopez died included a two-acre park. But the proposed subdivision, known as Parkview, called for 73 housing units, which exceeded the county general plan's density restrictions for that area.
The plan was scaled back to 44 units and the park was deleted from the development. The Parkview subdivision was constructed on the northern portion of the site.
The developer, Poulsen, Olson Investment Group, headed by real estate agent and former Santa Rosa planning commissioner David Poulsen, proposed in 2005 to develop the rest of the property and build a one-acre park. The project fell victim to economic downturns.
Supervisor Susan Gorin said southwest Santa Rosa has been "under-parked" for many years and the recent events in the Moorland Avenue neighborhood have brought renewed attention to the need for park facilities.
"In light of the tragedy, it is totally appropriate that we look at what kind of funding might be available" for acquiring the property, Gorin said.
When county supervisors approved the Parkview subdivision in 1994, they put in place several conditions on future development of the remaining property. One was that further development on the remaining two lots must include a park. In addition, development can not happen until the lot is annexed to the city of Santa Rosa.