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Our County by Efren Carrillo - November 2014


Our County by Efren Carrillo - November 2014

by Efren Carrillo

We’ve seen some vibrant community efforts taking flight this fall. A new community apple press has proved to be a popular project at Luther Burbank Experimental Farm in Sebastopol. Slow Food – Russian River’s Bob Burke – has advocated for the preservation and promotion of the Gravenstein apple. Slow Food’s efforts have resulted in an airport apple promotion for the past two seasons, and this year’s effort to provide a free apple press staffed by volunteers for folks to make delicious juice from their backyard crops. The County provided support to both of these efforts, keeping alive the strong heritage of the Gravenstein in the West County.

The Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District awarded matching grants to some notable projects in the West County.  Full funding was awarded to the Sebastopol Skategarden Expansion and Roseland Village Public Space.  Significant partial funding was awarded to the City of Santa Rosa’s Colgan Creek Restoration Project and to Regional Parks for a future Moorland Neighborhood Park.  There isn’t room here to describe all the projects, but I’ll focus on two…

Roseland Village – an aging shopping center on Sebastopol Rd – has been a focus for years of community vision planning. This site, which was secured by the Community Development Commission using redevelopment funds several years ago, will be undergoing significant changes over the next few months. The Board of Supervisors has continued to fund the project, using Reinvestment and Revitalization funds. Dramatic changes will come with the completion of environmental work and the clearing of the buildings on the property over the next few months. The District matching grant will support the planning and construction of a plaza at the site, which will increase access to the Rodota trail and provide a much needed permanent community gathering space. Residents are encouraged to participate in the future planning efforts by subscribing to updates at the CDC webpage or look it up on Facebook under Roseland Village. It will be exciting to see positive changes happening on this property, long used by the community for gathering.

Moorland Neighborhood Park, which the County received an initial $471,000 in Housing Related park funds from the State, received an additional $467,000 from the matching grant program which can be used for property acquisition and project planning. As has been reported, the Board of Supervisors has approved a contract for the sale of the property, and negotiations with the property owner will continue as that process unfolds.  We look forward to completion of the sale, so that Regional Parks can continue their outreach to the local community regarding park planning and design.  

Regional Parks got a head start on their effort using a Community Transformation Grant in collaboration with the Department of Health Services to begin working with Community Action Partnership to work with Moorland community members to develop strategies for creating a safe, healthy and livable neighborhood. Through this effort, a Neighborhood Advisory Team (NAT) consisting of 20 local residents met over a 3 month period and, through public meetings and a walking tour event, engaged the neighborhood in developing priorities for future efforts and improvements.  

The NAT identified four goal areas that will guide future efforts and their Action Plan: 1) community health and safety; 2) Developing a sense of community; 3) beautifying and improving Moorland’s environment and open spaces; and 4) improving pedestrian, bicycle, and transit access and safety. At the public workshops, participants identified issues and ideas for neighborhood improvements, prioritized these, and indicated their support for the emerging plan. They also served, with Community Action Partnership taking a leadership role, as community organizers who will go forward to implement and advocate for their plan.  The NAT will go forward as the Neighborhood Action Team to work with identified agencies, government, and non-profits to move the plan into reality.

The acquisition of the long hoped for Community Park will be an early achievement of their efforts. Street lighting is being designed for the stretch of Moorland that lacks adequate lighting. Roadway improvements such as crosswalks, sidewalks, and bus stops are all high priority items. Early results such as the park and lighting should spur the continued activism that will result in long lasting infrastructure improvements for the area.

I would be completely remiss if I did not take a few sentences to congratulate Herman J. Hernandez and Los Cien on pulling off the first ever State of the Latino Community event on October 2nd. This sold-out breakfast included both of our congressional representatives, many elected officials, and civic leaders and featured a keynote on economic disparities by Stanford University professor Dr. David Grusky. Dr. Grusky’s call to action was inspiring, as was the enthusiastic gathering of the crowd during Latino Heritage month…and in the spirit of the historic occasion; I also congratulate Herman G. Hernandez on his election as the youngest and first Latino representative to the Sonoma County Board of Education.