Elections are over and newly elected Sonoma City Council members will soon be taking their seats on the dais. Current Councilmembers Sandra Lowe and Mayor Jack Ding will surely appreciate fresh help in addressing the City’s many challenges, opportunities and “Who put this crap on the agenda?”
The first order of business: hiring consultants. Students of city government know that decisions are impossible unless consultants are retained to tell deciders what to decide. E.g., it would have been fiscally reckless to buy new Plaza trash cans without consultants, who apparently found $182,000 worth of designer trash cans at Neiman Marcus.
High on the list of decision-making is a new Master Plan for Sonoma’s Plaza, that 8-acres of trees, lawn, playground, amphitheater, tourist HQ and petri-dish public restroom which are the very focus of City government, commerce, festivals, protests, picnicking and 4th of July parades.
The Plaza re-do is so important that Public Input is being invited to help guide the Planning Process in the best direction, based on the most desirable/affordable/popular/doable/foresightful/are-you-out-of-your-mind!!?? thinking. Public input is critical for anything that involves spending public money, in order to bury the Planners in public outrage when the final plan ignores said input.
Case In Point: the recently completed Public Input Process to “guide” redevelopment of the former Sonoma Development Center (SDC) in Eldridge, a few miles outside Sonoma City limits. After years of public input augmented by EIR studies and intense developer “influencing,” a final decision is imminent regarding SDC’s future. I.e., How much housing (affordable and not), hotels, brothels & other commercial activities should occupy the bucolic 750-acres of wilderness, wildlife and quaint albeit ghostly abandoned buildings that once housed and cared for thousands of severely disabled individuals, hundreds of whom lay buried there in unmarked graves soon to be covered by pricey (and definitely haunted) housing?
Public outrage-to-date over SDC has been shrill because much of the public’s input has seemingly been ignored. How bad is it? On a recent afternoon, a cousin of a local Glenn Ellen resident, visiting from Sicily, speculated that in the current wildfire climate, getting fire insurance on the site’s planned McMansions could be problematic. “Be a shame if somethin’ . . . youse know . . . happened to them.”
Not to worry. Thankfully, everyone now living in the Valley can, by definition, afford to live here, and SDC Plan Approvers seem confident that they can bless a scheme that will allow hundreds of second-homers – and others who do not live in the Valley now – to buy houses at SDC.
But with safety paramount, the City’s Plaza Master Plan will hopefully include plans for guiding those thousands of new SDC residents — fleeing the next wildfire — safely down-Valley and past the Plaza on streets clogged with 13,000+ panicked City residents & pets also fleeing south on a Broadway recently re-striped down to one lane.
And assure the Valley has enough water to supply current residents, douse those wildfires, supply new SDC homes, plus 311 homes the City of Sonoma hopes to build in the next eight years. Fortunately, novel water-saving ideas are flooding in: E.g., (a) Demolish the fetid Plaza restroom, (b) Invite Plaza visitors to relieve themselves in decorative wine barrels placed among that $182,000 worth of new Plaza trash cans, (c) Lace it all with pumpkin spice and . . .
The possibilities are endless. The probabilities — not so much.