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Santa Rosa puts out call for public input on general plan revision

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Planning website: srcity.org/SR2050

Santa Rosa has launched a comprehensive planning process it calls “Santa Rosa 2050” to create a guide for the city’s future.

The process will create a new version of the city’s general plan, the guiding document that acts as a map for decisions on housing, streets, parks, public safety and more. The plan was last updated a decade ago and is being revised to factor in the impacts of the October 2017 wildfires, the annexation of Roseland and recent technological innovations.

Upcoming workshops include a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Roseland Elementary. More details about several other upcoming meetings can be found at srcity.org/SR2050. The city estimates completing the plan update in June 2023.

“A lot has changed globally and here locally over the past decade, and the city needs to hear from our community members at this critical initial step, and throughout the duration of the project, to help direct the vision for the future of Santa Rosa,” Mayor Tom Schwedhelm said in a statement.

Source: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9579305-181/santa-rosa-puts-out-call?sba=AAS

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Santa Rosa upbeat on finding millions of dollars for long-planned footbridge

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa has yet to secure the millions of dollars needed to build a long-planned bridge for cyclists and pedestrians to cross Highway 101, but that’s not stopping city officials and consultants from pressing ahead with design and location plans for a span they hope to start building in less than two years.

The bridge is touted by the city and its supporters as a necessary connector that will facilitate safer nonautomotive access over the freeway near its high-traffic interchanges at College Avenue and Steele Lane. They serve Coddingtown Mall, the nearby Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit station, Santa Rosa Junior College, Santa Rosa High School and nearby neighborhoods.

Beyond figuring out how to drum up the estimated $11 million to $13 million needed to build the crossing, Santa Rosa will need to determine whether they want a light, airy design that preserves views for highway motorists — or a more imposing and unique bridge that becomes a new city landmark.

“What’s really great is that this is an amazing opportunity to right some of the planning wrongs” of the past, Adam Sharron, a landscape architect and member of the city’s Design Review Board, said at Thursday’s meeting. Cost permitting, he added, the city’s new crossing could be a statement piece “that is made to be a design, rather than utilitarian bridge.”

The city has a lot of work ahead before it can realize that vision. Initial designs conceived by city staff and consultants called for a bridge that would blend into highway surroundings and preserve far-reaching views for northbound drivers. The City Council is not expected to consider the project until early 2020, said Jason Nutt, the city’s director of transportation and public works.

The bridge has been in the works for more than a decade, and city documents show work slated to begin in January 2021 and finish in July 2022. The city has been able to find money to study potential bridge designs, but “we don’t have funding secured for construction,” Christopher Catbagan, a city engineer, said Thursday.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9505687-181/santa-rosa-upbeat-on-finding

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Santa Rosa planning commission approves ambitious bike pedestrian plan

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A Highway 101 overcrossing connecting Coddingtown Mall to Santa Rosa Junior College and a contentious railroad crossing with an uncertain future are among the bicycle and pedestrian projects proposed in an aspirational city plan that would more than double the number of bikeways in the city.

“It is an ambitious list,” said Nancy Adams, a city transportation planner. “Once you get the road map, now we have to start talking and having the hard conversations on how do you start and get something accomplished.”

The updated bicycle and pedestrian master plan, which contains dozens of projects meant to make it easier to travel around Santa Rosa without a car, won unanimous approval from the Planning Commission on Thursday. It is set to go before the City Council in March.

The plan is inherently optimistic about the city’s ability to pay for future expansions of its walking and biking network. But cash-strapped Santa Rosa’s leaders have devoted recent budget discussions to cutting spending and replenishing reserves depleted by the October 2017 wildfires to pay down pension liabilities.

The city doesn’t have funding for all of the plan’s projects at this time, Adams acknowledged. The proposed Highway 101 crossing connecting the mall and college campus in north Santa Rosa has funding for its design, but the city hasn’t identified how to pay for its construction, she said.

In all, the city has proposed adding 129 miles of bikeways throughout Santa Rosa, increasing its network of bike paths to 242 miles. Alongside the expansive list of potential projects comes data showing that bikes and feet are far from the most popular ways to get to work in Santa Rosa.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9289467-181/santa-rosa-bike-path-plan

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Santa Rosa bans use of Roundup at city parks

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday banned the use of synthetic weed-killers like Roundup at dozens of parks, buildings and medians around town.

