October 20, 2021
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Rohnert Park City Council all about safety

By: Paul Matli
July 12, 2019

Safety during wildfires, check, improved safety on train tracks, check, law and order on Fourth of July, check, and affordable housing for all. The theme of the Rohnert Park City Council was all about safety. 

The topics ranged from Herman Hernandez of PG&E providing the community with a plan of what they will do when there is a wildfire, a conversation about how to make the SMART trains safer for pedestrians and the crack down on illegal fireworks. These were the major topics of the Rohnert Park City Council event on Tuesday night.

Keeping the community of Rohnert Park safe is one of the main goals of the city council. Mayor Gina Belforte and her council spent most of their time listening to presentations, community members concerns and asking questions on how to make residents feel safer.

The meeting started off with a presentation from PG&E giving community members a run-down of what they do if another wildfire hits. Since the changing climate is leading to more extreme weather disasters like earthquakes and wildfires becoming more prevalent, community members want to make sure they are accounted for. Hernandez ran down PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program. This program includes real-time monitoring and intelligence such as installing new high definition cameras in high fire threat areas. New and enhanced safety measures that increase the focus on vegetation that poses a higher potential for wildfire risk are also included. In addition, system hardening and resiliency that include stronger and more resilient poles and covered power lines are included as well.

The council liked PG&E’s presentation, though Councilwoman Susan Adams was concerned about members of the community who are more medically fragile. That was the topic of conversation among the council and Hernandez explained how medically fragile community members the ones are who PG&E talk to the most.

The next important event discussed was improving the safety of the SMART trains. Most community are aware of the two recent deaths via the SMART trains. Both of these deaths happened in the busiest part of the tracks. This presentation touched on the safety measures being taken by SMART to prevent these accidents from happening again.

Some of the immediate steps being taken by SMART are exploring more education and awareness, adding in more physical barriers and changes, increased enforcement around high risk areas, grants to fund improvements and extensive safety training and education at schools in the community. SMART is also in the process of installing something called the Z Gate. The Z Gate is intended to make it harder for pedestrians to walk directly on the tracks. Most of these measures had to do with more safety for those pedestrians who aren’t paying attention while biking, running or walking.

This presentation led to more discussion amongst the council members. Councilwoman Adams asked if the Z Gates would have prevented the two accidents, whereas Councilman Joseph Callinan wasn’t too fond of the Z Gates. He recommended adding in a pedestrian crossing so those people who aren’t paying attention will not be at risk in any way. Mayor Belforte vented her frustrations with the overall process because SMART officials weren’t there, they just sent people who work for them. Belforte said this would have been the perfect opportunity for SMART to hear directly from members of the community and it was a missed opportunity.

Other important events discussed were law enforcement being praised for their crackdown on illegal fireworks and a presentation on affordable housing.

Both the resolutions for the affordable housing passed.

Resolution 2019-085 establishing a Housing In-Lieu Fee for Development of For Sale Residential Projects of 50 units or less passed 4-0-1. The second Resolution, 2019-086, establishing a Rental Affordable Housing Fee for Development of Rental Residential Projects passed 4-0-1. Both of these measures had a short discussion by the council after the power point presentation and they agreed that affordable housing is important for members of the community.

It was evident the Rohnert Park City Council values the safety of their fellow community members. Community members knowing they are protected, and their voices will be heard is important for communities to run smoothly. It’s unclear what the agenda will be for the next city council meeting, but one thing is clear, the Rohnert Park City Council is striving towards making their slogan a reality. Building a better community by listening and taking action is what makes the community happy.