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Grassroots Graton - April 2015


Grassroots Graton - April 2015

by Heather Granahan

By now, many in Graton know that the lot currently housing the Community Garden has been sold. Most of us know that the buyer is none other than creative local developer and Graton community resident, Orrin Theissen. Orrin and his family are long-time locals whose children attend the Oak Grove School here in town where he and his wife have been on the board for years; he has a vested interest in the community. Theissen Homes is responsible for the rebuilding of downtown Graton, using old photos of pre-fire buildings as inspiration. Like the development of the Square in west-side Windsor, his visions replaced funky “mid-century”, dilapidated buildings and weedy lots in areas that had been attracting more crime than community feeling for some years. Those of us who grew up in West County attest colorfully to that. To be honest, even in the early days as we established the garden, I have personally witnessed and help stop an assault underway in the overgrown bushes along the alley. A community-minded build and garden/park holds more potential promise for our town in the long run, if done thoughtfully.  We all hope thought will be paid particularly to the closest neighbors who already must tolerate living next to one of the most popular restaurants in the county. The parking for this happy establishment will still be on Edison, but with the development comes improved with sidewalks, gutters, paving and striping – and who knows, maybe that will inspire better nighttime behavior from patrons.

Though escrow is closed, the actual build will not break ground until early 2016, having to first run the gauntlets of design and permitting approval. Anyone who has ever tried to do so much as re-roof a carport in this county can appreciate what he will be facing in that realm. In fact, each of the owners of the old firehouse and the striving-to-open Bambu café can raise your hair with epic tales of county permit struggles. With a fresh build, perhaps Theissen will fare better. In the interim, Theissen has allowed the Community Garden to go for one last season at the current site. Gardeners are stirring to life to get down there and clear weeds and plant, having been a bit on hold not knowing whether a tomato would have time to ripen before the crews arrived.

And what is planned once the crews do arrive? The plan calls for 10 single family homes built mostly on the north half of the property, with most facing south toward the creek, and a couple pairs facing the streets east and west. Plan is for them all to be “affordable” (not “low income”, a different designation); 2 will hopefully be built with Habitat for Humanity, with 4 or 5 for local renters and the others sold. Priority for the Habitat sweat Equity homes will be given to people who work in Graton – now there’s a novel idea; imagine how cool it would be if we could all waddle to work on foot. Garages will open on the now-dirt road behind the Underwood, which is apparently a county road. Should have guessed, from the maintenance level (West County road joke, ouch). 

The fronts of the homes will mostly face the creek area on the south side of the block. The creek and well area will be separated from the homes by a sidewalk running east and west. All the land south of the sidewalk will be community garden and park; almost half the lot.  And let’s not forget this also includes setback for the Critch (as the creek is formally known), the old watertower and a common wellhead. Theissen has been speaking with the Graton Green Group for potentially buying the garden strip. Orrin says he’s been talking to the county officials and feels there is a very good chance of getting matching funds from the Open Space District for the park. Graton Community Services District (GCSD) and Graton Projects could provide the maintenance. This is not illogical as GCSD has jurisdiction over parks and lighting for our community, along with our state-of-the-art sewer system. There are also potential community grants to help this part of the project.

Other rumblings that Theissen may hear from our ever-involved townsfolk are wishes for incorporation of solar power, permeable paving, graywater, rainwater catchment, no runoff but recharging the town aquifer instead. There will be chances for all this convo – Theissen has presented at the GCSD meeting and will next be on the agenda formally at a public hearing. 

In the meantime, community gardeners, get out there and show ‘em how pretty a garden can be. And be sure and get flowery inspiration and plants at the Graton Community Club Spring Flower Show Friday April 24 & Saturday April 25,  and have lunch with your unique neighbors. More at