Conceptual image of future downtown county office complex
photo credit: (Credit: Sonoma County)
Saying it is time for the county to walk it's own talk, the Sonoma County board of supervisors have agreed to consider relocating most county offices to downtown Santa Rosa.
 
With deferred maintenance on its more than half-century-old campus estimated at a quarter billion dollars, county supervisors are pursuing decamping to a new location, walking distance from the downtown Santa Rosa Smart station.
 
Supervisor Susan Gorin, who initially opposed, said she switched sides after considering the environmental consequences of retaining the current auto-dependent site.
 
"Rarely does an elected body have the opportunity to make a decision that will change patterns of transportation, thinking, economics, for generations to come," Gorin said.
 
Officials said the proposal could open up the current site to housing development, and spark residential construction downtown, enabling some of the county's roughly 2,400 workers to walk or use transit. The board chose a former Sears Auto Center as their preferred site.
 
Supervisor David Rabbitt, the lone dissenter, argued the potential costs are too high.
 
"I think people are not necessarily going to be happy that we have invested a fifth, a quarter of our general fund into a mortgage payment for 30 years and not into services out of the general fund for all the problems that exist and that we're trying to solve," he said. Rabbitt estimates the county would need to find $47 million to bring the plan to fruition.
 
Local Alice Linn, joining the hearing via zoom, argues the board must consider the big picture. "It doesn't make sense to invest in a train and keep county administration in a transit hostile location," she said.
 
Supervisor Chris Coursey said it is time to boldly move ahead with a controversy he covered as a reporter three decades ago. "Today we have a chance to make a generational decision. A chance not just to state our values but to lead with those values," he said.
 
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