Bill's Musings: Anti-hotel initiative is anti-Sonoma

I have lived in Sonoma for 71 years. Visionaries, dreamers and entrepreneurs built the Sonoma I love. That is why it is so hard to watch local residents being duped by a small group of fear mongers who seek to lock in their narrow views on the future of our community while suppressing fellow Sonomans who have dreams of building a better tomorrow.

Measure B, the Hotel Limitation Measure, is truly bad for our community and runs totally counter to the traditions that made Sonoma what it is today.

Over the decades, Sonoma Valley has been home to many far-seeing resident business owners who sought ways to improve the community in which they chose to make a living and raise a family.

They included Gen. Mariano Vallejo and early Sonoma pioneers, followed by business owners such as Solomon Schocken, August Pinelli, Harry Granice, the Vellas, Vivianis and Eraldis, and vintners such as Agoston Haraszthy and then Samuele Sebastiani. Even Jack London sought to bring the improvements of modern farming to the Valley.

Much of what we see in downtown Sonoma and Sonoma Valley is the result of decade after decade of improvements, changes, innovations and risks taken by people who dreamed of a better community in which to live and work.

We can be forever grateful that they didn’t have their ideas shot down by the luddites of their day.

It is difficult to imagine Samuele Sebastiani having to deal with such negative people when he sought to build the theater, the apartments on Spain Street, his winery and cannery, not to mention the housing development he created on Fourth Street East and parts of East Spain Street.

I’m thankful there are still some Sonomans who look forward and see that visionaries like Sebastiani built a path for us to follow, not a blockade.

Like Samuele Sebastiani, Darius Anderson, one of the most energetic and visionary Sonoma residents I’ve known in my lifetime here, has dreams of making things better in our community. His idea for a 59-room boutique hotel on land that my brother, Jim, and I sold to him would do nothing but improve the entire west side of downtown Sonoma.

Measure B, this ill-conceived, anti-hotel initiative, is about stomping on that dream. And fear, based on a false premise, is the snake oil being used to persuade local residents to vote for it.

Darius and Sarah Anderson are Sonomans. They have businesses here. They have a child attending local schools. They love this community and want to make it even better. In this quest, they are following in the great local traditions of the historic, entrepreneurial Sonomans who came before them. Their proposal was just beginning the lengthy public process that would give every Sonoman, and our elected representatives, numerous opportunities to examine the proposal from every angle and then make an informed decision based on what is best for Sonoma.

But the very small group who drafted this anti-Sonoma initiative doesn’t want this process to take place. Instead they want to pre-empt it. They’re saying we shouldn’t trust our own local government of fellow Sonomans to make honest, thoughtful decisions on future projects.

They want the future locked down so that only their narrow vision stands.

The history of our community demonstrates that they are wrong.

The dishonest part of their proposal is the false, fear-based premise they espouse that large hotel developers are lining up to exploit our community.

It isn’t true. It is fear mongering plain and simple.

Darius and Sarah own the land, hotel or no hotel. It is theirs to develop according to our general plan. So what else can go there? A strip mall perhaps? Is that really better than a small 59-room locally-owned and operated hotel?

Or will the next, narrowly-drawn initiative we’re asked to vote for be another ban, and then another, and another?

This is not the way we Sonomans decide the future of our community. Blockades are all negative energy. Is that what we want to prevail here?

By comparison, there is great benefit in listening to, encouraging and nurturing the dreamers among us. We don’t always have to say yes, but their dreams often improve the place we call home.

No matter who dreams of creating something better here, present and future Sonomans should retain the benefits of having local representative government function as it is intended.

This anti-hotel initiative is anti-Sonoma, put forth by people who should know better. I’m hoping every Sonoman who loves this town will join me in voting “no” on Measure B.