SSU report opens window to vistas in Rohnert Park
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By Jud Snyder  February 25, 2011 12:00 am

It took Sonoma State University students in the Environmental Studies and Planning Department many months to pull it altogether in one package.

The "it" is a spiral-bound, 100-page document loaded with clearly written facts, charts, graphs, maps, lists of sources and explanatory footnotes all devoted to analyzing a study area of Rohnert park's community development zone.

This amazing book (it's too big to be called merely a report), made its public debut Thursday night, Feb. 17, in city council chambers. Judging by the crowd of residents in attendance, it was highly (and eagerly) anticipated. Rain showers and blustery winds failed to deter curious visitors. It was SRO with a lot of standees clutching raincoats.

A contingent of ES&P students, all seniors who will be graduating from SSU May 28, verbally outlined their report and answered a lot of questions posed by the audience. A PowerPoint show provided visual graphics and a flip chart was utilized for notes to bring back for later study. Steven C. Orlick, PhD, ES&P instructor and head of the department, was in attendance.

Labeled "Central Rohnert Park Study Area - Existing Conditions Report," the segment studied is bordered on the north by a section of Golf Course Drive, then straight west to Bellevue-Wilfred flood control channel, Rancho Verde and Rancho Feliz mobile home parks on the west border, then down to Southwest Blvd. on the southern border with the NWPRR tracks forming the eastern border.

Focus on planned 'downtown'

What's next for the report?

"We will take the information we've learned tonight and add what's needed to present to the city council in May," said Sylvia Darling, SSU senior and spokeswoman for the student panel.

"What we've concentrated on is the commercial and industrial area west of the freeway and the land east of the freeway where the city's proposing a 'downtown' city center near the public library," she said. "We did little with the residential section except to involve people who live here in the surveys. We have a May 19 deadline to finish the job."

The city council's May 24 meeting could have it by then, or even sooner.

Residential survey questions and answers provided a lot of basic knowledge about the city's demographics. But when asked about the city's "downtown," 34 percent said there is no "downtown" and 19 percent said it was the intersection of RP Expressway and Commerce Boulevard, where Safeway and other major supermarkets are located.

Survey reveals some surprises

A few surprises emerged from the survey. When asked how important it is to have a "well-defined downtown area," 28 percent said it's not important, 21 percent said it's important, 21 percent said very important, and 20 percent said somewhat important.

This result ties in with the question: Do you feel there's a strong sense of 'community' within the city? Forty-one percent said yes, 34 percent said no, it's minimal and 18 percent said, no, none at all.

These answers came from a category called Users, retail trade representatives, all business and commercial respondents.

SMART trains and casino cited

When asked about Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART)), the survey said, "One issue is the concern that it (the train depot) will not be large enough to accommodate current or future increases in ridership. Another issue is the adequacy of parking and drop-off points for passengers, without causing traffic and/or compromising safety."

The current site for the SMART depot is at the intersection of Roberts Lake Road with Golf Course Drive. This site is still subject to city council approval and could be changed.

The User Survey also cited the proposed Graton Tribe casino on Wilfred Avenue west of the freeway outside RP city limits. The survey said, "This casino has the potential to have a dramatic effect on circulation throughout the study area and RP as a whole ... further studies will need to be done regarding this matter."

Vital data now in SSU report

Probably, the major impact of this SSU study is the amassing of so much demographic data concerning Rohnert Park. There are many studies and reports collected in the past. But here they all are in one volume. Prior to this, these facts were filed in a multitude of national, state, regional, county and city file cabinets. It took researchers months of digging in all these cubbyholes to find them.

Copies of this report are available at SSU Environmental Dept, phone 664-2306, or they could be on RP City Hall Web site. Call 588-2216 to check out the availability.

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