Residents and city workers gather at the Villa Chanitcleer to discuss strategies for the city planning process.

Neighbors are making their voices heard for the future of the city.

The city of Healdsburg held a pair of community workshops on Aug. 21 and 22 at Villa Chanticleer in order to find out what people care about most in town and what they want to do about it ahead of the 2020-25 Strategic Plan.

The No. 1 issue that shone through is likely no surprise to residents: affordable housing, or the lack thereof.

The crowd on Aug. 22 was split into four smaller subsections and each said housing was at the top of their list when they shared their priorities after a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis was presented.

And while the Aug. 21 and 22 groups wanted more done to make a diverse spectrum of incomes be able to afford to live and work here, the crowds still overwhelmingly said that the quality of life was great in town. Not so much with a Spanish-language version of the event held earlier, where the quality of life was marked as average to below average when surveyed, which city representatives gleaned was due to a more direct impact from the housing crisis.

Each day had both a SWOT presentation and a survey, which is also available online. The survey asks general questions about what residents think of a town and what order priorities should be in.

The survey is open to all residents, including children, and can be found at It’s open until Sept. 4.

During the workshop phase, the four groups also answered several broad questions presented by the city: What is your favorite thing about the city? What is its biggest asset? If you could change one thing, what would it be? What should the five-year focus be for the town?

To the first question, almost all answers had something to do with a good, active community, including the parades the town puts on and the Prune Packers.

The groups thought the biggest assets were the Plaza, Villa Chanticleer ad the outdoors in general. The quality of food and wine and a convenient geographic location in relation to the rest of the North Bay were also listed.

“We’re an hour from everything,” Ariel Kelley said when presenting her group’s answers.

The one thing to be changed was housing. Beyond that, bringing the SMART train up and increasing access to the Russian River were on the list.

People in the groups looked ahead to a city where cars weren’t needed when strategizing focuses for five-year plans. There was also talk of revisiting the Growth Management Ordinance. Creating a vibrant eco-tourism industry was also listed.

The vibe at the meeting in regard to hotel development was more positive than what other city organized meetings have had. Hotels were listed among the great assets of the city, and only in one minority opinion of one of the four groups was limiting hotel development something that should be in the five-year plan.

Hotels have come under scrutiny as the city has passed residential developments that include both the potential for a new hotel and affordable housing. Proponents of new hotels point to increased transient occupancy tax revenue and money brought in from tourism spending while those against new development claim there are enough hotels already and that too many will stifle a diverse economy.

The next step in the strategic planning process for the city will be a city council study session tentatively scheduled for Sept. 5. 

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