Wednesday, May 3, 2017 the Rohnert Park City Council held a Town Hall meeting, which they started holding bi-annually as another means for community members to interact with their elected officials as well as key City staff members.
One of the evenings hottest topics of discussion was started by resident Pam Novelly. Pam asked the Council about “Rent Control” in Rohnert Park. There is at least one apartment complex in the city that has recently come under new ownership. The new owner dressed up the exterior of the complex, changed the label to “Luxury Apartments”, and raised the rental fees. According to Pam and others, existing residents have received threatening notices that rent is due by 5:30 pm on the designated day each month and if payment isn’t received by that time they will be evicted. In a nutshell, the City Council and City Manager let the audience know un-equivocally, they care about this issue, but to a large extent their hands are tied because the property owners have the right to purchase property and sell/rent said property at whatever price they choose. Everyone on the council and the city manager expressed, in some form, that it was sad that this owner was handling things this way and that they totally sympathize with the tenants. Both City Manager Darren Jenkins and Council Member Amy Ahanotu pointed out that this is a very complex issue. The city manager pointed to what happened when the City of Santa Rosa broached the subject of “Rent Control”, which was when property owners raised the rent on mass. He let the audience know they have a responsibility to do the right thing for the majority of the Rohnert Park’s population and that imposing “Rent Control” would, as it did in Santa Rosa, translate to increase rates for most if not all renters.
Another topic raised by Lorrie Abbott had to do with money for the Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District from the casino. Lorrie, and others, were under the impression the casino was supposed to be giving money to the District, so where is the money? The answer is that the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) guaranteed some money to the city, which the casino has honored in full. On top of that money, all of which the casino was not required to donate, they agreed to give money to the Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District and additional money to the city whenever they are profitable. As it turns out the Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District and the city will be receiving those funds for the first time since the casino opened November 5, 2013.