By MARTIN ESPINOZA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The heads of both Santa Rosa and Sonoma County governments briefed dozens of local Latino business and community leaders Friday on the latest move to annex unincorporated land in the Roseland neighborhood.
During a luncheon forum at the Flamingo Hotel, Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley and other local officials told members of the leadership group known as Los Cien that previous annexation attempts usually stalled over the city’s cost of providing services to the southwest Santa Rosa neighborhood.
But officials acknowledged that the political climate is different this time.
“At the City Council and the Board of Supervisors, we’re committed this time to make this happen,” Bartley said.
The annexation of unincorporated Roseland and other county “islands” has gained a great deal of momentum after the shooting death of Andy Lopez, which happened just south of the Roseland neighborhood in an unincorporated part of the county.
The Oct. 22 tragedy was seen by many as an example of what can happen when an urban community such as Roseland or the Moorland Avenue neighborhood is isolated by the city and neglected for decades.
Bartley said the current annexation campaign is being advanced by a $647,000 planning grant to help focus future growth in southwest Santa Rosa around areas near transit hubs.
The grant, which officials said was awarded this week by the Sonoma County Transportation Authority, could speed annexation by engaging residents about the area’s future and by completing some of the bureaucratic legwork needed before annexation can happen.
The annexation process would take place in parallel to the transportation planning study and could take several years to complete. The boundaries of the current Roseland annexation map do not include the Moorland neighborhood.
“There is a process in place and as of Oct. 22 the process got kicked in the behind and we’re moving much quicker,” said David Rabbitt, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors.
Rabbitt said it may be necessary to examine the possible annexation of unincorporated county land on the other side of Highway 101, where tax revenue from commercial businesses could help offset the cost to the city of providing services such as fire and police services to Roseland, which is predominantly residential.
“We might lose some of the sales tax revenue from some of the stores on Santa Rosa Avenue that we get now,” Rabbitt said. “But you know what, that’s petty in the big picture. We’re going to do the right thing.”
Ultimately, it will be the residents of Roseland who will decide whether or not they want to be annexed into Santa Rosa, officials said.
If more than 25 percent of Roseland residents protest the move, the plan will be submitted to all residents in the area for a vote, said Chuck Regalia, the city’s director of community development. Officials said that part of the annexation work will be to educate local residents about the benefits and impact of annexation so they can make an informed decision.
Sonoma County Administrator Veronica Ferguson encouraged members of the Los Cien group to help with future outreach efforts in Roseland.
“We’re going to need ombuds-people,” she said.
Some members of the Los Cien group urged officials to include the Moorland neighborhood in the current annexation campaign.
“The issue of annexation needs to be talked about as a regional issue that touches all of us,” said local attorney Lisa Carreño.
Carreño, who is current president of the Sonoma County Fair board of directors, said that even as county and city officials work toward annexing Roseland, Moorland must not be forgotten.
“Immediately you have to identify Moorland Avenue as priority two,” she said. “Because if you don’t, you will lose a lot of us.”
Francisco Vazquez, director of Sonoma State University’s Hutchins Institute, told city officials they should consider the cost of not annexing areas such as Roseland.
“When you’re talking about how much it’s going to cost, who’s going to pay for it?” Vazquez said. “I think you should also think about the social unrest that’s going to happen if we don’t.”
Among the government officials who attended the meeting were Santa Rosa City Manager Kathy Millison and Tennis Wick, director of the county Permit and Resource Management Department.
Bartley said the exact cost of annexing Roseland won’t be immediately determined. By the end of the year, he hopes to have a “framework outlined and committed to by both the Board of Supervisors and the City Council on how, once we know what that number is, how are we going to do it.”