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.


  • Phineas Worthington

    Thank you for your wonderful contribution to the discussion, I agree.

  • Grant Raeside

    Bravo! Well said, Bill…

  • Chris Scott

    Thank you.

  • George Weiss Jr

    Once again I totally disagree with you Bill. I love what remains of the small town ambiance of our town. I don’t feel any need to keep giving Sonoma to tourism. I don’t feel that Napa or Healdsburg are better places to live. Creating a haven for the 1% is not what is in the best interest of the residents.

  • Hugh Black

    Thank you George.

    It seems like Bill is saying that if you own something you can do what ever you like…. Why not a 10 story hotel?

    As regards trusting City Council…… what politician can any one name that we all trust. We have roundabouts, bike trails that bikes don’t use, an $880,000 duck pond, etc., etc.,

    The tone of this opinion piece is denigrating. I don’t think “local residents being duped” is at issue or a way to work out a solution. What we have here is a difference of opinion. Please take the high road Bill.
    True democracy occurs twice a year on election day. The rest of the year, we have representative democracy or as I think of it as Favocracy where the elected officials, government workers and those with ins to the government decide what is to be done. Our founding fathers thought that when the citizenry disagreed with the government, a way should exist for the people to decide what to do. In California, we have the initiative process. Please be sure and vote.
    Visionary is an interesting word. Prop B is visionary in that it looks to preserve for the future what we have today. Building for the sole purpose of making money isn’t necessarily visionary…it may be but rarely is.
    On the hotel, if we must build it, let’s site it like Sonoma Mission Inn, somewhere with low impact…. like 8th St East and Napa Road.
    Hugh Black

    • Phineas Worthington

      If you insist on citing the founders, please remember they established a republic, not a democracy. A republic based upon the law subordinated to the principles of individual rights. And this issue is one of whether an owner in fact has the inalienable right to use and dispose of his own property or not.

      • Hugh Black

        That’s not any definition of Republic I can find. From the dictionary ” a form of government where the head of state is not a monarch and usually a president” as in our country.

        More to the point, why not discuss the issue. By the definition in the response, I could buy a lot by your residence and if I wanted to build a glue factory, dynamite factory or other risky facility, it’s ok with you. Of course it’s not OK. That is what this discussion is about.. should a hotel with 59 rooms and a convention center with a capacity of 128 be built on the busiest street in town in one of the most congested areas be approved. Prop B, in the great tradition of our democracy is allowing the people to express there desires for the long term outlook for our city. Please be sure and vote.

        • Phineas Worthington

          Then I suppose the best we can do here is to have Mr. Anderson’s ability to reasonably exercise his property rights subordinated to the idea of majority rule or democracy rather than as an inalienable right.

          • Hugh Black

            Just as I subordinate my rights to the rules agreed to by the people through the government enacting laws that apply to all of us.

          • Phineas Worthington

            Agreed, there is always a balance of rights to be struck. And only one property owner stands to lose his property rights from this vote. At least in the short term.

          • Hugh Black

            In the long run, maybe the plan should be for the square and hotel construction within 3 or 4 blocks around the square be limited. Also, there is a lot of empty land around Sonoma that comes under the same change. This is not the first time growth limits have been in the general plan. I don’t think anyone is targeting Mr.Anderson, just the size of hotel projects in general. His application brought the issue forward. Perhaps we should thank him.

          • Phineas Worthington

            I just hope people avoid being callous toward the risks taken by Mr. Anderson and be aware of the loss he will incur of both his money and his decision making rights if the measure passes. Bans of these sorts have a real cost and some bear that cost more than others.

            I understand that the opponents to the project truly believe they are trying to do the right thing though. And that they believe that their quality of life is being threatened.

            I would only ask people to consider if the perception of a future threat to their quality of life does indeed take precedence over the property rights of one individual. An individual who has already navigated the expensive, risky, time consuming approval process to gain the ability to exercise his decision making rights about what he wants to do with his own property at his own risk and his own expense.

            I am not smart enough to know what Sonoma needs and doesn’t need. And i don’t think anyone else is either. I am willing to let people be free to make their own decisions and take their own risks and succeed or fail in the market, the free market that is.

