WatchSonoma Watch

Courthouse Square reunification back on track


Santa Rosa continues to lay the groundwork for the reunification of Courthouse Square despite having neither wide public support for the project nor the $14 million to build it.

Plans calls for closing off the one-block section of Mendocino Avenue that bisects the 1.5-acre park, rerouting that traffic along B and E streets, and giving the park a complete makeover.

The idea has been around since the mid-1990s, but gained momentum in 2008 when the city selected an architect to design it.

Since then, the city’s budget woes have slowed the project, but the City Council remains committed to seeing it through, said Councilman Scott Bartley.

“It is one of the council’s top priorities,” Bartley said. “The dream would have been that we could have moved a lot faster, but it took us a little to get the money scared up.”

B Street has been reconfigured to handle the additional traffic, and the sewer and water upgrades under way on Third Street are aimed at supporting reunification.

An environmental review for the project is next, at a cost of about $150,000. After that’s done in about nine months, construction drawings will be commissioned, which will cost about $350,000. That should leave the project ready to break ground in spring of 2013, said David Gouin, the city director of economic development and housing.

Gouin will give the City Council an update on the project at its meeting tonight.

Because the city doesn’t have the funds to build it all at once, the work will be done in phases. The first will entail the closure of Mendocino through the park, and the construction of two one-lane streets connecting Third Street and Fourth Street along the eastern and western edges of the park, streets once called Hinton and Exchange.

This will restore the square to a layout similar to what existed prior to 1966, when the courthouse that occupied the site was deemed vulnerable to earthquakes and torn down.

“It won’t be everything we want, but it’s going to a presentable solution,” Bartley said.

The first phase of the project is estimated to cost between $3.2 and $3.8 million, Gouin said. Some potential funding sources for the first phase have been identified by staff, but the council has yet to sign off on them. These include money set aside for upgrades to the water and sewer lines under the park, redevelopment funds and park development fees, among others, Gouin said.

Even with those sources, “there’s still a gap,” Gouin said, meaning the council will have to find other additional revenue.

Money has yet to be identified for subsequent phases of the park. They include construction of a glass water wall, an overhead light arbor, several areas to stage musical and cultural events, a cafe, restrooms and new landscaping.

Polls have shown the public is skeptical of the value of the project, and Bartley said he was once, too. But now he’s convinced it will provide a crucial economic and psychological boost for the downtown.

“I know this is the right thing to do for the city” Bartley said. “If I based my support on what the polls said, we wouldn’t touch it. But I don’t care what the polls say. I know what the city needs.”

If the project moves forward on a track similar to that of the nearby Museum on the Square commercial and residential project on the site of the former AT&T building, people would see the city is serious about revitalizing the downtown, he said.

“That would be a huge shot in the arm for the impression of what our downtown is,” Bartley said.

Bartley predicted that once people see the unified space, they’ll understand the change and support it.

27 Responses to “Courthouse Square reunification back on track”

  1. Dave Madigan says:

    Millions of dollars for this project. $287,000 for bike lanes on Sonoma Avenue. I sure am glad that the City Council can afford all of these projects.

    Since the City Council has so much money laying around, they obviously do NOT need to charge for parking at Howarth Park.

    Also, since there is money for pet projects, I expect the fire stations to be ALL open 24/7. No more rotating closures to save money. I also expect all of the street lights to be turned back on now.

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  2. RICHARD says:

    It is easy to test the effect on traffic of closing Santa Rosa AV thru Old Courthouse Square: put up a few barricades.
    Then the people and the council can see for themselves what effect closing it to thru traffic will have.
    The council can do this and the council ought do this test.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

  3. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Did I read that right, sever the town’s main north/south arterie through the middle of town?
    Make the east/west main arterie bottleneck through a cyclist straw?(Sonoma Ave) Bartley says;
    “I don’t care what the polls say, I know what the City needs”? Is this a bad movie? HE WORKS FOR US!
    Then have the nerve to act like they have a ‘jobs plan’? Between these two moves they will have successfully sabotaged the town in terms of business, (except the malls-picking winners & losers=fascism)and ease of mobility.
    OK, the bully shoved me in the chest once too often…I’m ready to fight!
    Are you? This WILL screw up our town.
    PS: this is 100% ICLEI.
    So Cotati, you ‘gonna let ‘em bottle neck your town too?

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4

  4. Skippy says:

    Between the agressive metermaids and the years of torn up streets, I’ve just exhausted my very last reason to park and shop in downtown Santa Rosa.
    Do whatever you want, as you will be doing it for the pigeons, the drunks and the homeless.
    I’m sure they will appreciate it.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 4

  5. Joseph says:

    When I think about the square, I think of aggressive police tactics first, if you drive the people from the square with aggressive tactics, then what is the point of pouring millions of dollars more into it? Seems the best thing to do is stop interfering with the daily conduct of business, let the hidden hand of commerce flourish.

