Measure B – Numbers pulled from thin air

By Michael B. Ross

Measure B is a grand social land-use experiment based on fear. There has been no testing of its possible outcomes, consequences or long-term potential impacts on our community. Measure B does not guarantee it will preserve Sonoma’s small town character – despite the fact our small town character already exists without Measure B in place. Why so?

Sonoma’s beauty and charm did not require Measure B to ensure its existence. Sonoma’s wonderful quality of life has been in place for generations, supported by our town government, the planning process in place and the many intelligent and engaged citizens who care and have a voice.

Passage of Measure B will hobble this. It’s passage will mean our thoughtful community will have lost the opportunity to discretely study an important type of land use decision on a case-by-case basis. We will lose our right to comment on a proposed 26-room hotel project, for example, no matter how great it might be.

Measure B wants to censor future community land use conversations now. Please don’t support this type of muzzle.

Measure B masquerades as precision. It is not. It is a totally untested experiment based on un-vetted criteria. Even the authors of the measure admit their numbers are arbitrary. Measure B defines “big” as more than 25 rooms, it sets thresholds for its own change at a nearly-impossible 80 percent room occupancy rate. These numbers are pulled from thin air.

The Measure B markers exist because this social and land use experiment is personal. It is based on the fears and opinions of a few – and their hopes to convince many. If they are wrong – and they are – even our children’s children will be affected by their failed vision.

As a longtime Sonoma resident and professional contributor to our current General Plan, I appreciate the quality of life we have. I cherish it.

Yes we experience traffic when the high school lets out, and Highway 12 does flow next to the Plaza – it always has. But the traffic we have isn’t here because the General Plan doesn’t work or because the town is growing too fast. Much of the traffic is basically we Sonoma Valley residents, going about our lives.

Everything, including growth, moves slowly in Sonoma. It took tons of hand-wringing just to approve a Peets Coffee on Broadway for example – but the process works.

One of the reasons Sonoma doesn’t have a “hotel problem” is that the current approval process for a hotel project of any size is extremely costly and rigorous. Hotel land use applications typically are years in the making and, if approved at all, subject to many compromises based on the General Plan, community input and formal conditions of approval. The current multi-step process requires numerous points of review, public comment, dialogue and consideration – none of which Measure B has. By comparison Measure B is a wild swing in the dark.

I urge all Sonoma voters to vote “no” on Measure B.

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  Michael Ross is a 40-year Sonoma resident, the architect of the previously proposed West Napa Street hotel, a local business owner and an eight-year member of Sonoma’s former Architectural Review Commission.