Editor: It happened one day, a small announcement stapled to a telephone pole: a rezoning of the field across the way, 8th Street East and Napa Street, small print, a hearing far away in Santa Rosa. Who is going to see the paper, a crow? And who is one small renter to say a property owner can’t build out? I sent a letter anyway, into the black hole of county administration, a message blowing in the wind.
For 100 years the Schuhmann Hotel has stood next to the tracks, fields around, silent witness to Sonoma history. Buena Vista railroad station, Von Sydow’s, orchards and mixed agriculture, many German immigrants on the east side; they rose, they fell, time went by. And little by little these fields and open spaces have come under the blade. The old hotel is now surrounded by development of all sorts. Surrounded, the same fate as all the other Sonoma out lots. Like the deer in my yard, I hide and nibble the last bits of remaining privacy. This northern part of out lot #513 has been a hidden haven of old style Sonoma amidst a proliferation of electronic-gated, east side style living, has been.
The project is all street legal: infill, zoned, jobs, tax revenue, private property, straight up, nothing to say, nothing to do but suck it up. It’s happened over and over again, another development eating up former farmland and open space. Having this field developed is enough to turn a guy into a NIMBY. What next, mow all the trees off the frontage on the east side? Expose my private life naked to another cloned reproduction of suburbia? It’s like my living space has suddenly got cancer. It’s just plain distasteful to lose the vista, the feel, the trees, in exchange for more profoundly tacky McMansions with perfect green lawns. This project is an in-your-face esthetic loss, an actual loss of character for everyone to see, plus years of construction noise, dust and obstruction. That field is gone, history. The worn animal path out to it: now obliterated. It’s a terrible shock, beyond belief really. I cry NIMBY tears. Force fed change, why me? Progress? Benefit?
Vineyards everywhere, custom tacky development with copper-topped fence posts, the gates, armies of gardeners who can’t afford to rent or shop here, this is a vision of Sonoma future, a new esthetic that could be coming to your neighborhood soon. This all speaks and warns for the citizenry to have a finger on the pulse of city and regional planning. Watch out for those little flyers on the telephone poles. Wine country has a bubble building and it’s cash it in time.