Mar 12, 2019
by Will Carruthers
At a meeting Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved emergency funding for the county’s flood response, announced a new leader of the Sheriff’s oversight agency and moved forward two housing developments.
On Feb. 26, Sonoma County activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to respond to the floods inundating the west county. Two days later, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared an emergency in counties affected by the heavy rains.
At its meeting Tuesday, the supervisors took the recovery a few steps further by approving $2.5 million in funding and allowing county agencies to award emergency response contracts without following the customary competitive bidding process.
The approved funding will be spent on “initial response and debris removal costs” associated with the floods. A staff report projects that 75 percent of the $2.5 million will be ultimately reimbursed by the state.
“There is an urgent need to make the needed repairs to Sonoma Water’s potable water facilities, and to make the needed repairs to the Sanitation Districts’ and Zones’ facilities that are owned or operated by Sonoma Water,” a staff report on the Water Agency’s needs states.
The competitive bidding process, which takes two to three months to complete, would prevent the county from taking “necessary preventative measures to protect public health and safety in a timely manner,” according to the report.
The required emergency work includes repairs to eroded riverbanks and damaged equipment at several county facilities.
Another agenda item passed Tuesday allows other county agencies to award contracts to repair damaged roads, remove debris and hire consultants without following the competitive bidding process.
The supervisors voted unanimously to hire a new leader for the agency tasked with overseeing the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
Karlene Navarro, a Petaluma attorney, will serve as the new director of the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Oversight (IOLERO).
IOLERO was formed in 2015 in response the community uprising following the shooting death of Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old Roseland resident.
Jerry Threet, the agency’s first director, announced he would retire late last year after a public disagreement with the county’s outgoing sheriff, Rob Giordano, about the scope of IOLERO’s oversight capabilities.
Navarro most recently taught law at the University of San Francisco and, between 2014 and 2018, worked in private practice representing “a mixture of retained and court-appointed cases comprised mostly of serious and violent felonies,” according to a county press release announcing her nomination.
Navarro is married to Christopher Honigsberg, a judge serving on the Sonoma County Superior Court.
Supervisor David Rabbitt and Jerry Threet, the former director of IOLERO, both told the Press Democrat that they found potential conflicts of interests due to Honigsberg’s job unlikely.
If a conflict does arise in a case, the county will hire a contract auditor to complete the case, according to Rabbitt.
The supervisors approved the purchase of a small property near downtown Santa Rosa for the development of affordable housing.
The Sonoma County Water Agency acquired the land in 2001 as part of a lawsuit settlement with the agency due to lead contamination on the property.
Benjamin Wickham, the Sonoma County Community Development Commission’s affordable housing director, told the supervisors that the contaminated portion of the parcel has been split from the 0.67-acre parcel slated for development. The contaminated parcel, which backs onto the Santa Rosa Creek, is being remediated by the Water Agency, according to Wickham.
“This is a parcel that is close to amenities and transit and so, as an in-fill site, we want to give low-income households an opportunity to access that type of an area,” Wickham said on Tuesday.
The CDC used leftover federal housing funds to purchase the property in an effort to avoid penalties given to housing agencies that repeatedly spend federal funding too slowly.
When the Community Development Committee, the board overseeing the housing agency, approved the purchase last month one member raised concerns that staff had not provided enough information about the property.
Willie Lamberson, the 4th District representative on the committee, said he was disappointed that the committee was only given one option to spend the redirected money and that the agenda packet did not include an appraisal of the property.
“I really appreciate the fact that we have an opportunity to buy this piece of property, but I resent the fact that you’ve been working on it for a long time and now you’re bringing it to us six weeks ahead of approval to spend the money,” Lamberson said at a Feb. 20 meeting.
For more information on the CDC meeting, read the Gazette’s coverage here.
After decades of discussion and work, a property development in Santa Rosa’s Roseland neighborhood is one step closer to completion.
On Tuesday, the supervisors approved funding for Roseland Village, a mixed-use development located at 665 Sebastopol Rd., Santa Rosa.
“Bravo to all of you for your work pushing this to the goal line,” Supervisor Susan Gorin said Tuesday.“This probably took fifty years… with the city and county working together on how we can work together.”
The Sonoma County Development Commission selected MidPen Housing Corporation and Urban Mix Development to complete the project.
Under the current plans, the development team would construct 100 market rate units and 75 below market rate units on the property.
The housing development will also include a public plaza and a Spanish-style market.
Part of the property, which backs on to the Santa Rosa Creek, was used as a temporaryhomeless encampment between late 2015 and April 2018.
John Paulsen, who identified himself as the owner of the neighboring Roseland Shopping Center, spoke in opposition to the current plan, stressing the need for parking and traffic circulation in the area.
County staff hope to have the housing completed by November 2022.
The full agenda is available online here.
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