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Rohnert Park council to consider different site for homeless housing project

Progress in the environmental review of potential homeless shelter sites in Rohnert Park has shifted the city’s focus to a different location than discussed last month.

A city-owned parcel at 6020 Labath Ave. near a city public safety building and just north of the California Highway Patrol station is now the preferred site for the city’s plans for its first homeless supportive housing project, expected to serve about 60 people.

Last month, council members and city staff researching the city’s first modular housing plan favored a thin stretch of city property at 751 Rohnert Park Expressway W., across from Rancho Verde Mobile Home Park.

But City Manager Darrin Jenkins said the environmental review on the Labath site, home years ago to the Crushers baseball team, was further along, which will streamline planning and approval for the project.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council will consider giving Jenkins the go-ahead to apply for as much as $20 million from the state’s Project Homekey program, a first-come, first-served pot of $1.45 billion in state and federal grant funds earmarked for homeless services.

Mayor Gerard Giudice said he is supportive of the Labath site, which he compared to the county’s Los Guilicos tiny home temporary homeless site near Oakmont east of Santa Rosa.

“If we can all agree on one thing, we don’t want homeless folks living in the streets, living in the creeks,” he said. “The only path forward is to find a shelter bed for those folks. Honestly, it’s the humanitarian thing to do.”

Giudice, Councilwoman Jackie Elward and Councilman Willy Linares voted last month to move forward with the original preferred site on Rohnert Park Expressway, with Labath as the second choice.

Councilwoman Susan Hollingsworth Adams, who with Pam Stafford was absent from that meeting, agreed the city must do something to offer housing to the estimated 250 people living without shelter in the city.

“We need to address providing shelter for the unhoused in Rohnert Park, it’s absolutely essential,” she said. “The question is location, location, location.

She said the council should consider the position of Greg Sarris, chairman of the Federated Indians of the Graton Rancheria, whose casino is about a half-mile southeast of the Labath site and a mile east of the Rohnert Park Expressway site.

“I think it’s important to me that we meet with him and talk with him and find out what his sense is about the location we have discussed as a council,” she said. “He is a very important part of this conversation and it is absolutely essential that we hear from him.”

She said Sarris and the casino, as “major stakeholders in town,” should be heard.

If the council approves the pursuit of Homekey funding, it will also commit the city to continued funding of the chosen site after three years of subsidized state funding. That amount could be as much as $1.85 million a year.

But city Housing Administrator Jenna Garcia, in her report to councilmembers, said the city has developed a draft plan with the Sonoma County Community Development Commission to cover the site’s ongoing operation costs.

“If the plan is implemented, the city’s cost to operate the site could be minimal or nothing at all,” the report states.

The development commission is set to bring its funding recommendations to the Oct. 26 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting for consideration. The Continuum of Care Board, which allocates homelessness funds, plans to hold a special meeting next week to consider Homekey funding recommendations.

If the city receives state funding for the project, construction could take between eight and 12 months, during which time meetings with the community would likely be held.

Neighbors of proposed housing sites have raised concerns in Rohnert Park and other cities about potential increases in crime, loitering and trash.

Rohnert Park housing staff said, though, that well-managed sites do not bring crime and in some cases has decreased problems associated with homeless encampments.

The council meeting begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 130 Avram Ave., and will be open to the masked public. It will also be streamed online and broadcast on local television.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

Lori A. Carter

 Sonoma County courts and Rohnert Park, The Press Democrat

Local journalism is vital to a community's wellbeing, and that means keeping an eye on what happens in our justice system and our communities. I cover Sonoma County courts, as well as the city of Rohnert Park. In my work, I want to share the stories that affect our daily lives and, yes, maybe even rile us up. 

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