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Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - March 2016


Savory Sonoma, by Stephanie Hiller - March 2016

I finally made it to my first Sonoma City Council meeting in February, as behooves any chronicler of city affairs, I suppose, but which I have been avoiding until now, just in time to bid farewell to the leaf-blower issue that has hounded the council for the past three years. Residents disturbed by the noise and concerned about emissions brought the matter to the attention to the council, which apparently has been unable all this time to bring it to conclusion, at least not until the citizens agreed to a compromise. Gas powered leaf blowers will be banned, but not electric. It’s an uneasy conclusion, as Bob Edwards pointed out, in view of the fact that electric blowers are actually noisier! Not that he has been much help in tying up the matter, from what I hear, even voting against its final form. Councilperson Huntley also refused to support the resolution, mistakenly claiming that emissions were never part of the issue. If emissions weren’t of concern, then why so many objections to allowing the use of blowers during the hours that children are walking to school? If children do indeed walk to school these days. Do they? 

In any case, it was not leaf blowers but affordable housing that drew me to attend to my journalistic duties by attending, in the midst of pouring rain, my first meeting. It was the call for an emergency response to the lack of affordable housing in Sonoma put forth by members of the Sonoma Valley Housing Group and the Spiritual Action Group of the Methodist Church. Apparently they have been making this request for close to a year, with no response from the Council. Their resolution asks that the Council examine alternatives for taking the situation in hand, which thus far it has failed to do.

But the situation is screaming for attention. According to a new report from the County Economic Development Board, the number of houses sold last year was actually seven fewer than the previous year. What, asks Jason Walsh in his editorial for the Index Tribune, has become of the “hot” housing market? The explanation, according to EDB, is that houses are just too expensive: about $264,000 more per house than the county average. Imagine!

The 2016 Sonoma City Economic Profile has much more to say about the housing situation in our fair city. You will find it at

I’m a member of Transition Sonoma Valley and I’m happy to report that the group has turned its attention to a proposal from Transition Towns US, based in Sebastopol, called Transition Streets. The idea is to bring neighbors together to share ways to save energy and generally develop ways of being more climate friendly while getting to know the folks who live around the corner. Transition Towns provides a curriculum for six meetings. TSV co-founder Ed Clay is trying it out in his neighborhood on the Eastside. We look forward to hearing his report. Meanwhile, Tom Conlon of GeoPraxis, an energy efficient company in town, is working with the Planning Department on a proposal for a new bike path from Agua Caliente to Oakmont, promising a safer way to ride the Valley along Highway 12.

The next regular meeting of TSV is March 9 at 6:30 PM, in room 211 of the Sonoma Community Center – open to the public.

I’ve been enjoying the Elder Salon hosted monthly by Iris Lombard and Trymon Hunter at Verano School in the Springs. Each month our facilitators provide us with a theme to discuss, all focused on aging consciously and with zest. We’ve talked about gratitude, accepting help, regrets and related topics. The meetings are open to local seniors; contact me if you’d like to check it out. Meetings are usually the third Tuesday morning of the month from 10-12.

Speaking of seniors, I’m leading a class through the Older Adults Program at the Junior College, a wonderful program that offers free classes in writing, art, exercise and discussion groups for seniors in our own communities. My class is a life-storytelling group held at Brookdale residence, 800 Oregon Street here in Sonoma. We have a lot of fun sharing stories from our lives, enjoying short readings, and talking about our experience as elders. Please contact me if you’re interested in joining the group. 

It’s wonderful, isn’t it, that we are living longer now, but like all good things our extended lifetimes present challenges as well as opportunities. One challenge is to change attitudes toward aging, while ourselves learning to appreciate the fullness of this time of our lives and discover purpose in it. May you too have the Time of Your Life in this time of your lives!