In her Jan. 17 letter to the editor (“Change is needed for Sonoma now”), local resident Regina Baker decries our city decision makers, saying they “are stuck in a cycle that is directing this city from being charming and refreshing from big city life, to becoming like a big-box, big-city environment and less community-minded.”
She points to Marblehead, Mass., and Williamsburg, Va., as “small towns in America that cherish their heritage and keep it strong.” And, it is true that Marblehead has its colonial American charm, but it also has strip shopping centers and a Dunkin’ Donuts. Just as we have our shopping centers, Safeway, Starbuck’s, etc.
And, if Williamsburg, with its faux 18th century shops and buildings complete with costumed re-enactors, is not theme park enough, you are just minutes away from Busch Gardens amusement park. That is not my idea of a small town keeping its heritage strong.
I’m quite satisfied that our general plan, city officials and planning process have kept us from becoming the Bear Flag Republic equivalent of Williamsburg. The Mission, Barracks and Gen. Vallejo’s home are all authentic. The Plaza is the heart of our town and it never beats so strong as it does on Tuesday evenings when the farmers market brings together local families, friends and visitors alike, to celebrate the marvels of the Valley of the Moon.
That is charm, that is community, that is what brought my husband and me to live in and start small businesses in Sonoma.
But, there is a group of Sonomans, operating under the rubric of “Preserve Sonoma,” that say they want to preserve our charm, want to preserve our sense of community by setting artificial limits – 25 hotel rooms, 30 alcohol-serving establishments.
What limits might be next? How many shoe stores, how many grocery stores, how many insurance agencies would be too many before we lose our small town character?
I say, let the process we have in place continue to work. We don’t need more regulations with arbitrary limits, we need a community that stays informed, stays engaged with the process and advocates their points of view with facts, not perceptions.