WatchSonoma Watch

Rohnert Park studies how to develop area near casino

Looking west, the Graton Rancheria Rohnert Park casino construction is taking shape along Wilfred Avenue. Highway 101 is at the bottom. (Chad Surmick / PD)


Rohnert Park’s northwest edge already is colored by the prospect of great change, with work under way on a 534,000-square-foot Indian casino resort.

Now, city officials have started planning how an adjacent 90-acre neighborhood will develop — decisions that may be shaped in large part by the casino project and a few large-property owners.

“It’s the last specific plan envisioned in our general plan; we’re moving forward,” said Planning and Building Manager Marilyn Ponton, referring to the 2000 document that sketched where and how the city would grow.

A community meeting to gather input is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

The area under study now is open fields and a few scattered homes. It’s currently designated variously for commercial, industrial, mixed-use, residential, high-density and park uses, but that may well change after community input, Ponton said.

The area borders the 254-acre Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria reservation on the north and east and stretches north behind Home Depot and Wal-Mart. Although it falls within Rohnert Park’s sphere of influence, the city has yet to annex the property.

Station Casinos, the Graton Rancheria’s Las Vegas backer, owns 34 acres of it, at the southern end. Dallas-based Cypress Equities owns about 17 acres on Wilfred Avenue, near the center of the area, which consists of 35 separate parcels.

City leaders say they see it as the site of primarily commercial development, although the general plan also allows for housing as well as two to four acres of park land.

“I think it’s going to be shopping centers and that kind of stuff,” Councilman Joe Callinan said. “That’s what brings in tax dollars.”

In 2006, Station Casinos executives said they would build an upscale shopping center on their land.

But the economic crash and the company’s bankruptcy — it has since reorganized — appeared to shelve that plan.

Station officials declined comment. But the company, through a subsidiary, Sonoma Land Acquisitions LLC, is paying the $443,000 cost of the consultant hired by the city to draw up planning documents and produce the necessary environmental reports for the area.

Cypress Equities has proposed a development that includes residences, retail uses and a hotel. Company officials did not respond to a request for additional details.

Real estate experts say while the casino is reshaping the area, it has not generated much stir in the commercial market.

“I think it takes ag land values and moves it up to commercial land values potentially, but in a market that’s still recovering, that kind of reaction isn’t going to occur for 10 years,” said Al Coppin, president of Keegan & Coppin, the North Bay’s largest commercial real estate firm.

“There’s a need for business-park land ultimately, but I’m not sure a casino is going to be the center of influence to create that,” he said.

The area would more likely attract shopping centers, retail developments and professional services, he said.

The city recently approved a five-story Oxford Suites hotel on a 4.5-acre site at the north end of Redwood Drive at Wilfred Avenue, which is to be renamed Golf Course Drive West. The hotel is expected to open in 2013.

“I think it’s very important that we make sure that we do it right,” Councilman Amy Ahanotu said. “That is an area that is going to be very important to the city in the near future.”

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

15 Responses to “Rohnert Park studies how to develop area near casino”

  1. sonoma citizen says:

    As is typically the case on PD reporting when it comes to new capital development projects in Sonoma County–which is to say, projects with the potential for significant spoils, patronage and payoffs for County and City officials in the county–this article’s main points of interest are about what the PD chooses not to report. The PD is not in business to honor its role as a member of the Fourth Estate; it’s not the keeper of the public memory; it’s not the organ of free speech that speaks out against the Babbitt-like chicanery that is part of our institutional culture in Sonoma County. The PD is the house organ for the folks–including the Supervisors, many local city council members, campaign contributors, senior County and City department and agency heads, political consultants and others–who run the County and its fiefdoms for their own benefit; the public be damned. The PD is complicit in an insiders’s culture whose motto is “perception is reality”. So when reading the PD article, for example, on casino development the subtext–unacknowledged by the PD–is a lot more interesting than the text. For example:
    1) The PD article accounted for 51 acres of the entire 254 acre plot
    2) 34 acres are owned by the bankrupted Station Casinos
    3) 17 acres are owned by Cypress Equities who’ve just been sued by the Bank of America for some $40 million for welshing on a loan guarantee
    4) So who owns or has an interest in the other 254-34-17=203 acres?
    5) What is the financial interest of Doug Boxer (the Senator’s son) in those acres or in the casino operation?
    6) What is the financial interest of Senator Feinstein’s husband in those acres or in contracts and other arrangements for the operations?
    7) Of the $200 million already spent in Sonoma County by the project’s sponsors–now set to be refinanced as part of the $800 million financial package announced for the project–how much of those dollars ended up in the campaign or personal bank accounts of Rohnert Park officials? County officials? State officials including those representing Sonoma County districts? Of those monies paid to local officials, was any of it reported?

