Sonoma Valley Sun


Is there a lawyer in the house?

Posted on January 5, 2024 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Sonoma has a new mayor. Following tradition, Councilmember John Gurney, the vice mayor through 2023, was by unanimous vote rotated into the top spot. He assumes the year-long post held by Sandra Lowe. Lowe was thanked at the Council’s final meeting of the year for significant leadership, particularly her commitment to advocating for the arts. The new vice mayor is Patricia Farrar-Rivas. Lowe and fellow councilmember Jack Ding will be up for reelection in November of 2024. Not mentioned until now but nothing personal, the fifth councilmember, Ron Wellander. 


Will the Transcendence Theatre Company return for live shows in Jack London Park this summer? It’s a cliffhanger. The Broadway Under The Stars series began in 2011, back when, like many State Parks, Jack London was facing closure without finding new revenue streams. The outdoor theater experience was a big hit, with a portion of ticket sales benefiting the park — $680,000 so far. The TTC team was planning on a 2023 season there, but it all faded to black because of a lawsuit by the California State Park Rangers Association. The CSPA, a nonprofit of former and current park staff, sued for an environmental review to gauge impact of the visitors on the park itself. But that report is not yet complete and there is no due date. Stuck in judicial limbo, TTC can’t plan its summer season, and last year’s last-minute emergency plan of staging shows at alternate venues is just not workable. The company is “bleeding out,” said TTC Executive Director Brad Surosky. “It feels like doomsday.”


Meanwhile, while the sale of the Sonoma Developmental Center to a private developer creeps along, progress is being made on the transfer of 750 wild acres of the campus to California State Parks. That land was not part of the sale, and will ultimately be managed by Jack London Park Partners. Enhanced access to trails, and ranger patrols, are foreseen, and bigger changes will be planned with public input. The open space borders London Park on the north and west, and Sonoma Valley Regional Park on the north and east. Not included: Fern Lake and Suttonfield Lake, which will go to the developer, according to a State Parks official. 


One more SDC item, with requisite lawsuit. Alice Horiwitz, of the Sonoma Community Advocates for a Liveable Environment, updates that group’s lawsuit challenging the SDC environmental impact report. That County EIR document somehow found that the planned 180-acre development – 1,000 homes, resort hotel, 400k sq ft. retail space – would have no discernible effect on the environment. As it is foundational to the sale, the lawsuit must be settled before anything commercial happens on the property, i.e. a private yacht club on Suttonfield Lake. Sonoma County is the plaintiff, and Horowitz says it finally handed over its documents – thousands of pages of transcripts, emails, reports and such. ”Reviewing (them) is a mighty task.” An initial hearing is expected this spring. 

The next Sonoma business tenant will be Sonoma County, soon to launch a satellite service center near Maxwell Village. Providing health services, food benefits and information about other county programs, the East County Services Center, at 19080 Lomita, opens January 26. The space, modeled after a similar set-up in Petaluma, will host the Health and Human Services Department, and provide community meeting spaces.

Bill Foley and his Foley Entertainment Group (Sebastiani Winery; Chateau St. Jean; Las Vegas hockey team; and much more) has bought MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa for a likely $66 million. It was last sold in 2017 for $36 million to Lat33 Capital, which said it invested $20 million in upgrades and expansion. Seems like only yesterday, but probably more like 1869, that the six acres was a family estate vineyard and horse ranch.


– Val Robichaud, [email protected]


Sonoma Sun | Sonoma, CA