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Traffic committee to eye Lodge at Sonoma’s ‘loading dock’

For the city’s residents living near the Lodge at Sonoma on Broadway, Thursday’s meeting of the Traffic Safety Committee can’t come soon enough. The committee gathers via Zoom on Thursday, April 15, for the first time in more than two years.

Their last meeting of the committee - one of six city commissions tasked with advising the city council - was on Dec. 5, 2018. But a slate of traffic issues by a neighborhood group calling itself Sonoma Gateway have been going on for much longer than that. They include overflow parking from the Train Town theme park on the east side of Broadway (an island of non-incorporated property surrounded by the City of Sonoma), noise and traffic from the theme park and occasional Caltrans operations in the area, and the use of Clay Street as a “loading dock” for the 18-year old Lodge at Sonoma resort at 1325 Broadway.

According to Lynn Fiske Watts, a leader of the South Sonoma group at SonomaGateway.org founded in 2015, the Lodge never included a loading dock in its original development plans.

Watts recently provided the Index-Tribune with a photocopy of a letter written on Feb. 1, 2001, complaining about many of the same issues residents today are still upset about: employee parking on Clay Street, dumpsters near the street that attract vermin, and large delivery trucks blocking the road.

City of Sonoma Planning Director David Storer told the Index-Tribune that “the Lodge approvals have always shown a loading area on Clay Street.” However, Watts contests that characterization of the Lodge approvals.

“Calling a service area a loading dock does not make it one,” she told the Index-Tribune in a series of emails. “If there is an amendment allowing the use of Clay Street as a loading dock for the Lodge, as (former Planning Director David) Goodison stated in a public meeting (in 2018), where is it? The city cannot produce it and I have not been able to obtain it through public record requests.”

Watts has been pursuing this issue for years. “The public record is all we have to go on — in any situation — in all situations,” she said.

Kristina Tierney of the city’s planning department produced a July 1996 staff report describing the Lodge property, including a “service and delivery area located approximately 160 feet from the intersection of Clay and Broadway,” with a 24-foot wide driveway from Clay Street.

Watts says the use of the Clay Street side of the Lodge property for truck deliveries exceeds the definition of a service area found in the municipal code. According to the Sonoma municipal code, “The term ’service area’ includes but is not limited to areas including or adjacent to information kiosks, automatic teller machines (ATMs), ticket lines, bus stops or shelters, mobile vendor lines, or cab stands.”

Sonoma Public Works Director Colleen Ferguson said, “The term ‘loading dock’ is not used in the city municipal code,” though a “loading zone” is, referring to the space adjacent to a curb for the “exclusive use of vehicles during the loading or unloading of passengers or materials.”

The city’s recommendations include painting a clearly striped area for loading on the south side of Clay Street, for parallel parking next to the Lodge’s current service area, near the location of the Wit and Wisdom restaurant.

“There is already a striped zone on Clay, from the driveway to Broadway. It should be repainted and I support it,” said Watts, who also advocated clear signage for the striped area.

“The committee’s purview is limited and it has not been receptive to controlling truck traffic in the past,” she added. “That said, we must use whatever tools the city throws our way.”

The committee’s focus on Thursday is also on issues related to Train Town customer parking, which often overflows the business’s lot on the east side of Broadway. The committee is recommending that the transit stop and crosswalk currently at Broadway opposite the Lodge be moved north a block, to opposite the Alta Madrone apartments site, on the north side of the Train Town property. Such a relocation would occur in a pending Caltrans pavement preservation project.

The Traffic Safety Committee’s current members include former mayor Nancy Parmalee as well as Yvonne Bowers, Mark DeMenno, Matthew Wirick and Armando Zimmerman. The meeting is at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 15, and will be available for public view on Zoom zoom.us/j/92022014080.

Email Christian at christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.

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