A sense of place
In the City Council Vision Statement in the preface to the 2020 General Plan, a number of key elements are listed reflecting what kind of a community – in both physical and cultural attributes – Sonoma residents want. It directs that development “respects … and enhances the scale [and] character … of the community,” that “locally-owned businesses [should] complement the small-town atmosphere and provide high-paying jobs,” that “housing is available and affordable to … the local workforce,” and that “traffic is mitigated.”
You will also find this in the General Plan language defining Sonoma: “The small-town feel,” “small-scale and historic character,” and “the pace of country living.” In all this, what’s presented is a vision of what kind of community those living here want it to be and want it to remain. It could be called a sense of place.
The hotel proposed to be built adjacent to the Plaza would bring a significant change to the landmark downtown center in its size, its scope and its character. At 67,000 square feet, it would be bigger than most big-box stores. To appreciate its 3-story, 59-room size, it would encompass more space than 13 buildings now on the Plaza combined. If built, an enormous and grossly out of scale, luxury hotel will dominate the Sonoma Plaza, and forever change the look and feel of downtown Sonoma’s Historic District.
In their self-generated traffic study, the developers’ claim that the hotel will not produce more traffic congestion at key intersections is absurd on its face. Everyone who lives here knows there’s gridlock at West Napa and Broadway, from light to heavy depending on days and times. Besides guests and employees coming and going, there will be a steady and constant stream of deliveries 24/7.
And imagine the traffic jam at the pedestrian crossing at West Napa and First Street West coming from the hotel. If people think the traffic situation is bad now, it’ll seem like happy days in retrospect if this hotel gets built. The result will be many more cars and trucks, more air and noise pollution, and more safety concerns for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Jobs and Housing
The General Plan requires that development provide high-paying jobs and workforce housing. Are the hotel developers ready to comply with those provisions?
In summary, it is maintained that this project is way out of proportion for the kind of community Sonoma is and has been. We are not an urban hub, nor do we want to be. In any event, it should be left to the town to decide because, as now proposed, the Chateau Sonoma Hotel will forever change the qualities of living here that most of us highly value, and it will only mark the beginning of that unalterable change.
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Will Shonbrun is a resident of Boyes Hot Springs.