Sonoma developers face local backlash over LGBTQ views
A husband-and-wife team of developers faced mounting backlash in Sonoma this week after a series of anti-gay online posts made by the wife went viral this month.
Stacy Mattson who, together with her husband Ken, has spent $80 million the past three years purchasing 26 properties throughout Sonoma Valley, made the controversial comments on her then-public Facebook page. In one post, she described herself as “disgusted” by the 2013 Rose Bowl Parade being “high-jacked by the gay agenda,” adding that “the last thing I want to see in the parade is promotion of sin by being forced to watch a gay marriage ceremony.”
In a 2015 post, she wrote that upon returning from a trip to China, she “found our country in an even bigger mess than when [I] left thanks to some truly horrible Supreme Court filings… Obamacare, gay marriage.”
Her most recent public political post was a photo of the couple in early 2017 as they prepared to attend President Trump’s inauguration. The posts are no longer viewable as her Facebook settings were changed to private earlier this week.
Stacy Mattson’s Facebook posts began making waves several weeks ago when screen shots of the anti-gay remarks first started to spread through the community. The posts came under wider scrutiny after the Index-Tribune published an April 8 story about the couple’s real estate buying spree in town. Since 2015, the Piedmont couple have assembled a giant portfolio of Sonoma Valley properties, with the latest wave of purchases taking over high-profile commercial sites that include Cornerstone shopping center, Ramekins culinary school and the General’s Daughter event center.
As the extent of their holdings became known, the couple and their online profiles drew even closer attention from local residents. A week after the Index-Tribune story ran, Sonoma food writer Sarah Stierch posted screen shots of the Stacy Mattson’s Facebook posts, which have since been shared almost 100 times.
The resulting backlash has been vocal and increasingly public, even coming from within some of the Mattsons’ new properties.
Kyle Kuklewski, executive chef of Ramekins and General’s Daughter, raised rainbow flags on Tuesday to show solidarity with the community.
“We 100 percent disagree with their personal beliefs and we told them that,” said Ramekins general manager David Daniel, referring to an email he said he sent to the couple on Tuesday.
Ken and Stacy Mattson declined to be interviewed but provided a statement on Thursday that sidestepped the content of the posts. Originally from Rancho Cordova, Ken Mattson has worked in the financial services industry for 35 years, most recently as a financial planner. Stacy Mattson is originally from Fairfield. They have been married for almost 30 years and have four children, all of whom are in their 20s.
“The businesses we have purchased in Sonoma have a proud history of being inclusive in terms of employees and clientele,” he wrote. “As new owners, we have insisted that this history of inclusion continue. We also know that a truly diverse community benefits from the discussion of a broad range of ideas. We hope that all our guests, clients and employees will join in on this discussion.”
The controversy has erupted in a city that has sought to make overt shows of support for LGBTQ residents and visitors. It has hoisted the rainbow-colored flag over City Hall, serves as host for the popular summertime Gay Wine Weekend and is home to a growing array of businesses that cater to the gay community.
Gary Saperstein, who runs Out in the Vineyards, the promoter of the Gay Wine Weekend and other gay-centered wine country events, said that Stacy Mattson’s posts are “disturbing to say the least.”
“To have this going on in our very own backyard is a reminder that hate exists in all corners of the world… even here in Sonoma,” Saperstein said. “I’m concerned for the employees who work in these businesses as I know that they do not stand with the owners.”
Daniel said that the Mattsons have treated the staff “with respect and kindness since day one,” and are hands off - trusting him to make the right decisions for their business. “We have a total inclusive and supportive culture here which will continue. Kyle and I are both huge advocates for that.”
But adding to the furor over Stacy Mattson’s expressed views on gays and gay marriage was news that the couple’s business partner, Tim LeFever, has served as chairman of the board of the Capitol Resource Institute, which has lobbied to repeal state legislation that ensures gay people and gay rights are included in school textbooks and that sexual orientation is protected against discrimination in the schools. LeFever was also part of a group, Privacy for All, that in 2015 proposed a state initiative which would have banned transgender people from using bathrooms in government buildings that matched their gender identity.