Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) & Redevelopment: Some Myths & Facts:
- RRROC has committed "Brown Act" violations: No, RRROC has been threatened with legal action for allegedly committing Brown Act Violations, which have all been instigated by a single individual (Lloyd Guccione) & these allegations are repeatedly thrown out. The Brown Act is a California Law that requires all deliberations of publicly-elected entities to be transparent & to be conducted in a manner which allows the public to participate in the discussion & be allowed to speak up. Chairperson Dan Fein sent emails to RRROC & CDC members about calling a special meeting to discuss agenda items which had been postponed because the RRROC meetings were running too long. RRROC member John Uniack responded with an email questioning whether the Chairman (Mr. Fein) has the legal authority to call a meeting. A lively argument ensued concerning THIS particular point of procedure, which resulted in the extra RRROC Special Meeting held in September, of which the public & all parties concerned were duly notified. Hence there was no violation of the Brown Act. Many folks (including me) have advocated the creation of an RRROC Web site which can (among many other things to make information like this more readily available to folks who don't have time to dig through PDF files on the CDC/RRROC Web site. But this is an issue of available technology & resources (a Communications Outreach Subcommittee has been created to address this)
I agree with Mr. Guccione, John Uniack, Zelda Michaels, Lenny Weinstein & others that RRROC needs to rigorously follow procedures & conduct itself in a manner that places them beyond reproach. But I also believe that RRROC & CDC members are making a HUGE effort to keep the public informed & to encourage public participation. If there have ever been lapses (I have only lived here for three years & hence don't know everything that happened in RRROC's early years), it seems like they would have more likely occurred due to lack of time, resources & experience, NOT from evil intent.
I do NOT appreciate Mr. Guccione's treating our hardworking RRROC members like Watergate criminals instead of trying to help them facilitate communications & public outreach. A Communications & Outreach subcommittee has been created for this purpose & anyone who lives, owns property, or owns a business in this area can apply for membership in this subcommittee.
Hmph. Mr. Guccione wants to be seen as a community watch dog, but he's behaving more like a community pit bull.
- Redevelopment = Overdevelopment: Only if we WANT that, & the majority of us (including the folks serving on RRROC) do NOT. Redevelopment funds are set aside by the County (via the Community Development Commission) to fund a variety of public improvements which the Russian River Redevelopment area (Rio Nido, Guerneville, & Monte Rio) could not otherwise afford. We NEED stuff like parks, public restrooms, clean restrooms, & restoration or removal of crumbling buildings. Nobody is trying to change our downtown areas & nobody is advocating any large, for-profit housing developments. Nor has RRROC recommended funding for the evil & over-priced Monte Rio Sewer (though I do hope we can find a way to provide funds for people to upgrade their septic systems so human & chemical wastes don’t leak into our river & groundwater systems).
We are required to spend 25% of these redevelopment funds on affordable housing & this requirement can be partially met through the rehabilitation of existing dwellings as well as via new construction … if only we could figure out a viable means for doing this. The county currently has a program which would ease requirements for homeowners with “granny units” to make these units “legal” (& who reportedly would not impose penalties if these units are currently being rented) … but alas, we currently have no mechanism to create funding for the conversion of these units. Although the County will be lenient about some requirements like minimum ceiling heights, I assume they will still insist upon modern standards for electrical & septic systems & the like. Potential owner-occupant landlords hence do not have the incentive for converting their potential units. But we could CHANGE that.
- RRROC doesn’t get anything done, part 1: Actually, RRROC has played a key role in providing funding to a variety of desirable public improvements which have enjoyed strong community support, including: A grant to KGGV FM, our beloved local radio station; Low interest loans (which don’t require repayment until a property is sold) for raising homes above the flood-line; Rehabilitation of dilapidated buildings which house Russian River Childcare Services, the Rio Nido Fire Station & Post Office, & the Monte Rio Community Center (formerly the Koret Club); local clean ups & removal of abandoned buildings & vehicles; substantial rebates for replacing old wood stoves with modern ones which are safer, more energy-efficient, & more environmentally sound; funding for the creation of two beautiful new river parks in Guerneville; & more items than I can list here.
For now, the most comprehensive list of projects for which RRROC has recommended funding is located on the About RRROC page of Dan Fein's campaign Web site.
- RRROC doesn’t get anything done, part 2: They can only “get things done” if YOU submit proposals for project funding. Sometimes, this would require you contact the appropriate local agency or organization & get them to submit your proposal. Agencies & organizations, which you can approach with your ideas include the following: Your local parks & recreation department; your local school, your house of worship, your neighborhood association, your chamber of commerce, or a non-profit organization with whom you are involved. If you’re REALLY committed, you could even start your own organization.
- RRROC controls redevelopment funds: Um … yes & no. Technically, the Board of Supervisors controls redevelopment funds. But first, they have to go through RRROC, which was created to prevent the County from spending redevelopment funds willy-nilly. Project funding proposals are presented to RRROC, which deliberates over the proposals, makes suggestions, & votes whether or not to recommend them to the County Development Commission (CDC)f or funding. The CDC then passes this on to the Board of Supervisors, which issues the funds.
RRROC recommends funding for projects based on whether they are appropriate & legally within the scope of redevelopment’s stated mission, & whether these projects will meet the needs of & be embraced by our community. They have often required substantial changes to proposals based on public input. For example, Sonoma Parks & Recreation (for the Guerneville River Park) & Luther Burbank Housing (for the 5th & Mill Street affordable housing construction) have been required to grant RRROC an extensive role in reviewing the project designs & budgets before receiving their recommendations for funding.
- Nobody knows what RRROC is doing: RRROC is making substantial efforts to reach out to the public. They send out a quarterly newsletter to every household; Dan Fein has a regularly occurring broadcast with Milo on KGGV FM; & lots of news & information are available via the County’s RRROC site & Microbulletin Board. Everyone is invited to meetings, which take place on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 7pm & which alternate between the Guerneville Veterans Hall & Monte Rio Community Center. Members of the public can also apply to serve on the various subcommittees. Audio broadcasts of RRROC meetings are available via the Guerneville Library & Microbulletinboard.com. You can also contact Vicky Sacksteader of the CDC at 565.7500 & ask her to mail you meeting materials on a monthly basis.
- The Affordable Housing Project at 5th & Mill will be hideous & poorly managed: RRROC recently recommended funding to Luther Burbank Housing to acquire land for this project after many go-arounds & much public debate. Burbank has an excellent reputation for working with communities to design high-quality, attractive, & well-managed affordable housing developments. & RRROC has managed to obtain substantial control over the design & planning of the project. I’ll be sad to see Noonan’s Garage gone. Otherwise, the main things we’ll be losing are some dilapidated vacant lots & substandard multi-unit housing.
I would like to see adequate temporary housing provided for current tenants who may be displaced, & for them to be placed first on the list of applications for apartments in this complex. These mechanics are still being hashed out. Though I MUST admit that I will NOT be sorry if that lady with the poorly-built fence & herd of aggressive, renegade, cat-eating pit bulls is forced to leave!
The other proposed affordable housing project (at the end of Laughlin Rd.) is likely to be a “sweat equity” development partnership with the folks at Habitat for Humanity, which would enable low & middle income local residents to realize their otherwise impossible dream of becoming home-owners.
So, basically, what happens with our redevelopment funds is almost entirely up to US.