WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa says it has a jobs plan, too


President Barack Obama laid out plenty of ideas for creating jobs Thursday night, but here’s one you didn’t hear him pitch — tweaking zoning rules to boost economic development.

While it may not be on the president’s radar, that’s precisely the approach the Santa Rosa City Council is taking to generate jobs locally. And much like Obama’s plan, it is not without its skeptics.

Last week, sandwiched between various higher-profile topics, the council signed off on a series of rezoning efforts aimed at economic development and job growth.

Councilmember Scott Bartley said the effort should improve Santa Rosa’s image as a place where excessive and often conflicting regulations make it difficult to do business.

“We run individual applicants through the mill only to spit them out well chewed up at the end without their project and that says don’t come to Santa Rosa,” Bartley said. “We’re going to clean this up.”

But some have questioned whether the cash-strapped city should be shouldering costs traditionally borne by developers, and whether the effort will pave the way for controversial projects such as the Lowe’s Home Improvement store rejected in 2009.

While he supported many of the efforts, Councilman Gary Wysocky said he was less comfortable with rezoning specific properties at the request of developers or their agents.

“It just seems to me like it’s hand-out city,” Wysocky said.

The effort approved by the council last week is a continuation of a process begun under the previous council to streamline some permitting processes for businesses by allowing more types of uses, eliminating the need to apply for special permits for exceptional uses.

Now the council is going further, and agreeing to proactively rezone some properties that owners and real estate brokers have said are ripe for development if only the city would remove certain restrictions.

“It’s a vital and necessary investment in our city and its success,” Councilman John Sawyer said.

The full council agreed on several items they dubbed “low hanging fruit” early last month, but held off on more expensive and controversial proposals. They signed off on the rezoning of two business parks to increase the kinds of uses allowed there and speed up the process of moving in new businesses.

They also agreed to produce some promotional material about development opportunities in industrial areas that can access the newly resumed rail freight service, as well as opportunities at the current Kmart site on Cleveland Avenue.

But the council balked at spending up to $100,000 in environmental studies for the 12-acre site once eyed by Lowe’s.

Last week, however, staff returned and said it had found the $305,000 necessary to complete the work not only on the Lowe’s site but several others. These include the Prickett’s nursery at Highway 12 and Calistoga Road, the Montecito Shopping Center in Rincon Valley and Third Street between E Street and Brookwood Avenue.

Other measures included:

– Tinkering with the zoning requirements for supermarkets.

– Changing zoning restrictions for wineries and wine-tasting facilities.

– Increasing the areas where medical services are allowed by right.

– Making permanent the temporary measures taken by the prior council.

“This list will create jobs. It will improve the economy of Santa Rosa,” Bartley said.

Some residents, however, expressed concern that they weren’t involved in the process of deciding what properties to streamline for development.

“I think a lot of the neighbors feel left out,” Councilwoman Marsha Vas Dupre said.

Others worried that streamlining the processes would limit public involvement in the decisions, but Bartley said that was far from true.

“Nothing in this list will circumvent public involvement. It will shorten, ultimately, the time that an applicant has to spend to get a project approved,” Bartley said.

Whether that actually will create jobs is difficult to say. Chuck Regalia, city community development director, noted that the initial round of permit streamlining has been cited as a positive factor by the developers of the new Kia dealership on Santa Rosa Avenue, which will create about 20 jobs.

While the pace of home construction remains slow, Regalia said builders have pulled 50 to 60 permits under a new process that lets them delay paying sizable fees. The rule of thumb is every new home built creates one to two jobs, he said.

While it’s impossible to say if those builders would have moved forward anyway, Regalia said they prefer the new process because it saves them money.

Former Councilwoman Jane Bender said Santa Rosa’s quality of life used to be enough to draw businesses here. Today, however, there is “incredible competition” among cities for new businesses, including many offering tax breaks and other subsidies, and Santa Rosa needs to compete.

