Drive-by shootings a commonplace?! Who comes up with this sensational drivel? I don't even think drive-bys are common in "bad" areas like Indian Village, West 9th, etc. I lived in Roseland (which is considered a "bad" area) for 6 years and never had 1 incident. On the other hand, I grew up in the L Section of Rohnert Park and during my time there, a crazed man named Ramon Salsito murdered his wife and daughters, even though Rohnert Park is considered "nice". Horrible things can happen anywhere. Heck, I've lived in Minneapolis which has a way higher crime rate than Santa Rosa, so I kind of laugh when people associate Santa Rosa with crime. I don't know much about Menlo Park other than it's pretty affluent, so your perception of crime might be different.
I would agree with other people are saying here. To be on the safe side, stick with NE Santa Rosa, but there's even parts of Rincon Valley and Bennett Valley that are sketchy. Make sure you do your homework and get police reports for the neighborhoods you're interested in and drive around, generally you can get a feel for which neighborhoods are bad.
So to answer your question briefly: No Santa Rosa is not like Richmond :P