    • Ralph Hutchinson

      Cows Not Casinos was Darius Anderson in 2003. You would think he learned his lesson with Sonoma. Measure A Rosewood-Hillside hotel in 1999, Measure C Hospital eminent domain in 2007 all examples of where the People had to step it up against the same 1% groups, Chamber of Commerce group of people. It seems the sitting Mayor has flopped on both sides of the 1% elites and the People but unfortunately he’s sided with big money of late.

  • Mike Stephens

    I totally agree with Bill! The Yes on Measure B people are closed minded people that think allowing 24 more hotel rooms will lead to Sonoma becoming a major city. If they are so concerned with development they might want to look around and see that Sonoma is not the Napa Valley and we have Napa Auto Parts, Safeway, CVS, Staples and on and on…. Why not a boutique hotel that will bring in people that will spend money on the square. The locals complaining about ruining the square are the ones driving to Costco or out of town to shop. Bill’s article hits the nail on the head. Thank you for taking the time to write.

  • Robert Piazza

    Bravo Zulu Bill!
    As an old sailor you know what that means!

  • Ralph Hutchinson

    Lynch stands to profit as IT part owner as does Bolling thus their opinions are tainted and biased given the conflict of interest. The IT was purchased by Darius Anderson and in the deal the hotel is expected to be built and it would stand to reason the IT partners would do anything they can to lobby in that favor. That’s the danger in a lobbyist/developer owning the Press. Should the hotel for any reason come in at less that the 59 rooms the overall value of the project would diminish. Revisions already claim smaller space on the restaurants and should the Measure B pass, and the hotel design fall to just 25 rooms thus would undoubtedly be a disaster for the project cutting the value nearly in half. In fact it may make it no longer feasible.

    As far as Darius and Sarah thinking they can just build anything they wish is absurd. City ordnance, zoning and a host of suitability measures are in place in most cities. Planning commissions, historical issues all play a factor and then after passed, City Council can interject their complaint if the Citizens decide they don’t like a project’s fit with the area for any reason.

    People live in communities, Cronies from the Political or Business circles don’t control as much as they think. One would think after Cows Not Casinos in 2003 that Mr Anderson learned that after such an embarrassing defeat. Also Rosewood Hillside measure A in 1999, Measure C the Hospital eminent domain fiasco all signals from the People. Yet the same cronies, keep kicking up these same issues. When will they learn?

  • Guest

    Doesn’t the Index Tribune building have a historical plaque on it from the Native Sons of the Golden West assigned just a few short years ago? Why was it considered so important then but now that Darius Anderson comes along and wants to build a hotel it suddenly is no big deal? How do the Native Son’s feel about what’s going on? Didn’t Lynch’s family believe in preserving Sonoma history and work so hard on getting buildings recognized? Isn’t this new attitude of Bill’s after selling out, a slap in the face of all that the Lynch ancestors did to help Sonoma?

  • Chris Scott

    The tally of comments; the vote is 2 Yes and 6 No votes. The Hotel Initiative is defeated by those posting on this thread.

  • Jay Tierney

    So much speculation and sharing of opinions on this issue, but few trying to determine the facts. Here’s the real question: has the EIR been drafted? I know one was planned for but never heard of its completion. If so, what were the findings for traffic and congestion? It seems to me this information should be completed prior to a vote on the matter (I realize measure B isn’t specific to this development but we all know it really is), although it’s probably too late at this point.

    • H Harvey

      Please check out the impact report that was done. It should be on the City of Sonoma website or very easy to find on the internet. Funny but Barbose and Gallian were against doing an impact report. Why wouldn’t you want the citizens to have access to something like that? It was ludicrous, but it’s there if you want to study it. You can also find the plans for the hotel.

  • peter coster

    I could not object more to Mr. Lynch’s view that Measure B is motivated by fear-mongering job killers who want to smash dreams, kill jobs and who lack the love and appreciation for Sonoma that he himself espouses. What is at stake is here are the dreams (or nightmares) of the wealthy elite who wish impose their vision for Sonoma’s future. The use of misleading rhetoric to sway the emotions of the voters has always been the strategy employed by the powerful elite seeking to stay in power. A 59 room hotel on the square is not a vision shared by all Sonoman’s. Take a look. We have Massage Envy, we have Ben and Jerry’s. These are franchises created by same visionaries that Mr. Lynch seems to admire. Do they add to our experience here in Sonoma. You be the Judge.