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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One last hurdle for affordable housing project

Posted on March 31, 2018 by Fred Allebach

Message from David Goodison (enjoy him while he’s here): The Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission is scheduled to review the Altamira project (2069 Broadway) at its meeting of April 17, 2018. The hearing will be held in the Community Meeting Room (City Council Chambers), located at 177 1st Street West, and will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Here is the packet:

The Altamira Family Apts. density and site plan have been approved by the city council, and now more appearance issues will be reviewed and possibly changed by the design review process. Design Review is the last major hurdle for Satellite Affordable Housing Associates or SAHA, on this project. SAHA has already incorporated feedback from a Community Advisory Committee meetings process, feedback from the public, and from the planning commission. It is safe to say that to date, the design has been thoroughly vetted.

It will be important to see project support at the 4/17 meeting. I am uncertain on what kind of impediments Design Review could require of SAHA. I ask project supporters to come and advocate for the least design impediments possible, and especially not ones that will increase the cost of the project.

My opinion: The essential part of the project is already approved. However, as we have seen from feedback all along, everyone has an opinion on appearance. For a project, this starts to be like too many cooks in the kitchen, or too many editors on an essay. After a while, any distinctive creative flavor gets lost by having too many voices. The Planning Commission stepped all over Design Review’s function already, by even taking about, and even requiring types of doors and windows.

My advice to Design Review is to leave the project alone, stop beating a dead horse, approve the project, let the SAHA architects do their job. Architecture should be challenging and fun to look at, not somehow all dialed down to the lowest common denominator. Take Planning Commissioner Cribb’s advice, that there is no “Sonoma style” of architecture. Sonoma’s architecture is a polyglot of styles over time. Allow a modern look to have its place in Sonoma’s pantheon of building types. Give the architect some lee-way. A distinctive style cannot be distinctive if too many cooks keep altering it, then it ends up being bland and overworked, lacking its own voice and character.

As well, Design Review should consider plans from the perspective of the new residents in the project. To date, it seems many design changes have been calculated to limit, hide and marginalize the new residents’ space, so as to minimize their impact on neighbors and on the general town character, and on the “Sonoma gateway”. This impulse, in my opinion, has been less than welcoming by Sonoma, and Design Review would do well to balance the scales here and consider how all these changes effect the actual residents who will there. People will be looking out from here, as well as in.


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