    Here’s the $64 question: how is that the PD has done its job–terrifically–in the case of the pensions matter; and sytematically plays Sgt Schulze (I saw nothing I heard nothing) when it comes to the nonsense surrounding the casino deal, sonoma county energy independence, and sonoma clean power?

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  2. Bulldog says:

    I agree with the airsoft idea our whole family loves the sport.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  3. Joe says:

    A concert venue

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 3

  4. Steveguy says:

    Maybe a stockyard and slaughterhouse ?

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  5. Skippy says:

    Zone it agricultural and invite hog farmers in.
    That should add the appropriate aroma to the neighborhood.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 3

  6. P S V says:

    Amusement parks/Airsoft arenas/Ballparks,= Job city! Look at the south bay they getting all of these,just to name a few great ideas just sayin!.

    Thumb up 5 Thumb down 8

  7. Reality Check says:

    Personally, I’d favor zoning all the land around the casino for heavy industry. But I guess that won’t happen.

    At this point, the best RP may do is to attract some businesses around the casino that generate tax revenue and use the money to mitigate some of the harm. The business with the best synergy with the casino, as well as highest tax potential is prostitution.

    Thumb up 11 Thumb down 7

  8. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    “RP is determined to shovel some more trash into the middle of Sonoma County. Rohnert Park thinks this is ‘economic development’, like the way they think the casino is.”

    Please don’t say ‘Rohnert Park’, as if the citizens and taxpayers had anything to do with this. We NEVER got to vote, we NEVER had any say…

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 7

  9. ed jones says:

    i live one block over from the casino but was not allowed to sign the petitions against the casino as i am in the santa rosa jurisdiction.can’t wait to see all the traffic and other things this will bring into my area.wheni bought my home twenty years ago i knew it was just a matter of time before i would be able to enjoy all the great benefits of not having to live in a rural neighborhood.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 5

  10. Jim Bennett says:

    ‘Rohnert Park studies how to develop area near casino into Smart Growth’.

    This whole story and the players in it are wilder than fiction.

    The way the property was aquired by Carinelli and the ‘Rat Pack’. The tribe’s $500.K ‘donation’ to the R.P. Council. The way the tax payers subsidize ‘Affordable Housing’ (Smart Growth). The manner in which an ICLEI Charter fosters gaming and their participation in the ‘take’. Our history in terms of what we did to the indiginous people and the inequitable manner in which we ‘make it right’ generations later.

    It could be a ‘B’ movie. Parental Guidance would be suggested though, we wouldn’t want the kids to get the wrong idea.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 5

  11. Grapevines says:

    Tattoo parlors, Fortune Tellers, and Head Shops!! But it won’t be complete without a Wienerschnitzel hot dog outlet!!

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 7

  12. RIP RP - Screw Sonoma County says:

    RP is determined to shovel some more trash into the middle of Sonoma County. Rohnert Park thinks this is ‘economic development’, like the way they think the casino is. Theres no reason to expect RP city council members to pay any attention to anything but what lines their pockets and their fantasy budgets.

    They are a hopeless posse of blindered clowns, with no long-lasting values beyond today’s hits. Too bad they’ll be in the middle of taking Sonoma County down the road to more casinos, junk developments, more traffic, more liabilities, overpumped and polluted groundwater – but with a new marketing plan. Goodby grapes. Goodbye redwoods. Goodbye Russian River. Goodbye beaches. Goodbye creative entrepreneurs. Welcome gamblers and bottom of the barrel “business.” It makes Disneyland look good.

    Thumb up 19 Thumb down 10

  13. Follower says:

    …drive through wedding chapels and pawn shops. LOTS of Pawn Shops!

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 8

  14. I’m thinking a drive-by shooting range, where you can pick up a 9 at a service window, drive in a circle, empty the clip into civilian-shaped targets, and drop off the empty at window 2, where the fee is electronically debited.

    A Hot Auto Parts Flea Market could fit in, with a whole department featuring purloined airbags from Acuras.

    Or maybe a Bicyclist’s Revenge Theme Park, where bicyclists could chase down pedestrians and knock them silly. Oh wait, those already exist close by. They’re called San Francisco crosswalks.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 16

  15. Grapevines says:


    Houses of ill repute, Bars, tacky souvenir stands.

    Anything I miss? I mean it is Rohnert Park so who cares??

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 10

Leave a Reply