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Rohnert Park Council says we don’t need another agency

By: Joshua Farestveit-Moore
January 11, 2019

The Rohnert Park City Council voiced its resounding objection Tues. to the CASA Compact policy package which is working its way through the California legislative process. 

It’s not surprising if the policy package doesn’t sound familiar. It’s a proposal put forth by the Committee to House the Bay Area (CASA) to solve the California housing crisis in the San Francisco and North Bay region—a rather admirable goal. 

The problem then for the Rohnert Park City Council is how the CASA Compact intends to go about it. 

“We don’t need another agency created to tell us what to do and how to do it. We don’t need our zonings changed, we don’t need our development changed—we are already doing what we are supposed to do,” Council-member Pam Stafford said. “It’s a great idea. Let’s improve housing. But to impose all of these things on everyone it’s not a good way to go about it. Local control is completely lost.”

The CASA Compact intends to bring an end to California’s housing shortage through ten different initiatives spread out over a fifteen-year period. Among the proposed initiatives the compact wishes to drastically increase tenants’ rights, impose a cap on rent and expedite the housing approval process for new developments. There’s also within the Compact a new rash of rules regarding building heights that override local zoning regulations around public transit, which can spell trouble for Rohnert Park’s new Station Avenue development. 

And if the new rules weren’t enough of a burden, the compact also comes with a steep cost of 1.5 billion dollars’ worth of proposed new taxes, 15 million of which will come from Rohnert Park. 

It’s a lot to take in and for most of the council it was the loss of local control and the $15 million which proved the sticking point. 

“I think what is most troubling for me is putting a city like Rohnert Park in a situation where we might have to pay $15 million dollars. We don’t have a lot of deep pockets. We’re a little itty-bitty community,” Gina Belforte, Rohnert Park’s mayor, said. “To take 15 million dollars out of the city to go down to offset housing in other areas I think does a disservice to the community.”

While the numbers and the laundry list of proposed regulations seems daunting, it’s important to remember that the majority of these changes are still within committee—that’s the step before voting by the legislature which studies the problems and its proposed solution.

There’s a huge jump between a committee and the governor’s desk where California’s bills becomes law. In the journey a bill can undergo a lot of changes. 

Which is the reason why council-member Jake Mackenzie, Rohnert Park’s representative to CASA, decided to sign onto to the compact and push it to the next step at CASA’s Dec. 12 meeting. 

“The opportunities are there to influence the legislation as it advances. That’s the way this will be resolved one way or another,” Mackenzie said. “The financial options are a menu. There’s a possibility there will be a $15 million impact on the City of Rohnert Park, it’s by no means a given. We really don’t know. We’re just exploring how to resolve the housing crisis.” 

As the sole dissenting voice, the rest of the Rohnert Park City Council rebuked Mackenzie strongly for his decision as their representative. The four other members opted to instruct the Rohnert Park city manager, Darrin Jenkins, to send a letter voicing their opposition to the CASA Compact. 

The next meeting regarding the CASA Compact will take place Jan. 19. Citizens interested in voicing their opinion should contact State Senator Bill Dodd or local Assembly Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry.