Live Updates from the City Council Meeting: Council Declines to Revisit Bike Lanes, Approves Montini Preserve Takeover Conditionally

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We'll be writing live updates from tonight's City Council meeting. Check back to see what's going on.

6:03 Council is back from closed session. Everyone's seated.

6:07 Tonight's Council meeting is a joint session with the Community Development Agency, as the city tackles redevelopment funding.

6:07 Public Comment: Valley of the Moon Riders here to announce that they are no longer in danger of closing. Check out company that took over the service.

6:13 Council woman Joanne Sanders wants to commend the Blue Wing Adobe Preservation Group for their new website and fund-raising efforts. The site looks great.

6:14 Mayor Laurie Gallian is recapping the

6:15 Also Mayor Gallian says there are still several alternate positions open on city committees. Apply on the City of Sonoma website.

6:18 Proclamations recognizing "A Season for Nonviolence," which will last through early April. Also a proclamation for the Peace Corps. Two former Peace Corps volunteers, who live in Sonoma, are here to accept the proclamation. The Peace Corps celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. There are 16 Sonomans who have served in the Peace Corps, and a few who are currently serving.

6:26 Consent Calendar. Several items pulled for individual discussion. Sanders will recuse herself from several items pertaining to the Community Center, which is near to her property.

6:33 Item 5E, which is the adoption of a funding agreement to allow use of the Sebastiani Theater for the Sonoma International Film Festival. Barbose proposes to fund $9,000 towards the rental, and refund previous months payment. Agreement carries unanimously.

6:35 Now the Council will consider a similar agreement, regarding the Sonoma Community Center. Sanders has left the room. The City of Sonoma would spend about $4,100 for the rental.

6:38 City Attorney Jeffrey Walter is giving an update on recently introduced redevelopment legislation.  If the governor's legalisation ending redevelopment agencies is passed, a successor agency--most likely the city, but if the city steps down then any applying agency can take their place. An oversight committee, which may have the power to direct the City Manager, will be appointed. Most likely, Walter says, this committee's goal will be to liquidate as many redevelopment funds as possible, so they can be reallocated for the state's funding deficit. 

6:43 Councilman Ken Brown wonders about the makeup of the oversight committee. The members will be appointed by various city and county agencies, as specified in the legislation.

6:44 City Manager Linda Kelly says that she's been in touch with State representatives, and they expect a budget passed as early as this week.

6:45 Barbose moves to adopt the license agreement between the Community Center and the CDA, to be used for the Film Festival. Brown mentions he's particularly excited that Susan Sarandon will be coming for the festival. Motion passes. Council brings Sanders back.

6:48 Council moves onto item 5F, authorizing the CDA to accept property and authorize it through the City Manager. Motion to approve from Sanders. Unanimously approved.

6:52 Onto 5H, which is an amendment to the City's property agreement with the Visitors Bureau. The City Staff introduced an amendment to designate tax increment funds to pay the lease, so that if the CDA is dissolved, it will solidify that these funds are not to come out of the general fund.

6:55 Sanders points out that the agreement with the Visitors Bureau will commit to providing the funds, rather than re-negotiating the agreement on a yearly basis.

6:58 Apparently the City is marking this as a five-year agreement to prevent the oversight committee from not enforcing it, if the CDA is dissolved. Though, staff says that they can't guarantee that the committee will honor it.

6:59 Gallian asks if the City would be obligated to pay from the general fund. Answer: no. "That would be a very unfair...if it's going to be funded, then it's going to be funded from tax increment," says Walter.

7:04 Public Comment: Herb Golenpaul complains that over $100,000 per year is being given to an agency that overlooked $500 per month unnecessary rent to the City. "There's a possibility that with that $100,000, they're going to do the same thing," says Goldenpaul.

7:06 Back to Council. Barbose moves to adopt the amended agreement, which will extend the agreement through 2016.

