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July 12, 2020
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Police and housing topics discussed at Council

By: Paul Matli
September 13, 2019

Mayor Gina Belforte and other members of the Rohnert Park City Council sat in front of a raucous crowd Tuesday night. What started off as a normal meeting burst into relentless attacks against the Rohnert Park Police force. 

Countless community members complained about what they see as excessive use of force by the Rohnert Park Police Department. Multiple community members described how their relatives died at the hands of the Rohnert Park Police because of excessive force being used. These members were hoping by speaking up about these issues they will force change not only in the City of Rohnert Park but nationally. Movements against police violence have been ongoing for the last couple of years so it’s not surprising to see this issue come to a local community like Rohnert Park.

The council took all of this in like they do at every session. It remains to be seen what type of action or changes will take place. This type of debate is what a city council meeting is about, community members should be able to speak their mind about what ever issue they choose. 

Two other major topics of discussion were an update on the 2018 community small grants program and the North East Specific Plan.

The community small grants program is intended to encourage organizations to do projects that will benefit or improve the Rohnert Park community. Some of these programs were started at elementary schools like Marguerite Hahn and Richard Crane Elementary. For Hahn Elementary the community invested in an imagination playground, while the students at Richard Crane got to experience an outdoor ping pong table.

Besides elementary schools, there were activities for the Girl Scouts Troop 106, Animal Shelter, Rotary Club of Rohnert Park-Cotati, SSU Nursing and the Armed Forces Banner Program. These were just a few of the mini-programs courtesy of the small grants received last year.

 For those community members interested in the small grants program, applications start Sept. 16 and are due by Oct. 18th. The projects for the 2019/20 year will begin Jan. 1, 2020 and there’s up to $5,000 that can be earned. 

The last major event of Tuesdays night’s city council meeting was the discussion of the North East Specific Plan. The NESP contains five specific plans spanning more than 18.3 acres and contains 36 different parcels.

Some of the proposed housing types under the plan are Ranchette Residential, Traditional Single Family, Medium Density and High Density. There were also four parks proposed under this plan; Community Park, Active Neighborhood Park, Creek Park and Passive Neighborhood Park.  Other discussion topics included modifying parks in open space configurations, increase dwelling units. Some of the places where this project would take place were Keiser Avenue, Snyder Lane and G section. The buffer in G Section would have been reduced under this project.

This proposal was a hot topic among community members. All the community members who spoke were against this added housing. Some thought it wasn’t needed, others believed it was too much growth in a short time, while others who live in G Section didn’t want to see their neighborhoods increased.

 The council agreed with the community. Vice Mayor Joseph Callinan didn’t want to grant any new building projects since they have given out grants and passed resolutions before to only end up disappointed. Whereas Mayor Belforte wasn’t interested in these new projects. She argued Rohnert Park already has a good amount of housing being built and this is a project better fit for San Francisco. She doesn’t want Rohnert Park to become a mini San Francisco, she wants the 

town to have its own identity. Councilman Jake Mackenzie was the only one on board with this project.

This city council meeting was a lively event with very few seats available. The community members really got into the use of police force and NESP topics. These were topics which spread on social media like a wildfire and members of the community wanted to come speak about them. It’s unclear what the next meeting on Sept. 24 will entail, but if it’s anything like Tues. night it should be a treat for those who want to attend.