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The Importance of a Community Questionaire


The Importance of a Community Questionaire

By Tasha Beauchamp

Environmental Impact

When a new business development is proposed, the state of California currently has a requirement for an Environmental Impact Report: a massive document prepared by an objective third party that outlines potential ecological threats and suggests changes to offset them.

Social and Financial Impact

But what about non-environmental threats to our community? For example, new ventures can imperil existing local businesses. They might compound the housing crisis by offering jobs that do not pay enough for their employees to be able to live here. These are just a few of many potential concerns. What is needed is a Community Impact Process to round out the picture and help assess the social and financial impacts of a new businesses or development.

What question would you like to ask a new business or development?

The City of Sebastopol is asking adult residents of 95472 to help in the creation of a Community Impact Questionnaire

Share your thoughts at

Through August 15, the City of Sebastopol will be accepting suggestions for questions that might be asked when a business or developer applies for a license or permit. 

Beginning a conversation

What personally appeals to me about a Community Impact Questionnaire is that it starts a dialogue about how a business or development wishes to participate as a citizen in our town. What would they like to contribute? Beyond sales, products and service, how will they engage with our community? A Community Impact Questionnaire is designed to be very easy for the business. There are no special consultants required. There is no regulatory implication. It’s simply the beginning of a conversation.

Community resilience

As small towns and large look for ways to stay nimble and adapt to change, it’s becoming clear that community resilience is highest in those locations that encourage collaborative action when addressing problems or concerns. Instead of everyone looking to government to fix a situation, a partnership is cultivated between non-profits, for-profits, schools, faith communities and government. Resilient communities recognize that we are all citizens, as individuals and as sectors of the community, and that we all have a vested interest in working together to make our town better.

Inviting the community to create the process

Cittaslow Sebastopol has jumped in to help the City with the development of a  Community Impact Questionnaire as we believe it is a great way to get citizens engaged. The new General Plan is a community-sourced document created by citizens to outline our vision for Sebastopol’s future over the next 20 years. A Community Impact Questionnaire allows us to take a step closer to that future by looking at social and financial implications of new ventures.

Link to the General Plan

The General Plan is full of suggested Action Steps. One idea, for instance, is to outline these Action Steps in the Community Impact Questionnaire and ask our incoming business citizens what steps they feel they might contribute to in the areas of housing, economic vitality, community character and other elements of the General Plan. 

Pilot project

The thought is to develop a Community Impact Questionnaire and pilot the gathering of information for 2 years. At the end of that time, the City will have a better idea of the value of the information, its effectiveness in starting those conversations, and best applications for the future. 

Enter a drawing to win $100 gift card

We invite the community to think creatively in their suggestion of questions to ask businesses and developers. Think big! People who make suggestions at by August 15th will be entered into a drawing to win a $100 gift card to the local merchant of their choice. Respondents must be 18 years or older and must live within the 95472 zip code. 

For more information about the Community Impact Survey, email


Tasha Beauchamp is the Co-Chair of Cittaslow Sebastopol and a member of City of Sebastopol Sub-Committee on Community Impact Reports