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Sonoma County Gazette
Sebastappeal by Sarah Glade Gurney

Welcoming 2018

Dec 29, 2017
by Sarah Glade Gurney


The traditional “Happy New Year!” seems inadequate after the devastation of the firestorm. “Best wishes for your rebuilding” or “for creating a new life here!” seem more appropriate. Resolve seems more important than ever as we welcome 2018.

I really like New Year’s resolutions and make them every December 31. During my tenure on the City Council, when I’ve served as Mayor, I’ve suggested resolutions for the community during the first meeting in January.

My ideas have pursued two themes: invest locally in our people, businesses, and environment; and approach difficult issues and the ensuing deliberations with a collaborative spirit.

To what issues might the Sebastopol community direct its resolve in 2018? This question became more important to me after recent contact with community members and electeds from Healdsburg. Citizens there secured the Council’s support for an application for an SDAT Report [as completed for Sebastopol in September 2013] for advice on their current challenges. Later a Council Member told me about a project with 850-square-foot units selling for over one million dollars. Could a similar situation be in Sebastopol’s future?

A first resolution - let’s figure out what kind of community we want to be. I remember SSU Professor, now Dean, Robert Eyler challenging the audience at an Economic Summit by the Chamber of Commerce years ago, “Sebastopol needs to decide who it wants to be and get on with it!”

We know the current, easily stated bookends of perspective: shall we be a compact, walkable and bike-able community or a commute-hour drive-through crossroads that serves other cities or wealthier areas? Designed for cars or built with people and a sense of place in mind? A quaint small town or a wine destination?

How we use land and how we move around determine the nature and quality of our lives. These decision-points affect metrics like health, education, income, cost of living, housing, energy consumption, water use, air quality, fiscal impacts, financial sustainability, historic preservation, and more [see the Portrait of Sonoma County and the Urban Footprint Analysis available through the Sonoma County Transportation Authority].

Fewer and fewer people think of Sebastopol as the “Home of the Gravenstein.” So how do we now identify ourselves?

Secondly, let’s move forward on the housing issues raised during 2017 by the sub-committee co-chaired by then Mayor Una Glass and Vice Mayor Patrick Slayter, including participation by landlords, tenants, realtors, housing advocates and others. We need to explore the new concepts discussed in their meetings.

Will we build for our children and their children as well for those who provide our services? How will we secure those homes when we are experiencing the third highest sale prices in Sonoma County and escalating rents? At the same time, we’re seeing an increase in lower paying jobs and an influx of retirees and people with incomes higher than our median. Investors are buying second homes, using them a few days per year or Airbnb-ing them. Vacancy and vacation tenancy don’t create community or a sense of belonging.

Third, let’s decide upon a name for ourselves. Do we call ourselves Sebastopolians? Sebastopoolians? Seb-towners? Sebastopudlians? Sebastopoldsters? Sebastofolk or something else?

What’s in a name? A name’s important. It declares identity and is used as a reference. It presents definition. It can imply both uniqueness and membership. Used community-wide, it might express civic pride and unite people.

The work early in the first quarter of 2018, under the new leadership of Mayor Patrick Slayter and Vice Mayor Neysa Hinton, will include housing-related amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, review of the parking study for the downtown area surrounding the municipal lot south of Burnett Street, discussion of the design of the second building on the CVS site, details on Caltrans’ work on the downtown sidewalks, mid-year budget adjustments, and the purchase – or not – of the sculpture known as “the door to hell.”

2018 promises to be a busy year.




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