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New Mayor Logan Harvey is pedaling toward a better Sonoma

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A peek at Logan Harvey’s LinkedIn profile reveals his full-time position as a “waste zero specialist” with an environmental services company, seemingly the perfect job for a man who has trouble tolerating waste of any kind, be it time, energy or natural resources.

Elected to the Sonoma City Council in 2018 and chosen by his fellow council members to serve as mayor in 2020, he’s a bike rider, public transportation cheerleader and obsessive recycler with a time schedule that rarely sees a free slot.

The only current councilmember raised in Sonoma, he has an ingrained love of the Valley where he grew up. His wife Lili loves to teasingly remind him that because he was born at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa he’s one day short of being a true native – albeit, she is.

Harvey, 32, attended Sassarini Elementary School, Altimira Middle School and Sonoma Valley High School, and even experienced a couple of years in the early days of Sonoma Charter School where he clearly remembers getting to help stucco the outside walls in second grade. It’s those deep roots, including the quintessential Valley experience of working at Mary’s Pizza Shack for four years during high school, that drive his commitment to keeping Sonoma “a wonderful place to live” -- although he laments that, for many, it is no longer affordable.

“Lack of affordable housing is killing us,” he said. “When I was growing up, working class people could afford to live here. It’s hard now for young families to stay in Sonoma. I’ve seen a lot of my friends leave.”

He left, too, for a while, living in San Francisco while earning an English/language arts degree at San Francisco State, originally intending to become a teacher. Then he was off to South Korea, where he was an English as a second language teacher at an elementary school followed by a three year stint as an English professor at Jinju National University.

While living in Korea he traveled extensively – Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines – and it was while he was abroad that he developed his appreciation for efficient public transportation, being particularly impressed with train service in South Korea and Japan.

When he returned to the Valley in 2016 he first worked in the wine industry, starting at the Pangloss tasting room on the Plaza and then as a wine sales manager for Repris. “I learned a lot about Sonoma Valley and its history working in the wine industry. They are very intertwined. And wineries provide some of the best jobs in the Valley,” he said. “I know about wine and about vineyards and climate change now in a way that I otherwise wouldn’t have.”

Trying to limit his carbon footprint, he shares a Subaru Impreza with Lili, whose job in hotel sales management requires her to drive to San Francisco a couple of times a week. Many days he rides Sonoma County Transit to Santa Rosa, taking his bike along for rides to his office and on outside business during the day. Admitting it is not the fastest way to get there, he said he gets a lot of work and reading done on the bus, and wishes more people would consider that extra time when they decide how to commute.

Sitting at Scandia Bakery, a short walk from his rental home, he said he is pleased about what he and the council accomplished during his first year, including raising the minimum wage, hiring a consultant to crack down on illegal vacation rentals, enacting bans on single-use plastic and Styrofoam and raising the hotel tax to help fund affordable housing projects.

Next, he would like to see a “per footage fee” assessed to new large homes, with revenues going to affordable housing projects; and for a commercial cannabis retailer to be approved to operate in the city.

He is pushing for Measure M to be renewed – the county Traffic Relief Act was approved in 2004 for 20 years -- which would provide more funding for public transportation and road repairs.

“Public transportation, when it works well, is a freeing experience,” Harvey said. He remembers how impressed he was that in South Korea shopping malls are built on top of bus terminals, not in the middle of parking lots.

“Research shows that 95 percent of all car trips within Sonoma County stay in Sonoma County, and most are less than five miles. That means we are ripe for public transportation.” He said that when rides on the Sonoma Shuttle bus became free last year ridership increased more than 50 percent.

He paused for a long minute when asked about whether he supports the renewal of the Urban Growth Boundary, which expires at the end of 2020.

“What citizens have to understand is that keeping the Urban Growth Boundary means increased density,” Harvey said. Saying that while he is not a proponent of sprawl, “I can see the merits of both directions,” meaning there are strong arguments on both sides of urban boundary debate. “We need to look at how the urban growth boundary works with affordable housing. We should have a 50 year plan for housing and it needs to be better defined.”

Harvey concedes that “people like the small town feel” of Sonoma.

“It’s why people live here,” said Harvey. “But that doesn’t work if we don’t have people to work in our stores, cook food and with an aging population provide nursing care.”

He said the city needs to have an “honest consensus” about it.

“The one gripe I have is that I don’t think enough conversation is happening,” Harvey said. “I wish more of the community would get involved. We hear from the same people all the time. I always try to think about what the rest of the community thinks. I try to guess, but I would like to know.”

Although he remembers inviting President Bill Clinton to his birthday party when as was a kid (and was disappointed when he didn’t show) Harvey did not get involved in politics until he joined the Sonoma Valley Democrats in 2017, mainly because of his concerns about the environment and housing. “And then people started asking me to run,” he said of his council position.

He’s concerned about the traffic at the intersection of Fifth Street West and West Spain. And that there is not enough shade at the kids parks. He thinks the city needs a beautification plan and “I’d love to do a traffic plan for West Napa Street.”

Yet he’s quick to point out, “We have a very competent city staff and they truly care about Sonoma,” he said. But he believes more people need to get involved.

He laughed when asked where he sees himself in five years, “I’m too busy to think about that.” He is not sure whether he will run again. “It depends on what else is happening in my life.”

Gazing upward, thinking about his future, he said that he and Lili “are going to try” to stay in Sonoma. “We hope to buy a house here.” Then he laughs and adds, “And we hope to win the lottery, too.”

He met Lili at a bonfire party on Millerick Road when they were 19, staying together throughout college. She visited when he was in Korea and they married after he returned. She is second-generation Sonoma, and shares his belief that this is a special place.

Harvey is a huge fan of the Overlook Trail and enjoys sitting outside at the Swiss Hotel. He likes the bike path through town and riding on Cavedale Road. He’s fond of the sound of frogs croaking at night, of Sweet Scoops ice cream cones and the old duck pond on the Plaza. (He hates the new duck pond.) He misses the SVHS pool, but he is glad they paved the Olsen Park basketball court. He worries that all the Sonoma County landfills will be full in only 21 years.

He sips his black coffee and says that his favorite book is “The Sea Wolf” by Jack London. “It’s all about human nature,” he said, “Everyone should read it.”

Maybe especially those living in London’s Valley of the Moon, where Harvey grew up and hopes to stay.

“It’s still the same town,” he said. “I love it here.”

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