They came out in droves Monday night, braving the rain, filling the parking lot, packing the council chambers and spilling out into the entry room, umbrellas in hand.
And it was all for a pink door.
The controversy over the pink door and façade at Grandma Linda’s Ice Cream shop, located on the Plaza at 408 First St. E., has animated Sonoma to such a degree that some have asked what, exactly, all the fuss is about.
“I have lived in Sonoma since 1977 and the things folks complain about have amazed me over the years,” commented Laura Davis Szanyi on the Index-Tribune’s website.
Nonetheless, council members, hearing an appeal of the color at their regular meeting Monday, made it clear that they took the issue seriously and had given it much thought. And as Mayor Pro Tem David Cook put it, “This is not about the pink door.”
For Cook and other city leaders, the real issue was a lack of clarity in the city code when it comes to exterior colors and other design features. That shade of pink – which the shop’s owners call “cerise delight” – had been considered and approved by the city’s Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission on Dec. 17, over protests from some residents who said it undermines downtown Sonoma’s historic character.
“We probably need to set some standards on the Plaza,” Cook said Monday, adding, “The pink door does not bother me. I’m going to vote tonight to keep the pink door.”
He was in the majority, with the council voting 4-1 to reject the appeal – effectively siding with shop owners Dawn and Troy Marmaduke. Councilmember Steve Barbose, who cast the only “no” vote, said he would have approved the color on a provisional basis until the city agreed on a color palette for its historic structures.
But he added, “The Marmadukes should not have to pay for anything. … Because the city didn’t do right by you.”
The vote came after more than two-dozen locals queued up in the standing-room-only chamber to make their voices heard. Some commented on the color, some said they supported small business, and a few said the issue should never have come up in the first place.
“This really upsets me,” said Rosemary Pedroncelli. “It’s taking a lot of time and money from the city. You folks approved it first, didn’t you? Well, these other people, excuse me, sometimes they’ve got nothing else to do except cause trouble.” Her speech ended in cheers and applause.
But Johanna Patri, one of the dozen Sonoma or Sonoma Valley residents who signed the appeal, disagreed, saying Sonoma must take steps to “preserve the dignity and integrity” of its historic downtown.
Patri said the design review commission’s December vote was improper, because commissioners failed to make their consideration “not only on the basis of design review, but on the basis of historic preservation.” The commission, she said, was “effectively announcing that any historic building … can sport any color the owner of a business wants.”
One of those commissioners, Kelso Barnett, wrote an extensive memo to council members in which he quoted a scientific study that determined that “Modern paint analysis reveals historical colors were often surprisingly bright, like Thomas Jefferson’s ‘chrome yellow.’ Many people maintain the mistaken impression that our ancestors lived in a world of muted and ‘tasteful’ shades, but by the 19th and early 20th century, color choices expanded exponentially.”