Editor: I am amazed that so many people want to change something that works quite well–Sonoma. Here is an exercise in creative visualization: Close your eyes and picture the square. A quiet plaza filled with trees and green grass, a duck pond, the heart of the city. Old adobe buildings that link us with the past. Small shops and restaurants where locals and tourists meet and mingle. Farmers’ Markets. Art Fairs. Musical events. Visitors are so charmed by our city that many aspire to move here.
Now, picture downtown Sonoma in a few years. Adobe structures that were deemed unsafe and a liability for the city have been razed and replaced by several multiple story hotels that now surround the plaza area. When the first large hotel was approved, it opened the gate for the big chains. It would have been unfair to say yes to one and no to others, and we pride ourselves on being fair. Sidewalk cafes still exist, but their menus now feature expensive wines and $45 entrees. There is never enough parking, so drivers circle for hours, looking for a space. Major construction is still taking place with heavy equipment digging foundations, and dump trucks beeping as they back up to haul away the dirt. Trailers with steel girders block 1st, 2nd, East, West and Broadway as they wait to be unloaded. The local shop owners who believed more tourists would be a boon to their business now find themselves with no foot traffic at all due to the noise and the dust and congestion. Napa Street was clogged all the way back to 5th St. West so the city council decided to move Hwy 12 to avoid the construction mess at the Plaza. Now it’s Leveroni that sends the tourists north toward Kenwood, bypassing Sonoma. The hotels have no guests because the word is out—Sonoma is too crowded. It’s like driving in San Francisco.
Ask yourself this question. Why would we want to change something that works to something that is guaranteed to ruin what we have?