7:09 Sanders says she will not be in favor of the motion, even though the Visitors Bureau is a major source of funding for the City. "We shouldn't be digging the redevelopment agency further into the hole, because it is going away," she says.

7:10 Barbose is confident that the 90-day cancellation clause will be enough of a "get-out" card. "In terms of our own economic well being, we need to support [the Visitors Bureau,]" says Barbose.

7:12 Motion passes, with Sanders and Rouse in opposition.

7:13 Item 5I, which designates CDA funds for the Sonoma Jazz+ festival.

7:15 Sanders wonders if this item can be postponed. Walter says if the budget goes through this week, this item would not be able to be approved.

7:24 There are several amendments to the legislation to allow the City to forfeit paying for the agreement, if the CDA funds are not allowed to be used after the government's budget goes through.

7:25 Walter says that City Staff may make "non-material" changes to legislation after this goes through. Gallian asks him to define material. Walters says that other changes to timing and such he would consider non-material.

7:26 (Editors Note: There's a group reading our Live Updates from behind us via iPhone. Cool!)

7:27 Public Comment: Jazz+ clientele is well-to-do, and does not need to receive public funds. "Why give to the 'haves' when they are already running the game," he says. He also has statistics showing that only 6 percent of Jazz+ attendees earn under $50,000 per year. The stats show that most of them eat only organic food, travel often, plan to purchase a car in the next year, and consume many other luxury items.

7:31 Public Comment: President of the Sonoma Field of Dreams mentions that Jazz+ lost money on last year's concert.

7:32 Rouse says he's not in favor of the proposal. "We made a decision that the outlay of those dollars were going to be more than made up in the total and other revenue sources...I think we vote on this as it stands today," he says.

7:36 "I think we should make a suggestion to [staff] that they keep things the way they were last year," says Sanders.

7:37 Brown moves to accept the license agreement, including the three amendments given tonight..."and whatever else Mr. Walter would like to see in there." Barbose seconds.

7:38 "I still feel that what we're doing is investing in the city of Sonoma, not giving away," says Brown.

7:39 Motion carries 5-0.

7:39 Five minute break, then onto Public Hearing Item 6A, which deals with amendments to the City's Sign Ordinance.

7:50 Back. Sanders moves to table several items, including 6A, 6B, 7A and 9A, due to the length and importance of the rest of the agenda. Brown says he is willing to stick it out. Rouse says he agrees with 6A and 6B.

7:52 Gallian: "I am up for the full agenda...I feel that I can deliver it fast-ly? I'm up to the challenge."

7:52 We're continuing. Onto 6A. Summary in this . The changes, essentially, would be more business friendly, by allowing for more temporary signs and sign applications which would not require specific Design Review Commission permission.

7:54 Rouse asks what the definition of "around the Plaza" means. Businesses near the Plaza have stricter design guidelines. The definition is any business "fronting" the Plaza. Also signs approved under the old system would be allowed.

7:57 Public Comment:  Laurie Decker representing the Economic Development Advisory Committee. "Signage is very important for these businesses...these changes make the process a little bit easier and quicker for area businesses, while still maintaining a certain standard," she says.

7:59 Barbose suggests changing the height requirements from 48 inches. "That is too low to be seen from behind a parked car," he says. He suggests making it 72 inches.

8:01 Barbose qualifies the proposal to exclude A-boards. "Otherwise you're going to end up with this enormous 72-inch thing in the street," he says.

8:06 Barbose moves to adopt the motion, but adopting a maximum height of 42-inches for A-board signs, and 72-inches for others.

8:09 Onto 6B, Sanders motions to approve. Brown seconds. Unanimously approved.

8:10 Moving quickly to 6C. The item will be divided, first looking at the Community Center portion, with Sanders recused, and then looking at the rest with the entire Council.

8:11 Sanders leaves the room. Background: The City Council voted to bond 16 million dollars of CDC money to allot for specific projects, 2 million of which was allocated for the Community Center. The bonds were sold on Feb. 8. The council will look at a City Council Resolution and a CDA resolution to provide funds for the improvement projects.

