SRO – not so much of a stretch after all
EDITOR: Single Room Occupancy has been around for a while and most prevalent in San Francisco to accommodate those who have low incomes and need a place to live.
Creatively how we can stretch this use to meet the needs of Sonoma? What if there were a hotel applying for occupancy here, but code and the general plan state there must be so much residential use planned as well in a commercial use project.
I would agree that it would seem that adding a residential component to a commercial project right on the Plaza might not seem a good fit – but what if we stretch the definitions of single room occupancy to meet our needs.
Building a hotel means lots of single/double occupancy rooms. Why not take a floor or two, create one-bedroom micro apartments each with their own bath, like a hotel room, yet have a common living and kitchen space.
Why not manage this more than 32 day rental through the hotel management and house, say, employees? Or other service workers?
It’s all about the lawyers
EDITOR: It’s money and lawyers that make the monkey dance.
Often, large commercial developments: hotel/resorts, winery/event centers, shopping malls and the like are bankrolled by investors, local or far-removed. These investment brokers – i.e., developers – have the resources to hire legal teams and public relations flacks to represent them in order to work their projects through an elected political body and its city administration, planning department and planning commission. In the case of Sonoma, its Planning Commission are appointees of the City Council, which requires no experience or expertise of them in the matters of city planning, building codes, state or municipal building regulations or the like.
By the time the public is given a chance to weigh in on a project with its concerns – what residents want or not and why – it’s for all intents and purposes irrelevant because their concerns don’t fall within the legal planning and development guidelines (rules and regulations) that govern all projects, including understanding and deciphering Environmental Impact Reports (EIR). The public’s comments, voiced at planning commission or city council meetings, are by and large relegated to the trash bin of anecdotal and, therefore, not of any consequence. Oh, you’ll get your three-minutes to spiel, but that’s it. The developers and their hired teams will get far more time than that.
While it’s true that the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) process, with which EIRs must conform, provides ample time for public comments, written or verbal, it still must adhere within a legal framework. This disadvantages a public unfamiliar with the statute and its many codes or unable to afford the necessary legal assistance to counter objections to a development project on the legal battlefield.
The legal framework for all these planning and development decisions (building codes, zoning regulations, design specifications, traffic safety and so on), has been constructed by the elected municipal body and its city administration and development director with the aid of a city’s legal department. In and of itself this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be understood that city councils, city planning departments, and city managers have constructed the rules of the game – the codes that must be adhered to – and it all resides within a legal construct of their design. Developers have the money to hire the lawyers, lobbyists and PR people to work the system to get their desired ends.