More hotel plans; No break for Vintage Fest; and how to save $300,000

Posted on August 8, 2014 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Darius Anderson’s updated plans for a downtown Sonoma hotel – still 59 rooms, but scaled down 50 percent overall — are now in the official pipeline. City officials like the fact that the Index Tribune building, possibly of historical significance, will be incorporated into the design instead of torn down. So, with the full two percent mandate from a victory over Measure B, the plan should move along smoothly from here… Actually, the finished product will be a visual improvement over most of the tenants of the past many years. As Bill Hooper points out, that south-side block has been home to a stable, blacksmith shop, wine storage facility, hotel and French laundry, 20-car garage, parking lot and Chevron gas station. What, no tasting room?

Still in discussion but coming to a city clerk near you very soon: hotel plans for the old Broadway Auto lot at Broadway and MacArthur. Developer Owen Wilson plans a 35-room hotel, some residential housing and an upscale public market, a la Napa’s Ox Bow. His investor group also has an escrow pending on the Union 76 Gas station and lot across the street; the gas station will remain but the lot, which extends to First Street West behind the station, will be used for the hotel’s valet hotel. No plans have yet been submitted, but discussions with city department heads have taken place.

Did the city open a can of computer-generated worms when it waived Plaza rental fees for the Sonoma International Film Festival in April? Maria Toimil, president of the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival, hoped the move set a precedent. On behalf of her nonprofit, she asked the city to waive the $3,598 in Plaza rental fees for the September 26-28 event. Reply: no. Mayor Tom Rouse admitted the council had opened the door to this kind of request – one it needed to shut to hold to a recently adopted Council goal to make sure service fees were paid by the event producer, not city taxpayers. Toimil said she’s disappointed, but understands the decision. The event has seen worse over its 117-year history.

Can that woman gossip? As the realtor’s friend puts it, “She’s got more dish than Williams-Sonoma.”

The Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday not to put a quarter-cent sales tax measure on the November ballot, cash that would have gone to road repair. Instead of being one of seven other tax proposals on the ballot, the supes opted for a single-measure special election in March. The cost for that is about $300,000 more than a November election. No problem – that increase will be recouped, by the quarter cent, after $12 million in future tax revenues. “We don’t want to do anything half baked,” said Supervisor David Rabbitt. That’s it – a new tax on baked goods.

Jade Huggins of Sonoma just graduated from Lake Forest College with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology and Asian studies. The commencement speech was delivered by alumnus Kelly Leonard, who runs The Second City comedy empire in nearby Chicago. Acknowledging that their first choice, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, was apparently unavailable, he said that when he hires people, the first thing he tells them is “now, it’s your fault. The point I’m making is, they need to recognize that the institution they are joining is only as good and strong and meaningful as the people who are working inside it. To grow, we must change, and the success of that change is tied to the values of the individuals working together. So, graduating class of 2014, now it’s your fault.”

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