On a narrow stretch of Burbank Avenue in Santa Rosa's Roseland neighborhood, an impressive $28 million elementary school has been under construction since last spring.
The new school on 11 acres adjacent to Roseland Creek is designed to take in 400 to 500 children now crowded into two other Roseland School District elementary schools.
But plans to open the school in the fall are in jeopardy.
The bulk of the money that would have paid for a half-million-dollar sidewalk along Burbank Avenue from Sebastopol Road to Hearn Avenue is no longer available. That money was supposed to come from Santa Rosa's redevelopment agency, which along with every other such agency in the state, was eliminated as of Wednesday.
Without a safe route for children to walk to and from the school, the city will not allow the campus to open.
"The walls are up, the windows in," said Superintendent Gail Ahlas. "We're building this amazing, beautiful school with a creek and an outdoor environment, we just have to believe that there's a solution to be found."
More than $417,000 in city redevelopment funds had been promised for construction of the 5-foot-wide asphalt walkway south of the school that would run along the east side of Burbank Avenue to Hearn Avenue. North of the school, the path would run on the west side of Burbank Avenue to Sebastopol Road.
Sidewalks are rare along Burbank Avenue, a two-lane road sandwiched by steep drainage ditches, culverts and patches of gravel in front of rural homes.
About seven years ago, when Roseland school officials began planning for the school, Ahlas approached the city and county in hopes of finding funding for the Burbank Avenue sidewalk. No portion of the $28 million in state funds to build the school could be used for sidewalk construction beyond the front of the campus.
The school district's talks with city and county officials led to a funding agreement — the county would pay for a share of the project using money from a Safe Routes to School grant, a Caltrans program, while the city would use redevelopment funds.
The county has used money from a more than $650,000 Safe Routes to School grant for the first phase of the pathway project, which includes $264,000 for installation of a traffic signal at Burbank Avenue and Sebastopol Road.
Money from the Caltrans grant also went to buy $54,250 worth of tiger salamander mitigation credits, $30,000 for installation of street lighting and $1,200 for a right-of-way property acquisition on the southwest corner of Burbank Avenue and Sebastopol Road to allow for the installation of pedestrian light signals.
The city redevelopment agency had pledged $417,000 for most of the pathway construction, with money from the Caltrans grant covering the difference.
On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors was to consider awarding the contract to build the pathway to Ghilotti Construction Co., which had bid $509,728. However, the item was removed from the agenda because the redevelopment money was no longer available.
Ahlas said the city is requiring a safe path to and from the school "as a condition of granting" water and sewer hookups.
The demand stems from the 1998 death of an Elsie Allen High School senior who was struck and killed by a vehicle while he was walking home along a ditch-lined road.
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