After attending the hearing on the appeal of the certification of the EIR for the proposed Chateau Sonoma Hotel, I think it’s important to clarify the concept of infill, city centered development as it relates to environmental impacts. The two benefits of infill development are 1) the preservation of open space, reinforced by community separators and urban growth boundaries, and 2) reduction in vehicle miles traveled by creating mixed use walkable communities, near public transit, with businesses that serve local residents. Large tourist venues to serve a global market clearly don’t reduce vehicle miles traveled, not if you count the vehicle miles traveled from Europe, Asia out of state in the U.S., etc..
Now that we are in the later stages of the struggle to avoid reaching “tipping points” for irreversible global warming , reducing vehicle miles traveled is crucial. We will not transition to renewable fuel sources for all vehicle travel in time avert point of no return. There is ongoing investment in oil and gas infrastructure, e.g. oil exploration, pipelines. Increased supply of natural gas and oil from hydrological fracturing (fracking) has lowered gas prices, creating a resurgence of market share for larger, less fuel efficient vehicles. The growing interest in electric vehicles and renewable sources for electric power are positive trends, but it’s a mixed scenario for fossil fuel versus renewable energy sources. Reduction of demand for energy, including reducing vehicle miles traveled, has to be a part of the mix if there is any credible hope of avoiding irreversible warming. This means we need to get real when we evaluate the environmental effects of our local economy. We need to ask ourselves whether continued growth in facilities to serve the global tourist trade is sustainable, even if the venues are within city boundaries.
— Jerry Bernhaut, Santa Rosa