There's a big meeting this week in Santa Rosa to kick-start a review of the county's urban-growth boundaries, a set of eight no-growth zones designed, among other things, to ensure that Santa Rosa and its surrounding towns don't become one gigantic, sprawling, overpopulated mess.
These slivers and stretches of land are part of an urban greenbelt system in place since 1989 in Sonoma County. The national Greenbelt Alliance has helped spearhead a push to protect and expand on the community separator greenbelts, even as developers and builders have howled about a housing crunch in the county.
At the meeting, community planners will present details on the public process for renewing and adding to community separators. They say they want to hear from the public about other county lands that ought to wind up in a community separator and off-limits to development.
The upcoming meeting reminded Debriefer of that great old Sonic Youth song from Daydream Nation, titled "The Sprawl," and sung by Kim Gordon (a native Californian): "Steel and rusty now I guess / Outback was the river / And that big sign down the road / That's where it all started."
Indeed. That big sign down the road is signaling the arrival later this year of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit, which has prompted discussion about the eventual location of a second Petaluma SMART train station near the edge of the Petaluma-Rohnert Park community separator.
There's another big sign down the road, and it says: San Francisco is too darned expensive, and Petaluma is looking awful nice to Johnny Tech-Wiz and his goat-farm retirement fantasies. The reality of population growth and a severe housing crunch has put the community separators in the spotlight. They are up for renewal (or removal) at the end of the year.
The March 2 meeting is the first chance for public input into a process that the Greenbelt Alliance hopes will protect and enhance the separators, developers be darned.
"I wanted to know the exact dimension of hell," shrieks Gordon on "The Sprawl." If that's your angle, go to the meeting to speak up about the hellish prospect of a Rohnert Park-Sebastopol-Petaluma-Santa Rosa-Windsor megalopolis. It's on March 2 from 4pm to 6pm at 2550 Ventura Ave. in Santa Rosa.
Policing has been in the spotlight locally and nationally over the past year—exemplified locally by the 2013 shooting death of Andy Lopez—and to that end, the city of Santa Rosa in late February hired an independent police auditor. The city council website posted the news on Feb. 22 that they'd hired veteran police auditor and attorney Bob Aaronson, "drawing on the recommendation of the Santa Rosa City Council and Sonoma County's Community and Local Law Enforcement Task Force as a blueprint for a model of oversight that best serves the needs of the city."
Aaronson has a big to-do list, according to the city website. Among other responsibilities, he'll conduct audits and evaluations of personnel; assist with complaints about the police department; work with the city and police to recommend changes to systems, procedures or policies; and accept and forward citizens' complaints to the department for investigation.