Rohnert Park – a place of contradictions: big box stores, strip malls, subdivisions, trees, parks, sustainability, world class musicians & recording artists. A country club for the working class.

With a population of 40,971, Rohnert Park encompasses a land area of approximately 6.4 square miles. There is nothing old and established about Rohnert Park. It’s a modern, flat suburb, designed for families with Sonoma State University in its environs.  One of the first planned communities in the United States, Rohnert Park used the “Neighborhood Unit” concept that provided that each of eight neighborhoods would consist of 200-250 homes centered around a 10-acre elementary school and a 5-acre park with pool. With planned pools, parks and services the city was basically designed to be a country club for the working class.

With all this planning, it’s surprising that there is no central downtown. Instead, you’ll find bikeways and walkways that connect its tree-lined boulevards to a string of subdivisions. In fact, Rohnert Park has more public and private recreational facilities and opportunities per capita than any other city in the North Bay.

Rohnert Park is the city of convenience. One could easily live most of their life never leaving. You’ll find warehouse and big box stores here (Costco, Target, Home Depot, Walmart), most restaurant chains (Olive Garden, Fresh Choice, Chili’s and Outback Steakhouse) and a lot of small mom and pop restaurants that cater to families. It’s also very easy to navigate this city since it’s divided up in sections by alphabet so that if you’re looking for Harvard Ct or Hillview Way you’ll know to head to the “H” Section of Rohnert Park.

Last fall, Rohnert Park opened an $820 million dollar Native American casino. For those who don’t gamble the casino includes four new restaurants opened by Sonoma County restaurateurs. I love Tony’s of North Beach in San Francisco so I’m happy to see it here.

Recently however, Rohnert Park has been working hard at increasing not only its green quotient but also its sophistication quotient. First there’s North Bay iHub and the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster incubator program whose goal it is to promote innovative companies and nonprofits across a broad range of industries in the North Bay. Then there’s Sonoma Mountain Village, a One Planet sustainable eco-conscious community which will include homes, apartments, lofts and condos, all located within a half mile of the Town Square and a two minute walk from neighborhood parks with community gardening space. This community will ultimately house 4,000 residents and provide over 3,300 jobs.

Rohnert Park is also home to the new Green Music Center and Weill Hall at Sonoma State University which is modeled after the Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood and is considered to be one of the most acoustically superb concert venues in the world. It has attracted artists from Yo Yo Ma and Lang Lang to Bobby McFerrin and Diana Ross.

 

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