I want to voice opposition to a complex on the plaza that includes a 62-room hotel, parking for 115 cars, and an 80-seat restaurant. The additional cars, pedestrians, delivery trucks, not to mention months of construction, will overwhelm our beloved plaza and change the character of our downtown area.
I was surprised as David Goodison (at the 4/13 Planning Commission meeting) recommended that the commission approve the EIR report as it was. I do not pretend to know the details of the report, but what I heard in that meeting did not seem like a thorough assessment of the environmental impact on the city plaza. For instance, comparing the impact of this hotel with MacArthur Place seemed dubious. The latter is not on the plaza. It is not generating more foot traffic in the crosswalks around a crowded area. It is not surrounded by shops and restaurants. It is not bringing delivery trucks to an already bustling area.
It was clear from the report that some questions had been satisfied, including testing the soil for toxins and scaling back some of the original plans. But, the EIR did not appear to examine foot traffic, which is the major cause of traffic back-ups around the plaza. Pedestrians meandering through crosswalks (or mid block) are the main cause of traffic logjams in that area.
I am not against the construction of new hotels in Sonoma, but the plaza is not the place for them unless significant changes are made. In Europe, when hotels with 60 rooms are located on or close to the center square, the square is closed to car traffic and is only open to pedestrians. The entrance to this hotel will be on a major highway that has only one lane going in each direction. Looking ahead, there is only going to be more traffic on this road, which will further congest the plaza area.
I think the hotel could work if one or more of the following ideas were implemented:
1 — Reroute Highway 12 to avoid the center of Sonoma. It might be rerouted along Arnold Drive. 2 — Close off at least three streets bordering the plaza to vehicles. I can picture cafe tables in the closed streets during the warmer months. 3 — Eventually, another street north of Spain Street might have to be constructed for cross-plaza traffic.
These ideas may seem far-fetched, but without one of more of them, there will be constant congestion, with cars and trucks stopping for pedestrians and cars entering and exiting the hotel parking structure and main entrance. And, the EIR report did not appear to factor in long-term projections of traffic in the plaza area.
Georgia Kelly, Sonoma