We write a lot about seeking common ground and compromising for the common good. So it’s incumbent on us to take note when government officials do just that.
In this instance, we’re referring to Santa Rosa and Sonoma County leaders who, without much fanfare, pushed aside a stubborn obstacle to settling Roseland’s future.
While many of us were focused on the election, the city and county settled on a cost-sharing plan to break the fiscal logjam that has long prevented Santa Rosa from annexing Roseland, an urban unincorporated area barely distinguishable from the city that has grown around it. (The agreement also clears the way to annex four county islands in the southwest Santa Rosa area.)
“This is an important milestone,” said outgoing Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who grew up in Roseland and has represented the heavily Latino neighborhood for almost eight years.
Santa Rosa Mayor John Sawyer concurred. “We were able to work out an agreement that fit for both the county and city in the long term,” he told Staff Writer Kevin McCallum.
The cost-sharing agreement announced on Oct. 26, and approved Nov. 1 by the Board of Supervisors, isn’t the final step in the annexation process. It goes to the City Council later this month. After that, approval is needed from an obscure county commission and, eventually, annexation must be affirmed by residents of Roseland and the other islands.
But it is finances rather than a lack of public support that has bogged down annexation efforts stretching back 20 years and more.
The city will need to provide police, fire protection and other public services to the approximately 7,000 residents of Roseland. Roads, sidewalks and other public infrastructure in the 714-acre annexation area must be brought up to city standards. And those improvements must be made without reducing services or lowering standards for the other 175,000 residents of Santa Rosa. To accomplish all of that, the city asked for more than $30 million from the county.
The supervisors favor annexation, but they must maintain services for residents of unincorporated areas and offered about $13 million.
Under the compromise plan, the county will make a one-time $790,000 payment to help with startup costs for city services and to assess storm water systems in the annexation area; $500,000 per year for 10 years to help offset a $3.6 million annual increase in city operating costs; and $660,000 per year for 10 years to help upgrade streets in Roseland.
In a major concession, the county agreed to a permanent annual payment to offset longterm costs. It begins at $226,400 a year and will be adjusted annually based on the property tax base of the Roseland school district. The city, meanwhile, accepted a longer timetable for upgrading services and infrastructure in Roseland.
This wasn’t a simple compromise for either side, nor did it come easily. An editorial on this page in 1999 said: “The problems of Roseland won’t be solved over night. Pulling together the finances could take 20 years.” Just six months ago, City Councilman Gary Wysocky lamented that the gap between the city and county was as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Today, the chasm has been bridged, and for Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, there’s finally a clear path to achieving a longtime goal.