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  6. Bartley's Last Stand says:

    It’s telling that the only council quotes in this article are from Scott Bartley.

    Maybe he’s just gone ’round the bend, or has decided to take this project on as his personal Bridge to Nowhere, but nobody in their right mind would pick the middle of a recession to push forward a project that so few voters want.

    Seriously, Scott. Get a clue!

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  7. Jamie Simon says:

    To the council; this reunification idea will work out just fine, but before you leap and start this project think about this.

    Will the level of vehicle traffic be the same as when the square was split in two?

    If not what mess will you be trying to correct for the next millenia? Where is the extra traffic going to go?

    Has anyone at City Hall gone back in the archives to research why the previous council(s) decided putting a road down the middle of the square was the right idea?

    I thought not. Good luck with this one.

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  8. Rob says:

    More insanity. I just can’t comprehend what the Council is thinking. It’s simple really, when you don’t have any money, buy more stuff, spend more money. Never wait till it’s prudent. The people that elected you don’t know what they want if their opinion differs from your own.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 5

  9. FurloughedWorker says:

    Juilliard Park, a lovely old park with lots of free parking around it, sits virtually unused only two blocks from downtown. I would rather the City of SR spend money to improve that, rather than Courthouse Square.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 6

  10. Patrick says:

    I think the square re-unification will be great for the city. Bravo Mr. Bartley!

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 20

  11. Steveguy says:

    Sanctuaries for the sanctimonious.

    That describes some of our so-called leaders.

    They know better than you, as they are perched up on the dais.

    There is a downtown center, it is called Courthouse Square. One side has a gathering spot with a stage, the other a quieter place to relax with a noisy cobblestone street in between.

    Why not raise the Howrath Parking fee to $20 an hour ? Ohh, the ‘Park development’ funds are different than ‘park’ funds… OK Let us please squander millions, and decry the cuts of millions.

    Is the the insane asylum, or our Government ?

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  12. Alex says:

    Santa Rosa cannot be compared to Windsor or Healdsburg. It is a city not a town. This is another wasted government spending project. The old way of thinking of a square is nothing more than a hang out for drunks, homeless, and protests. If you want a square, do it by Railroad Square where you have available space. Instead, you are going to create congestion and add more traffic throughout the neighborhood. Remember they don’t build old neighborhoods anymore which is Santa Rosa’s appeal. Destroy that and you have a city in the middle of nowhere with a highway running through it…kind of like a Modesto. Adding traffic to residential areas are guaranteed do two things…one, drive prices down because of the traffic and two, will end up with spikes of crime. When the market crashes more, less tax revenue for your spending projects. The end result will be the crime and traffic to spread elsewhere and you now have slums. Wake up and see this is what happened in every city that grew. As Uncle Charlie said in “Shadow of a Doubt” “more people cause more problems.” This isn’t 1940 anymore. The downtown is dead because the businesses are nothing more than sailor-want-a-hump-hump massage parlors, nail salons, hair stylists salons, and a handful of restaurants thrown into the mix. Any successful business always begins with demand and location. To be honest, Santa Rosa in the past few years has been getting really seedy especially since moving more government special needs offices downtown. Once this market gets up somewhat where I can recoup some of my losses, I am blowing out of Dodge…I really think Santa Rosa is dead not because of the location, but because of the element of trash moving in and being encouraged to move in. I look at Santa Rosa as SF Bay overfill…the making of Vallejo and we all know how that turned out. Sad to see it destroyed but these politicians are determined to kill it and the “progressives” will do just that…progressively make it unlivable. Their motto, create a lazy government society so I can always get that reliable vote…disgusting! Then they will head out once they destroy the area and move to feast and destroy another. Sad to see, but it is what it is…a dead town and a growing slum.

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  13. chuck reilly says:

    This sort of romantic nostalgia does little to solve Sonoma County’s real economic problems. Santa Rosa does not need a “heart”. Rather, it should face the more difficult issues of empty office buildings and a declining tax base. Let’s stop tinkering with traffic patterns (traffic circles are another one) and focus on creating a prosperous community.

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  14. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Jim – The work they are doing now can be funded from Sewer and Water funds, since that is what they are working on. since they have torn up the streets to do this work, they can also use S&W funds to repave. I would guess that future funding might come from Redevelopment funds.

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  15. Jim M says:

    It is important to have a heart to the city that is a lively center. Not positive this particular plan will do it, but I agree the basic plan. I’m surprised to see they didn’t use redevelopment funds to keep this going. They could have used funds from both Gateways and the downtown redevelopment area.

