By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The committee exploring how Santa Rosa can annex the 600-acre Roseland neighborhood in the southwest part of the city is hoping to sidestep the pitfalls that doomed a similar effort six years ago.
The joint committee of city and county leaders agreed during its first public meeting Thursday that it would be wise to revisit history to avoid repeating it.
“I’d sure like to know where this thing went off the rails before,” Mayor Scott Bartley said. “I just want to make sure we don’t inadvertently step into the same problem we’ve had in the past.”
The previous effort stalled in 2008 when the city and county couldn’t agree on the funding of new services to the area, particularly public safety, and whether a separate high revenue area also could also be annexed to defray those costs.
“The county is every bit to blame as the city in terms of not annexing,” Supervisor Shirlee Zane said. “If you want to talk blame, it has to go all around.”
Holding a history lesson at a future meeting is one of the many suggestions that came out of the committee’s first meeting, which was meant largely as an overview of what the city has sketched out as a four-year, four-pronged planning process.
Breaking up the work into four distinct but interrelated efforts makes sense because it keeps each group focused on its task, Bartley said.
“We increase our chances of success this time because we’re not trying to deal with every issue around the same table,” he said.
The four processes are: the grant-funded transportation planning work underway now; a comprehensive analysis of the community’s needs that is expected to begin in May; the joint committee’s negotiations over how to pay for those new services; and the annexation process required by Sonoma’s Local Area Formation Commission, expected to be completed by late 2017.
County officials again raised concerns about the city’s proposed timeline. Last month Supervisor Efren Carrillo urged the city to move more swiftly, and Zane stressed the point again Thursday.
“Some of the public sentiment that has come back to us is ‘Wow! Four years. Really? Couldn’t we expedite this in some way,?’” Zane said. “I think that’s going to be something that we need to explore.”
But Bartley said doing it right was more important than doing it fast. He said he gave a presentation in San Antonio last week at the Mayor’s Institute on City Design and that design professionals urged him to do it right.
Their advice was “don’t rush this because if you do it wrong, you’re going to do it really wrong,” he said.
Councilman Jake Ours suggested some of the time savings might come from LAFCO’s end, citing its 14-month process. Carole Cooper, assistant executive officer of LAFCO, acknowledged the process “doesn’t necessarily have to be a whole year.”
Carrillo urged the committee to be very careful in the language it used regarding Roseland to make sure it didn’t give the impression it considered the largely Latino neighborhood of 6,500 residents as somehow separate rest of the city.
“I see them already as Santa Rosa residents,” said Carrillo, whose district includes the area.
He made the point again when Ours referred to Roseland as “your area.”
“It’s our area,” Carrillo corrected him.
“You are the government there right now,” Ours said.
Ours’ point was that Carrillo’s cooperation was going to be crucial in helping communicate to residents why annexation will serve them well, and he agreed.
Zane said the message needs to focus on ensuring that Roseland residents receive the same services as the rest of the city.
“I think the fundamental value of why we are here has to do with equity. How can we provide equitable services and infrastructure to our neighborhoods, in the county and within the city?” she said.
Bartley proposed scaling back the schedule of meetings from every two weeks to once a month, citing the work load on staff and the fact that they wouldn’t receive cost data until September. Until that time the committee was largely a “hurry-up-and-wait committee,” he said.
But other committee members favored pressing forward, and agreed to meet March 27 to discuss the LAFCO planning process.
(You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or email@example.com. On Twitter @citybeater)