“We’ve got to spend some money in order to get money,” she said.

23 Responses to “Santa Rosa says it has a jobs plan, too”

  1. Audrey Sanderson says:

    This is NOT a jobs plan. It’s another gift for Bartley and Ours’ developer friends. This is an obvious payback for the “Pro-Business” council’s election supporters. Our city going is broke and wants to start charging for parking in Howarth Park and Bartley and Ours think that now is the time to give rich developers another tax break? We all know that they made a deal with the cops to get themselves elected but this back door deal smells even worse. I will never vote pro business again. These clowns have not brought one job to the city, just shady deals for their friends.

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  2. John bly says:

    This is a huge step in the right direction. I applaud Scott Bartley, Jake Ours, Ernesto Olivares, and John Sawyer for working hard to undo some of the red tape that has made things so anti business in SR. More! Vas Dupree and Wysocky’s comments reveal where the political problem still is for businesses. they do not appreciate that businesses enable the services.

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  3. Luke Warm says:

    Is this the best of the best Santa Rosa can come up with? The City Council of Santa Rosa’s hesitant, tepid toe in the water of a jobs plan is ridiculous.

    They all act as though they are being lead to a something extremely repugnant. Nothing bold from this crowd. Nothing innovative, or far reaching for this Council.

    This is why nothing is going to really happen and the status quo will continue.

    Meanwhile the city budget deficit grows and the tax base declines.

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  4. Social Dis-Ease says:

    To Billy C. and Canthisbe:
    Billy C., yeah, this can be.
    Downzoning is so prevalent in this
    town. It’s another trick ICLEI uses
    that has far reaching ramifications.
    (that’s the whole dark idea).
    I think them telling you it’s
    inevitable gives a glimpse into the
    mentality of these traitors.
    ‘Inevitable’?, ‘greater good’?
    the latter is communitarianism,
    socialist language.
    No, you enjoying the continuity of your property’s use amid other warehouse/
    industrial buildings should be inevitable. If they ever decide to completely change the general plan,
    The burden of responsibility should
    be on the CITY TO CONTACT YOU, get
    input/permission from the property
    owner(s). Check this out;
    while having molested your
    property rights and value-THEN
    they have the nerve to designate
    your neighborhood an ‘opportunity’
    area. Which is ICLEI jargon to a potential developer; that if you
    bring us the kind of thing WE want
    to see, we’ll consider it.
    THIS is the part where the City
    reserves the right to exersize
    eminent domain. Yes, more love to
    about ICLEI/redevelopment.
    You thought it was YOURS, your
    ‘opportunity’ when you invested.
    You see the pattern, it’s like a
    template actually-ICLEI gives ‘em
    the software, training, everything
    they need to to make our
    business and real estate fall into
    decline. I know it’s like a bad
    B movie and hard to get our heads
    around, it’s also irrefutable.
    I was talking to a business man from
    Cotati the other day, he knew some-
    thing was fishy as he spoke of the
    ‘shenanigans’ ‘goin on down there.
    I went on to finish his story for
    him… ‘Gateways” redevelopment area,
    bottleneck the whole town by reducing
    to 2 lanes. Downzone the properties
    on which they have a ‘vision’.
    Mess with the parking, big bike lanes.
    Owner’s who have been on the main
    drag going into town are part of
    THEIR vision, so they get jerked
    around, downzoned, diminished parking,
    very expensive sewer hook ups, no
    approvals downtown for their visions.
    Orchestrating the decline of their
    properties, so one of their people,
    their ‘stake holders’, a ‘public/private
    partner’ can buy it cheap,
    (and we’ll subsidize their project).
    He asked “how did you know”?
    I told him that this is how an ICLEI
    town rolls, it’s happening all over.

