South Sonoma Neighborhood Project
The Planning Department does not enforce conditions of approval tied to the Lodge at Sonoma and does not know how to deal with Train Town, which uses City streets as its personal parking lot. The residents of South Sonoma, from Broadway to Fryer Creek, would like the City to take charge and work to correct these situations.
Enough is enough. The Lodge must relinquish its stranglehold on Clay Street and the City must take steps to reinstate its residential roots and ensure it never falls back into the substandard condition that has prevailed for nearly 20 years.
In 2005, then mayor Larry Barnett said, "I happen to feel the city bears a very strong responsibility for subjecting the neighborhood to essentially the butt end of this hotel." But the City hasn't taken responsibility; in fact, we'd characterize it as having turned its back on the neighborhood. Planned and built without a loading dock, Clay and Bragg Streets were substituted and, though there have been hundreds of written complaints, a generation of City officials has not taken the cumulative impacts seriously.
History. The original site plan shows a "service area" located on Clay Street and the restaurant close to where a stone building now exists. There are often big tents in this area. The original site plan does not show a dock, even next to the restaurant, where there was plenty of room for trucks of all sizes and shapes.
According to retired Planning Director David Goodison, in a report to the City Council in 2005, the restaurant and dock were moved to Clay Street late in the review process. This was a fiction. They didn't move the dock. They simply used an area meant for storing housekeeping carts and such.
Anyone looking at the Clay Street access driveway can see it was not meant to be a loading dock. The area is small and the driveway steep. The sliding wooden gates use a metal runner on wheels, making it difficult to use for anyone using dollies, fork lifts, pallet jacks, et cetera. And, if we can believe Brady and Associates, the company that conducted the EIR for the Lodge in 1996, the recycling areas, solid waste collection areas, and loading areas were thought to have been located where there were travel aisles for unobstructed access for collection vehicles, protections against odors, vectors, et cetera, and no "sensitive receptors." This does not sound like an access driveway on Clay Street; it sounds like a dedicated loading zone somewhere on the hotel's property.
Although St. Francis Place was a known quantity, David Goodison, the Planning Commission, and the City Council did not consider the 35 homes when they reviewed the Lodge. There were many opportunities to spot the lack of a loading dock since the Lodge went through a long review process. Had the City correctly required another EIR after the major changes to the design of the hotel complex, perhaps A) A dock would have been added somewhere on the hotel's property or B) If everyone again failed to notice there was no loading dock, effective measures might have been put in place to mitigate the noise, filth, and circulation problems caused by the hotel's operations.
Two basic but important concepts were overlooked at every stage of design and approval:
1) The Lodge was built without a loading dock.
The combination of Clay and Bragg Streets fulfill the Lodge's need for one, but at great cost to the neighborhood.
2) The City did not amend the use permit, adding mitigation measures to deal with the predictable noise and filthy conditions one associates with loading docks or parking shortages for idling trucks on Clay Street. Moreover, there was no traffic and circulation plan. Goodison Memo
These blunders must be corrected before the neighborhood can experience the same quality of life as other Sonomans. We think a loading dock needs to be established on the hotel's 9.5 acre property and, at the same time drastically scale back operations on Clay Street. It seems reasonable to us for the City to offer the Lodge a business improvement loan, to be repaid through the transient occupancy tax. The Lodge will be making cosmetic improvements, expanding its restaurant, and perhaps its conference business, which will increase the frequency of activity and intensity of operations. Our neighborhood must be protected against current and future intrusions.
Train Town does not have enough on site parking for its customers during the summer, school breaks, and holiday weekends. They use the length of Clay Street all the way to Pickett Street to park. Increasingly, their use of city streets extends all the way to Fryer Creek. Train Town also projects amplified music and blasts its horns and whistles toward the public right of way. If anyone from the City measured these noises, they would register as violations of Sonoma's Noise Ordinance.
City government needs to acknowledge changes on Clay and Bragg Streets are due and then it needs to rein in these intrusions on the neighborhood by Train Town and the Lodge at Sonoma.