Connecting the Dots ~ Fred Allebach

Fred Allebach Fred Allebach is a member of the City of Sonoma’s Community Services and Environmental Commission, and an Advisory Committee member of the Sonoma Valley Groundwater Sustainability Agency. Fred is maintenance chair of the Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards and an active member of the Sonoma Valley Housing Group and Transition Sonoma Valley. As well, Fred has a KSVY radio show on Sunday nights at 8:PM, participates in the Sonoma Valley Action Coalition for immigration issues, and with the Sonoma Climate Coalition.


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Sitting duck of an FSE PR mailer

Posted on May 12, 2017 by Fred Allebach

money-man-2A recent May, 2017 Caymus Capital, FSE project mailer calls for some educated deconstruction. The message as a whole is included at bottom. What we are seeing here is the beginning of an endless repetition and bludgeoning by the same calculated PR points. This is the exact same strategy Darius Anderson and Kenwood Investments used in Measure B. This repetition of points coincides with the hiring of a professional PR consultant.


In Measure B, the hotel limitation measure, the motto for limits was to “preserve” Sonoma. Anderson et al spun the pro-hotel campaign to be “protect” Sonoma. What a lot of baloney! This was “protecting” Kenwood Investments high-end, luxury potential profits, not Sonoma. This same kind of obfuscation is what we can expect from Caymus Capital and the FSE project.

“Smart” to who and why?

The first point in the mailer is the claim of “smart” development. Smart to who and why? For people concerned with affordable housing, with the toning down of luxury economy venues, with Sonoma’s core historic neighborhood character, this project is dumb, and clearly self-serving to Caymus Captal/ FSE investors. Caymus/ FSE’s Wall Street, vulture capitalist strategy is to make as much money as possible. This reality has had to be disguised by recently password protecting the Caymus Capital website, so that the public cannot see the naked greed and pursuit of profit driving the whole operation.

“Smart” is being used as a good-sounding weasel word, as a glittering generality that says nothing about true intents. “Smart” seeks to disguise project intents in a haze of slick, PR spin. The mailer says the project has relied on “subject matter experts” to guide them in the “smartest” way possible. Public relations experts to guide them on how to spin this all to investor advantage is what they have done. Let’s see how many times they can say “smart” in this mailer?

What would smart development be relative to whose interests are at stake? Smart development to Caymus Capital, is development that gets right to the core of the highly lucrative Sonoma real estate market, and has the possibility of generating huge profits for the investors.

Smart development to socially conscious planners would be that which was along , and uses, a well-served public transit corridor, met salient demographic housing and employment needs, and was sustainable according to a triple bottom line set of metrics.

Sensitive like a bull in a china shop

The mailer here claims that FSE has worked closely with the community, and integrated feedback. Yet the actual community of surrounding neighbors is entirely against this project, the developer has been haughty and arrogant and not cultivated good neighbor relations, and deployed surrogates to intimidate the city, the Planning Commission, and city council with threat of lawsuits, targeted council members with smear campaigns on their integrity and motivations, and succeeded through these nasty tactics in dividing the city and council into status quo big money supporters and those trying to be actaully sustianable.

As a result of developer tactics, the city will likely have no more planning sessions to pre-review any projects. This all sounds like really “smart” community involvement to me!

Brass tacks of spin

Caymus Capital lays out its case with the following points: housing stock added, a mix of housing types, pedestrian and transit friendly, higher urban density to protect open space and ag lands, supports local economy which allows people who work here to live here.

money-manSure, housing stock will be added, at market rate levels with an average price of @ a million dollars per unit. Sonoma needs more of that like a hole in the head. The mix of housing types is only what is required by the inclusionary requirement for affordable housing, nothing more. In fact, even the mention of more affordable housing caused the developer to go after Planning Commissioner Bill Willers and get him recused from reviewing this project. It is a bad faith assertion that a project benefit is a mix of housing types. Why? There are no mid-range, middle class units. Smart and sustainable development would mean an increase in use of mass transit. It is about 100% certain that no one owning a million-dollar house will ever ride the bus. Pedestrian friendly is a red herring, what, to go to the Plaza and taste some wine, get a $50 lunch, and buy some real estate? Higher density to support ag and open space plays on what would be actually smart development, if the housing met the glaring needs of massively underserved affordable housing market. And finally, an assertion of supporting those who work and live here is a cynical ploy on meeting actual demographic needs by switching the topic so as to plug poor rich guys to be a minority in need of help.