    Canthisbe made reference to a public
    debate in Korea.
    I think it’s time we have one here.
    Is it too much to ask that something
    this monumental to our well being be
    discussed with US? It’s our money,
    it’s our real estate, our business’.
    It’s our lives, and we pay these
    people very well to secretly screw us!
    They can bring their best talent;
    ‘facilitators’, bring Valerie Brown,
    import their most well spoken trained ICLEI cronies.
    I think it’s time we demand it.
    The reason they keep it a secret, act
    like we’re wacked, deny, is because
    in a large open exchange, they would
    need security no matter how slick they
    pitched it-they know that.
    People are ‘connecting the dots’.
    Meanwhile, they try to connect the dots
    from free market democracy,capitalism
    to a totalitarian, oppressive, fascist,
    surveillance, communitarian state.
    With respect to the Constitution,
    with respect to their responsibility
    to us, I would consider them all…

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  5. Bob Fuller says:

    If anyone thinks the City of Santa Rosa is positive about business – they are mistaken. The City’s economics are mess just like the federal government and the state. And kind to local businesses? When I needed 10 minutes to park my limousine in a city run public parking lot – and used TWO parking spaces – with FORTY available – I paid .50 in one meter. I got a $20 parking fine because I did not pay for the second meter. I kept NO ONE from getting a space early in the morning. I witheld doing business in the City of Santa Rosa for six months. They lost thousands of dollars in tax revenue to they could screw me out of $20. Progressive thinking – Santa Rosa.

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  6. The Hammer says:

    Government has no power to create jobs. Only the power to destroy them.

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  7. Canthisbe says:

    Billy C: There is a reason that you noticed “that every move made by the progressive leadership and the “SMART” train people is in step with ICLEI’s Agenda”.

    See if you can connect the dots. Well actually, there is only one dot:

    The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (“ICLEI”) is a non-governmental spin-off by the United Nations to implement Agenda 21 locally. It is a lobbying and policy group that is designed to influence and change local governmental policies related to all aspects of human life.

    ICLEI funds trainings, issues guidelines, consults with communities, sets goals, and measures progress. ICLEI is the implementation arm of UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development.

    ICLEI ran a series of TV debates about the Future of Cities that aired on Arirang TV from Korea. “A Planet of Cities?” is the theme of the first debate held on the occasion of ICLEI’s Future of Cities World Congress in Incheon, South Korea.

    Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, ICLEI Secretary General, moderated the a debate with eight renowned experts:

    Jeb Brugmann, ICLEI Founder and Founding Partner of The Next Practice;
    Rae-Kwon Chung, Director of the Environment and Sustainable Development Division of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP);
    Hironori Hamanaka, Former Vice Minister for Global Environmental Affairs, Japan, and Chair of the Board of the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES);
    Farhad Suri, former Mayor and Councilor of Delhi, India;
    David Cadman, ICLEI President and Councilor of Vancouver, Canada;
    Martha Delgado, Environment Minister of Mexico City and ICLEI Vice President;
    Valerie Brown, Supervisor of Sonoma County, California, USA;
    Mary Jane Ortega, Secretary General of Citynet.

    Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown also serves on the national board of ICLEI-USA. Brown voted to grant an $83,000 no-bid contract to ICLEI for greenhouse gas emissions protocols in Sonoma County. Supervisor Brown did not recuse herself from voting and made no mention of her connection to ICLEI when she voted to enter an $83,000 contract on behalf of Sonama County.

    Sonama County Supervisor Valerie Brown is also the Chairperson of the SMART Board of Directors.

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  8. Matt says:

    It’s funny how “rezoning” is supposed to create more jobs….Sometimes we need to think about both the positives and the negatives. Imagine Lowes being approved and doing extremely well. So well that it causes Freidman bros to close down which has been the case for years. How many jobs will be lost if they close down? This same thing will happen to many other businesses if we allow outside companies to come in and just build whatever the hell they want and pay “highly motivated and educated” workers far less than what a local business might pay them. I think the people of SR should support this but also be cautious. Not every lawn stays so green after it’s planted.

