Letters to the Editor
RP city manager responds to letter
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The Community Voice:
A recent letter to The Community Voice raised concerns about development plans in Rohnert Park. As a third generation Sonoma County resident, Rohnert Park resident and Rohnert Park’s City Manager, I want to share some facts about development in Rohnert Park.
In 2000, after several years of public input and involvement, Rohnert Park adopted a General Plan for our city guiding growth from 2000 to 2020. The plan protects open space, creek setbacks, scenic corridors, water supplies, critical habitat, community separators and more. Rohnert Park voters then confirmed the limits of the plan by voting in an Urban Growth Boundary to restrict the limits of development for 20 years. This includes a restriction limiting growth to just 1 percent per year.
Rohnert Park is a wonderful, family-oriented community. Our residents are proud of our community and many are second, third and fourth generation residents.
Our adult children want to stay in the area they love, and to do so we need to build new homes. The last major neighborhood built in Rohnert Park is M-Section, which was constructed more than 20 years ago.
Those children are growing up, and some are ready to start homes here. At a time when homes for sale are at all-time lows and rents are at all-time highs, an increased supply would help meet the housing needs in our community.
Our responsibility is to develop at a modest pace in a manner that conserves our resources and protects the very things that make Rohnert Park and Sonoma County the best place to live on earth. We do this by carefully planning, considering, and conditioning development projects.
Rohnert Park, along with every Sonoma County city, adopted a higher level of building codes with greater restrictions on water use; reduced, cleaner storm water runoff; reduced energy use; and other environmentally friendly features. Every home will include these features, greatly reducing the impacts of new homes on the environment.
Rohnert Park is unique in the area because it causes developers to pay additional fees for regional traffic improvements outside Rohnert Park. I know of no city in the area with similar requirements. With these funds, traffic improvements to regional roads and transit will be made to mitigate project impacts. This is in addition to the already widened Highway 101 around Rohnert Park and the fully funded SMART train starting in 2016.
Finally, water is on everyone’s mind these days. Rohnert Park is one of the most water efficient communities in the state. New homes will use even less water.
In fact, since Rohnert Park converted most schools and parks to recycled water – a drought-proof supply—and installed water meters, its water use is about half of what it was in 1997. The new neighborhoods can be served with reliable potable and recycled water supplies without ever using more water than our community used in 1997. That is a remarkable accomplishment and something we should all be proud of as a community.
Regarding the statewide drought, we in Sonoma County are reaping the benefits created by voters in the late 1970s. They decided to build Warm Springs Dam creating Lake Sonoma that serves as a healthy and reliable supply of water for our community. On top of that, we just weathered the worst water year in history with no impact on local water supplies. Although we know that the state has serious water supply problems; our local Lake Sonoma supply system does not. Nevertheless, there is never enough to waste and we should all remain diligent in keeping water use to a minimum.
Thank you for this opportunity to address these important community issues.
Reader says Bracco didn’t pay attention
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The Community Voice:
In the March 20, 2015 edition of The Community Voice, Mr. James Bracco suddenly discovered Rohnert Park has plans to grow to the east. Perhaps Mr. Bracco didn’t live here 15 years ago when the growth plans were being discussed as a part of the General Plan update. Mr. Bracco might not know that Rohnert Park spent 2 years formulating a plan that would accommodate the anticipated growth in population of Rohnert Park while respecting the scenic corridor of Petaluma Hill Road that the County has in its General Plan.
Rohnert Park conducted an extensive outreach program during the writing of its 2000 General Plan.
Not only were there representatives from Santa Rosa, the county, Penngrove and Petaluma, but also there were citizen outreach groups that solicited input from a wide range of Rohnert Park residents. All of this input was boiled down to the General Plan that was adopted in 2001. That General Plan laid out the development areas that Mr. Bracco is now discovering.
An important point many people overlook is cities grow. The population of Rohnert Park grows because of both people moving into town and people who live here having babies. In 2000, the net growth of births/deaths in Rohnert Park was 2 percent. Either that growth has to be accommodated here, or else your children have to move away when they grow up if they want a place of their own.
Another important point is called the fair-share housing allocation. The State Department of Finance makes predictions of the future population in the state, then allocates that growth among the counties in California. Sonoma County receives its allocation, then distributes it among the cities. Rohnert Park, therefore, has a state-mandated need for additional housing. In fact, there is a cottage industry of attorneys who make a living by suing cities and counties if their general plans do not provide sufficient growth to meet their fair-share housing allocations.
This means Rohnert Park is faced with the inevitability of growth. Mr. Bracco suggests that the growth might be better accommodated on the west side of the freeway.
However, the city is hemmed in there by the lands of the Graton Tribe and by the voter-approved Urban Growth Boundary. Also, there are no schools or parks on the west side. Growth has to be to the east.
I’m sure, when all is said and done, the result won’t be near as dire as Mr. Bracco describes in his letter.