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Letters to the Editor, July 18 - 20


Council trying to reshape planning commission

EDITOR: This letter encapsulates comments I made during the special City Council meeting to hear an appeal of the Planning Commissions 5-1 decision to certify the EIR for the Hotel Project Sonoma. I think my perspective bears repeating as the council will make its decision on that appeal at a special meeting on July 19.

Our current mayor and council have demonstrated a lack of respect for the work of the Planning Commission, beginning with Mayor Hundley’s decision to not reappoint Commissioner Wellander who, in my estimation in his two years of service on the planning commission, was always well-prepared and thoughtful in his decision making

The result of that decision was the resignation in protest of another good commissioner, Chip Roberson.

It also created additional friction within council and held up needed new appointments for new commissioners.

And more recently the council has made the unwise decision to overtly politicize the commission appointment process. The decision to allow each council member to make personal appointments led to the resignation of yet another dedicated commissioner, Bill Willers.

The Planning Commission voted 5-1 to certify the EIR. That vote was the culmination of years of public hearings that precipitated project refinements and numerous studies and analyses. I know that I first reviewed the Napa Street hotel project in a study session while still a member of the Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission which is almost as long ago as some current members on the City Council first resided in Sonoma. In the ensuing years, I have read thousands of pages of reports, nearly as many pages of correspondence from interested citizens, and spent many long nights in Planning Commission meetings listening to public testimony.

My experience is not unique among the six of us that made that 5-1 decision. It is hard for me to imagine what new insight the City Council might have that we did not – in making our nearly unanimous decision.

What I can imagine, is this: It is clear that a faction among our current council is not happy with the decisions made by the planning commission and is attempting to reshape the commission in its own image. I would ask, why even have a planning commission, if the intention of this council is to overturn a nearly unanimous decision supported by years of analysis? Why even have a planning commission, if the intention of this council is to make personal appointments of surrogates that will do their bidding?

I have been mightily tempted to follow the other commissioners who have resigned in protest. I previously chose to remain silent in the belief that my obligation as a commissioner is to be apolitical.

I sincerely hope the City Council does not make the July 19 meeting another example of pushing their personal political agenda without regard for the commission process in Sonoma. I sincerely hope they accept the good work done by our Planning Department and Planning Commission on this project and reject the appeal.

James K Cribb

Chairman, Sonoma Planning Commission

Past the selling point

EDITOR: Reporting on the Sonoma Valley Health Care District’s land-use considerations of the “south lot” almost entirely on the “for sale” side, effectively dumbed down the public option in possibly retaining the property for good cause (“Sonoma Health District to Consider Fate of South Lot,” July 4). Mr. Gilroy’s case may not have expressed in perfectly smoothed enticing terms a windfall profit potential, it nonetheless revealed and explored several pieces of strong public interest entirely desirable for a primary public purpose institution like Sonoma Valley Hospital. A near-term-cash-flow-hungry administration may not be seeing the big picture here. Doubtless an upcoming payment due is real but certainly is manageable also. Let’s explore the public options yet unexplored.

Ned Hoke

Ecological and Oriental Medicine Sonoma

Everything but the kitchen sink

EDITOR: At the City Council meeting where they were considering the appeal of the EIR of the Hotel Project Sonoma, the developers suggested that if you replace 31 of the 62 hotel rooms with 31 apartments, the traffic and water use would increase.

But replacing the hotel rooms with an equal number of apartments means the apartments are the size of hotel rooms. Studio apartments the size of a hotel room! Where does the kitchen go? Not to mention the lack of storage space in a hotel room. This apartment complex, with only micro-apartments, belongs in cities such as Tokyo or New York, not in Sonoma. To be more realistic, the 31 hotel rooms should be replaced with nine two-bedroom apartments (or six one-bedroom and six two-bedroom apartments). This would then reduce the traffic, water and sewage usage.

If the restaurant is downsized to 40 seats, you could get another four apartments units. This would also use less water and produce less traffic. In addition, 20 percent of these apartments would have to be affordable housing.

David Eichar

Sonoma