Only fifteen persons, including commissioners, students and city officials attended the recent Model City Commission meeting at the Rohnert Park Council chambers.
Dr. Warren Tappi, the chairman, apologized for the sparse attendance from the Sonoma State College, explaining that due to “Dead Week” the students and professors were busy preparing for final exams.
The meeting had been convened to discuss areas of mutual concern in student housing, community and police relations. Housing committee members Bart Mitchell and Commissioner Ruth Herold, as well as Cotati Police Chief Tony Locarnini had been invited to answer questions for the students.
City Manager Peter M. Callinan announced that he had started a housing survey in Rohnert Park, to determine the student needs and availabilities for renting within the city of Rohnert Park.
While only 12 responses had been received to his mailed questionnaire, Callinan noted that he had determined that there were a number of vacancies at the El Collegio apartments and Lack London Hall, which the students were not filling.
Callinan reported that in his preliminary analysis he found that student housing was available with rentals beginning from $33 to an average of $62 per month in the more elaborate places.
“The report that there is a shortage of housing is not too accurate,” said Callinan. “It would be more apt to state that the students don’t want what is available.”
Callinan also noted that there were several vacant houses available for renting in Rohnert Park, but that the owners were reluctant to accept students as tenants because of their poor yard and home maintenance habits. Girl students were worse than boys in this respect quipped Callinan.
Speaking for the Cotati Police Department, Locarnini stated that he had very few problems with the students. The only concern was that of traffic movement within his jurisdiction, he said. However, with the amount of traffic which circulated daily on East Cotati Avenue, this was to be expected, he added.
Locarnini hoped that when the Rohnert Park Expressway became the main access road, this problem would be alleviated. In answer to a question from Jilka, the police chief said that he had not experienced any recent problems with the Inn of the Beginning particularly now that patron Greg Cochran helped out by enforcing curfew with juveniles.
“The only problems are with rowdies from neighboring bars who go there to stir up trouble, and they are usually not students,” he said.
Jilka explained some of the areas of concern for the students, namely, fire protection, neighborhood congeniality, high prices of food and other items and lack of communication between the community and college.
Jilka said his recent campaign for better fire protection was not meant as an affront to the city of Rohnert Park, where he knew an up-to-date unit was shortly to be delivered, but the main difficulty lay in the fact that such a unit would sometimes be hard to depend on because of the railroad crossing.
“Perhaps you could use some of the state funds for building a firehouse near the college,” suggested Realtor Bart Mitchell. Jilka said he’d be lucky if he got an approval for an appropriation by the time he finished his studies at SSC, let alone some funds.
Another student complained about the lack of warmth in Rohnert Park, she said that the reason for this was because she had to drive everywhere.
‘In Cotati I get to walk to the stores, where the owners greet me with a smile and almost everyone you see knows you,” she said.
Speaking as a longtime resident of Cotati, now working in Rohnert Park as Librarian, Mrs. Jack Hahn disagreed with the student. “Rohnert Park is equally friendly, all the students have to do is give it a fair chance to get to know it,” she said.
Jilka said he had found this indeed to be so, but the only bone he had to pick was with the city manager, who refused to hire him, a qualified life-guard, because of his beard.
“I agree if I had an untrimmed beard and bushy hair or something maybe there would be a justification,” he said.
“But when a city recreation commissioner and newspaper editor wear beards, a student should certainly be able to do so, and find work.
Commissioner Herold remarked that a good deal of people were relaxing their views because of hirsute men, as long as they were well groomed. She suggested that Jilka bear it a while longer.
Callinan justified his views because of certain users of the swimming pools, who would have objected, but promised to give the matter further consideration
The group agreed that further discussion on student housing should fall under the jurisdiction of the housing element for the city general plan. The group also planned to hold its next meeting on the college campus in February.