The supposed project benefits are extremely light on substance that address known communty needs. There is nothing striking that calls out to say, hey, that is a really good thing to meet Sonoma’s biggest needs. Why is no one in the real, local sustainability community supporting this project? Answer that.

Solution-oriented development?

Solution to who and what? The overall ballgame of Caymus Capital has been to disguise selfish motivations as somehow a community benefit, all the while leaving a trail of bad feelings and civic destruction in their wake. How in the world is Caymus’ bad behavior and wolf in sheep’s clothing plans a solution? C’mon.

Hired an expert on sustainable development?

Here is the take home point:  if sustainability is not firmly grounded in triple bottom line metrics, it is greenwashing, both for environmental and money green. The “sustainability” presentation made to the council, by the consultant in opening pibluc comment, was only the most superficial spin on what actual sustainable development might be. The whole effort here by the consultant will be how to spin lop-sided economic-bottom-line-only benefits to Caymus Capital investors, as somehow sustainable in general.

Why not delve into the social equity pillar of the triple bottom line and offer a union house for the hotel like Kenwood Investments? Hire union building contractors and gardeners. That would be good, then people who work here could live here.

Trickle down medicine again? One of the main selling points all along has been an economic benefits argument, that the city will have an increased tax revenue stream from the hotel. Yet, the costs of the wine-hospitality-tourism combine have been shown to leave service workers far behind and unable to shop and live in Sonoma Valley. Trickling back some taxes to the city, which has no community affordable housing fund, will likely only go to support the city’s own financial needs, and not that of the area median income workforce.The lion’s share of the profit and revenue from this project will accrue to Caymus Capital investors, not the public. If we want to talk sustainable development, and sustainability, a more equal sharing of money and benefits has to be done up front. Instead of the minimum inclusionary requirement for affordable housing, six mid-range, $200,000-range homes need to be included in the “mix” of homes. This would mean Caymus take a bit of a haircut to give a wider slate of community benefits, in addition to union hiring.

Watch the buzzwords

Prediction: As the process for this project unfolds, Caymus has planted ice, and they will harvest the wind. Keep an eye for the endless repetition of weasel words, and for the unsupported use of the sustainability concept. They’ve dug a hole of bad karma that spin alone will not get them out of.

Here’s the text of their “educational material”.

First Street East

All the news that’s fit to print on smart development in Sonoma.

Dear FSE friends and supporters,
We’ve heard that you’d like to learn more about the First Street East project (FSE), and to be kept abreast of new developments as the project evolves. We couldn’t be more excited to oblige by sharing updates on our progress!Since the project’s inception over two years ago, we’ve worked closely with our community, integrated feedback, and relied on subject matter experts to guide us as we move the development forward in the smartest way possible. See below for an overview of our latest submission, which adds to our housing stock, encourages a mix of housing types, is pedestrian and transit friendly, creates density where possible, protects our outlying agricultural and scenic lands and supports the key drivers of our local economy which allow people to work and live here.


We’re also excited to announce that we’ve created an educational series to share some of what we’ve learned in the process of building a solution oriented development. Please enjoy part one of this series, which was presented at a recent City Council meeting by Lois Fisher, of Fisher Town Designs. Lois is an expert in sustainable development – we were thrilled to have her speak on the huge upside she sees in FSE.Stay tuned for more from us this week and in the meantime, get out and enjoy the sunshine!-First Street East Group
FSE Benefits to the Town of Sonoma

  • 32 new homes for Sonoma families, across multiple categories, will be added to our housing stock. Includes 6 deed restricted affordable units.
  • Provides a pool club for community of Sonoma
  • Provides a café as a community gathering place
  • Provides lodging which reduces day tripping, traffic & parking impact on the plaza and adjacent areas
  • Distills a large area of commercial activity down to a much smaller footprint.
  • Provides annuity revenue stream to City’s General Fund


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