Seven years ago, officials from Santa Rosa and the county had the makings of a plan for fixing an accident of history -#8212; and making that large island of unincorporated land known as Roseland a part of Santa Rosa.
But that plan fell apart due to an imploding economy and political squabbles over how much it would cost for Santa Rosa to supply services to the area -#8212; and how the county and city would share revenue to pay for it. Santa Rosa argued the gap between revenues the city would gain from annexing the area and what it needed to provide public safety and other services was roughly $2.7 million. The county balked, arguing it was about $1 million less than that.
As a result, nothing happened.
But now Santa Rosa is reviving the effort and moving ahead with a plan that shows far more promise than anything in the past.
Earlier this month, the City Council unanimously approved an application for a $647,000 grant that would allow the city to accelerate plans for annexing unincorporated areas roughly bounded by Bellevue Avenue to the south, Highway 101 to the east, Highway 12 to the north and Stony Point Road to the west. The money would come from $1.4 million the county Transportation Authority received from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to assist in growth plans for designated transit hubs. The Roseland area, with its roughly 6,400 residents, is one such planned development area. The project centers around the Southside Bus Transfer Center at the intersection of Burbank and Hearn avenues and includes some 3,600 housing units and the potential for about 3,000 more.
"It's time we got serious about how we pay for this thing," said Mayor Scott Bartley in a meeting with The Press Democrat Editorial Board on Monday. "This is a first step in getting the process going."
Bartley, who met with Supervisors Shirlee Zane and Efren Carrillo earlier this week, says the county is equally supportive of the process and has resolved not to let this annexation effort get bogged down in spats over cost. That's a good sign. The city needs to be honest that annexation is the right thing to do -#8212; not the most profitable.
The plan deserves widespread support, but it requires several things. The first is patience. Although the recent death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez has renewed appeals for annexation of parts of southwest Santa Rosa, it's not going to happen quickly. At best, the annexation effort will take three years, and even then it's not likely to include the area of Moorland Avenue where Lopez was shot. That would have to be added at a later date.
Second, it requires input. Elected officials from the city and county are moving ahead under the presumption that residents of Roseland want to be annexed to Santa Rosa rather than live in unincorporated area. If that is not the case, the residents need to make that clear now or during a series of community outreach efforts that Santa Rosa has planned for this summer. Residents ultimately will have the final say as such annexations require the approval of a majority of voters in the area.
Lastly, it requires an honest discussion about what will be in store for the region if and when annexation occurs. Becoming part of the city will fix a long-time error on local maps, clear up confusion and allow the region to keep high-density growth areas where they below -#8212; inside city limits. But the fact is, for many if not most residents, little is likely to change overnight. Expectations, as well as costs, need to be kept in check.