In its rush to solve a so-called housing crisis, actually a housing affordability crisis, California has disenfranchised the power of local government to determine what’s best for the community it serves. New state land-use and housing laws effectively eliminate many of the choices, options, and… Read the rest
“We’ll make you big money by renting your backyard, and it won’t cost you a dime!” So advertise backyard lease, development, and property management companies in the process of aggregating an ADU portfolio. Promoted as a solution to California’s affordable housing… Read the rest
I’m referring to government-regulated affordable housing — deed restricted to keep it affordable for 55 years, rent controlled and appreciation-limited, subject to income verification. Large projects of regulated Affordable Housing are rarely built in Sonoma, and the reasons … Read the rest
Witnessing the construction of Sonoma is easy, just take a stroll down West Spain Street and the homes rising on previously vacant parcels give ample testimony to the process of ongoing development, a process that’s been taking place more or less continuously since the building of the Mission.… Read the rest
There seems to be a persistent impression that the City of Sonoma has run out of land for new housing. If we’re talking about tens of acres of undeveloped land for tract housing, that’s correct, but Sonoma decades-ago rejected construction of large-scale tract-housing development on… Read the rest
Sonoma’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) is performing exactly the way it was intended. Agricultural land and open space beyond the city’s borders have been preserved, but preventing sprawl was always the simplest and most obvious intent. The less obvious intent now manifesting is creatively-designed,… Read the rest
Since its beginnings, Sonoma has been a small town. It once was the county seat, long ago, but that role fell to Santa Rosa and, well, thank goodness for that. From then on Sonoma’s destiny seemed to be an indelible Bear Flag moment of history combined… Read the rest
Retailing has never been an easy business. Changing tastes, new technologies, capricious landlords and finding loyal employees alone are enough to create conditions of failure. Add in the Internet, and today’s retailer faces incredible odds.
Here… Read the rest
When a major new commercial building project is proposed in Sonoma, its appearance is scrutinized, poked, prodded, and otherwise worked-over by committees until it is declared suitably “Sonoma-Style”. Thus we see “Sonoma-Style Farmhouse” and “Sonoma-Style… Read the rest
The hallmarks of civilization are order and bureaucracy, the institutionalization of humanity into concrete rule-bound systems, balanced budgets, statistics, financial analysis, and the businesslike conversion of human beings into calculable units. The governing rationale of civilization… Read the rest
Sonoma Valley’s close proximity to eight-million people is a physical reality. That our valley happens to be exceptionally beautiful, contains historic and charming villages, and offers some of the finest agricultural land and growing conditions in the world is also true. Yet, combine these… Read the rest
An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) responds to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), legislation intended to asses and address the environmental impacts of large developments, such as air-quality, construction debris and dust, noise and other factors. It takes only a few minutes… Read the rest
Those who dissent or speak out are often dismissed derisively as members of “a vocal minority.” This happened during the 2013 Measure B election to limit the size of new hotels in Sonoma, even though that measure lost by less than one-percent. Now I’m hearing the same complaint about… Read the rest
Population pressure plus expanding tourism is quickly pushing Sonoma Valley beyond its carrying capacity. This happened in the Napa Valley years ago, as anyone who has navigated Hwy. 29 in June or July has discovered.
For those who commute to work in San Francisco or Oakland, exceeding carrying capacity… Read the rest
At a recent Planning Commission meeting, a proponent of a development project under review dismissively referred to project opponents as a “vocal minority.” Another said that the proposed project’s neighbors were only selfishly interested in “their own backyards”… Read the rest
My eight-year-old granddaughter and I stopped by Nathanson Creek at the Second Street East bridge yesterday to catch a look after the heavy rains. The water was rushing quickly, having filled the channel halfway up the height of the tunnel under the road.
“Papa, why is the water brown?”… Read the rest
According to Buddhists, intention is important, but it is also the actions of thought and deed, which govern the nature of the future; in Buddhist terminology, such action is called Karma. The accumulations of Karma, both personal and collective, turn the so-called “Wheel of Samsara,”… Read the rest
Maybe it’s just a symptom of the times, but I’m seeing an unfortunate trend to make everything, even City Government, all about money. Admittedly, there are those who have long advocated that the road to Utopia is best paved by running government like a business. That very case was made … Read the rest
In a cringe-worthy 4-1 decision (Susan Gorin dissenting) rejecting 14 months of public input and recommendations of the County Planning Commission, Sonoma County’s Board of Supervisors has betrayed the public it serves in favor of chump change from tourists looking for a place to party on … Read the rest
Getting people out of cars and into mass transit is good for air quality, may reduce road congestion, and encourages public transportation. These are all good effects, but systems like SMART also affect growth and development patterns. Unless extreme care is taken in the planning and approval process… Read the rest
At last night’s Sonoma City Council meeting my appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval for a use permit allowing Williams-Sonoma to hold 15 events with as many as 80 guests in the garden at their retail location was upheld. This decision has an effect on Williams-Sonoma, of… Read the rest
Airbnb has ignited a firestorm of opinion pro-and-con regarding its facilitation of rentals of residential property for commercial purposes, even when that property is zoned for residential use only. The overnight or short-term rental of virtually anything is a commercial activity; money changes… Read the rest
We all know times have changed; our world has simultaneously gotten smaller and our communications infrastructure has gotten larger. Communities are no longer restricted to physical proximity but to affinities of interest.
