Jan 4, 2018
by David Abbott
By David Abbott
Last November, the City of Santa Rosa grew by approximately 714 acres and gained about 7,400 new residents, as the annexation of Roseland finally came to fruition after years of work by both city and county officials.
The historic agreement comes at the end of a process that gained momentum after the death of Andy Lopez, when questions of law enforcement jurisdictions came to the forefront of discussions of what was then a small, unincorporated area in the southwest part of the city.
“It started in 2013 with Andy Lopez and began to surface more regularly after his death as a public safety issue,” Santa Rosa Council Member John Sawyer said. “The conversations were about a large island in the middle of the city served by the sheriff’s department. The question was: who’s responsible for what, where?”
But according to Sawyer, timing is everything, as the groundswell to annexation happened while he served as an elected official and former Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo was on the Board of Supervisors.
“Efren was dedicated to annexation and failure was not an option,” Sawyer said. “It seemed almost poetic that he was a native of Roseland and I was a native of Santa Rosa: Him chair of the board of supervisors and me, the mayor. There was something fitting about that.”
For many years, as Santa Rosa began to grow, the city allowed large tracts of land surrounding what became Roseland to be developed, often at the request of the developers.
City officials allowed it to happen, claiming they did not want to upset residents of Roseland who might be concerned about urbanization in their rural pocket. Critics maintained it was because the city was not interested in costly investments to infrastructure in a historically low-income and largely Latino area.
Things began to change in 2004, when the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) put a stop to the annexations taking place around Roseland and an earnest effort to hammer out an agreement began.
But in 2008, the recession stopped that in its tracks, so the idea lay fallow until February 2013.
By 2016, most of the financial issues had been hammered out and many of the infrastructure and jurisdictional aspects of the agreement were underway.
“There were so many moving parts and so many people involved: More than 60 in the city and county,” Sawyer said. “It speaks to the dedication of the city and the county. There was a lot of compromise.”
Sawyer was on city council for the most recent prior attempt and said that this was accomplished, due in large part, to the work of Carrillo and former Assistant City Manager Chuck Regalia.
The final agreement includes several complicated tax-sharing formulas as well as cost-sharing infusions of funds to help the city take over management of the Roseland area.
“The tough part was figuring out property taxes,” Deborah Lauchner, Santa Rosa’s chief financial officer said. “We negotiated about everything: Mowers for Public Works? We dropped that one. Could we rent one? We had to find different solutions.”
Throughout 2017, the city lay the groundwork in anticipation of the takeover of the area, purchasing equipment and assessing the need for employees to do the work necessary to serve new residents.
For the police department, the city purchased eight police cars as well as radios, uniforms and other equipment needed. Staffing increases included one sergeant, four police officers one detective and two dispatchers. Finance, fire, Transportation and Public Works and Animal Control also required new staffing.
Storm drain inspection equipment and cleaning for approximately 43,000 feet of pipes alone will cost about $350,000.
To offset those costs, the county has agreed to provide $790,000 in startup costs as well as ongoing capital investments of $662,000 for a period of 10 years. Additionally, there will be an annual subsidy of $550,000 in addition to the tax disbursement.
“We originally asked for $1.3 million, but settled for $790,000,” Lauchner said. “For capital improvements, we asked for $18 million, but settled for $6 million for streets. … We’re hoping when we do street work, it will increase property values in the area.”
Sawyer said the successful negotiations bode well for the future, with Roseland finally taking its place in Santa Rosa proper.
“We had support of the staffs (both city and county) and it was fitting we moved that neighborhood to the next step in its evolution,” he said. “All neighborhoods evolve and there is an important cultural aspect to this. It was time to bring Roseland under the Santa Rosa banner.”
He added that the fears of many residents uncomfortable with change were in large part allayed by a massive outreach on the part of the city.
“Residents were not convinced it would be in their best interests,” Sawyer said. “We had to convey realistic expectations. It’s not going to happen overnight and could take decades perhaps.”
The City of Santa Rosa will host a Roseland Community Celebration on Saturday, Jan. 20, from 12-4 p.m. at the Roseland Neighborhood Village and Community Center, 779 Sebastopol Rd. To get involved, contact the Office of Community Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on what to expect from annexation, go to srcity.org/371/Roseland-Area-Annexation.
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