Santa Rosa supes approve purchase of 2 residences to house some Joe Rodota Trail campers

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday morning unanimously approved buying two multi-unit residences that will provide temporary, shared rental housing for some of the 220 homeless people currently camping on the paved Joe Rodota Trail between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.

The purchases include a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home at 866 Sonoma Ave. in Santa Rosa The .41-acre parcel also includes two cottages and a large detached garage. The selling price is $1.15 million.

The second purchase is a multi-unit property containing a two-bedroom, two-bathroom remodeled cottage and a duplex with each unit containing two bedrooms and one bathroom at 8190-8194 Arthur St. in Cotati. The selling price is $980,000.

The tenants of the two residences will be required to pay rent equal to one-third of their monthly income.

Nearly all of the two dozen people who spoke at the meeting opposed the purchases. They said the Joe Rodota Trail campers include people from outside of the county and substance abusers. Many objected to spending $2.1 million on the two residences.

"What you're doing doesn't pencil out. It just doesn't make sense," one woman said.

"It just seems so morally wrong on every level," another woman said.

"The message is, 'If you stop working and lay down on a trail, the county will buy you a house,'" another woman said.

The purchases and closing costs will be financed by the county's General Fund and the Community Development Commission's discretionary fund balance. The CDC will be reimbursed with revenue from California's No Place Like Home grant.

Some speakers said trail campers, including a former San Francisco resident, said they were given a bus ticket to relocate to Santa Rosa.

Barbie Robinson, the interim director of the Community Development Commission, said most of the homeless campers have lived in the county "for an extended period of time," and some of the trail campers have previously been homeless in other parts of the county. Robinson said white, middle-age men are overwhelmingly the main demographic of the county's homeless.

Robinson said some of the goals of housing the trail campers is to provide economic independence, self-sufficiency and medication management. She said 15 beds will be available for treatment and rehabilitation of substance abusers.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday afternoon will consider selecting a site on county-owned land in Santa Rosa for a temporary emergency outdoor shelter that will house 60 people.

KTVU's Tom Vacar contributed to this report.