The Cohn contribution
Bruce Cohn could be excused if he finally decided that 26 years of leveraging his rock ‘n roll connections and Doobie Brothers fame into promoting charity events for numerous good causes was enough.
For reasons that remain confusing and unclear, the Sonoma County regulatory bureaucracy seems to persist in the belief that Cohn’s annual fall-concert series at his winery on Highway 12 is an onerous anomaly to appropriate land use policy and deserves only reluctant approval.
So when Cohn’s use permit came up for renewal, instead of simply granting another five-year extension, the county’s PRMD wizards recommended approval for only one year. That, despite the fact that the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission had given its unanimous approval for full extension of the concert permit.
Had there been a host of citizen noise complaints, evidence that the weekend traffic unduly disrupts vehicle flow on Highway 12, or that an endangered frog or moth or hummingbird was placed at risk by the modest concert stage occupying the edge of Cohn’s winery property, perhaps there would be some justification for regulatory caution.
But there were no complaints on file, no unmitigated traffic impacts and no endangered creatures put at risk. The only risk appears to be the financial, emotional and physical toll the concerts have taken on Cohn himself. But he has persisted because, over the course of those 26 years, he has been able to raise more than $6 million for veterans, kids causes – including the Valley of the Moon Children’s Home, a surgical center, the food bank and myriad other causes.
A few years ago, Cohn was honored in Los Angeles by the National Veterans Foundation for his philanthropy at the same time he was forced to defend his philanthropic activities at home.
On Dec. 20, Cohn and an entourage of supporters, appeared before the Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments to appeal the PRMD recommendation and ask for the five-year extension, a critical requirement for concert planning and promotion that allows for reliably booking performers into the future.
Accompanying Cohn were representatives of the Sonoma Valley Mentoring Alliance, American Legion Post #489, the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation, the Redwood Empire Food Bank, Sonoma Mayor Ken Brown, deputy Sheriffs Rocky Seffins and Kevin Mullnix who, for years, donated their security pay back to the festival, and several others.
It was apparently a persuasive presence and the BZA got the message, voting 4-0 to approve a five-year concert extension. We would like to believe that, barring some kind of utterly unexpected negative impact (perhaps a scientific correlation between global warming and the lyrics of “China Grove”), the Cohn concerts will continue until Bruce simply wears out.
We hope that day is still a long way’s off because, in addition to the exceptional good his events contribute to the community, Cohn’s concerts are – at least for now – the only Sonoma Valley venue for world-class rock ‘n roll.