The annexation of Roseland, a heavily Latino pocket of county land encircled over time by fast-growing southwest Santa Rosa, cleared its final hurdle Wednesday when the clock ran out for opponents to block the move.
The meeting of the Sonoma Local Agency Formation Commission, which decides government service boundaries, was perfunctory — the item lasted only six minutes — but nevertheless historic.
“This is huge on the Sonoma LAFCO scale,” said executive officer Mark Bramfitt. “It’s redressing a problem that developed decades ago.”
The annexation of Roseland and four other unincorporated parcels totaling 714 acres was by far the largest, most high-profile and consequential annexation in Sonoma County history, bringing 7,400 new residents under the jurisdiction of Santa Rosa for the first time.
The change is set to become official Nov. 1 to give the city time to prepare for the transition, and will be followed by a celebration Nov. 4.
“I’m so pleased that after a lot of hard work by a lot of people, we’ve been successful,” said City Councilman John Sawyer. “It’s the right thing to do.”
For decades, however, the city felt differently, allowing large tracts of undeveloped or lightly developed land surrounding Roseland to be annexed, often at the request of housing developers.
City officials claimed they didn’t want to force annexation on Roseland because residents of the semi-rural area might object, setting up a costly election that might reverse the move. But critics contend the city’s aversion to annexation had more to do with avoiding the costs of serving a lower-income population and upgrading notoriously poor infrastructure.
LAFCO put a stop to partial annexations around Roseland in 2004. City and county officials tried to hammer out a financing deal for annexing Roseland proper, but it stalled in 2008 when the recession hit.
The 2013 shooting death of Andy Lopez by a sheriff’s deputy in the nearby Moorland Avenue neighborhood just outside city limits provided new urgency to the annexation effort.
Though the tragedy didn’t happen in Roseland proper, it cemented the impression of inequity between residents of the city and unincorporated areas, and lit a fire under elected officials to do something.
After some initial friction between the city and county, Sawyer and former Supervisor Efren Carrillo helped hammer out a workable cost-sharing agreement in 2016. A rebounding economy that boosted government coffers played a role, as well.
When it came down to it, only 44 voters and 41 property owners in the area filed formal objections, far from the hundreds that would have been needed to trigger an election, Bramfitt said. He credited the city and county staffs with conducting an excellent outreach effort to residents.
Sawyer urged the city’s newest residents to be proud but patient. Some changes, like new infrastructure, will take time, while others, like law enforcement, will be immediate, he said.
Others, like district elections that might allow residents to vote in City Council elections for the first time, might be right around the corner, he said.
“Now actually, the heavy lifting begins,” Sawyer said. “It’s very exciting.”
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @srcitybeat.