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 a member of Sonoma Overlook Trail Stewards, as well as Sonoma Valley Housing Group and Transition Sonoma Valley.


The refreshing liberation of a heretic

Posted on August 15, 2019 by Fred Allebach

Thomas S. Kuhn, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, noted that scientists, and by extension, all people, tend to be drawn in by the dominant paradigm. All information is shoe-horned in to the paradigm, whether it fits or not. This is “doctrinaire.” Eric Hoffer, in his book The True Believer, saw the same dynamic, pressure for purity, inability to tolerate dissent, a kind of a herd mentality. Truths proposed as being self-evident can’t be questioned. This is also what we see in biblical literalism. Efforts at social control to enforce paradigmatic purity can be stifling. 

Stray sheep are either pressured to come back into the fold or shunned, or worse.  

The Sonoma urban growth boundary or UGB issue fits this purity pattern like a glove. Since I was not here for the previous UGB process 20 years ago, I am not attached to one view or another. I’m open to differences and questions. A boundary to 8th Street East, for example, has points. From a flexible place like this, is where new, more apt paradigms can emerge. Plate tectonics started with one guy who put all the pieces together in a new way and changed forever the view of earth history.

Questioning orthodoxy can be painful in the short run, but also have great payouts later. 

I have been an active community member and have managed to find a platform here at the Sun to express my opinions on local matters. This has been really fun and I love to think about things and write. As time has gone by and I have examined local issues, I’ve seen that my interests are not the same as property owner’s interests, and my opinions have begun to diverge. I’m primarily with social justice, with the working class, with immigrants, with the underdogs, with renters, and I bring this “bias”, or interest, to city and regional planning.  

What I’ve seen about the UGB, is that by putting a hard, inflexible boundary around an already small, super white and wealthy community, tends to make it even more white and wealthy, like Boulder, Carmel, Tiburon, and Aspen. This is an inconvenient truth, or a boon, for home owners, especially when UGB taking points mainly center on small town character and environmental purity.  

I am an environmentalist as well, and have been my whole life. It breaks my heart to see what the human race is doing to life on earth. I do share with homeowners an antipathy for market rate developers and for no-holes-barred tourism hype, yet I’ve seen that renters and worker’s interests tend to end up as collateral damage in the power struggle between homeowners and developers/ tourism boosters. The UGB is one if these power struggles.  

With my place in society, and my perch at the Sun as an amateur analyst, I’m not constrained by having to say how great everything here is, because I don’t believe it. It’s not great when my people can’t afford anything, and have to pay crazy inflated prices for everything, or else drive out of town to shop. And the train just keeps on rolling that way. The more white and wealthy, the more government’s job is to represent those interests. What good is infill and low income housing if you can’t afford to ride your bike to buy anything? This is not to say it’s not really nice here for climate and built spaces, for historical flavor, for trails, for trees, for open space. It is nice, and any reasonable person would want their life to be nice.

The question is, can environmental nice be a stand-alone value when other’s fate is actively sacrificed and externalized to get it? 

With the UGB issue, environmental protection is the dominant paradigm sacred cow, the untouchable premise that all facts have be shoe-horned into, even if great social inequity is the collateral damage. 

This leads to my hereticism. By questioning the UGB, I’ve come to be at odds with UGB true believers, who I know, respect and like, and whose interests I share at some levels but not 100%. I’ve gone into muddy river country, no longer pure, which makes me a heretic. For this I have been shunned and will likely be shunned more. When I call for UGB alternatives analysis, for options, this is the same thing homeowners called for when they felt strong-armed by city EIR processes. Now the UGB people are the ones doing the strong arming… 

The benefit of being a heretic is that I am freed from the social control of having to hold a certain line. I’m free to imagine a new paradigm. This feeling of open horizons is great! 

The ironic thing is that I mostly agree with UGB premises. I lived in Tucson for 20 years for God’s sake. I’ve seen sprawl and lack of planning, and the defiling of nature the likes of which are unimaginable around here. I just need to see how the Sonoma UGB ordinance is going to pragmatically benefit my cohort, more than promises and aspirations. So far, UGB costs have not been addressed or admitted, same as developers only counting benefits and no costs… I want to see an integrated planning process that gives some guarantees, not a fear campaign that ignores social costs.

It may be the current UGB is OK, but hold a gun to my head and make me say that, versus have an open process, and you have made a heretic. And so, I enter the land of the heretical. It’s refreshing to have the whole world wide open in front of me, yet we know thing don’t come out well for heretics. I’ll enjoy it while I can. 




One thought on “The refreshing liberation of a heretic

  1. Fred –

    For the sake of self awareness you have been a nonconformist since the day I met you back in the early 70’s.
    Same as a heretic – so the reality is you have not ” just entered ” this realm. You eat, sleep and will die in this realm.
    And you would land dab smack as a 9 on the ennagram personality profile which of course you won’t enjoy hearing because you are a nonconformist and by definition a nonconformist does not like to be typed. But just so you know – you are a text book 9.
    So if you want to try something new try to conform to the status quo. You won’t be able to. It is not in your personality.
    Best of luck with your dilemma. Because that is what you are in…..

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