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Springs Splash - Thomas Martin - June 2015

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Springs Splash - June 2015

by Tom Martin

It’s Happening! So What is There to Do About It?

In the 1960’s two sociologists wrote a book entitled, “It’s Happening,” a chronicle of life changes occurring in the psychedelic age. Well, for people living in the Springs it’s happening now! Not a new age of psychedelics, but rather a community structure transformation bound to change the lives of the current population.

Consider the following events either planned or underway…

Highway 12 Constructionearly reports… parking space will be reduced when project is completed, new sidewalks and lighting, Springs Community Alliance envisions a plaza or commons between the Churchmouse/Old Uncle Patty’s circle, look for façade improvements, new businesses? 

Closure of the Sonoma Developmental Center – where will Springs residents currently employed at SDC find new employment? Will they leave the area? If so, who will replace them? A major question, what will happen to the SDC properties? Will future utilization of the SDC property provide employment for those displaced? 

County funded Business façade improvements are meant to enliven and enrich a bland frontage… Will it attract new business? Is this a first step in gentrification? One website refers to the Springs as “Gourmet Gulch.” Really? Are there plans underway of which the Springs’ residents are unaware?

Affordable Housing Project (Mid-Pen), will add 100 housing units and a commercial center. Will the project attract new residents or provide improved housing for current residents? What kind of commercial activity will be introduced on the Vailletti property? How will these services affect the lifestyles of current residents? 

Vacation Rentals – Loss of current housing units and/or gentrification of the neighborhood? Taxes, if any, will be for whose benefit? What happens to current residents when a house is sold to become a vacation rental? How to police rental activity? 

Extension of Maxwell Park - Construction of new Swim Club – a boon to current residents and additional recreational resource. What about traffic and changes to housing patterns that result? Will this new attraction bring new residents?  

Santa Rosa to Sonoma Bikeway – Safe cycling for locals will certainly attract tourists and bike rental businesses.

Do these changes suggest a need for Springs self governance? 

Currently, residents must turn to the County for problem resolution. At the April Sonoma Community Foundation Town Hall Meeting a speaker asked if it wasn’t time for the City to annex the Springs. That is an interesting question. However, it’s not likely the City’s electorate would welcome annexation. The City electorate a short time ago voted for an “urban growth boundary.” Would they reverse themselves and welcome their cousins with a multi-lingual population into the fold? For that matter, would the Springs residents want to join the City? 

Another approach might be for the Springs to incorporate as a city. Can one imagine the City of El Verano-Boyes-Fetters-Agua Caliente? Incorporation is an interesting possibility that would take considerable study and time for political decisions.

An interim idea – Form a Community Development District! 

Under state law communities may form special districts with the approval of the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). A community services district may govern policies and practices that are not within the jurisdiction of other special districts such as schools, park and recreation, and water. 

Communities as disparate as Cameron Park, El Dorado Hills, Rancho Murietta, and Bel Marin Keys have community development districts. Currently the California Legislature is considering a bill (AB 3 – Williams) that deals with special circumstances surrounding the community of Isla Vista in Santa Barbara County. 

Special districts have an elected governing board, designated subjects of jurisdiction, and taxing authority. Special districts may be limited in scope, e.g., operating a wastewater treatment plant, or broader in scope as in Bel Marin Keys. Bel Marin Keys enforces rules on covenants and restrictions and serves as an architectural board of review. 

Might the Springs consider a community development district that provided authority to mediate tenant-landlord conflicts, form a parking district, create a community planning commission, provide for contracting to establish facilities such as libraries and child care facilities among others?

Change oriented events are happening now! At some point citizens may ask how to govern conditions that so deeply affect their lives.