For all that, however, there is much to be said about getting to know one’s… Read the rest
Preserving Sonoma’s town character is a challenge. Describing that character generates a wide range of opinion; our world is complex and changeable, and Sonoma is not immune from the tidal forces of cultural and social transformation taking place around us.… Read the rest
Last night’s City Council consideration of a proposal to remove Broadway’s oak trees was notable less for its action than the conduct of the City Council. Though only four could participate, Gary Edwards having stepped-down due to the proximity of property he owns to the subject trees, each … Read the rest
In spite of or possibly in reaction to California’s worst drought in 120 years, I suddenly find myself surrounded by neighbors building swimming pools. Five homes within 200 feet already have pools and two more even closer have completed the construction phase and have moved into pumps, pipes,… Read the rest
An elderly man, feeling weak, enters the emergency room of a local hospital. After waiting, a doctor examines him and determines he is severely dehydrated. An IV is placed, and sterile saline solution (water and salt) soon help the man recover. He prepares to leave the hospital and is told to make sure… Read the rest
The creation of financial wealth in our capitalistic system requires speculation. In this case, speculation is defined as the act of risking money through investment in the hope of a future profit. The idea of risk is critical, as speculation always requires risk. Making money without risk is not speculation,… Read the rest
Sentimentality ruled the night at this week’s City Council meeting. During an agenda item to consider regulating wine tasting rooms, wine makers were cast as “friends who went to Alta Mira” who “provide jobs” and represent nothing more than “farm to table.” In a display of the most naive side of small… Read the rest
Before the last storm, we had barely over 2” of rain for the season as compared with 23” last year and a “normal” of 17.” Our risk of prolonged drought is real, but a study done recently that looked at the growth rings of old conifers that were submerged under cold water conditions for thousands of years (3,000)… Read the rest
Fine wine has always benefited from a goodly bit of snob appeal. The French certainly enjoyed being wine snobs and Americans, never to be outdone, have worked hard and long to catch up. Prestigious wine enjoys a particular cachet, equal parts snobbery, expense, rarity and point of origin. Long the target… Read the rest
Those opposed to the Hotel Limitation Measure – Measure B, are lavishing their criticism on the prospect of unintended consequences. In acts of pure speculation, they proffer a list of the unintended consequences, displaying an uncanny ability to forecast the future as they see it. Miraculously,… Read the rest
A pervasive belief within Sonoma’s tourist serving businesses is that we must constantly compete for the attention of tourists. The recently formed Tourism Improvement District (TID) is spending $450,000/yr. on advertising of all sorts to “brand” Sonoma; placards on BART trains, billboards, … Read the rest
We speak about Sonoma’s “sense of place” as if such an idea is obvious, that character and the meaning of “small town” are self-evident. The idea of “Sonoma,” if it occurs to one at all, necessarily resides in the imagination as an abstract totality, while simultaneously existing to the senses… Read the rest
In his children’s story “The Lorax,” Dr. Seuss presents a parable about greed depleting the richness of nature and the enduring power of human longing. In his tale, beautiful Truffula trees cover the land and display a soft and colorful foliage which is exploited to extinction by a thoughtless industrial… Read the rest
How is it that time after time governmental process and policy results in harm to the public? Hearings are held, reports commissioned, experts consulted, and yet decisions are constantly made that endanger health, despoil the environment, cause economic hardship and erode public confidence in … Read the rest
For the North Bay wine country, including Sonoma, tourism has been a mixed blessing. Just one-hour’s drive from five million people looking for a weekend escape, the boom in tourism has both irrevocably altered the rural landscape with wineries, hotels and backed-up traffic and simultaneously filled… Read the rest
If you’ve gone out to buy a coffee table or a dresser, you’ve most likely come across some with a “distressed” finish. Banged, scraped, rubbed, chipped, and worn, distressed furniture is new furniture intentionally made to look used and old. Setting aside the question “why not simply buy an old beat-up… Read the rest
What is small town character and how is it preserved? Small town character cannot be universally defined, but in the case of Sonoma it means slower not speedier, quieter not noisier, relaxed not hectic; safe not dangerous;… Read the rest
I recently accompanied my wife as she traveled to Minnesota for her 50th high school reunion. It’s not easy being a reunion “spouse” while a group of 68-year-olds reexamine their senior year neuroses.
Being a reunion spouse is a lot like being nobody.
I opted out … Read the rest
Historically, large suburban housing developments created on either open space or agricultural lands have utilized fairly routine site design and landscaping plans that meet the conventional aesthetic requirements of the marketplace. Front lawns, flowering shrubs, trees of a wide variety, … Read the rest
In the 1970s, the notion of “affordable housing” was linked in some minds to what used to be called “Section 8” housing devoted to those on welfare or disabilities caused by drugs or alcohol. In its past attempts to help otherwise indigent people get off the streets, government initiated a variety of … Read the rest
A surprising number of citizens are unaware of the history of Sonoma’s urban growth boundary, or UGB. An understanding of its history adds to one’s appreciation of the concept, and where it fits into the community’s land use and economic planning.
Sonoma was not the first, nor the last city in Sonoma … Read the rest