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Fryer Creek Bridge; Big-Box: Live Updates From the Sonoma City Council Meeting

We'll be posting live updates from tonight's Sonoma City Council meeting. Check back here to see what's happening.

6:17 Council is still in closed session.

6:31 Meeting is on. Herb Golenpaul recently saw a documentary depicting the harmful effects of plastic bags - he advocates eliminating them. Applause.

6:32 Reminder: Children's Day at the Mission this Saturday, from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Children under 12 get in for $3, under 6 for free. They'll be craft activities, wool spinning classes and steer roping (awesome!?). This is one of three major events (along with Christmas at the Mission and the Victorian Ornament-Making Class) paid for by the .

6:35 Lisa Summers said that the bike rack and drinking fountain are broken at the newly renovated Ernie Smith Park. She also thinks that the basketball court could use a second hoop. "The age group is really using that park a lot and the basketball court is undeserving," she said. Also: "It looks like a tornado went through the park...maybe it's handicapped accessible." She thinks that more community members should have been asked about the design plans, and she'd like it to be more like the France St. playground.

6:38 Sonoma Valley Corral will perform Irving Berlin music.

6:39 Another park commenter says that she was consulted as to the park, but she's disappointed with the outcome: "It's primarily a toddler park." She also says that the benches are not usable and the barbecue pit is unusable.

6:42 More on the park. "We felt that the park that was presented to us was not going to accommodate the neighborhood with all the ages of children."

6:43 Another resident says he met with the park contractor, and was disappointed at the delays: "It was supposed to be a better park then it is now, but all the stuff that's going in is all for toddlers."

6:45 New take from a resident who is often woken up by late night hoops throwing, since his house is adjacent to the park's basketball court:  "If the city's going to invest all this money in renovating the park, I don't understand why they haven't updated the sign that states the curfew hours."

6:47 Mayor Laurie Gallian is dedicating the meeting to Eugene Lee and Debbie Andrieux, who passed away from cancer. "As I was giving my proclamation for Paint the Town Purple [a preview for the Relay for Life cancer benefit] I realised how many people we've lost to this disease."

6:50 The French Ambassador will be coming to Sonoma on May 30 and giving every WWII veteran the French-Legion of honor.

6:50 Mayor Pro Tem Joanne Sanders wants to dedicate the meeting to military service officials, who've helped in the .

6:59 Tom Rouse mentions that the Sonoma Fireworks show is at risk . Donate, he says. "They threaten us every year, but this year it's serious...I urge you to support the volunteer firefighters who provide Sonoma with this free show," he said.

7:00 Public Works Planner Trent Hudson, who is here because of the onslaught of e-mails from community members regarding the park, says that Ernie Smith Park had some significant renovation problems. "We have limited resources at public works and we're trying to do the best we can to address those issues."

7:05 Maureen Evans will have a California Town Hall meeting on May 4, with up-to-date information on how the budget is progressing.

7:06 Raymund Gallian receives a proclamation (from wife, Mayor Gallian) recognizing his dedicated service on the Planning Commission. Check out our video.

7:29 Proclamation for affordable housing. "It provides a foundation for people who need a hand-up to improve their lives," says Gallian.

7:33 Another proclamation for bike to work day. ! Sonoma is the first city, says  an organizer, to sign on as a sponsor of bike to work day.

7:35 Proclamation for "350 Home and Garden Challenge." .

7:38 Last proclamation: for in honor of "Older Americans" month in Sonoma. The median age of Sonoma is expected to grow to 51.3 by 2013 (Ed. Note: Wow.)

8:06 Onto the Bicycle and Pedestrian project for Fryer Creek Bridge. Previously, the Council voted 4-1 to move forward with an environmental study for the Newcomb Street location.

8:10 The plan breaks down into three parts: the bridge, the path, and pedestrian circulation issues. The bridge would look similar to the existing bridge. There are concerns about pedestrian safety with such close proximity to traffic, but the project engineer says that there have been enough accommodations to make the structure safe.

8:19 Councilman Barbose asks how the flow will work with the stop sign. "It's a bike pedestrian path, which is why there's a sidewalk component - we expect pedestrians to continue along the sidewalk while the cyclists make use of Newcomb street," said City Planner David Goodison.

8:23  Public Comment from an avid cyclist: "It seems the opposition to this bridge is made up of people who use this area for driving to and from their homes, rather than walking or biking," he said.

