Today’s column begins with several updates on Springs projects.
The creation of the Central Sonoma Valley Bike Path took an important step forward this month when the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board granted an easement to the County allowing the bike path to cross school district property at Flowery Elementary School.
Ken Tam, the planner with Sonoma County Regional Parks who is working on the bike path, said the next step is to have the Board of Supervisors accept the easement. Tam also said CalTrans had some comments regarding the project’s environmental study, which the county’s biological consultant is working to address. He said once he has environmental clearance, he would be able to determine a timeline for construction. The 2.75 miles path will run from Maxwell Farms Regional Park to Flowery School and Larson Park. Residents in the Springs, including myself, have been working since early 1990 to get an off-highway bike path.
Adrian Martinez, the architect working with Karen Waikiki to convert the former Uncle Patty’s restaurant across from the Sonoma Mission Inn on Boyes Boulevard into an upscale pizza restaurant, told me they are unable to salvage any of the original structure. Martinez’s original plan was to tear down the two buildings next to the auto repair shop and reuse the one on the west end. Martinez said the building’s condition is so bad -- it even lacks a foundation -- that it can’t be reused. This is a shame, as that building dates to the early 1900s. Historical photos show it as Nathan’s Ice Cream shop.
If you’ve driven on Highway 12 in Fetters Hot Springs you’ve noticed the construction activity underway on the MidPen affordable housing project. Project manager Scott Johnson said the palm trees are being moved to an interim location and will later be replanted on the project site.
Johnson also said formal outreach to families interested in moving into one of the 60 units will begin in March. Homes will be available for occupancy by the end of 2016. Families wanting to be placed on the interest list should call MidPen’s office at 650.356.2900. The project’s second phase will provide 40 units of low-income senior housing in 2017. MidPen is still working to secure funding for that phase.
The County Board of Supervisors during its budget process this month allocated $50,000 from discretionary funds to create the design plans for a town plaza on the block of Boyes Boulevard north of the Church Mouse. The plaza concept is described in the 2007 Springs redevelopment area strategic plan. Architect Michael Ross did preliminary sketches in 2011 for the former redevelopment advisory commission. He recently presented his ideas at a Springs Community Alliance meeting.
Discretionary funds are those the supervisors set aside so they can provide money to projects in their individual districts. While this got the Springs money to begin the plaza project, it’s also a process disliked by taxpayer groups. It’s the local version of pork barrel spending.
The road tax that wasn’t
If you read my letter to the editor in the Sun’s previous issue, you know I believe Measure A was overwhelmingly defeated because there was a mismatch between what our county supervisors said and what the ballot said. I also heard a lot of people say they are tired of paying more taxes and they want the supervisors to be more efficient with the county budget.
Moving forward, it’s unlikely the supervisors will place another roads tax measure on the ballot anytime soon. What they need to do now is demonstrate a real commitment to roads by allocating a truly meaningful increase in the road budget.
I attended the county budget hearings June 15 and spoke during the road budget discussion. The supervisors have allocated about $11.5 million a year for the next two years. They made a point about how they are embedding into the general fund budget $9 million dollars a year for roads, supposedly the highest amount ever committed to our county roads. But this is a highly misleading statement, since it doesn’t take inflation into consideration.
The roads advocacy group SOSRoads did a financial analysis of general fund spending on county roads. Based on the consumer price index, which is a conservative estimate as it doesn’t factor in the rising cost of asphalt, the county supervisors would have to allocate $15 million today to fund the equivalent of what the county spent from the general fund in 1988, which was $7.5 million.
Springs exhibit at the Depot Museum
Be sure to catch the exhibit “Getting Away From It All: The Resorts of Sonoma Valley.” It tells the story of the Springs’ resort era, including how it got started and why people came. Tom and Jeri Lynn Whitworth created the exhibit. It contains lots of great photographs and old brochures and advertisements. The Depot Museum is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 1 to 4 p.m.