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  16. Social Dis-Ease says:

    To Cherie Maria:
    your right, the City has no heart.

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 7

  17. Social Dis-Ease says:

    We need…they want.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 8

  18. Insanity says:

    Absolute insanity.

    Thumb up 25 Thumb down 9

  19. Cherie Maria says:

    I think what people are missing is that successful city models have a center or in the terms that matter “A heart”.

    You can’t point to the heart of Santa Rosa because we don’t have one, there is no one place that you can geographically point to and say “That’s the heart of my hometown.”

    So why have a heart to your city, well for starters its a place to fall in love. Its a place the young learn about courting because they grow up at the festivals that happen in the heart of your home town. Its the place you host Farmer’s Markets, and music and dancing, its the place you welcome in the harvest and celebrate the milestones of your city.

    Its the home of your Christmas tree and the tree lighting ceremony. Its where you toast in the New Year and sit on blankets in the summer and watch old movies with your kids.

    Its where the Symphony comes out to play an outdoor concert. Its the best seat in town when you want to watch a parade. Its a place to relax on your lunch hour, its the meeting spot for when you want to meet a group of friends for dinner.

    But most importantly its the place you find yourself going to for no particular reason, just because you love being there.

    That is why this city needs to have a heart one that everyone can love, of all ages, for all times.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 22

  20. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Richard – if you’ve been to downtown recently, you will notice that the work being done currently is water and sewer related. The City is not using W&S funds for anything not related to W&S.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 8

  21. GAJ says:

    What do you do when the foundation of your house is crumbling?

    Build a new addition of course!

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 9

  22. john bly says:

    I can see by the posts that my opinion will receive lots of thumbs downs but here goes: part of what we should have in the City of SR to attract businesses and foot traffic to shop downtown, is some sort of “identity” for the downtown. A town square such as the ones in Healdsburg and Sonoma, are central meeting places, chances for art festivals and artists to entertain, and a chance for unifying our community with a minimal impact on traffic. I am wholeheartedly for this project. We have to provide free parking and a unified Courthouse Square in order to revitalize our downtown shopping experience. The folks that will benefit the most will be the core businesses downtown but the strategic byproduct will be the entire community as a sense of what Santa Rosa “is” will be generated. I say bravo to Bartley and crew! Keep up the good work!

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  23. RICHARD says:

    The City of Santa Rosa intends to divert water and sewer [W&S] funds to this project. Money you pay each month for W&S, they will spend on this, their pet project.

    They intend to charged as much of the total project cost, as they think they can get away with, to W&S.

    Using W&S funds for any thing other than W&S is a violation of law. City of Santa Rosa you have been advised.

    ” … money … redevelopment funds …, Gouin said.” Redevelopment funds may lawfully only be spent to remove blight. Redwood tress, grass and fountains are not blight, right?

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 10

  24. bill says:

    Bartley and his other 2 comrades including the cop mayor continue on their idiotic plans and fail to downsize government to meet the current economic realities.

    So here is a ridiculous plan to muddle traffic for the sake of nostalgia. What part of governance to these people not understand?

    A NO vote is the long answer. A RECALL is the short one.

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 12

  25. Liz says:

    “I know this is the right thing to do for the city” Bartley said. “If I based my support on what the polls said, we wouldn’t touch it. But I don’t care what the polls say. I know what the city needs.”

    And I voted for you, I am now beyond upset. Who cares what the people want because you know best. That is despicable, Talk about not listening to the people and being in city council for yourself only. If you expect to get votes next time around Bartley you may want to start listening to the people who gave you this city council job!!!!!!!!!!!! That goes for the rest of you on our city council as well!

    We have a lot more traffic now compared to 1966, will this ever work? or will this just cause traffic jams down town causing even more people to stop going downtown? Less people go downtown because of the silly parking meters now you do this and that will make things even worse.

    Thumb up 42 Thumb down 11

  26. Money Grubber says:

    ““It is one of the council’s top priorities,” Councilman Scott Bartley says.

    Clearly, Scott Bartley thinks SMALL. Nothing else worth an effort, Scott ?
    Nothing else to do with your time?
    Nothing else important on the public plate?

    How does this project benefit the public ?
    How does this project jive with funding?
    How does this project command such attention?

    Just curious. The concept has wasted the councils time for roughly ten years now that I know of.

    Thumb up 38 Thumb down 10

  27. Dave Madigan says:

    Why does this remind me of Nancy Pelosi speaking about Obamacare? “We have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

    Mr. Bartley says we need to build the project so that everyone can understand the change and support it.

    What part of “NO!” does Mr Bartley have trouble understanding?

    Perhaps a “NO!” vote in the next election will clearify it for him.

    Thumb up 37 Thumb down 12

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