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Loss of funding for sidewalk means Santa Rosa school can’t open

The fall opening of Roseland Creek Elementary School in Santa Rosa is in jeopardy. (KENT PORTER/ PD )

By MARTIN ESPINOZA

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

On a narrow stretch of Burbank Avenue in Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood, an impressive $28 million elementary school has been under construction since last spring.

The new school on 11 acres adjacent to Roseland Creek is designed to take in 400 to 500 children now crowded into two other Roseland School District elementary schools.

But plans to open the school in the fall are in jeopardy.

The bulk of the money that would have paid for a half-million-dollar sidewalk along Burbank Avenue from Sebastopol Road to Hearn Avenue is no longer available. That money was supposed to come from Santa Rosa’s redevelopment agency, which along with every other such agency in the state, was eliminated as of Wednesday.

Without a safe route for children to walk to and from the school, the city will not allow the campus to open.

“The walls are up, the windows in,” said Superintendent Gail Ahlas. “We’re building this amazing, beautiful school with a creek and an outdoor environment, we just have to believe that there’s a solution to be found.”

More than $417,000 in city redevelopment funds had been promised for construction of the 5-foot-wide asphalt walkway south of the school that would run along the east side of Burbank Avenue to Hearn Avenue. North of the school, the path would run on the west side of Burbank Avenue to Sebastopol Road.

Sidewalks are rare along Burbank Avenue, a two-lane road sandwiched by steep drainage ditches, culverts and patches of gravel in front of rural homes.

About seven years ago, when Roseland school officials began planning for the school, Ahlas approached the city and county in hopes of finding funding for the Burbank Avenue sidewalk. No portion of the $28 million in state funds to build the school could be used for sidewalk construction beyond the front of the campus.

The school district’s talks with city and county officials led to a funding agreement — the county would pay for a share of the project using money from a Safe Routes to School grant, a Caltrans program, while the city would use redevelopment funds.

The county has used money from a more than $650,000 Safe Routes to School grant for the first phase of the pathway project, which includes $264,000 for installation of a traffic signal at Burbank Avenue and Sebastopol Road.

Money from the Caltrans grant also went to buy $54,250 worth of tiger salamander mitigation credits, $30,000 for installation of street lighting and $1,200 for a right-of-way property acquisition on the southwest corner of Burbank Avenue and Sebastopol Road to allow for the installation of pedestrian light signals.

The city redevelopment agency had pledged $417,000 for most of the pathway construction, with money from the Caltrans grant covering the difference.

On Tuesday, the county Board of Supervisors was to consider awarding the contract to build the pathway to Ghilotti Construction Co., which had bid $509,728. However, the item was removed from the agenda because the redevelopment money was no longer available.

Ahlas said the city is requiring a safe path to and from the school “as a condition of granting” water and sewer hookups.

The demand stems from the 1998 death of an Elsie Allen High School senior who was struck and killed by a vehicle while he was walking home along a ditch-lined road.

More than a decade ago, the issue delayed the construction of Jack London School in the Piner-Olivet School District, largely because of a disagreement between the city and the district over pedestrian safety measures.

Dave Gouin, the city’s director of economic development and housing, said the redevelopment funding model was designed for projects like the Burbank Avenue sidewalk.

Part of the justification used by the state to eliminate redevelopment agencies has been more funding for schools. But the pathway project, Gouin said, would do just that. “This is money that is intended to help a local school that is now being swept by the state theoretically to help the schools,” he said.

Gouin said the complicated process being set up to determine how existing redevelopment assets will be used to pay off obligations will be slow and cumbersome. That process, which could include money for the Burbank pathway, could take until June, he said.

Tom O’Kane, deputy director for the county public works department, said he’s trying to divert money from a separate Safe Routes to School grant for Water Trough Road, which intersects Bodega Highway just west of Sebastopol.

He said that completed project cost $375,000 less than originally estimated, and he’s trying to get Caltrans to let him use the remainder of the grant for the Burbank Avenue pathway.

Caltrans’ initial reaction was “no,” he said, but he’s going to keep trying.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com.





