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October 24, 2020
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Vehicles, Covid and homelessness

By: Paul Matli
September 25, 2020

Tuesday night’s three- hour-plus long Cotati City Council meeting featured thorough discussions on three major topics: discussion on Senate Bill (SB) 743, putting money towards supporting the community during Covid 19 and homelessness. These topics all had nearly an hour of discussion each, since the council had much to say.

The first of these topics was focused around SB 743, a bill passed by the California State Senate in 2013. This was signed with the intent to “more appropriately balance the needs of congestion management with statewide goals related to infill development, promotion of public health through active transportation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

The resolution based around 743 was as follows “Guidelines for analysis of vehicle miles traveled and adoption of the VMT thresholds of significance published therein to be used when evaluating transportation impacts under the California Environmental quality act.”

To put more simply, this was a discussion on how to be more environmentally conscience and how to reduce gas emissions. This presentation explained the benefits of VMT, why the city should change to it, the best umbrella metric for transportation impacts and state goals. Since Sonoma County residents take the environment and reducing carbon emissions seriously, the council thought this was a good resolution and passed it.

 Next, was an update on the Covid-19 Temporary Economic Development Response Phase II. The first phase was authorized on May 26, 2020. Now Phase two is proposing the council extend the flexibility and use of outdoor areas, allocate up to $90,000 in funding and to toll the expiration of all entitlement and permit approvals for six months beyond the expiration of the Covid-19 Emergency Declaration to support the community during the unprecedented economic impacts of the Covid-19 viral pandemic.

 This presentation went in depth talking about the measures taken to make sure the community is supported during unprecedented times. Most of the business owners support the effort since it will drive more action towards Cotati. Cotati, being a small town, needs to keep money and attention flowing, so anything will work.

Meanwhile, this resolution was met with more skepticism amongst restaurant owners. Since restaurants are operating at 40 percent capacity, the Tented Parking Concept, Downtown Bazaar concept and Truck Rodeo Concept weren’t as appealing since there was fear these concepts would impact existing businesses.

The resolution was passed by the council after more than a 30-minute question and answer period between them and members of the community.

 The last lengthy discussion had to do with homelessness. Homelessness is one of the most divisive subjects whenever it’s discussed. It’s the subject that usually has the most radical opinions about it. How to handle homelessness is always a litmus test for community leaders and council members.

 Santa Rosa for a while took a more hardline approach because that’s what their residents wanted, Petaluma has a very nice homeless shelter for them, and Cotati talked about that subject last night.

 The presentation focused on a group called Home Sonoma County, which formed in 2018. It was designed by Ad Hoc from the Board of Supervisors and Santa Rosa, including the mayor of Santa Rosa. Medium/small cities weren’t included, and service providers remain deeply involved. Two major issues the county discussed under Home Sonoma County were housing and addressing encampments. 

This presentation went in depth on what Home Sonoma County is and explained how the county still isn’t putting money forth towards the homeless program.

After the presentation wrapped up, the council had a discussion and it was clear they had different opinions. Council member Mark Landman, for example, acknowledged homelessness being a key program and it should be addressed, but he felt the county shouldn’t be subsidizing the homeless problem and there’s specific places they shouldn’t be. Council member Susan Harvey mostly agreed. Other members of the council and public had some differing opinions, but all realized there’s no easy solution to the problem.

The council has discussed homelessness before since Council member John Dell’Osso attended a forum on it. This issue isn’t going away because Covid-19 is unfortunately putting even more people on the brink of homelessness. Finding a way to keep people off the street is the number one function of government.

Tuesday’s meeting was deep with heavy discussions on a number of topics. The meeting went well past 10 p.m., so it was a long night for community members in attendance. Regardless of how long the meeting lasted, the council discussed two pressing issues and another important one, so it was a good night overall.