8:24 Public Comment: "We have studied the project very carefully...the bike path has been completed to end at Fryer Creek Drive...the cost for the remainder of the project would be much less than the project at the end of Newcomb," she said, citing currently existing speed bumps and signage.

8:29 PC Paulette Lutjens, who resides four houses away from the project: "First, we question the use of the redevelopment funds for the project since the primary purpose of those funds is the elimination of blight and the expansion of housing and employment...I'm not aware of any blight nor any great employment opportunities at the site." She said they also estimated, via , the area contains a maximum of 10 children, not including traveling students. "Bottom line: we continue to believe that spending an amount, which is now up to $300,000 - the original estimate was between $80,000 and $100,000 - for the benefit of 10 school-aged children, does not make sense."

8:34 PC: "I think the Picket street access would probably be less costly. I recognize that the path has lots of bumps on it - the roots have gone on the path and lifted the asphalt...We're spending $300,000 on the bridge and we aren't even taking care of the path."

8:35 PC Chip Robinson: "I realize this does come at some expense to neighbors, but I feel that the expense is far outweighed by the impact to the community." He also says that, as a mentor, he sees bikes at the local schools often.

8:39 PC: "I got three kids that come down to these ballparks and these soccer field, and when a kid sees he has to go three blocks in the wrong direction to go on the bike path, he's going to turn around and go on First Street. It's not really a safe option."

8:50 PC: "I keep hearing about how the Picket St. site is safe..I'm a mom, I'm running with my kids, and people don't stop there."

8:53 PC: Property values would increase or stay the same with the project.

8:56 PC: "It's a major connector to the bike paths around town - I don't see why more people don't want to ride bikes."

8:57 Back to council. Sanders says she'll support it at Newcomb Street because of the proximity to the schools and connectivity issues. She did not originally support the use of bonds, but now that the money is spent, she'll support it. "When you hear in the paper about bonds, get down here, because it means a lot of money is about to be spent," she said.

8:59 Sanders: "As far as the bridge to nowhere, picture yourself as a kid with working parents: It's a bridge to school, it's a bridge to a babysitting job...it's a bridge to a lot of things that kids might not be able to access."

9:02 Barbose: "It is very important for children to be able to get around safely in this town, especially if their parents are not available to drive them." Also: "We get a lot of complaints about traffic in this town, but people who bike actually decrease traffic...I see this as a win-win project."

9:05 "Although I'm in complete support of bikers, I think this is a want, not a need," says Rouse. "We put in a bridge down the street - though it might not be ideal...I just cannot continue to support spending money that we just don't have."

9:07 "This project is $300,000, that's with a 25 percent contingency, not a million dollars," said Ken Brown, who will support the project. "Mrs. Sanders and I both have kids under-10, and those kids need to get around." He also said that he spoke to police officials about safety concerns, and he confirmed that they were warranted.

9:09 Mayor Gallian: "This is the connector, this is the location, and with the survey the public has confirmed this is what they want." She also confirmed that grant money had been allocated for the project, not just redevelopment funds.

9:15 Staff direction passed 4-1, with Rouse in abstention. Applause. "We'd really like you to wave your hands rather than clap," says Gallian.

9:16 Onto the "big-box" debate. Summary: at the March 4 meeting the council declined to adopt a in Sonoma. Now, the council has brought this item forward to identify specifics of. If the council wants to make this a priority, staff recommends sending it to the Planning Commission for further review.

9:25 Barbose says that he is most interested in precedent for this kind of ordinance.

9:27 "I felt that it was important to not have our issue with Staples leave us powerless to do what we wanted to do, or perhaps what the people of Sonoma were asking us to do," said Mayor Gallian.

9:28 "We need to be very careful here: Mary's Pizza is a formula business, it's based here, but they too would be under scrutiny. You have to look at that," said Rouse. "I think we need to look at, maybe this is something that needed to be done many many many years ago. You have the large structures in town, they are here. The Mayor would perhaps not like to be blindsided...I don't know that we...restraint of trade is restraint of trade. We can look at formula business, I'm all for the community impact. But we talk about being business friendly, this isn't business friendly."

9:34 "Are we going to have zoning in place around the Plaza," said Sanders? Barbose explains that this would be a factor in the formula ordinance. "What I'm trying to clarify is this community impact report this would just be one factor," said Sanders. Barbose says that the two actions are separate.

