Time for the Movers?
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors voted on July 27, 2021 to relocate the county's administrative offices to the vacant Sears site in downtown Santa Rosa. Here are the reasons given for the move: Climate action, transit-oriented development and the safe and efficient delivery of services. Apparently, the move to downtown Santa Rosa will result in reduced use of motor vehicles. According to the rationale given this relocation also exemplifies city-centered growth which incentivizes production of new market rate and affordable housing in dense, walkable neighborhoods that promote a healthy environment and vibrant live-work communities. The move is also going to free up about 35 acres of land at the county center for new housing. The current county campus needs more the $265 Million in deferred maintenance. The county also spends nearly $10 Million a year to lease additional space.
Some citizens have a few questions. What will traffic in Santa Rosa be like when all county employees (except the court) move to downtown Santa Rosa? Will there have to be a new parking garage? Will there really be fewer motor vehicles? What will downtown Santa Rosa look like? This building might be as high as 15 stories. We are in earthquake country. Making buildings as earthquake safe as possible as is done in Japan is extremely expensive especially when the proposed location is at the end of the shopping mall.
Environmental review will be detailed for both sites – the Sears site and the county campus. Design, construction and financing of the new administration buildings will be done with a public/private partnership which will be determined by a competitive selection process. The new county center will be paid for over 30 years with proceeds from existing taxes, one-time funds, savings from efficiencies and possibly state and federal grants.
Could an average citizen offer some suggestions? How about a 15 story building at the present county complex? Why not build three story apartments on the current county complex? Downtown Santa Rosa is fairly congested in normal times (that is no covid). Why bring more people to the center of town? By the way, the center of downtown Santa Rosa is not all that big.
One other question: Where is this city centered growth in dense, walkable neighborhoods going to take place? Is this at the county complex or is it near downtown Santa Rosa?
One more note: All Supervisors except David Rabbit representing District 2 voted for this proposal.