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Roseland library finds a temporary home, but permanent location still unclear

Marisol Angeles will be the first to tell you that libraries are not just a place for books.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic closed in-person access to the Roseland Regional Library in March 2020, you could find her at the branch multiple times a week.

For years, Angeles met there weekly with other members of the Roseland Community Building Initiative, a neighborhood advocacy group, to discuss the group’s projects and challenges in the community.

She also participated in a bookmaking class, one of several courses offered to adults at the location.

Of course, access to books for her kids and for herself was part of the appeal. Angeles also liked that Spanish-speaking staff was easy to find at the location.

“It was a place that was needed,” Angeles said of the branch, which opened in late 2015, two years before most of Roseland was annexed into Santa Rosa.

This month, the Roseland library will reopen to the public in a new location, welcoming in-person patrons for the first time since the pandemic forced the branch to limit operations.

The relocation comes as a permanent home for the facility remains out of reach despite the millions of dollars already allocated for the project — casting an uncertain future for the branch and dimming the hopes of residents such as Angeles, who say they rely on the essential services and community space the library provides.

“What is needed in the city so they have the place (for the library)?” Angeles asked. “How come in other places, they have their own building but this area doesn’t?”

The library’s move to the 470 Sebastopol Road building, which sits next to the Frozen Art Gourmet Ice Cream store, represents a significant upgrade from its prior space, said Ray Holley, a spokesman for the Sonoma County Library, which oversees the regional branch.

The library’s former location about a block away at the Roseland Village Shopping Center was shared with the local Boys and Girls Club, meaning the library’s hours were mostly limited to the mornings, Holley said.

The roof sometimes leaked and there were problems with mice — conditions that fell short of what the community deserves of its library, Holley said.

By the time it opens, the new library will be outfitted with a new and larger collection of books, as well as new shelving and furniture, Holley said.

Like the prior location, computers and printers will be available, though it’ll also offer a dedicated community meeting space and eventually a 3D printer.

It’ll also be open for more hours: every day except Sunday, starting from 12-7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the remaining days.

New space for community hub

The hope is to add to the library’s program offerings as the COVID pandemic wanes, according to Holley.

The library previously hosted author visits, story times, computer and typing classes and cooking demonstrations.

More than 750 users were registered with the library just prior to the 2020 shelter-in-place orders went into effect, though that doesn’t count relatives who visited the library with those users or people who only browsed or used the branch’s public computers — activities that don’t require a library card, Holley said.

“This is a dream come true for us, to serve this community that has been chronically underserved for so long,” Holley said of moving to the upgraded space, which will have more room for books and other resources than the prior space. “The few years that we have been in Roseland, the community has come to love us and our librarians have come to love the community.”

The move comes nearly six years after the library first opened at 779 Sebastopol Road next door to a now-closed Dollar Tree store in December 2015.

That space was offered up by Sonoma County, which at the time had jurisdiction over the county governed neighborhood, a predominantly Latino area that had long gone without many of the city services provided to surrounding neighborhoods.

In late 2017, Santa Rosa folded the neighborhood into its city limits in a long-awaited annexation.

By doing so, the city inherited the regional library and the responsibility to provide a permanent space for it, as is the case with the other local municipalities that have a library under the Sonoma County Library system, Holley said.

The library was allowed to stay in the county space temporarily as the city and library officials worked to find a city-owned property to house the library.

However, the approval of the 175-apartment complex at the county-owned site in 2019 placed additional pressure for the library to vacate the building, Holley said.

The multimillion-dollar project, a partnership between the nonprofit housing developer MidPen Housing and Sonoma County’s Community Development Commission, was billed as a mix of affordable and market-rate units.

It also touted plans for a civic building that could house the Roseland library provided that Santa Rosa officials could secure enough funding for that part of the project.

Ali Gaylord, North Bay director of Housing Development for MidPen Housing, said the nonprofit and the county commission are in discussions with the city of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County Library about the space but no agreement has been reached.

The mixed-use development, now called Tierra de Rosas, is expected to break ground early next year with the installation of roads, Gaylord said.

“We think increasing access to these services in this community would be a wonderful thing, but I think we want to make sure it’s the right space, that the size of the building fits and that they can do they want to do here,” Gaylord said.

Search for permanent home

In February, the Santa Rosa City Council earmarked $10 million from its $95 million PG&E 2017 wildfire settlement for a permanent home for the library. Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, secured an additional $1 million for the project in the state budget approved Monday.

As the conversation with the developers continues, both the city and the library are scouting other possible locations, Holley said.

They include properties with existing facilities and ones that would require the library to be built from the ground up. The latter option would likely far exceed the funds already secured from the city and state for the project, he added.

Both Holley and Santa Rosa City Councilman Eddie Alvarez, who represents Roseland, said there was strong interest in making the former Roseland University Prep site the library’s permanent location, though that space was scooped up by another party.

Alvarez said uncertainty over the permanent space and the prolonged closure of the library branch during the pandemic has frustrated his constituents.

Others are disappointed that the new space won’t be able to accommodate exercise classes, a top wish-list item for the neighborhood.

Alvarez said he’s working with the city to look for a future home for the library.

“For me, it’s reassuring the community that their voices are being heard and sitting at the table with (Sonoma County) Supervisor Hopkins and MidPen to make sure that the community’s voice is being heard,” Alvarez said.

An approximately $649,000 six-year lease will secure a spot at the temporary location into 2025. The space required up to $1 million in upgrades, including new bathrooms, a fire sprinkler system and parking that meets accessibility standards.

A specified opening date this month was not available.

Santa Rosa is paying $150,000 for the first two years of the lease, and the rest is being covered by library funds, Holley said.

“That was a big decision for us because that’s not our funding model, but we are very invested in Roseland,” Holley said. “ … And we knew a library couldn’t wait.”

Sara Ortiz, the president of the Sonoma County Library Foundation, said the nonprofit and another community group, the Roseland Library Coalition, plan to raise funds for the branch’s permanent home.

She hoped the city and state’s commitment to the project would encourage private donors to chip in for the cause.

In the meantime, Ortiz was excited about the new space.

“The new location is going to be bigger, more modern and easier to use for Roseland residents,” Ortiz said.

You can reach Staff Writer Nashelly Chavez at 707-521-5203 or nashelly.chavez@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @nashellytweets.

Nashelly Chavez

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, The Press Democrat 

Who calls the North Bay home and how do their backgrounds, socioeconomic status and other factors shape their experiences? What cultures, traditions and religions are celebrated where we live? These are the questions that drive me as I cover diversity, equity and inclusion in Sonoma County and beyond.   

 

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