At the Rohnert Park City Council meeting of September 28, on the consent agenda, the council voted to support the Community Child Care Council of Sonoma County (4Cs). The support was to provide “a Year One City of Rohnert Park Foundation grant in the amount of $113,344 in order for 4Cs to move to the identified site on East Cotati Avenue.”
This non-profit organization was established in 1972. They serve children, families, and providers as a community-based hub to address childcare needs in Sonoma County. They have numerous sites throughout the county. These include multiple sites in Santa Rosa as well as sites in Cloverdale, Sonoma, Windsor, and Petaluma. In the Rohnert Park/Cotati area, their site is currently located 1455 Golf Course Drive commonly known as Gold Ridge. They entered a 10-year agreement to lease the Gold Ridge site from 2016-2026 from the City of Rohnert Park. However, as reported at the city council meeting of August 10, the portable classrooms at that site have “come to their end-of-life use.”
4Cs “offers full-time, part-time, and after school childcare in Rohnert Park’s local community and surrounding areas through state funded vouchers…” according to the staff report. There are only two state funded preschool classrooms in the Rohnert Park/Cotati area. 4Cs is one, Sonoma State University Children’s School is the other. At the August 10 meeting of the council, the city staff presented a variety of options for the council’s consideration to keep this valuable childcare service in our local community. These included repairs and upgrades at Gold Ridge, use of other city facility buildings, a partnership with the Cotati Rohnert Park Unified School District for use of their facilities, or finding a suitable and affordable private property location in the community for relocation.
One by one, the options were considered. The cost of upgrade and repair at Gold Ridge was prohibitive. Moving to other city facilities such as the Burton Avenue Center were also ruled out due to cost and disruption to other city programs and services. Finding suitable space on a campus in the school district wasn’t possible as “Currently, no adequate space for a 4Cs operation is available due to increasing enrollment in the district and the unique space requirements of state subsidized preschool programs.”
That left only one of two choices available to the council. Since 4Cs operational budget can only afford a $2,000 per monthly lease, one option was to find a suitable private property location in the local area and subsidize the move and operational cost for 4Cs. The second option was to decline use of the Rohnert Park Foundation funds which would force 4Cs to “relocate its program outside of the Rohnert Park/Cotati region.” Currently, numerous Rohnert Park families use 4Cs services, “many of whom reside in the B Section.” 4Cs will cease operation at Gold Ridge at the end of this school year. Therefore, they needed to know what, if anything, the city would do.
As per the staff report, “On September 16, 4Cs identified a promising site in the City of Cotati, located on East Cotati Avenue.” It’s not perfect as the site will only support the current all-day program and there would be a maximum enrollment of 40 children. It also needs some upgrades to ensure it meets State Community Care Licensing requirements. But it has several advantages too. It’s a stand-alone building. It has an adjacent yard. The rental rate is reasonable. The lease offers almost $36,000 for tenant improvements such as bathroom remodel, ADA upgrades, fence improvements and floor modifications. It also offers stability in that the term of the lease would be more than 10-years.
The fiscal impact is a onetime cost of up to $100,000 for improvements to the site. There would also be a subsidy of $1,112 per month or $13,344 in year one. Lease terms include a 2 percent annual increase, so the subsidy would likely also increase over the ten-year time frame. These funds are not coming directly from the city. Rather the grant is being supported by the Rohnert Park Foundation which “receives approximately $1.5 million annually from the city’s” memorandum of understanding (MOU) “with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria for charitable purposes.” After year one, the foundation would have to approve additional grants for the monthly rental subsidy which could “be renewed annually during its annual budget development.”