A year from now, when Santa Rosa city staff estimates they'll be able to put a full report together regarding the annexation of Roseland, the City Council likely will suffer a case of sticker shock.

The cost of bringing Roseland into the Santa Rosa city limits was estimated in 1996 to cause an annual net loss of $1.5 million to the city budget. In 2008, dueling estimates from the county and the city put the cost to the city at $1.7 million and $2.7 million, respectively. No matter whose numbers you believe, it's a good bet that the price tag hasn't shrunk over the years.

But the City Council should look beyond the balance sheet for a reason to annex Roseland. Here's one: It's the right thing to do.

Bringing Roseland officially into the city is a goal – some would argue a promise – that has been talked about for decades. The County of Sonoma, which ostensibly governs this community of some 7,000 residents, long has urged the City of Santa Rosa to take Roseland off its hands. The city, while paying lip service to the logic and necessity of taking Roseland into the fold, has hesitated again and again, citing costs and complications.

Meanwhile, Roseland is pretty much left to its own devices. This hasn't necessarily been a terrible thing. The community has rallied to transform Cinco de Mayo from what once was an annual battle with the police into a true community celebration each May 5. Roseland's schools have become models for other districts that face challenges with large numbers of economically disadvantaged and non-English-speaking families. Its main street, Sebastopol Road, is for the most part a vibrant commercial corridor (the one glaring exception being the former Albertson's shopping center, the plans for which have been a victim of Gov. Jerry Brown's grab of redevelopment funds).

Even for all of its charms, Roseland is the neglected stepchild of local government. The county, waiting for Santa Rosa to annex the area, is reluctant to invest in needed infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks. The city, already reeling from years of financial setbacks, is reluctant to take on this extra expense.

But, for a number of reasons, the city should.

- Roseland is an urban community, tied much more closely to the city that surrounds it than to the county. It needs urban services that the county can't provide.

- The city-county stalemate over annexation leaves a significant number of citizens in political limbo and effectively without a voice. If city leaders truly are concerned with providing better representation and more participation in government for residents of south and west Santa Rosa – as they pledged repeatedly during last year's failed campaign for district elections – annexing Roseland would go a long way toward fulfilling that pledge.

- The city repeatedly has cherry-picked portions of Roseland for annexation in the past. Annexations of large swaths of bare land ripe for development in the 1990s brought in new subdivisions, new industrial parks and new revenues, and effectively extended the city limits in a ring around the non-lucrative parts of Roseland. Those living in those parts left behind have reason to feel disposable in the eyes of local government.

- In 1994, a survey found a majority of Roseland residents (52 percent) didn't want to become part of the city. But by 1996, when the city's "piecemeal" annexations brought in about 40 percent of Roseland residents, there was hardly a peep of protest. And last week, Duane DeWitt – previously one of the area's most vocal opponents of annexation – said even he supports it now.

Santa Rosa in the past has attempted to tie the annexation of Roseland into a package in which the city also would annex tax-lucrative commercial stretches of Santa Rosa Avenue. The county, which doesn't want to lose those tax revenues, has resisted. I don't blame either side for trying to protect their bottom line.

But it's not all about the money. It's time for Santa Rosa to welcome the stepchild into the family.

<I>Chris Coursey's blog offers a community commentary and forum, from issues of the day to the ingredients of life in Sonoma County.