8:16 Rouse: "It's hard for me to believe something of this magnitute that Councilwoman Sanders has to recuse herself...I'm not sure what benefit she gains. Is there no way to put the wording in here that allows her to vote at least on the non-$2 million section."

8:17 Walter says the items are an entirety, because funding may be re-allocated between projects, and she can't participate in Community Center votes because the law states Council-members are not allowed to vote on any items within 500 feet of their property. A way out: Sanders can hire a property appraiser to say that the legislation would not have an effect on property value.

8:19 Public Comment. John Kelly says that education is the big issue with the state budget. When Barbose went to state law school, the tuition cost just over $600 per year. Now, tuition would cost over $38,000 per year. "I don't know if a 24-year-old Barbose could go to law school and come back and practice in today's economy," he says.

8:23 Public Comment: Community Center President Pam Gibson is glad the Community Center project is included.

8:32 Public Comment: John Kelly says that the Council has spent $400,000 in fees, and if these motions get cancelled because of the governors proposal being approved, those fees would be lost.

8:39 Gallian asks for a poll on Council-members current opinions, all but Sanders are in favor.

8:40 "Haste makes waste," says Sanders. "When I first got elected I used to be frustrated by how long it took to get anything done, but now I realize the beauty in that--public funds should be scrutinized---and I don't think the majority of the public have any idea of what's going on."

8:42 Sanders removes herself for vote.

8:53 Gallian: "These proposals are modest compared to some that have come forward in many cities throughout the state." Approved.

8:55 Sanders is back, onto the Montini Preserve item. Read some background from this . The Council will consider several questions:  1. Are they interested in taking over the property? 2. Are they happy with the maintenance proposal? 3. Would they like to take over maintenance or issue a request for proposal?

8:59 Public Comment: Bob Edwards says that he wants to make sure that the resolution does not preclude dogs from having access to the property and does not prevent other outdoor activities--such as mountain biking and horseback riding--from taking place in the space. "I want Council to make sure that we get the broadest possible civic use from the space," he says.

9:08 Barbose says he believes this is a remarkable opportunity for the city to have access to this land from close to downtown. "I think we can work out all the details related to both the scope of use and the payment of maintenance expenses," he says.

9:13 Brown says that Darius Anderson, who is not present at the meeting, is willing to support the efforts and possibly create an endowment for maintenance expenses.

9:16 Barbose motions to conditionally accept the Montini preserve, and ask staff to bring further information. All in favor. Passes.

9:17 Onto 7B, which is reconsideration of Bike Lanes. Notable sigh in room.

9:21 Brown says he placed the item back on the agenda after a resident attended his office hours to complain. He says that all residents deserve the chance to voice concerns, in the same way that residents of West Spain Street were able to. Gallian says that she's in favor of holding Public Comment, and potentially moving this item to a less jam-packed Council meeting.

9:22 Public Comment: Chip Robertson says that he recognized a junior high school student biking in between parked cars, which is "not the way that kids should operate a bicycle." If you have a bike lane, he says, this doesn't happen. Also notes that Fifth Street West has an elementary school, and having a dedicated bike lane would make the roads safer.

9:26 Public Comment: Brian Finn says he's sorry that he didn't understand that the bike lane proposal could be segmented. He says that while collecting signatures many people thought that the entire proposal had been defeated, not just the West Spain Street segment of the bike lane proposal. He's collected 250 signatures, and would like to put it back on the agenda.

9:28 Public Comment: Herb Golenpaul says that he's stood on Fifth Street West and counted one car every second, and he thinks the cars are dangerous.

9:33 Public Comment: "Every person that chooses to ride a bicycle rather than a car eases the traffic...and our reliance on fossil fuels."

9:37 Public Comment: Nicole Abaté Ducarroz says that she hopes to get more bikers out there and to make it safer to bike. "It would be great if we could have a win-win in this situation, and maybe we do have to be more creative in what the bike lanes look like." She's in favor of bike lanes around the entire county. Sassarini Principal Leticia Cruz says she'd like to see more information given to parents and the community.