9:36 "I'm getting lost here: this is questions, I'd relish my opportunity to give my comment," said Brown.

9:38 Public Comment Vicki Frank, owner of : "A definition of a big-box store is not its size, it's its business practices. A big box store moves in, drives other places out and t. If you look up Staples...they are the poster child for how you do not do business."

9:42 Public Comment: A community impact report  (CIR) has been proposed, which would look at the effect of sales tax revenue, effects on other business, job growth stats and a housing needs assessment. "The two issues are having a comprehensive assessment tool and protecting the historic district, you're probably going to need something of both."

9:45 Public Comment Chip Robertson: "I'm certainly one that likes to shop local and support local, but there's a real need for businesses to know what kind of environment they're getting into...I support Council-member Barbose's point that we do want a business-friendly community." He points out that Chico's, Spirit's and Stone and several other Plaza businesses are chains.

9:48 Back to council. "The pressure is mounting," says Brown. "and we have economic concerns to worry about." He also says he doesn't want it to take a long time. "To put it in front of planning and economic development, it's just going to take a long time."

10:00 "We're not going to be chosen by Sunset Magazine as a great place to go," said Barbose. "We live in a very special area and we need to protect it...by preserving what makes it special, we are supporting our local economy."

10:02 Questions: Does the council want to have chain stores as a topic at future meetings? Four do, Sanders does not.

10:03 "I think it's healthy for the city council and its commissions to have discussions about this thing, and not become something where we're spending thousands of dollars trying to keep them out, but every time I tread down one of those things it goes down too many issues with me, and I just can't get here," said Sanders. "I can give stories about how, as a small business owner, competition from large businesses have made my business stronger."

10:05 Gallian suggests the council could look at the future of this issue with a joint Planning Commission session.

10:06 Kelly wonders if the council wants to legislate only Plaza business or only big-box businesses, but not hotels. "Well you guys are the experts here," says Barbose.

10:07 "The more direction the better," says Kelly, "so we're not creating volumes."

10:08 Staff says they will make dates for a study session with the Planning Commission.

10:10 Sanders says that she would like to make a motion to adjourn the meeting after Public Comment. Barbose seconds. Brown says that he would like to make his final remarks."OK, so I'll amend my motion so that one coucnilmember can speak," said Sanders. "Just kidding."

10:16 Brown's comment is directed to staff: he hears that staff delays responses to members of the general public. Also "I'm skeptical about jumping on a bandwagon about Osama bin Ladin, I have no information about any of it, and I think caution needs to be taken." He also would like stricter enforcement of the 3-minute rule, or perhaps have the schedule adjusted, so the meetings don't end so late.

10:19 Meeting adjourned!

Correction appended, the original text of this blog stated that the estimate for the Fryer Creek bridge bike path project was $180,000. It was between $100,000 and $80,000.

Ms. Lynn May 03, 2011 at 03:03 AM
Hey now 51.3 isn't old!
Rena B May 03, 2011 at 01:40 PM
Gives you a real sense of how City Council works. It looks as if we need to really think about the future of Sonoma and the kinds of commercial development that will be best for the community. It seems to me that we need to strike some kind of balance but that, of course, is very difficult to achieve. And also want to say that I liked the video of the Mayor.
Alexis Fitts May 03, 2011 at 04:22 PM
Thanks for the comment Lynn, agreed! I didn't mean to come of glib, what I meant was that, since the national median age is about 31.8, 51.3 is VERY high. And, since it's an average, not a median, and we have a lot of youths in town, that mean the median age probably skews higher.
Carol Taylor May 03, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Thanks for the coverage - respectful; concise while including dynamics. Excellent & hard to do.
Dorothy May 04, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Your step by step City Council meetings is a regular piece that I look forward to. Thanks for staying up late and writing this.
Paulette May 04, 2011 at 06:13 PM
First, thanks for tracking the City Council meetings, great information to the public. Second, in my comments at the City Council meeting regarding the cost of the bridge -- I said the original estimate was between $80,000 and $100,000 on 9/16/2009, no $180,000. Also, it is Fryer Creek - no "s" . Paulette
Alexis Fitts May 06, 2011 at 09:55 PM
Thanks for the comments! We always strive to be as accurate as possible - though sometimes we make mistakes (especially during a live-blog). I've issued a correction for the body text of the article. Thanks for reading Paulette.

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