Neighbors say Jacobs Park gang shooting doesn’t reflect character of Santa Rosa neighborhood
Isabel Lopez’s art class started the day after the wild shooting.
Lopez is the founder of Raizes Collective, a nonprofit dedicated to arts, culture and environmental education. The group is hosting free summer community art classes at Lincoln Elementary, next to Jacobs Park in west Santa Rosa, the site of a gang-related burst of gunfire Wednesday that injured four people, including an 11-year-old child.
Lopez didn’t know if anyone would show up for Thursday’s class after the violence, less than 24 hours before. But the class was packed.
“We had grandmas that came with their grandkids, we had adults that came to do art, we had parents that didn’t have anything for their kids to do for the summer,” she said. “We actually discussed the shooting. ... It was like a collective therapy session, almost.”
The consensus among community members, Lopez said, was that the violence was an atypical event that should not been seen as representative of the park or the wider West Ninth neighborhood.
“It’s really sad that an incident like that sometimes paints the community in a negative light like they’re all criminals,” she said.
Lopez grew up on West Ninth Street, a few blocks from the park. She never understood how or why it got a reputation as a dangerous area.
“I never came across any gang members, there wasn’t anything. I didn’t really see that violence that people sometimes talk about in the news,” she said. “I hear like ‘Oh, there’s a lot of gang activity,’ and I’m like ‘what?’ ”
Jacobs Park, on West Ninth between Link Lane and Simpson Place, opened in 1967, said Kelley Magnuson, city recreation and parks interim director. It expanded in 1970, adding a playground and extending the grass behind the school.
The origins of the name, however, remain a mystery.
“We don’t know how or why it was named Jacobs Park,” Magnuson said in an email.
The park and its surroundings have seen violence before, including a stabbing in September. In 2006, a teen was shot through the neck during a nighttime drive-by shooting near the park. Two years later, there were two shootings near the park. Gunfire in 2013 struck two apartments across from the park, though no one was injured.
Of 26 calls for police service in the past three years, only the stabbing and Wednesday’s shooting involved violence, police said. The rest mainly involved quality-of-life violations, including public urination and people drinking alcohol in the park. In the nine-month period between the stabbing in the fall and the shooting, police were only called to the park once, for a report of a suspicious vehicle.
The neighborhood has a bad reputation stemming from gang activity as far back as the 1980s, but in recent years it’s been calm, West Ninth resident Omar Valencia said. He called the shooting “an isolated incident.”
“I like this neighborhood. Some people are afraid of it, and other people always say, ‘Oh my God, West Ninth.’ But it’s not what it used to be,” Valencia said.
Pam Elliott, who raised her six kids less than a block from the park, said she has never felt unsafe in the neighborhood. She has lived in the same house since 1989, and serves as a board member of the Lincoln Manor Association, representing 429 townhomes west of the park.