PD Editorial: Taking the islands out of Santa Rosa

  • Efren Carrillo, shown in a 2012 file photo taken at a Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting.

When you hear the phrase island city, you probably don't think about Santa Rosa.

Yet there are more than 50 "islands" — pockets of unincorporated Sonoma County — within Santa Rosa's city limits.

The largest, of course, is Roseland.

But as the city expanded to the west and southwest, it hopped over vacant land, mobile home parks and the edges of several neighborhoods. In some areas, homes on one side of a street are in the city while those on the other side are in unincorporated territory.

A handful of county islands also can be found on the east side of town.

This all may seem trivial — the difference between being shaded yellow or white on a map of Santa Rosa. In fact, it does make a difference. It has a direct impact on the delivery of public services and, in turn, the efficiency of public agencies.

For at least 17 years and probably longer, the county commission that reviews annexations has pressed Santa Rosa to take in these islands, especially those with fewer than a dozen residents.

Public services in those areas are provided by the Sheriff's Office and other county agencies as well as various special districts whose primary service areas are elsewhere.

In an emergency, mutual aid agreements ensure a response from the nearest police officers or firefighters. But who do residents call about a remodeling permit or a pothole?

The county Local Agency Formation Commission recently renewed its push for Santa Rosa to annex the smaller islands. Under a new policy, Santa Rosa cannot annex only a portion of islands with fewer than a dozen registered voters. That covers about a quarter of the 51 county islands in the city.

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