Quantcast

I give my time and my integrity so city planning can be trusted

OpEd

By

By Gary Edwards

 

As chairman of the Hillside Preservation Alliance in 1999, I was pleased to work with fellow citizens in Sonoma to keep the Rosewood Hotel project off public land overlooking downtown Sonoma. Some of those folks are now comparing Measure B with Rosewood’s Measure A, and they’re taking credit for the hard work that was done by a committed few of us to protect Sonoma’s hillside – the Overlook Trail.

I believe every Sonoma voter deciding how to vote on Measure B should go to the library and check out a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America to learn why these two initiatives are so very different. Measure A was about public land. Measure B is about the freedom of private landowners to go through the established regulatory process and talk to the community, and to appropriately work through the existing process to develop their private property.

They are totally different cases, and the voters deserve to understand the reason these initiatives are not remotely similar.

I attended a city council meeting recently where the “Yes on B” supporters recommended, as one said, “The city should go after people and tax them for unlicensed rooms they are renting to garner TOT revenue.”

Their claim revealed they believe potential revenue would make up for lost hotel taxes if Measure B passes and bans all new hotels of 25 rooms or more – so-called “big” hotels.

Factually, out of the $2.5 million collected from the hotel tax, only 20 percent comes from hotels smaller than 25 rooms – not enough money to ensure the basic city services we deserve. Voting “yes” on B will drain the city’s accounts in spite of what they tell you.

At that same city council meeting, proponents also said that “the fix was in” and implied that the council and planning commissioners “were on the take.” Larry Barnett tried to take this back, but as one of your planning commissioners, I don’t believe you can take a statement like this back. I believe in my community and I love Sonoma. I also believe in the process we have to review all development projects – and I give my time and my personal integrity to ensure this process can be trusted.

As an individual who has volunteered not only on the planning commission, but in our community at large with Rotary, the Boys & Girls Club, the Community Garden, the Sonoma Community Center and others, I urge voters who really care about our quality of life and the character of Sonoma to vote “no” on Measure B and let the dedicated people who serve this community continue the good work that we do.

• • •

  Gary Edwards is a Sonoma resident and a member of the Sonoma Planning Commission.

 

  • Bob Dobbs

    “Measure B is about the freedom of private landowners to go through the
    established regulatory process and talk to the community, and to
    appropriately work through the existing process to develop their private
    property.”

    You sound as if you’re about to run for office or something. That said, you ought to be aware that the majority of Sonoma voters are smart enough to understand that the “established regulatory process” often means a stealth procedure intentionally drafted to disenfranchise citizens from having meaningful input. Had the “established regulatory process” been followed in the Rosewood saga, Sonoma would have a hotel on the hill right now.

    • Nancy Parmelee

      Just curious – could you give me the name of one, let alone three councilmen who would have voted for Rosewood?

      • Will Shonbrun

        Yes. Phyllis Carter, Al Mazza, & Louis Ramponi.

        • Nancy Parmelee

          That wouldn’t be right. I talked to Al and Louis at the time, and they didn’t know anyone hot for that project. You may remember that Al didn’t even like a vineyard put in on the hills behind Sonoma. Phyllis was one of the people opposed to Maxwell Park because of the traffic, and was always very conservative in looking at projects.

          • Will Shonbrun

            Sorry Ms. Parmelee, but I don’t buy that for a minute. The same economic arguments being made by the No on B camp, i.e., the City must have the hotel revenue or a financial crisis will follow, were made at the time of the Rosewood issue, and then council watchers like myself, Bob Cannard and Joe Costello felt assured that the only way to stop our hillside going to private development was through the initiative process, and that’s how it came to be.

  • Jim Pacheco

    Mr. Edwards,
    You are taking Mr Barnett’s quote out of context. I just watched the city council meeting of Aug 13, and at approximately the 2 hour and 20 minute mark Mr Barnett said, “They (the voters) are suspicious that the fix is in”. Mr. Barnett did not say that he thought this was the case. I am tired of the No on B side saying they will present the facts, when you what you are really trying to do is confuse and scare the voters. You have actually turned more than one voter into the Yes on B side with these tactics.

    And give me a break “drain city’s account”. The TOT revenue to the city will continue to increase to the city, whether there is a 25 room hotel built, or no hotels rooms built. Just more scare tactics because you cannot win on any of the factual arguments.

  • Fred Allebach

    The last I checked, the ballot initiative process is entirely legal, constitutional and part of a long history in California of providing voters a direct voice to counter the tendency of big fish to abuse little fish. Whether any particular initiative has merit is a question for voters to decide, just as voters decide who to elect to represent or not represent them. Ballot initiatives are part of the law of the land. There is nothing subversive here, all initiatives do is equalize the playing field.

  • bob edwards

    “I believe every Sonoma voter deciding how to vote on Measure B should go to the library and check out a copy of the Constitution of the United States of America to learn why these two initiatives are so very different. Measure A was about public land. Measure B is about the freedom of private landowners to go through the established regulatory process and talk to the community, and to appropriately work through the existing process to develop their private property.”

    — Gary might want to take his own advice and read the Constitution, & the California Constitution while he is at it. Then do a side excursion into zoning law, general plans and the right of the electorate to amend “the establish regulatory process” via ballot initiatives. Which is what Measure B will do.

    Then come back and explain why, with so little understanding of the underpinnings of the legal and regulatory processes he is supposedly administering, he is qualified to be on the Planning Commission.

  • Robert Demler

    Well said.

    My thanks to you, Gary, and to the other Planning Commissioners, and also to the Design Review Board and the City Council for your dedication and contribution to our beloved Sonoma.

  • Michael Lockert

    Mr, Edwards, how do you think the “existing…established regulatory process” came to be? It didn’t just arise out of thin air, but over time as the citizens and concerned parties responded to changing circumstances. The Planning Commission is expected to enforce the rules and regulations that have been established by that process. That is their job.
    As for the TOT issue, it was opponents to B that raised the concern about loss of revenue.
    The point is, if they are so concerned about it, why do they not collect the tax from KNOWN
    vacation rentals who are operating tax free, and why are they giving TOT money, in the form of the
    TID, to hotels to pay for their advertising? Since when does free enterprise depend on city funds that could be spent on community services?