9:42: Ducarroz compares the proposal to the district's change from A-G requirements. "Maybe there could be meetings...I don't know what you do, but that's what we do," she says.

9:48 Public Comment: Christopher Woodcock asks the Council not to reconsider the issue. "I'm wondering if this is just a knee-jerk reaction, that people just respond after something's been put in...I'm hoping that this might change people's relationship to the street, making it much slower," he says. He's a cyclist, and says he finds it difficult to get around, so "the redesign is crucial."

9:51 Public Comment: "We're obviously beating a dead horse here, but we're here simply to get this item re-listed for discussion," says Jake White, a resident of Fifth Street West.

9:54 Public Comment: "This has been talked about for years, with plenty of public comment...I want to urge you to not reconsider this."

9:55 Public Comment: Christine Culver, executive director of Sonoma County Bicycle Collation. "You've gotten tremendous amount of feedback, and I urge you: Do not reconsider this," she says. "We're putting it in for the majority of people who want to ride bikes but don't." She says there's been plenty of meetings and opportunity for public comment before this point.

9:57 Culver says that the bike awards the city receives were because of this plan. "You take the bike paths away, then 'poof' there it goes." Applause. Gallian reprimands.

10:00 "This is the process," says Brown, "a council-member who votes in the majority has the ability to bring an item back if he believes it deserves to be brought back."

10:01 Brown says he thinks it's fair to consider the process completed.

10:01 Barbose says "This has been a long arduous process, many public meetings, lots of outreach, articles in the newspaper...it sets a dangerous president that every time we vote something that people don't like they can just put it back on the calendar to try and change our minds," he says. "What will be next: Will the MacArthur people come in?"

10:02 Rouse: "I was not in favor of Spain Street, I believe that the connectivity piece was not in place...we have seen the plans, we have heard about the public safety issues, and this goes a long way in helping solve those issues." He continues: "People want it brought back before the council, much publicity on this issues...it's a little late."

10:06 Sanders says if the plan doesn't work it can be revisited, but she wants the city to move forward.  "Frankly I was surprised that we got that recognition, because we're not all that bike friendly," she says.

10:08 Council will not revisit the bike path proposal. Mass departure from the Community Meeting Room.

10:12 Moving on to item 7C, which is the development of a funding agreement between the City and the CDA.

10:13 "Is it correct that this sets up a mechanism for more permanent debt for the CDA to fund items that we normally fund on an annual basis," asks Sanders. "Correct," says Kelly.

10:20 Public Comment: John Kelly says that 40 percent of all money is required to go to education, so if this money is allocated . "The Governor's proposal does not say that you can't do redevelopment, you just have to do it by public vote," says Kelly, "which is why this system should go: it takes the decision out of the public's hands."

10:23 Sanders says that she thinks that the CDA's funding proposals are often a creative use of preventing urban blight. "It seems Sonoma thinks we're not going to have to participate in the belt tightening, and it is, we do," she says. "What we're talking about is incurring a lot of debt in a real short period of time...and that is what we're doing to the state, it is extremely detrimental if not devastating to our state."

10:25 Gallian wonders what would happen if the Council doesn't pass legislation. Kelly says that it would be difficult to justify funding to these programs to an oversight committee in the future.

10:28 "This is some very heavy stuff, and what we're saying is that the sky is falling" says Rouse, "but at some point, we have to face that and if next year we have to reallocate $584,000 from some other source then that is our reality." Rouse says he believes that tax increments dollars are rightfully the city's, but..."we can't keep grabbing at that brass ring."

10:35 Barbose says he's swayed by Rouse and Sanders. "It's almost like a target saying 'sue us," he says.

10:41 Walter says the purpose of tonight's CDA meeting is to pledge the tax increment over various periods of time, "and hoping that the law will support the pledges that the Council makes tonight." 

