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Teri Shore

City of Sonoma—Back to the Future—1999?

In the city of Sonoma, it feels like some folks are going back to the future, or simply back to about 1999. Back then, the city of Sonoma was among the nine cities in Sonoma County that were fighting sprawl by voting in the first urban growth boundaries. Greenbelt Alliance partnered with the community to gather signatures and put the measure on the ballot, which passed with a 64% majority.

Now the city’s UGB is expiring and needs to be renewed! Unlike every other city in Sonoma County, the City Council of Sonoma is now balking at renewing the UGB. Instead, the Council and staff are listening to the same old inaccurate arguments, “that expanding into the greenbelts will solve the housing crisis.” Just like in 1999!

Greenbelt Alliance is advocating for the renewal of the existing UGB for at least 20 but preferably 30 years. It is a proven tool for protecting natural lands while encouraging climate-friendly development near shops, jobs, and schools. And guess who else is supporting the UGB renewal? The Sierra Club, Sonoma County Conservation Action, and community leaders who have formed the Citizens to Renew the City of Sonoma’s Urban Growth Boundary. We are also getting strong support from leaders in planning, tourism, and local business. See this excellent letter that was sent to the City Council.

Who wants to expand the UGB or weaken it? Developers like Habitat for Humanity (usually an ally) and a few well-intentioned though misdirected housing advocates including the Sonoma Valley Housing Group. Others who oppose the existing UGB are, surprisingly, a board member of the Sonoma Ecology Center, David Morrell, who has asked that the UGB be weakened. Developer Simon Blattner is on record against the UGB and is seeding doubt among decision-makers. Several folks are even suggesting that we renew the UGB for two years until the General Plan is updated. That will only increase land prices as well as make housing less affordable.

These groups recognize the need for affordable homes, as do we. But building on the outskirts of town isn’t the right option. There is plenty of space available within the city’s boundaries—close to services, transit, jobs, and stores—to build housing for people who need it the most.

The City Council and staff of Sonoma have not yet made clear whether they will stand up for the UGB and renew it or be swayed by the outliers who are relying on stale old arguments that sprawl is the solution. Please let the City Council know that you will support them if they do the right thing and renew the UGB with a vote of the people before it expires in December 2020. Surely, they don’t want to take the city back to 1999!

You can help!

Support the renewal of Sonoma’s UGB by clicking here to sign our petition and send an email to the Mayor and City Council.

For more information and to learn about ways you can support this initiative, contact North Bay Regional Director, Teri Shore

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