The decision came on a unanimous vote — with Mayor Chris Coursey absent and barely any audience in the council chambers — to approve a one-year extension of the contract with a company that has provided city landscape maintenance services since 2014.

But it culminated a citizen campaign, initiated three years ago, to eliminate use of synthetic herbicides on city property.

The company, Golden Gate Landscape Management, has sprayed glyphosate-based weed killer on parks and other public property under its $509,000 annual contract. The council renewed the contract, but added a prohibition on glyphosate.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8657806-181/santa-rosa-bans-use-of?ref=most

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Santa Rosa passes spending plan for housing bond

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Environmental aspects of the housing bond

Downtown: Projects located in the downtown and along transit corridors, areas known as priority development areas, would receive priority.

Greenbelts off limits: No projects funded with the money would be built in community separators or greenbelts, through land-use rules already prohibiting that.

Green projects: Projects that use climate-smart, all-electric or net zero construction methods would be prioritized.

The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday unanimously supported a spending plan for the $124 million housing bond on the November ballot, but only after deadlocking on the contentious issue of how much union labor should be used on projects built with the money.

Labor groups had asked the council to pass guidelines requiring 30 percent of the jobs go to union workers — 20 percent union apprentices and 10 percent journeymen to train them — arguing that people building the housing should be able to afford to live in it.

But under pressure from business groups including those representing nonunion contractors, the council deadlocked 3-3 on the full 30 percent union requirement. Moments later it voted 6-0 to approve a plan earmarking 20 percent of the jobs for union apprentices — but no job guarantees for union journeymen.

The ideological impasse, which has been simmering for weeks, frustrated many of the council members and union members who attended the meeting. Mayor Chris Coursey said it was imperative that the disagreement not imperil the bond’s chances at the ballot box.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8612091-181/santa-rosa-passes-spending-plan

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Santa Rosa settles salamander dispute

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Santa Rosa reached a settlement with a litigious local environmental group that threatened to sue over the city’s management of land that may be habitat for endangered tiger salamanders.

The city recently agreed to pay $25,000 to Sebastopol-based California River Watch, which has been pressuring government agencies for decades to comply with environmental regulations such as the federal Clean Water Act.

In this case, the group alleged the city may have violated the federal Endangered Species Act, improperly managing its agricultural properties in the Santa Rosa Plain near the Laguna de Santa Rosa.

The city denied any wrongdoing. But it agreed to settle after concluding it would likely pay more to challenge the group in court, said Mike Prinz, a deputy director of Santa Rosa Water.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8362344-181/santa-rosa-settles-salamander-dispute

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Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa has begun installing nearly a thousand solar panels atop four city parking garages, modules that will both shade vehicles from the sun and reduce the city’s energy costs.
“I’m excited to see a much smaller PG&E bill,” said Luke Morse, the city’s parking supervisor as he helped organize the delivery of the panels on Tuesday.
A huge crane began hoisting the photovoltaic panels and the steel canopies that will support them onto garage roofs Tuesday morning.
If all goes well, the installations should take about a month per garage, with the project completed in a few months.
The city estimates the $1.4 million project will pay for itself in about 11 years and save $1.4 million in power costs over the 25-year life of the arrays.
That should help the city achieve about 10 percent of its 2020 greenhouse gas emission reduction target, said Kim Nadaeu, parking district manager.
Read more at: Santa Rosa begins installing solar panels on parking garage roofs | The Press Democrat

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Santa Rosa unveils plan to revamp city’s bus routes

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

If approved by the City Council next month, the changes would likely take place in November, [city transit planner Rachel Ede] said.

Santa Rosa hopes to boost flagging bus ridership numbers by making its CityBus service faster and more convenient along the city’s busiest corridors.
But it also wants to maintain a system that offers convenient service for residents across the city, including lower-density neighborhoods.
Just how daunting a challenge it is to strike a balance between those two goals became clear Tuesday when city officials unveiled their nearly complete plan to revamp the city’s bus routes.
Bus riders, many of whom rely on bus service as their primary source of transportation, are distressed by some of the changes.
Click here for ReImagine CityBus final recommendations
Read more at: Santa Rosa unveils plan to revamp city’s bus routes | The Press Democrat