By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The studies detailing how much the annexation of Roseland will cost haven’t even started yet, but the jockeying over how to divvy up what is sure to be a multimillion-dollar price tag is already well underway.
City officials say the annexation will be guided by two principles: Roseland residents deserve the same level of services as the rest of the city, and service levels in other parts of the city shouldn’t drop as a result.
Since the city doesn’t have the money to achieve both goals, it expects the county to pay its fair share of those costs.
“We feel that any neighborhood that we ask to come and be a part of Santa Rosa should expect that same level of service that the rest of the residents of Santa Rosa receive,” Community Development Director Chuck Regalia told the City Council Tuesday.
But Fifth District Supervisor Efren Carrillo urged the city to remember that it has already benefitted economically from annexing valuable sections of southwest Santa Rosa in the past.
“Roseland should not be viewed as an island of disadvantaged residents that are an economic drag on the city,” Carrillo said. “Rather, it should be considered a part of the whole, and not a burden brought on after the fact.”
Carrillo pointed out that the city in the past had been allowed to annex large pieces of southwest Santa Rosa that didn’t require significant services, such as the Bellevue Ranch area, which was largely undeveloped land, and Corby Avenue, which has auto dealers that generate significant sales taxes.
At the time the county and its Local Agency Formation Commission allowed the city to selectively annex undeveloped areas surrounding Roseland “with the understanding and the belief that Roseland would systemically be annexed into the city,” Carrillo said.
In hindsight they shouldn’t have allowed this to happen “without a formal written agreement from the city” that it would annex Roseland, Carrillo said.
In other annexations, there has never been a requirement that service levels to the rest of the city cannot drop as a consequence of the inclusion of the new area, he noted.
Council members took Carrillo’s remarks as a suggestion that the county might want the revenue from the other past annexations to be considered during the upcoming negotiations, which will determine how much of the annexation costs each side will bear.
“This is going to be an expensive proposition,” said Councilman Jake Ours, who is on the joint committee set to begin negotiating the annexation costs. “The county has a money role to play here, and I hope that I didn’t just hear the first round of negotiations trying to say maybe that’s not quite (the case).”
Ours reminded Carrillo that “we both have to be ready to pay our bills on this” and expressed hope that “the county doesn’t back away from what they’ve told us they want to do.”
Councilman Gary Wysocky also pushed back on Carrillo’s remarks.
“I would welcome … an honest accounting, and not rhetoric, so these people can be fairly served,” he said.
After the meeting, Carrillo said his remarks were misinterpreted.
“Today was not the beginning of any negotiation,” he said.
Carrillo said he was merely pointing out that the city has benefited from being able to “hopscotch” around Roseland to annex other properties that have proven beneficial to the city. He said the county is committed to a collaborative process going forward.
Earlier in the meeting, Regalia outlined a complex, four-year, $1.4 million process that will need to be followed before the annexation can be completed.
The planning process, environmental review, community surveys and meetings were all aimed at helping craft a vision for Roseland that its residents could support, efforts that could pay dividends by building community excitement and support for annexation, Regalia said.
The effort would be a huge commitment of staff time across multiple departments.
“We’re not complaining. It’s just a fact,” Regalia said. “We’re all excited about this project. It’s needed.”
Councilwoman Julie Combs suggested that the city explore expanding its police services to all unincorporated areas in the city’s urban growth boundary. She also wanted it clarified that not all city services in Roseland would be available right away. While services like police could be rolled out in short order, infrastructure like roads, sidewalks and street lights are going to take time, she said.
“I’m concerned that folks are going to think that once they are annexed, they are going to have everything,” Combs said. “And when people are annexed likely that their roads won’t be instantly better.”
Regalia agreed that a phased approach may be needed, but said the city should have a plan for delivering the upgrades “within a reasonable period of time.”
That will clearly be open to interpretation. City Manager Kathy Millison had her own estimate of how long the work would take.
“There is a lot of work and investment that has to occur,” Millison said. “You are probably realistically looking out over a 20-year time period, would be my guess.”
The council urged Regalia to speed up his review of the costs of annexation, which he hadn’t planned to start until July, by three months. He and Millison agreed to come back in 45 days with a plan for how to do that.