Christian Kallen, SONOMA INDEX-TRIBUNE
If Sonoma Public Works Director Colleen Ferguson has her way, the route of Broadway from MacArthur to the Plaza will have room for more parking, bike paths in each direction, and encourage foot traffic to support local businesses – without costing the city an extra dime.
“The city’s planning documents definitely show bike lanes on both sides of Broadway,” said Ferguson. “And it’s clear that the volumes of traffic on Broadway now can be accommodated by one travel lane until you get to the Plaza – you don’t need two lanes like we have now.”
What would it take to bring Ferguson’s vision to fruition? Apparently just some paint, thanks to the planned repaving of Broadway – aka Highway 12 – by Caltrans slated to begin next summer.
The majestic street, the so-called “gateway” to historic Sonoma, is far wider than it needs to be (and without the military rationale Napoleon needed to build the Champs de l’Elysee, a similarly over-wide boulevard in Paris).
That’s one reason there’s almost never a traffic jam on Broadway – though the T intersection at the Plaza where it runs into Napa Street can be congested.
“It’s 70 feet from curb to curb,” said Frank Penry of GHD, the city’s consultant for the Broadway Streetscape Enhancements & Traffic Circulation Project, part of the city’s annual budget currently under review.
Read more at https://www.sonomanews.com/news/9696161-181/sonoma-plans-new-traffic-bike
Christi Warren, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A group of local designers hung out all day Friday in a little pop-up parklet they created on the western side of Old Courthouse Square. The space — a carpet of sod with orange chairs and stools perched atop it — took up two of the square’s metered parking places from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, with the city’s OK, as part of a larger call to think about the way cities utilize urban space, billed internationally as Park(ing) Day.
A parklet is a pedestrian patch extending beyond a sidewalk into the street, intended to provide additional recreational amenities for people in areas typically devoid of them.
In Friday’s case, the parklet abutting Santa Rosa’s reunified square — a temporary one set up by TLCD Architecture, Quadriga Landscape Architecture and Planning, and MKM Associates Architects — wasn’t really in a place in need of a parklet, but that wasn’t the point.
The design firms set it up to open a conversation with passers-by about the way cities are planned — around people or cars.In Santa Rosa, the parklet producers argue, it might be the latter.
“The whole premise behind Park(ing) Day is that the majority of our open space is dedicated to the private vehicle and not to people,” said Christine Talbot, a landscape architect with Quadrica.Beyond that, the parklet’s theme was shade. Specifically, Santa Rosa’s lack of it, Talbot said.
“We came up with a concept to engage the space and talk about what we thought was important, which was shade,” she said. “I think we’re talking about public space in general, and I think in Santa Rosa there are some lovely streets with amazing trees, and then there are other streets where there is no room for trees or the trees have been stunted. Our shade canopy is not as lush as it could be.”
Read more at: Pop-up parklet comes to Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square | The Press Democrat –
The decision, which followed a marathon meeting in Santa Rosa packed with hundreds of fee opponents, does little in the near-term to resolve the four-year battle over the fee proposal. California State Parks is seeking to impose day-use fees of up to $8 at eight beach locations, including Bodega Head and Goat Rock.The ultimate outcome could have profound implications on California’s bedrock policies protecting coastal access and the ability of Sacramento to impose new charges for public sites that have long been free to visit.
Several commissioners expressed reservations about many aspects of the state’s plan, in particular that it could restrict coastal access to low-income people. A few commissioners also criticized State Parks officials for pushing the fee plan without enough data to support the proposal and without enough public input.
But commissioners, who wield powerful statewide influence over coastal matters, declined to jettison the fee proposal. Steve Kinsey, a Marin County supervisor and chair of the 12-member commission, promoted the idea of continuing the debate, saying “a denial today doesn’t move the dial.”
Commissioner Dayna Bochco made the motion, which calls on commission staff, State Parks and county officials to meet on the fee issue. The motion directs commission staff to report at the agency’s June meeting whether there is a willingness among the parties to work together.
The board decided to continue the debate over day-use fees at several iconic Sonoma County beaches, to give warring agencies more time to reach consensus.
Read more at: Coastal commission opts not to rule on Sonoma Coast beach fee proposal
Coastal Commission staff report & agenda material (large file)
Staff members with the California Coastal Commission, in a strongly worded report, have urged the agency’s governing board to deny State Parks’ plans to expand fee collection on the Sonoma Coast, arguing that such fees are unconstitutional and a barrier to beach access, in particular for low-income residents.
The staff report, which sided overwhelmingly with local officials and activists who have opposed the fees, represents the strongest opinion on the matter from within the powerful agency that oversees California’s coast. The agency’s board has a final say on whether the fees can be imposed, though the courts ultimately could be asked to take up the matter.