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  9. Tim says:

    I am amazed just how stupid people become once they become elected and when in office for longer periods of time, they’re even dumber. It is hard to understand that when people become elected they actually believe they know what’s best.

    Let’s face it; government is the problem, not the solution. Government needs to remove their regulations and allow business to flourish and make money. The unions don’t make jobs, business owners create jobs. But not for employers, you’d have no tax revenues paying you lazy pathetic bungers.

    Here’s one for all you posters to ask your elected officials when you go to your next public meeting. Open the forum with a question, ask them all to stand up and please give them to you. They’ll look at you like a deer in headlights, ask them again, whoever has them, I want them. They’ll again look at and ask; what do you want? You tell them, I want the person is handing out the pills. They’ll look at you and ask what pills? You tell them, the stupid pills. I know somebody is passing them out to you, when you were elected into office, you all claimed to be smart and made promises that none of you have followed through with. Since this seems to be trend that only politicians have, somebody has to giving out stupid pills since you’ve all become instantly stupid!

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  10. Billy C says:

    As a small business owner with 23 years experience doing business in Santa Rosa
    I would have to say Kay Is accurate in her observations and assessments. My Commercial building and the surrounding
    industrial area was very quietly rezoned
    to a “Transit village”. Not one of the 36 businesses where noticed. I was not even told when I pulled permits to install a 70K solar system on my building. When I found out about the rezoning and asked why I was not informed.
    The city’s advanced planning department told me they where not legally required to tell me due to the size of the project. This was shocking to me as it
    compromised so many business and hundreds of jobs. I was told it was for the greater good and to except the enviable.
    At the time I never heard about ICLEI
    or Agenda 21 and I still think it all sounds very far fetched. I have notice that every move made by the progressive
    leadership and the “SMART” train people is in step with ICLEI’s Agenda. so I have to at least listen to Kay, as much as I don’t want to believe her, she has been spot on so far.
    I would like to see more business growth here as well as a train. right now we are heading down the wrong track.

    I am going to buy 10 copy’s of your book Kay . Sorry for thinking you where just another wing nut!

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  11. Fiscal Conservative says:

    I am in full agreement with Kay Tokerud.

    I moved my Business becouse of all the constant difficulties. Santa Rosa and Sonoma County are not currently a desirable location for any business.

    Late to the game, but if this city wants to get the local economy going again, Kay has given the general outline.

    I’m glad someone is finally listening and understands there is a huge problem here.

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  12. Well Enough says:

    More corporate welfare for developers! Why must the city subsidize their risk, “deferred fees” are never really paid back to the city. This is what has put the city in the red to begin with.

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  13. Kay Tokerud says:

    Having been in attendance when many zoning/General Plan changes were made, I have a pretty good understanding of what previous councils have done that has prevented businesses from setting up shop in Santa Rosa. Upzonings for crony developer friends, downzonings for the unconnected small businesses and property owners, has been disastrous for our city. Most of the rezonings occurred during the construction boom period where the sky was the limit, they thought. Now, these changes have ‘handcuffed’ property owners that could have developed their properties and businesses under the old rules. The City basically needs to undo all the recent rezonings to get our economy rolling again, or at least moving.

    Marsha Vas Dupre now says that the neighbors are feeling left out. Well, the so-called neighbors are often actually lobbyists for smart growth. Actual neighbor’s concerns were usually marginalized or ignored. In some cases I was the only person objecting to these new plans that are now in our general plan. Most property owners never knew that their general plan designations and zoning were being changed resulting in their properties’ uses being made ‘non-conforming’.

    Without calling out the individual lobbying “neighborhood groups’ that supported the rezonings to ‘smartgrowth’ mixed-use only development, most of the people that showed up to support these changes belonged to one of these groups. Regular folks and the affected property owners were rarely present. The City made little to no effort to inform the affected owners, otherwise they would have been there and objected. Some came in after the changes had been made and complained but there wasn’t much they could do then.

