In his Jan. 30 column (“The Fight for Sonoma’s Hillside — How Soon We Forget”), Bill Lynch asked why the building of three homes on the lower eastside of Schocken Hill is a “minor skirmish” rather than the battle that erupted 25 years ago when the Rosewood Hotel group wanted to build a resort above the town on 60 acres.
The answer is that comparing my homes on three separate lots totaling seven acres of private property not visible from most of the town, and especially the Plaza, to the attempt to build a resort on city-owned land that would be visible from the Plaza, is apples versus oranges.
The community responded to that battle by amending the development code to prevent commercial development, but zoning my properties on the lower east side as Hillside Residential and establishing a series of guidelines for this anticipated future development. The attorney who led the fight against Rosewood was a Sonoma City Council member and voted to approve the area’s “residential” designation.
I was surprised that Mr. Lynch said he was recently “scratching his head” to find that the Planning Commission had already approved my homes. He walks that neighborhood on a daily basis, knew about the proposed homes, knows the terrain and hills on the east side and should be one of the first to state that the area where these homes are proposed in not in the “city’s backdrop.” The two upper lots will be partially visible to each other while the lower lot will be all but invisible to the public.
He lobs generic and unsubstantiated criticisms, calling the three separate homes “a substantial residential development” and “very-large, exclusive mega-residences” when they are smaller than many neighboring hillside homes, and less than half of the allowable building coverage and density on each of these lots.
And given that the average size of new homes built in the U.S. in the last few years is around 2,700 feet, these homes are no way the equivalent of “10 average three-bedroom homes.”
I was glad to see Mr. Lynch state that “one could argue that this development is relatively modest,” which is one reason the planning commission approved the individual homes. And it is not a development as the three homes could have been proposed at different times – and two of them are almost one-sixth of a mile apart. He refers to “necessary cuts for roads and utilities” but fails to mention that while some trees will be lost in the process that they will be replaced on a 1.5:1 basis. Thus the resulting road to the upper two lots will be barely visible from below, and certainly not from the Plaza or all parts of the Valley as some will have you believe. Overall the homes employ thoughtful architectural and site designs to reduce pad-lot grading, improve the current drainage conditions on the hill, and reduce visual impact — all in compliance with the development code.
Readers should review project documents and gain an informed understanding about these proposed homes at sonomacity.org/other-development-projects.
Bill Jasper is the project applicant for the three homes near Fourth Street East at Brazil Street. He is also an investor in Sonoma Media Investments, which publishes the Index-Tribune.