The recommendation that they be rejected escalates a years-long battle over State Parks’ hotly disputed proposal and sets the stage for what could be a decisive April 13 meeting of the Coastal Commission in Santa Rosa. That meeting was moved recently to the Veteran’s Memorial Building in anticipation of a large crowd.
State Parks is seeking to charge visitors at eight different locations on the Sonoma Coast where currently parking is free. Four of the parking lots are at Goat Rock and two are on Bodega Head. The remaining sites are Shell Beach and Stump Beach.
Read more at: Coastal Commission report urges rejection of proposed State Parks fees on Sonoma Coast | The Press Democrat
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The sound of chainsaws roared through Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse Square Wednesday as the city began felling decades-old trees in preparation for the reunification of the square this summer.
A crew from Atlas Tree Surgery limbed and then began removing five trees on the east side of the square, the first of 20 being removed to prevent birds and bats from nesting in them this spring.
The work is expected to be complete by the end of the month, after which the fences will come down until construction begins in earnest on the $10 million project in June.
A handful of protesters who have decried the tree removal as hasty and unnecessary observed the work from behind fences said they were disheartened by the move.
“We’re just beside ourselves looking at the graveyard over there,” said Norma Baumsteiger, the 81-year-old Oakmont resident who has been a regular presence around the square in recent weeks, gathering signatures urging residents to oppose the removal.
She vowed a recall effort against the City Council and mayor.
“The people have spoken and City Hall never listened,” Baumsteiger said. “The people are tired of talking and now they’re going to be shouting.”
The idea of reunifying the two halves of Old Courthouse Square, split by Mendocino Avenue after the courthouse was removed in 1968, has been around for decades but only gained momentum last year. Business leaders and City Council members agreed the project represented the city’s best chance of revitalizing a downtown plagued by commercial vacancies.
But a quick redesign that included wider side streets with more parking than the previous plan and a fast-tracked construction timetable took many residents, many of whom assumed the project was indefinitely stalled, by surprise. The removal of 91 of the 114 trees in the square, including eight of 30 mature redwoods, has provoked the most ire, though concerns about the cost, traffic impacts and incomplete design remain.
Read more at: Chainsaws come out in Santa Rosa’s Old Courthouse | The Press Democrat
Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
After the changes in traffic patterns that will result from the removal of the one block of Mendocino Avenue between Third and Fourth streets, the felling of trees will undoubtedly be the most significant change to the downtown landscape.
Up to 91 trees of the 114 trees on site today, or nearly 80 percent, will be removed as part of the project.
The final design for the reunification of Old Courthouse Square won unanimous approval from the Santa Rosa City Council early Wednesday morning, a decision hailed by business leaders as a crucial step toward revitalizing the economic heart of the city and denounced by critics as denuding a verdant downtown park of its cherished trees to build roads and parking spaces.
The decision, made shortly after midnight following testimony of dozens of residents for and against the latest iteration of the high-profile project, was punctuated with a group of unabashed tree lovers storming out of the meeting claiming their input had been ignored.
“None of us are happy with cutting down trees, there is no joy in that,” Councilman Chris Coursey said as project critics filed out. “Serving on this council is about balancing competing interests and it’s about making decisions for the greater good. And that’s the decision that I’m making tonight.”
Read more at: Santa Rosa City Council signs off on final | The Press Democrat
Martin Espinoza, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Preliminary designs of a reunified Old Courthouse Square were both blasted and applauded during a packed public forum Saturday morning in a building space on the west side of the square in Santa Rosa.
About 200 attended the meeting, many of them standing because of insufficient seating. They voiced strong opinions about the project, ranging from opposition to eliminating some of the square’s old redwood trees to ecological concerns about the installation of a lawn in the middle of downtown.
But other attendees, some of them business owners on or near the square, called the three design proposals a good compromise that would save the majority of the site’s redwoods, add needed parking and revitalize an otherwise dreary urban landscape.
“If we do nothing, nothing happens,” said Michael Hyman, owner of the Pawn Advantage on Fourth Street. “I go through the square nearly every day. … It’s depressing. No one goes through the square; no one goes there to look at redwoods.”
As expected, many attending the forum were concerned about the removal of nearly two dozen trees, particularly redwoods, from the site. A number of them objected to the removal of trees for what would become angled parking on the west and east sides of the reunified square.
“I don’t think we need all that parking space at the expense of all those beautiful trees,” Santa Rosa resident Carlos Dabe said during the public comment section of the forum.
Read more at: Trees take center stage at Old Courthouse Square | The Press Democrat