The issue of wine tasting rooms in downtown Sonoma – no limit, but an added level of permitting required – seems to be settled. Except maybe what happens if a Kendall-Jackson or Gallo, the wine world’s equivalent of a formula store, come calling… With no hotel in the official pipeline, and the Mission Square development finally approved (as much by sheer boredom with the project as any other reason), the next NIMS (“Not in my Sonoma”) battle should be over the defunct car lot at 870 Broadway. An early iteration by developer Owen Smith calls for a mix of public market space (think Napa’s Oxbow), residential units, a corner restaurant, and parking. A hotel has not been ruled out. Right now, all would agree the decrepit building and cracked pavement is an eyesore. One, once gone, neighbors will no doubt look back upon fondly.
One argument against Measure B, the Hotel Limitation Measure, was that there is plenty of regulation and oversight in place to prevent an ugly, inappropriate structure: City staff, the Planning Commission, Design Review Commission, etc. True. Then again, those decisions can be appealed to the City Council, the five members of which have the final say on things like the Mission Square project (they upheld the Planning OK) and 80-foot cell phone tower (they overturned the prior approval). Next week, they’ll hear the case of the pink door on a Plaza ice cream store, approved by the Design panel but appealed by citizens concerned with the bright color… There’s historical context, and there’s the emergent barometer of ‘does it boost tourism?’ Waffle or sugar cone? The five councilmembers will make the final decision.
Meanwhile, in the Springs, the first look at a proposed development along Highway 12 just south of the Sonoma Charter School playground. The Vailetti Family trust, the landowner, has contracted with MidPen Housing, a nonprofit housing developer, to build 100 affordable housing units, a community garden, playground and bikeway, and parking. The plan includes 6,500 sq. ft. of commercial space, all to replace what now looks like less-than-pristine open space and an impromptu used car lot. Doubtful any preservationists will fight the proposal, and the Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say, is immune to anti-change arguments, particularly after investing millions out of the General Fund for the area’s highway improvements… Hey, can you squeeze in a cell phone tower? How about if it looks like one of the big trees you just cut down?
Back in Sonoma, it’s tourism that pays the bills. Councilmember Ken Brown, not the nostalgic sort, is all for it. “The hardware store is not coming back, the pharmacy is not coming back,” he said Monday night, all but adding, ‘deal with it.’ The latest example of the city’s healthy budget, Brown said, is the dedicated left-turn traffic lights at Broadway and Napa/Leveroni. If you enjoy not taking your life in your hands to make that turn on a dark yellow light, hug a tourist…. Squire Fridell puts it nicely: “Without wine, Sonoma would be another Vallejo.”
A Windsor man, 50, enjoys the harder stuff, and now will do six years of hard time. He was sentenced this week after his eighth DUI in 20 years. Congrats, your breath meter has gone platinum.