On November 19, we attended a long (almost 3 hours) special meeting of the Sonoma County Supervisors; we presented almost 1300 signatures on our petition, calling on the County to return the Joe Rodota Trail to its original purpose and create a sanctioned campground elsewhere to relocate these folks. (You can watch the video online here.)
The meeting began with a presentation by Regional Parks staff, County Counsel, and a representative from the Community Development Commission. They discussed the history of the current encampment, the number of folks living there, efforts to place them in shelters, and the details of the injunction requiring the city and county to offer folks adequate shelter.
A few other cyclists spoke on our behalf, and Supervisor Shirlee Zane was extremely supportive. The majority of the comments from both public and supervisors, however, focused on homelessness: the inadequacy of current efforts to deal with the issue, and possible short- and medium-term solutions.
Folks who live and/or own property in the neighborhood talked about their frustration with problem behavior as well as declining property values. Several people shared their experience of homelessness within their own families.
Quite a few homeless advocates spoke (including a small group calling themselves the Squeaky Wheel Bicycle Coalition). One unfortunate aspect of the meeting was that quite a few of the folks in that contingent frequently shouted throughout the meeting and at least one was escorted out by Sheriff’s deputies.
We are a bit disappointed that there was not more discussion during the meeting about the importance of the trail as a safe, car-free transportation corridor, as well as with the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat’s coverage. (They got the name of our organization incorrect in the print edition; it has been fixed in the online version.)
There was quite a lot of support for the creation of a sanctioned camping area on public land, since there is not enough room in shelters for everyone; there was also a call to install porta-potties & trash receptacles within or near the encampment. We support the former; we are conflicted about the latter, as that would seem to more deeply entrench the transformation of the trail to a campground.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
- Write letters to the editor of the Press Democrat
- Attend a Sonoma County Board of Supervisors meeting and speak during public comment
- Write letters to the Board of Supervisors
- Attend a Santa Rosa City Council meeting and speak during public comment
- Write letters to the Santa Rosa City Council