Chateau Sonoma – a change of heart
Last Thursday evening, Darius Anderson and his community outreach director, Casey Mazzoni, hosted a private question-and-answer session for me and a group of Sonoma residents about the proposed Chateau Sonoma. The meeting came about as a result of a letter I wrote to the editors of the Sun and the Index-Tribune questioning the size and location of the hotel.
I was opposed to this project when I first heard about it, as were many people I know. After the letters came out, I got a call from Darius inviting me to meet with him to discuss my concerns. I made up a list of my questions and took them to this first meeting. He answered all the questions in a satisfactory way. He never acted rushed, distracted or disinterested. Then he suggested he hold another meeting so I could include my friends. That is what I’m reporting on here.
Darius answered questions about traffic (he is ordering a study now, for pedestrian traffic as well), visibility (the building will be set back so it will not stand out), and the fate of the Chateau Sonoma antique shop that his wife, Sara, operates.
Darius explained that the building is just a tin shell with rooms built inside, is not up to code seismically, and it would be very difficult – if even possible – to rebuild it.
It will be demolished, along with the trees in back, one of which is diseased. Darius stressed that all trees that are removed will be replaced.
Someone suggested he put more housing in the project, and less hotel, and Darius said that would not “pencil out.” He added that more housing actually creates more traffic than hotel guests, who typically park, then walk to restaurants and shops. In fact, that walk-ability was one reason he strongly felt the hotel belongs on the Plaza not down on Broadway – because people lodged on the Plaza do not have to get back in their cars to go to dinner or shop.
Some expressed concern about keeping Sonoma history alive, and Darius spoke very seriously about how he too was a Sonoman, and does not want to do anything to ruin its historical attraction. When he asked for specific suggestions, someone suggested that a he might incorporate a section of the original tin building into the new project. He seemed to like that idea.
When I first met with Darius, he showed me a model of the new project that is now being revised after the Planning Committee’s review. It showed a lot of landscaping, with trees on the West Napa Street side, and other attractive vegetation around the grounds. The hotel will be set back off West Napa Street, and will not be seen from the street or the Plaza, except for one small section. It does not seem to command attention that it is there. Seeing that model was a turning point for me. I am anxious to see the newer version, which will be ready to view in mid-January.
While some went away with their doubts intact, most seemed to feel the meeting showed real care on Darius’s part. One member of the group said he felt Darius really did care about what we had to say. I agree, and think he was being honest and sincere about preserving the character of Sonoma. He is listening to the community.
I would encourage anyone with questions or specific suggestions to call Casey, at (415) 342-3328, and set up a time to come talk to Darius. He wants to hear from you and he is easy to talk to.
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Doreen Proctor is a resident of El Verano.