What do you like about living in Sonoma? What would you like to change? These two questions are at the heart of Sonoma’s General Plan 2045 Update, a process that’s just beginning and will take the better part of two years to complete. Now’s the chance for you to weigh in on the future of this community.
The City of Sonoma did not happen by accident; how it is is the result of planning, which began at its founding in 1853. The Plaza, the street layout, and the subdivision of land were all planned, and the growth and appearance of the city has been managed through planning ever since. Decisions about traffic circulation, parking, commercial districts, and housing have all been made, and since the 1950’s, incorporated into a General Plan.
The State of California requires each jurisdiction – cities and counties – to have a General Plan. General Plans are required to examine seven critical topics, but can include many more. Plans are updated every 10 or 20 years, and Sonoma’s General Plan was last revised in 2006. This new update will cover the period up to 2045, which seems like a long time period, but actually goes by very quickly.
The first year of the process of updating Sonoma’s plan includes lots of public input. The process begins with at least two public “visioning” sessions. These sessions will provide an opportunity for people to explore and identify what they like about Sonoma, and what they would like to see changed. These discussions will result in identifying goals and a vision for the future of the city. These goals, the supporting policies, and the ways in which those policies get implemented, will be the work of the second year of the process.
The city’s plan must include seven “elements” required by the State of California: land use (what’s permitted), circulation (traffic), conservation, open space, safety, noise, and housing. The Housing Element has already been completed and certified by the state for the period 2023-2031, and must be revised every eight years to satisfy the state’s regional housing requirements placed upon each jurisdiction.
In addition, optional General Plan elements may be included, such as economic development, sustainability and climate change, historic and archaeological resources, parks and recreation, environmental justice, and administration and implementation.
In the past, public attendance during General Plan updates has been robust; in the early 1990s hundreds regularly attended over many months. Sticking with the process requires stamina, patience and persistence.
The recent experience of having public input completely ignored, in the case of the Sonoma Developmental Center and its Specific Plan, has left many committed citizens skeptical about public participation. But this is no time to get too cynical. We want to point out that this General Plan process for public input will actually inform the City’s goals. It is not “advisory.”
If you care about this community you call home and if you want your voice to be heard, the General Plan Update is the way to make it happen. Sonoma’s future is in your hands.
A website devoted to the General Plan 2045 Update has been created; visit SonomaCity.GeneralPlan.org to learn more about the process and your opportunity to participate.
The first General Plan 2045 Update Visioning Workshop will take place on November 2, at 6pm at Vintage House (264 1st Street East). A second workshop is planned for November 13, also at Vintage House.