13 Responses to “Loss of funding for sidewalk means Santa Rosa school can’t open”

  1. DJ says:

    Why not get the funds, for the 1 time charge of putting in the sidewalks, from the lottery funds which was set up to help the schools–or doesn,t this apply like so many other requests for school needs fall short!?

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. Think Outside the Box! says:

    Why don’t they put in cheap asphalt sidewalks for now! That is what they have been doing outside the City limits in some locations.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. Jim says:

    I agree MOCKINGBIRD. There was a time, before the complete flood of illegal aliens that drain $10 BILLION per year from the state, where there was money to fund these things.

    Back in 1994 Prop 187 was passed ending ALL services for illegal aliens. That was 18 years ago. Lets see, 18 years, $10 BILLION a year…that’s $180 BILLION dollars spent to support those who shouldn’t be in the country. $180 BILLION spent to feed, educate, medicate, jail, etc. That doesn’t include the BILLIONS we citizens spend to pay for extra police because of the gangs (e.g. MS-13, etc), to carry uninsured motorist insurance, the higher medical premiums for unpaid ER services, etc, etc, etc. Hmmmm. How many sidewalks would that have built? How many state parks would be open in perpetuity with a sliver of that?

    Now, lets talk about the thousands upon thousands of unnecessary state workers, the unnecessary state departments where the unnecessary workers do nothing, the strangling regulations imposed on businesses forcing them to leave the state taking the sales tax revenue with them, the unnecessary full-time legislature with a 9% approval rating, the MASSIVE pensions paid to workers who were unnecessary when they “earned” them, etc, etc, etc.

    Yep, lets point the finger at Prop 13, the ONLY reason there is no money for the freaking sidewalk. I completely agree.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  4. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    There was as time, BEFORE PROP 13, when the county and city would have had the money for these projects involving schools, public sidewalks, parks and all kinds of local projects paid for by property tax money. But no more. Our real problems go back to prop 13 which was a real boon for big corporations and a real hit to local communities’ infrastructure.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 17

  5. Money Grubber says:

    Yep. Typical government “planning.”

    Remember this fiasco when they break ground on their newest toy… the brand new but unnecessary court house in Santa Rosa.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 11

  6. Joseph says:

    They should just swap this school for the one they sold to Santa Rosa Junior college. Funny how they sell one school and then spend millions to replace it. Santa rosa Junior College is a much better run organization who would make good use of this new faculty.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 8

  7. The Hammer says:

    I heard most of the residents of the area didn’t want the school. But it was forced upon them. Don’t know for sure.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

  8. paul says:

    i will miss redevelopment, but facts are this district was funded through state bonds in the amount of $27.5 million to construct this school. the state grant included over $400 thousand to be utilized for off-site development costs, (street lighting, crosswalks, signage and sidewalks). the district is to fund a state grant match of $1.6 million. shouldn’t this story really be about this projects planning and budgeting?

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 5

  9. Canthisbe says:

    We build a $28 Million school but aren’t going to use is because it’s not accessible by a 5 foot wide asphalt path because we don’t have the money to pay for it but we dropped $54,250 on tiger salamander mitigation credits. It sounds like we need a school for the adults, not the kids.

    Thumb up 29 Thumb down 9

  10. Lets be Reasonable says:

    An example of local money going to the state. Let’s see if any of this money actually makes it to schools…

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

  11. GAJ says:

    They’ll find the money for the sidewalk I’m sure, but what about the actual road?

    That road’s one of the worst out there and hasn’t been truly repaired since it was built.

    I’m guessing that’s one of the roads the County wants to return to gravel…in front of a school no less!

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 3

  12. Social Dis-Ease says:

    How funny, laying guilt trip propaganda on us ’cause they can’t continue their misappropriation party.
    Laying guilt trips on us for standing against the most non-sensical, lie ridden, uncalled for rail project in America.

    Amazing.

    Thumb up 25 Thumb down 12

  13. john bly says:

    This is a real shame. We in the ECA stepped up years ago and built the sidewalk at Elsie Allen for no cost (all labor, materials contributed by our members). We cannot do it this time as we have been hit too hard by the recession. This news makes the redevelopment story very real to all of us. It is a shame that the program could not have had some reform rather than just throwing it out completely. It is all of our loss.

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