    Notice that the current council members are undoing some of what was done previously to get something to happen. Yes, that is what needs to happen, but on a much larger scale. It’s time for them to admit that the plans that were made during the up economy are just not working in a down economy. Take off the handcuffs and let the entrepreneurs do what they do best, make money.

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  14. Joe Public says:

    Although what this council did concerning the Police & Fire budgets vs the rest of the City’s departments was wrong, wrong, wrong… This is what they were put in place for.
    Bringing in business helps everyone even all the nay sayers (but of course they’ll never admit it). For those looking for work they will love it if businesses like Walmart or Lowes comes here, it gives upstanding folks pride to work for their paycheck and not have to wait by the mailbox the “gift” from Uncle Sam. Those out there who say different aren’t the ones who want to work there they’re the ones who “know what’s best” for the ones who want to work there.

    But I do hope that this brings in all sorts of jobs at all levels, the vast, although sadly silent majority of folks in Santa Rosa wants a thriving City, not one that you have to park your car at the edge of and walk through. This seems to be a step in the right direction.

    I do find it funny though, that a City that is so cash strapped every time contract negotiations with their employees comes around always, and I mean ALWAYS, finds money in some hidden place when the council or higher management needs it.

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  15. Money Grubber says:


    Government does not “create” jobs. That is simply their attempt to pretend as usual.

    Government hinders job creation by private industry. Government blocks job creation.

    The best thing government can do is to get out of the way of private industry.

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  16. Money Grubber says:



    BofA’s plan to cut 40,000 jobs is one more blow to Calif.

    By Walter Hamilton and E. Scott Reckard

    The troubled bank will slash mainly positions in consumer banking. About 1 in 6 of its workers are employed in the state.

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  17. Frank says:

    LOL, rezoning, mean thats just so funny
    like putting a bandaid on a severed artery

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  18. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Study Agenda 21/Sustainable Development/
    Smart/Redevelopment/ICLEI for a few hours(at least) and understand why many of us are rolling our eyes, feel placated, our
    intelligence insulted.
    If you’re ‘gonna screw us, don’t act
    like our friend, just pisses us off.
    Agenda 21(ICLEI)is engineered to sabotage our prosperity and you guys are
    active members in good standing.
    At least you make someone happy.

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  19. FurloughedWorker says:

    “…staff…found the $305,000 necessary to complete the work not only on the Lowe’s site but several others”. They FOUND hundreds of thousands of dollars? I’m a City employee in a department that can’t afford needed office supplies for the last few months of each fiscal year. Maybe a few thousand dollars can be “found” and sent our way.

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  20. Proud Tea Party SOB says:

    Cut the red tape, put business tax incentives in place and help the Chamber advertise the advantages of moving businesses to Santa Rosa. That would be a good start.

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  21. Commonsense says:

    Sounds like at least they are taking the initiative to do something themselves to creat local jobs, good. While I’m sure there will be the usual the sky is falling protesters, it seems to me they are limiting this to areas already mainly commercial and streamlining new businesses for those areas, and that will provide long term employment and revenue dollars for the city.

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  22. Steve Humphrey says:

    Santa Rosa has a lot to offer any business that wishes to expand or start up. Outstanding climate, close proximity to major markets and technology, and a highly educated and motivated workforce.
    I’m glad to see that our city leaders are focusing on the main distraction to attracting and growing our economic base.
    Definitely a step in the right direction.

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  23. jon reseda says:

    This is a “jobs” plan? Tax giveaways for developers? Great idea! That’s just what we need Wal Mart and Lowes jobs that pay minimum wage and have no benefits. This is a blatant give away for Bartley and Ours’ business buddies. With the city going broke and laying off staff and charging for parking and closing services, this is not the time to give rich developers a break. Unless you promised them this to get yourself elected. More smart economics from the so called business city council. I guess after they paid off their election deal to the cops the next in line was their developer friends. Way to ruin our city.

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