Santa Rosa leaders decry redevelopment losses

City services most Santa Rosa residents take for granted — from litter removal downtown to attracting new businesses — could soon cease unless new ways to fund them are found.

That grim picture was outlined for the Santa Rosa City Council during a briefing Tuesday that addressed how the loss of redevelopment will affect the city's downtown program, economic development efforts and services to poorer neighborhoods.

"We knew that this conversation was going to come, and it doesn't make it any less painful," Councilwoman Susan Gorin said.

Before the elimination of redevelopment, the city had the "largest and most diverse economic development program in the North Bay," Dave Gouin, the city's director of economic development and housing, told the council.

Following redevelopment's demise as part of a plan to help solve the state budget deficit, the city will have $2.4 million less for its economic development and neighborhood revitalization programs next year.

"Redevelopment can no longer support our downtown program," Danielle O'Leary, the city's economic development manager, said.

That includes litter removal and public event support, cooperative advertising for businesses and special events, and improvements like street furniture and decorative lighting.

An array of economic growth efforts also face significant cutbacks. They include efforts to retain existing businesses, attract new ones, and encourage people to shop locally, O'Leary explained.

The funding drop will force the department of six full-time workers to be reduced to two, leaving a "significantly reduced citywide economic development program," she said.

Council members batted around several ideas for how to salvage some of the services, including paying for them out of the general fund, revamping the city's parking programs, and encouraging downtown businesses to do the work themselves.

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