10:42 Barbose says that he'd like to see them pass into a shorter agreement, especially with projects - such as the Sebastiani theater and graffiti abatement program - that are not likely to be upheld.

10:43 Kelly points out that graffiti abatement is actually specifically provided for under redevelopment funds.

10:44 Barbose asks which of the list Kelly thinks is "least defendable." Kelly says that she thinks that they are all pretty strong.  (Audience whisper: "They shouldn't be talking about this here...this is a cry for litigation.")

10:46 Motion passes 3-2, with Rouse and Sanders in opposition.

10:50 Item 7E, which would move CDA property to the City of Sonoma. Rouse recused himself because of an investment property he owns near one of the properties.

10:52 Five minute bathroom break.

11:04 Back. Walter reiterates that if the City wants to establish ownership of the CDA it is wise to do it tonight.

11:08 "Aren't we going to be given this option to make a decision about these properties at the end of redevelopment, if we decide at we want at that time to take them over?" asks Barbose. "Yes," says Walter.

11:09 Public Comment: "Our community is bigger than the City of Sonoma, our school district has been hard up for money for ages, the idea that we can carton ourselves off as a City and ignore the Valley...we can't just ignore the world," says John Kelly.

11:12 Golenpaul: "It seems like you people up there just have to give money away...Anything to give money away. Somehow you people get the idea that CDA money is not your money - it is your money...What I'm commenting on is that you find a weasel way out to spend money...I have very very seldom seen you people decide not to spend money on anything."

11:14 Walter suggests continuing this portion of the meeting to another time tomorrow.

11:18 "This is like quicksand, everything we're basing these decisions on today, it could be gone tomorrow," says Brown. "It's like we're in the twilight zone."

11:19 Council is rescheduling the meeting for tomorrow, from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m., in the Community Meeting Room.

11:25 Item 7E is continued until tomorrow, moving back to item 7D.

11:25 Sanders leaves, since she's recused from the item.

11:36 Walters warns against an easement in perpetuity. "You may suffer some political pressure to spend some money to make sure the things that you want to have happen," says Walters. "Why did you take out an easement if you're not committed to making sure the building is preserved in its original condition?"

11:38 The lights just went out. City Planner David Goodison is turning them back on as they go out.

11:40 Public Comment: "I urge you to support the agreement," says Pam Gibson. "This has been in the works for a long time, it's just coincidental that it ends up on an agenda like this...you will literately be saving the Community Center."

11:44 Public Comment: "This building doesn't belong to us, it belongs to everybody here in Sonoma."

11:45 Public Comment: "This Community Center stepped up to offer services when we needed it most...

11:46 Public Comment: Kathy Sweat, Community Center Executive Director, says that this proposal with the bond money proposal will work to make insure institutional growth five years from now. "They are designed together," she says.

11:47 End of Public Comment. Barbose says he is not in favor of just a five year easement.

11:52 Gallian points out that the City can always extend the easement at any time. "If we were operating in the 'new world owner,' and the City becomes the successor to the CDA...I would expect that the oversight committee would say you can extend it, but the funding is going to come from the City and not tax increments," says Walter.

11:57 After the first five years the easement will apply to the exterior of the building only. All are comfortable with this designation, Barbose only with the combination of it getting a historical designation.

12:04 Meeting is continued until tomorrow night at 5:30 p.m.

Dorothy March 08, 2011 at 02:17 AM
The live blog lets me enjoy a Council meeting in the comfort of my home!
Roy Tennant March 08, 2011 at 05:35 AM
I just want to echo Dorothy's comments, that this is a tremendous public service. Thanks!
Alexis Fitts March 08, 2011 at 05:59 AM
Thanks Roy and Dorothy. Glad it's useful!
Joanie Bourg March 13, 2011 at 01:19 AM
I love this format of minutes of the council meetings, as it is extremely hard for me to attend them. The comments line by line are well worth the effort. Thank you all council members for long hours and hard work !!


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