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WatchSonoma Watch

State turns down Sonoma County’s bid to fund redevelopment projects

By MARTIN ESPINOZA & BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The state is standing firm in rejecting a Sonoma County request to keep more than $16 million in redevelopment funds for two major projects in Sonoma Valley and Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood.

On Tuesday, Sonoma County supervisors decried the state Department of Finance’s recent decision to deny the use of redevelopment funds to complete the Roseland Village plaza, including a residential and commercial complex, as well as the Highway 12 street and sidewalk upgrades in an area north of Sonoma known as The Springs.

The old Albertson’s Supermarket in Roseland. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

The state’s decision — the third time the Department of Finance has rejected the county’s bid to retain the money — raises questions about the future of two high-profile projects that have been planned for years.

Funds for the Roseland Village project total $6.6 million, while funds for the Highway 12 project total $9.5 million. These funds, which include nearly $2 million in future tax receipts, were put in limbo after Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved 400 local redevelopment agencies on Feb. 1 to use their funds to help close the state budget gap.

Last week, the state rejected a request by the city of Santa Rosa to keep nearly $35 million in redevelopment project money. It cited similar reasons in a letter sent to the county on Monday, when the state Department of Finance said it had no obligation to fund the projects. The contract agreements between the county and the redevelopment agency it created are “unenforceable obligations,” the state concluded in its letter.

County officials argue that such agreements are permissible under the state legislation that dissolved redevelopment agencies. On Tuesday, Supervisors Efren Carrillo and Valerie Brown, who represent the two redevelopment areas affected, made brief comments voicing regret about the state’s stance.

“We’ve said it time and time again — the state is not going to save money doing this. It’s a state highway for God’s sake,” Carrillo said of Highway 12.

John Haig, the county’s redevelopment manager, said Tuesday the county will continue to appeal the state’s decision.

If the appeal fails, however, a majority of the board has expressed support for finding a different source of money to continue both projects, in some form.

“So it’s up to this board to determine how to carry on,” Brown said.

At the supervisors’ meeting Tuesday, board members saw a 5-minute video illustrating the pedestrian and bicycling safety problems along the unimproved section of Highway 12 through The Springs. The video, made by documentary producer Tim Wetzel, shows pedestrians and cyclists dodging each other along the narrow roadway.

“I don’t think there’s ever been anything so visually impactful,” Brown said of the video.

Supporters say the Highway 12 project would improve the underdeveloped infrastructure in the economically distressed area at the northern entrance to Sonoma. Those factors have no impact on the state’s decision to deem the project agreements invalid, the Department of Finance said in its letter to the county.

“Finance is not allowed to make decisions on the basis of economic viability, public safety, or any other socioeconomic factors,” the letter stated.

Both Brown and Carrillo suggested the board will look at ways to continue with the projects, which have been planned for years — in Roseland’s case — and decades in the case of Highway 12.

“You can count on this board to continue to fight the good fight,” Carrillo said.

The board is set to discuss the redevelopment setback at an upcoming meeting several weeks from now.





4 Responses to “State turns down Sonoma County’s bid to fund redevelopment projects”

  1. Nic dempsey says:

    This is the same board that rejected the plan for a much needed Walmart up the road from Roseland Village. By now, the center would be up and running, generating millions in sales taxes and property taxes that could fund the Roseland Village upgrade, and providing a low income neighborhood with jobs and affordable goods and groceries.

  2. Reality Check says:

    When Gov Brown announced his determination to end the drain on state finances by closing redevelopment agencies, local agencies had two choices.

    They could, as a few did, immediately cease obligating the agency to future projects or begin a pellmell rush to sign as many new contracts as possible, in the (false) belief the state would be forced to honor them. The latter option was what SR and Sonoma County leaders chose to do. This “crisis” is entirely one their own making.

    And, revealing to say the least, the county board has indicated that if needed it will find other money to complete the project. So much for previous claims that redevelopment money was essential to complete these projects.

  3. Kirstin says:

    Some really excellent ideas, James Bennett. If only our city council members and county supervisors had a similar vision and would implement it.

  4. James Bennett says:

    What I would do.

    Roseland Village: I would support, suggest, help facilitate a commercial project at the site with approximately two dozen or so small commercial units with store front and roll-ups in back that would lend themselves to a number of different business’. Design every other wall seperating the units so that successful renters could expand, turn one unit into two.
    Simple, cost effective construction that should attract a developer because it would pencil.
    No big box, national players, no redevelopment, no “mixed use” residential requirement blackmail.
    No tax payer subsidized fascism. No landlords participating in profits from gross numbers like Simon Group.
    The PUBLIC picks winners and losers.

    Railroad Square: Kick out the parking shenanigans. Spend a little money on landscaping here and there. Drop the “Transit Village”/Smart Growth crap.

    SET THE FREE MARKET FREE, GET OUT OF THE WAY AND WATCH IT FLY!

    Just simple unmolested grass roots (our roots) capitalism.

    Parts of town with low occupancy?
    Implement a modest micro-grant program. In which distressed property owners can choose to participate in start up business’, offer initial rental abatement, with an escalating rent schedule. Create a public forum in which local banks or private investors could listen to new business ideas, match start up money dollar for dollar.
    If the business is well received and successful, investors could increase their committment, possibly to include an interest in the business. This could apply to existing business as well.
    Vacancy is commercial cancer.

    SET THE FREE MARKET FREE, GET OUT OF THE WAY AND WATCH IT FLY!

    We don’t need extortion money from MTC or any other unelected “agency”. This is OUR community, it doesn’t belong to globalists.

    …People were excited, it was workin’ out pretty good, then the damn cat woke me up again.