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Letters to the Editor, June 27 - 30

Pride is driving push for stadium

EDITOR: I sat through the discussion of the District’s Master Facilities Plan at the School Board meeting the evening of June 6 and came away with the impression there is some agreement among those on both sides of the issue of how to prioritize spending of the $120 million of School Bond funds to meet the needs of the 21st century. Yes, there was differing emphasis, but few if any of the parents, sport teams or neighbors disagreed with the premise of improving both athletic and academic facilities.

The priority lists developed by committees and architects recommend and support needs for both new or improved athletic/physical education facilities and many academic facilities across all eleven campuses of the district. A need for soccer fields, running tracks and multipurpose/PE rooms at three of the 11 campuses in the district, a stadium at the high school, a pool, replacement of aging undersized temporary classrooms at many of the campuses and technology upgrades at practically all facilities led the lists of priority projects addressed at the meeting.

There is, however, a sticking point. Do we need a football style stadium at the high school? Does the mix of projects underway, such as the all-weather soccer facility at Adele Harrison and all the Master Plan recommended athletic/PE projects at the other campuses solve the issue or do we also need a $10 million 2,500-seat football style stadium? There are $220 million worth of projects identified in the Master Plan. The bond issue is for only $120 million and with the district hoping to reserve 10 to 15 percent of this for future contingencies, spreading the funds around will prove difficult given the volume and scope of all the projects.

Why a football stadium? The difficulty of even fielding a freshman team would indicate a declining interest in football. This is not a reflection on the dedicated coaches or staff, rather it may be the reality of changing times. Is soccer taking precedence for our students? If so then a football style stadium with announcing booths, team rooms and seating for 2,500 is overkill.

There are some rational solutions. The district needs to take a hard look at the suggested cooperative agreement with the County that could allow district spending on the needed upgrades to Arnold Field to improve the football experience there at a fraction of the cost of a new stadium. Already in place is much of the necessary structure including space to extend the field. The basics of a lighting system, stands and, most importantly, plenty of parking is already there. Even in Arnold Field’s current state, varsity baseball prefers to stay at Arnold.

The proposed football stadium at the high school could be downsized to a more reasonable soccer/track facility with far less seating at a much-reduced cost. Pride in our school as measured by a new football stadium seemed to drive some comments. A nice soccer facility at the high school along with all the planned soccer/track fields at four of the elementary and middle school sites should go a long way toward solving the issue of pride.

Bob Albright

Sonoma

‘Yes’ to thoughtful growth

EDITOR: To the Sonoma City Council, which will soon be voting on the Hotel Project Sonoma. We want you to know in no uncertain terms that we support this project.

While we are big supporters of preserving the history of Sonoma, a project such as this one honors this pledge. There must be growth and enhancement to properties in our town and this project qualifies for both. Too often properties languish in disrepair and lack of use due to changing times. It is critical in our estimation that this part of Sonoma be renovated and repurposed as the proposed project suggests.

Darius Anderson and his team have gone beyond what is needed to work with the community and incorporate their wishes and suggestions. Most developers would not have gone as far. In addition, Darius and his family live in Sonoma and have a vested interest in its growth.

“No growth” arguments do not make sense. Measured and thoughtful growth is the mainstay of any community and Sonoma is no exception. We have not seen the “no growth” groups put together the money and vision to repurpose the area in question. It is easy to say “no”; it is difficult to say “yes” and move forward with building the Sonoma with the integrity and character that this project outlines.

Let’s move on with this issue and let the enhancements to our city begin. Or, it might just sit there like so many other properties in this town, empty and deteriorating. Vote “yes.” Thanks for listening.

Ethel and Gene Daly

Sonoma

Hotel is Plaza- focused planning

EDITOR: I have been a resident of Sonoma Valley for over 20 years. I make trips to and through the central area of the City of Sonoma at least three times a week and am very much aware of issues regarding parking and traffic. From my perspective, there are a few points that warrant emphasis.

The City of Sonoma can and should effectively use this opportunity to establish additional gracious places for visitors to stay in Sonoma.

A reasonably sized hotel in a location that encourages pedestrian traffic in and around Sonoma Plaza is preferable to a number of other possibilities (such as “vacation rentals” that encroach on established residential areas).

The project plans continue to persuade me that the historic context of the Plaza will be enhanced by the completed construction.

The plans for off street parking (both on the hotel property and the contingent use of the Bank of Marin lot) are very reassuring, and I do not anticipate any undue disruption for those of us who do regular business in and around the Plaza.

I believe that the EIR fully addressed the traffic concerns. In my experience, the most noticeable traffic problems have most often been correlated with commuting workers and with arrivals and departures from schools, with guests arriving at or departing from hotels in the vicinity of the Plaza.

Although Sonoma does need additional affordable housing, the site for the West Napa Hotel project is not one that is suitable for residential use (this point was made in previous deliberations in the Sonoma City Council about another site adjacent to the Plaza).

I have followed discussions about this project for some months, and I have been continually impressed with the applicant’s willingness to incorporate community input. In addition, I believe that the applicant has truly embraced and responded to the role that Sonoma Plaza plays in the lives of residents of Sonoma Valley and in the experiences of visitors to our community.

Thomas M Jones

Sonoma

Convinced by Hotel Project Sonoma

EDITOR: As a strong supporter of the Hotel Project Sonoma, I’m very frustrated with how long it is taking to get this project approved. Six years ago, I was opposed to the development. I even wrote a letter to the editor stating that dissatisfaction, and how I thought the hotel did not belong. I was invited along with others to attend one of the small community groups in which all concerns were discussed and answers provided by the developer.

Over these six years and many meetings I saw that much work was going into redesigning, and limiting size and making the project energy efficient and LEED Certified. This answered the questions concerning soil and sewer. This project will be one of the greenest in town, with beautiful landscaping, water catchment systems, to help with irrigation, and many more environmental implements.

Studies were made of all the buildings on the Plaza, and their particular architecture. The improvements changed the design to a Sonoma style, where it fits in with the various different structures.

Now there are objections that housing is not included. Interesting that there are a lot of housing developments going on now, and hardly a word of concern is heard (by me, anyway). They have quietly been building, and I know we need them, but I don’t think we need them in a hotel.

Traffic issues have been dealt with and approved by reducing the size of the hotel, for one example. Hotel guests will have ample parking and will probably not cause a mass exodus when they do come and go, besides, like other hotels, they might even have shuttles that take them on tours.

I am in full support of Hotel Project Sonoma, along with thousands of other local Sonomans, and sure wish we could get going on it! I urge the City Council to please vote to approve the Environmental Impact Report.

Doreen Proctor

Sonoma