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Sebastappeal - Sarah Gurney - January 2017

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Sebastappeal - January 2017 - Sarah Gurney

by Sarah Glade Gurney

Sebastopol’s New Mayor in the New Year 2017

“I’m a Mayor with training wheels,” Una Glass described herself last December 6th after the Sebastopol Council unanimously selected her as Mayor.  She outlined her priorities for 2017. At the top of her list: immediate Council response to our housing crisis.  

Her proposed strategy includes the formation of a Sub-Committee to facilitate community discussion about our difficult and complex housing situation. Within two weeks of taking office, she has appointed herself and Vice Mayor Slayter to manage this ambitious task.  

The Mayor’s Green Ribbon Committee will assemble people from all sides: landlords, tenants, home-owners, elders, newcomers, real estate agents, disabled and other interested parties. The goals are to create community-based solutions that address availability and affordability and to propose recommendations about rent control and tenant protection. 

This ad hoc group has five months to complete its mission before the rental stabilization moratorium expires: January to May. Interested in this responsibility? Contact una.glass.seb@sonic.net.

Mayor Glass intends to continue previous Councils’ work to “get our fiscal house in order.” One effort will be to work on our 5-to-10 year Capital Improvement Program [CIP]. Another concern – the City’s unfunded CalPERS liabilities – has been addressed in the Mayor’s first month by the Council’s hiring of an actuarial consultant to propose options to pay down our obligation. This responsible financial planning will affect the 2017-18 budget.  

New revenue streams are critical to achieve Council goals. There are two potential new sources: the hotel across from The Plaza and a second medical marijuana dispensary in the Southpoint shopping center. Further, businesses in the Hwy 116 corridor may be included in an expanded business district, along with Downtown and The Barlow, and pay a small tax. Sebastopol voters may be asked to increase the transient occupancy tax [TOT], as just happened in the County.  

As her third priority, the Mayor wants to implement our new General Plan, beginning with revisions to our Zoning Ordinance. Hand-in-hand with updated land use, the Mayor ranks economic development, notably the unification of our downtown area.

Sebastopol will continue as an environmental leader under Mayor Glass, focusing on water conservation and other energy policies to decrease our green house gas emissions. Affordable jobs and affordable housing would allow more people to live and work in town.

Achieving these goals depends upon improved communication between the many sectors of our community. Mayor Glass hopes to work, for instance, with our numerous non-profits to undo some of the “silo” effect and build collaboration.

No Mayor accomplishes her goals alone, but rather with the help of hard-working Council colleagues and City Staff. This I know, from my term as Mayor in 2016.  Thank you for everyone’s support, enthusiasm, and effort during my tenure.

The Work Continues

On January 10, 2017, from 8 to 11 AM at City Hall, the Council meets in special session to confirm mutual goals and priorities. The agenda includes a status report on the existing list and discussion of additions.  

On January 17, 2017, at its regular meeting, the Council will review Hotel Sebastopol’s request for amendments to the current Zoning Ordinance: to allow four stories as the maximum height in our commercial downtown core and to amend parking regulations for greater flexibility [tandem, valet, compact]. The Council will also hear an appeal of the Design Review Board’s approval of the hotel project. These two items will impact our future, greatly.

As a mid-year budget review item, the Council will consider priorities for the CIP: what projects come before others? Fortunately, the repaving of Willow Street [from S. High to the island] is already in the pipeline.

Council Member Hinton has asked to discuss licensing and taxing [TOT] our Airbnb businesses, another potential source of new revenue.  

Lastly, the applicant for the  “small home” project at 7950 Bodega Avenue [where the steep hillside interrupts the sidewalk] has requested special financial considerations to move his project forward.  

Something spark your interest? Contact your Council Members. Information is available on the City’s new website where you can confirm each Agenda and review the materials.