Northpoint Corporate Center, a 250-acre business park in southwest Santa Rosa, is home to 20 of the city’s largest businesses, including Amy’s Kitchen, JDS Uniphase and a new Kaiser Permanente medical office building.
But the business park has started attracting a new type of tenant.
Homeless people are parking RVs, trailers and cars along the streets of the business park, seeking a quiet, safe place to sleep in their vehicles at night. Many were pushed out of other longstanding encampments in Roseland and along the Joe Rodota Trail earlier this year after the City of Santa Rosa implemented a new homeless policy that prioritized clearing out camps.
Their presence in the business park just south of Sebastopol Road has revived the debate over how to serve the region’s homeless people, who need a place to stay and access to services, while balancing the rights and concerns of property owners.
Starting last fall, after the October wildfires, a handful of people with no other place to go began parking their vehicles in the business park, according to Keith Woods, president of the Northpoint Corporate Center Owner’s Association. Within the past month, the RVs and trailers have been showing up in larger numbers, and now more than 30 vehicles are parked within the center’s boundaries.
Many of the people living in their vehicles were pushed out of downtown Santa Rosa in late May after an encampment along the Joe Rodota Trail was cleaned out in late May.
Ikedia Jones lives in an RV parked on Apollo Way, where friends drop by to visit her throughout the day. Sometimes she cooks for them in her RV, which was given to her by a friend after she was evicted from a camp near the Joe Rodota Trail last month.
Jones said she has been moved five times since she became homeless six months ago — adrift in a city with no sanctioned outdoor camping.
“Until the city decides that they’re going to give us a place where we can be, we’re going to be wherever we can,” Jones said.
Property owners met June 27, and the No. 1 topic of conversation was “the issue across the street,” according to Woods.
It was a minor problem at first, but over the past couple of months the number of vehicles parked along the business center’s streets has risen sharply, said Woods, who is also the CEO of the North Coast Builders Exchange, a construction trade association based at Northpoint. Tempers have flared, both among people who work in the business park and homeless people who are sleeping in their cars, he said.
“We all expressed our sympathy for their circumstances and life, but now it’s affecting our area,” Woods said. “We’re going to need help from our city.”
Property owners took issue with excessive garbage and littering, unsanctioned barbecues and public urination. Several said their employees frequently felt unsafe when leaving the office after dark or while walking around on the center’s sidewalks. In one instance, campers used trees for hatchet-throwing practice, according to Woods.
Santa Rosa police Lt. Mike Lazzarini said that officers have been called to the corporate center every day to deal with complaints from property owners and management.
“It’s a continuation of what’s been at the Joe Rodota Trail and we have such a history of it here in this town,” Lazzarini said.