One thing Sonoma has – other than wine, of course – is history. From the time in 1823 when Father José Altimira sketched out plans for the northernmost Spanish mission in California’s Jesuit necklace, the Sonoma Story has grown like a grapevine year after year – its tendrils wending into agriculture and military history, down train tracks and raceways, from the stone castle we call City Hall to chicken coops on the edge of town.
The year just ending was no different: rife with controversy and accomplishment. Here are 10 stories that made a lasting impression in the year that past – several of which we’ll surely be talking about well into the year ahead.
Market scans self
Any time a community market changes hands it’s news to the community; when it’s a market that’s been in business for 90 years it’s front-page newsworthy. Add a second market (and a second community), and the February sale of Sonoma Market and the Glen Ellen Village Market to Woodland-based chain Nugget Markets became the year’s first big story.
Reining in tourism
The Sonoma Valley lifestyle was on trial this past year as never before, with stubborn tussles over vacation rentals and winery events pitting new money against old traditions county-wide. The Board of Supervisors was the center ring for many such conflicts, with 1st District Supervisor standing alone against her four colleagues on several important votes that showed much of the county is less concerned about neighborhoods turning into party zones and tipsy drivers on remote roads than folks in the Valley of the Moon.
‘Housing crisis’ becomes official
The Housing Crisis was another story that hasn’t yet found a satisfactory resolution. As out-of-towners buy up second homes they may or may not ever use, rental rates skyrocket out of reach, and affordable living seems like a quaint conceit. Santa Rosa’s North Bay Organizing Project has been calling it a “crisis” for some time; in October, the Sonoma City Council agreed to place a moratorium on home-sharing services like Airbnb and VRBO, as even normally cautious councilmember David Cook began to call it a crisis, too.
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend
The Sonoma Stompers knew they’d have a hard time beating the newsworthiness of Sean Conroy, baseball’s first openly gay pitcher, tossing a two-hitter on Pride Night in 2015 – but the team pulled a hat trick in 2016. Not one, not two, but three women took the field for the home town team this year, including outfielder-pitcher Kelsie Whitmore and pitcher-infielder Stacy Piagno, who joined on June 1, and catcher Anna Kimbrell who was signed two weeks later. Throw in the first Asian-American pro ball manager, Takashi Miyoshi, and it added up to a championship season in the small but tough Pacific Association. What could they possibly do to beat all that in 2017? Stay tuned, the Stompers always surprise.
Voter referendum on the Toro 51618 Super Blower
Did someone say “leaf blower”? The issue of noisy landscaping machinery threatened to become a punch line for any story about Sonoma, as the City Council’s wrestling match with regulation vs. free enterprise stretched into its fourth year. In March, the Council finally passed a compromise regulation to ban gas-powered blowers, but allow electric – which was promptly contested by a petition demanding a public vote. With November’s razor-thin Yes on Measure V results – the ordinance was passed by 19 votes – the matter appears settled... right?