Rohnert Park seeks funding for a temporary housing project near the Graton casino

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Despite objections from the operators of the Graton Resort and Casino and two nearby hotels, Rohnert Park city council members voted this week to seek funding for a homeless housing project on a vacant plot of land from town less than a mile south of the complex and the game room.

The council voted 4-1, with Susan Hollingsworth Adams the only no, to request up to $ 20 million from the state’s Project Homekey program to build and manage a 60-unit interim housing project next to a fire station at 6020 Labath Ave.

The project would be Rohnert Park’s first effort to house some of the estimated 250 homeless residents of Sonoma County’s third largest city – a number that has quintupled since 2015 and topped the list of resident problems qu ‘they told the city they want addressed.

Because court rulings prevent municipalities from emptying homeless camps unless they are able to offer alternative shelter, Rohnert Park has struggled to enforce anti-camping and other laws designed to reduce problems associated with camps.

A large camp near Roberts Lake, which had several dozen people and tents last month, highlighted the city’s homeless problem and its lack of options.

But a $ 1.45 billion pot from the state and federal government to help cities manage their homeless populations has given the city an opportunity to ask for $ 20 million to build a mini-house project. similar to that of Los Guilicos east of Santa Rosa.

The city considered several properties for a Homekey project, including purchasing two hotels to house the homeless, but narrowed its choice to two: a narrow strip of land south of the Rohnert Park highway, near the park. of Rancho Verde mobile homes and the Labath site. Initially, the city preferred the highway site, but last week it switched to Labath because its environmental review would be simpler and provide more space for parking and storage units.

Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria president has written several letters or emails to city leaders opposing either of these sites, both within a mile of the casino.

Tribal President Greg Sarris accused Mayor Gerard Giudice of distorting his support for the city’s site selection and pointed out that the casino had given the city more than $ 75 million since it opened in 2013.

Giudice read comments at the meeting saying he had no intention of distorting anyone’s point of view and that he hopes to continue the city’s good working relationship with the casino.

Sarris’ letter and emails indicate that the tribe is supporting the city’s efforts to house the homeless, but not near the casino.

“As the tribe supports the search for a solution to the homelessness and is ready to do their part to help, the homeless have created an ongoing problem at Graton Resort & Casino,” Sarris wrote to Giudice, telling himself “furious” at Giudice’s description of Sarris. “which, Sarris said, implied that the tribe was supporting the highway site.

“Homeless people come for free hot chocolate, taking away food left on tables by customers in our market and creating a nuisance. Housing a large number of homeless people on the Rohnert Park highway site could prolong this problem in the long run, interfere with casino customers and affect the well-being of the business which, more than any other , helps to keep the city of Rohnert Park solvent. . “

Sarris even sent an attorney from the tribe’s Oakland law firm to Tuesday’s council meeting to read additional comments on the public record.

“Let me clarify that the tribe rejects the staff’s recommendation to locate the project at these two sites located west of the highway and near the casino,” Simon Gertler read in a letter he says came from by Sarris.

“Graton Resort and Casino is the largest business in Rohnert Park, and the jobs it supports and the ongoing generous payments from the tribe to the city are an important part of the city’s economic health,” Gertler read.

Sarris said the tribe wanted “respectful consultation” about a homeless housing project, which Adams echoed about the tribe and other nearby business owners, who said Tuesday did not learn until Friday of the existence of the Labath site.

The Cambria Hotel Sonoma Wine Country and the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott are within sight of the Labath site. Managers of the two properties on Tuesday opposed a housing project for homeless people near their hotels, adding that both are relatively new and provide tourist taxes to the city.

City manager Darrin Jenkins said Homekey grant money is on a first-come, first-served basis for successful applicants. He urged council to approve the request and commit to operating the interim housing project if the city gets funding.

Giudice and board members Pam Stafford, Willy Linares and Jackie Elward voted to move forward. Adams said she would like to delay the decision until she speaks with Sarris and other business operators nearby.

Jenkins said the state may decide which projects to approve in the coming months.

You can contact Editor-in-Chief Lori A. Carter at 707-521-5470 or [email protected] On Twitter @loriacarter.


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