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Rohnert Park Plan Impacts Greenbelt


 Rohnert Park Plan Impacts Greenbelt

By James Bracco

Residents of Sonoma County should be aware of development plans coming out of Rohnert Park that will impact scenic corridors enjoyed by all Sonoma County residents. 

At recent council meetings the mayor and council put finishing touches on 4 “specific plans” along the Petaluma Hill Road corridor near Sonoma State. Having built out available space in town, Rohnert Park Development annexed 3 rural parcels from Sonoma County and are pushing their development model eastward.

It’s a reasonable assumption that the communities they’re planning today will resemble the current A Section in 25 years or so. Council members we approved developments with 4 homes sharing a driveway and homes with 4 feet between them – all a stone’s throw from this rural corridor. 

Rohnert Park Development PlansPetaluma Hill Road (also Adobe Road) is a scenic corridor and should be maintained in its historical configuration and not be altered or improved. Rohnert Park development plans will over-burden this corridor and force installation of sound walls, overpasses, lane additions, etc. which are in violation of Sonoma County Visual Resource protection guidelines. The area has been designated a “Community Separator” a “Greenbelt” a “Scenic Corridor” a “Scenic Landscape Unit” in the Sonoma County General Plan 2020 and a “Heritage Road” by multiple conservation groups.

No one came to Sonoma to get closer to hotels and strip malls and sound walls. The Green Music Center experience is enhanced by views of hills and open space. Adding a dry cleaners and hotel won’t improve its ambience. There are nice hotels by the freeway, where hotels belong. 

Problems with current plans include: density, inclusion of commercial zones, traffic, pollution and lack of participation in the hearings.

Density – A total of 5151 units are planned along the Petaluma Hill Road scenic corridor:

• Northeast Specific Plan – 1114 Units

• University Specific Plan – 1645 Units. Commercial, mixed use, Strip Mall

• Southeast Specific Plan – 499 Units, 20,000 Square Feet commercial/retail

• Sonoma Mountain Village – 1893 Units, plus office, retail, grocery, theatre, hotel…

This represents a @20% population increase directly on the Petaluma Hill Road corridor

Inclusion of commercial zones – Each of the areas has commercial component, including strip malls and hotels. The Wolf Den Plaza across from SSU is nominally occupied and has had regular vacancies. At least 4 restaurants and 1 coffee shop and 1 ice cream shop have already gone out of business in that plaza in last 2-3 years. Downtown Cotati is a ghost town of empty strip malls. What wisdom tells us that a dry cleaner, hotel, Bar/Nightclub in these new developments will be anything other than tomorrows blight?

Traffic – Currently it can take 20 minutes or more to get through the intersection of Adobe Road and Petaluma Hill Road in Penngrove. Current plans will increase that to an extent that road improvements will be required. Those improvements will destroy the rural character of this corridor to the detriment of all area residents. 

Pollution - The plans will have severe negative impact on water tables and are in fact are directly on top of key aquifer recharge points. Light and noise pollution will also be an issue in the Scenic Landscape Unit.

Lack of participation in the planning - Although the area in question is within Rohnert Park, the planning impacts county resources - greenbelts, corridors and protected resources and there should be some opportunity for feedback from affected residents of Penngrove, Santa Rosa, Cotati. When they tried to build 2 or 3 homes in Rincon Valley there was a massive outcry from local homeowners. Sadly, when Rohnert Park planned to build 5151 units on Plum and Walnut orchards hardly anyone showed up at the meetings. Could it be no one cared? I think poor communication of the meetings is more likely.

Proposed Alternatives - The general and specific plans all predate the move of Farmers Insurance and inception of Smart Train and should be modified to reduce the density of all east side plans in favor of growth on the west side of town, where the infrastructure, including Smart Rail and Highway 101 and commercial districts are within walking distance. The council should remove or reduce the commercial components of all east side plans. Sonoma State has proven an unreliable customer base for businesses including restaurants and bars, etc. That population isn’t even there a good part of the year. Don’t create any more strip mall ghettos. These components compete with each other and with other established local businesses.

Interested parties are invited to unite and stay informed of these matters by joining Rural Sonoma mailing list: