I asked community leaders in the Springs what are your hopes and dreams for the Springs this year? What is the big issue before you?
Before I get to their thoughtful answers, I want to share an issue that is at the top of my mind: The Springs is now without any financial institutions. The one bank branch in the Springs, Westamerica, closed January 20. Banks have a connection to a community’s economic health. I remember when the Springs had multiple banks. The buildings that now house Ross, Drulis, Cusenbery Architects and Kelly Moore Paints were originally banks.
The Springs had been without a bank for a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Sonoma Valley Bank opened its Banco de Sonoma branch at the Fiesta Plaza shopping center. After the FDIC took over Sonoma Valley Bank in 2010 and sold it to Westamerica, the Springs Community Alliance organized a campaign asking the Westamerica CEO to keep the branch open. As we see, that success was temporary.
However, I have hope we may see another financial institution coming to the Springs this year. Marco Vailetti, of the Vailetti Family Trust, is working to entice a credit union as a tenant in the commercial building he is developing on Highway 12 next to the new housing project. I hope the Springs Community Alliance might find a way to assist him.
Here are the hopes of other Springs community leaders:
Rich Lee, president, Springs Community Alliance: “My hope is to see the fruition of the Springs Specific Plan, which will provide a basic blueprint for the next few decades for the Springs. It will address the issues that are so challenging and critical to maintaining the character yet improving the quality of life in the Springs – transportation, housing, traffic and parking, land use and more. And while this promises to be a good plan to go forward, it is only a starting point. It will need the support and participation of the people that make up the Springs – that ARE the Springs. So my dream is to see members of the Springs community come forward and take on this challenge in partnership with our county leaders.”
Michael Acker, Springs historian: “I would like to focus on saving the Big Three building. Its place in the community, both physical and historic, is so prominent and important. We really can’t afford to lose one more building.”
Maite Iturri, principal, El Verano Elementary School: “My hope is that the basic needs of all our families are available including housing, health care and education. My wish is for literacy and health for all our children.”
Alejandra Cervantes, executive director, Nuestra Voz: “Nuestra Voz’s dream for the Springs is a Latino community that displays and promotes its leadership capacity in harmonious interaction with other cultures in order to achieve a healthy, dignified, productive and safe life for the families of Sonoma Valley. The big issues before Nuestra Voz in 2017 are the disparities in the Springs’ population in health care access, wages, unemployment and homelessness, social stigma, and the lack of time to pursue success.”
Cristin Felso, executive director, Teen Services Sonoma: “Teens and their families are a critical part of the Springs. Teen Services Sonoma, like the Springs, has a new look both inside and out. We are building greater capacity to serve more teens in more ways, including a stronger focus on vocational training. We look forward to deeper engagement within the community to increase awareness of our programs and to finding new areas of collaboration with local partner organizations.”
Juan Hernandez, executive director, La Luz Center: “My hope is groups unite behind the Sustainable Sonoma effort.” Hernandez provided a list of more than a dozen Sonoma Valley organizations that aren’t yet Sustainable Sonoma partners, including some Springs nonprofits. Sustainable Sonoma’s vision is that by 2030 Sonoma Valley will be a thriving, just, sustainable community, a model for Sonoma County, the state and the nation. The Sonoma Ecology Center initiated the project. Sustainable Sonoma partners are working to craft “a coordinated work plan, common goals, and shared, measurable outcomes that would lead to efficiencies and greater success.”