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June 24, 2017
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Protestors show up, affordable housing gets closer

By: Christina Molcillo
June 16, 2017

Rohnert Park City Council meetings are generally staid affairs and the June 13 meeting seemed like it was on track. There was a sometimes emotional presentation for retiring theatre director Gene Abravaya, where Abravaya spoke about his love for the theatre, and his hope that Spreckels would make Rohnert Park a destination for theatre goers in search of good plays; akin to Ashland, Oregon, as a destination for the yearly Shakespeare festival. But that congenial mood changed quickly as the floor was open to public comments. Four to five individuals who had been part of the first protests at city council May 23; calling for a citizen oversight committee on perceived rampant police brutality in the city came to the floor to make comments. The tasing death of Branch Wroth May 12 at a Rohnert Park motel was invoked as evidence that police brutality is a problem in Rohnert Park by Jim Duffy from Rohnert Park, Eileen M. of Sebastopol, and Susan Lamont from Santa Rosa. Many protestors left as the comments came to a close, with a few staying to hold paper signs up throughout the rest of the meeting - some choosing to stand at the back for the rest of the time.

Tempers cooled as the city sought to button up the Development Agreement (DA) to provide for the development of the Southeast Specific Plan. This agreement requires the developer to construct 28 affordable duet units, eight affordable town homes, and a 36- unit affordable apartment complex. 

The council had earlier requested that the staff bring back a discussion and direction item on the local priorities that HLT [Housing Land Trust of Sonoma County] would use when evaluating applications and qualifying buyers for these new affordable units. As it stands now, the council agreed that the units give priority to eligible buyers who live or work in Rohnert Park, or who work for Sonoma State University.

The loose end came from a blank area in the contract where it wasn’t entirely clear whether individuals who did not currently live in Rohnert Park but did work at SSU would be eligible for this program. Any pushback on this project is only as a result of semantics; it was increasingly clear that the council approved of the development, they just wanted to be absolutely certain it’s a fair contract for everyone concerned. 

It would appear that after these parts of the contract are satisfactorily filled, Rohnert Park will be one step closer to achieving housing that people can afford based on their actual income, instead of the current median home values that many find out of reach.