Following my brief remarks to the City Council on Monday, January 23 opposing the First Street East (FSE) project, Bill Jasper, identifying himself as “a significant investor” in FSE, rose to refute my claim that the developer has not responded to residents’ and city planners’ many concerns. (Note: FSE is the massive proposed hotel and residential development just northeast of our historic Plaza between the Little League fields and The Patch, not, the West Napa Street hotel project.
“We (FSE) have gone out of our way to get community input,” Jasper said. This is just not true. In fact, their minor efforts have been nothing but window dressing. After the project plans were already developed and submitted to the city, Ed Routhier (principal of Caymus Capital and developer) had two meetings with neighbors to tell us “what was best for us.” Additionally, there has never been any outreach to Meadow Gardens, condominium residences on Second Street East that would be surrounded on two sides by the project; none to the north; and the only outreach to the other potential abutters, Vintage House and Little League, were lobbying efforts, resulting in misstatements of their views. FSE has not listened to and has dismissed the concerns of both residents and the larger community as illustrated by their most recent proposal.
While there have been changes from the first proposal to the current, third iteration, the most egregious, problematic elements remain in the plan. Contrary to Jasper’s comments, three-story buildings remain in prominent locations defying the development code.
Jasper also stated the number of hotel rooms has gone from 60 to the current proposed number of 30. This is not true. The hotel has gone from 49-rooms in the first submission to 30. This is a classic developer’s trick: first request a ridiculous number of units, then request what is really wanted, while appearing to have “listened.” Thankfully, Sonoma is sophisticated enough to see through this. Never mind the fact that our city’s General Plan, Development Code and a City Council resolution clearly discourage and deem incompatible a hotel of any size in this neighborhood.
Land use, scale, mass, density, parking, traffic, a planned development request, and the effect on the area’s historic nature are all unresolved issues for the neighborhood and city, as well as the planning commission.
Mr. Jasper has a right to defend his “significant investment” in the FSE project, but he doesn’t do himself any favors by misleading the City Council. Our neighborhood and larger community has every right to protect Sonoma’s charm, authenticity and quality of life. This isn’t about money for us, this is about our community.
Karin Skooglund, Sonoma