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Roseland Review - December 2016 - Duane Dewitt

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Redlined Roseland to Get Reprieve?


by Duane De Witt

For forty years Roseland residents have been dealing with the results of poor planning and poor public policy decision making by local government officials. These poor decisions have been made by both county and city officials, as well as state regulatory agencies, which have allowed “benign neglect” to fester since back when disinvestment began along Sebastopol Rd. with the discovery of hazardous wastes and toxic contamination at old commercial properties near the railroad tracks. Benign neglect is a polite term for biased classism and racism here in Sonoma County and Santa Rosa. Newly elected government officials may begin to change this.

Lynda Hopkins has been elected to be County Supervisor for the 5th District including Roseland. Chris Rogers and Jack Tibetts have been elected to the Santa Rosa City Council and all have stated they hope to help treat Roseland better. Congratulations to all three now let’s get to work on another new beginning for Roseland.

Santa Rosa city officials deliberately made the situation worse twenty years ago when they made a county island by surrounding Roseland without local citizens having a true voice in the decision-making processes. This is the same thing as “old school redlining” practiced throughout California since the state was founded and Santa Rosa had its’ own ghettoes of Chinatown and south Park. Recent news stories in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat have claimed current city officials may rectify this problem by annexing the island they created a generation ago. Because the negotiations were held in secret many Roseland residents Roseland Review spoke with are still skeptical about these reports being truly helpful to Roseland. Now as an “ethno-burb” many longtime Roseland residents believe the same old story will play out again on a different day.

Before discussing this further some background information to keep in mind is the 1.2 square mile Roseland area is still geographically the same as in 1976. But the population has increased more per capita than anywhere else in Santa Rosa, or Sonoma County for that matter. The recently published Roseland Specific Plan showed, “The Roseland Area has gained 8,147 new residents between 1990 and 2013, an increase of 76 % (page 3.12-1).” This information is taken from a publically available letter submitted by a Roseland resident. The letter pointed out, “By comparison, the rest of the City of Santa Rosa grew by 49% and Sonoma County by 10% between 1990 and 2013 (page 3.12-1).” (I do not print the writer’s name because many residents’ fear retaliation by Santa Rosa city officials who have been hurtful towards the Roseland Creek Nature Park supporters from the past.)

The big problem about this growth has been there was not a comparable increase in housing units to help house all these new Roseland residents. There has also not been significant investment in infrastructure which is basically the same as it was forty years ago when Eric Konigshofer was the newly elected Fifth District County Supervisor in 1976. In the early 1990s local residents began to organize to try and get a better community for the residents. Concerned Citizens for South West Area Youth (CCSWAY) began the push for a Community Youth Center. In 1993 Roseland Action came into being to have a voice of Authentic community engagement for residents in the public policy decision making process. The Citizens’ Cleanup Coalition began in 1995 as residents fought to have enforcement of environmental laws against polluters such as Acme Auto Wreckers on Sebastopol Rd. near Stony Pt. Rd.

Recently county officials have been making more investment in Roseland than the city has. The repaving of Sebastopol Rd has gone forward with county funding. The county is also using taxpayer funding to purchase park lands. The park lands are then deeded to the city. But in negotiations between city and county the city has not been fair to local residents. If a citizen wants to rezone their land, there is an approximately $20,000.00 cost according to one Burbank Ave. residents who inquired. But the rezoning could have been done for free as part of an annexation proposal and the city staff DID NOT tell local property owners how to do this. This has created more mistrust of Santa Rosa government officials by Roseland residents.

Now is the time for newly elected officials to step up and keep promises to Roseland voters.