Letters to the Editor

Support for The Matheson

EDITOR: As a way of brief introduction, I lived in Healdsburg for a number of years and was a member in good standing at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Even after moving, I have been a frequent visitor to Healdsburg and have continued to patronize restaurants (including the wonderful but now closed Forty Carrots) and shops around the square, and have brought most of my out-of-town visitors there as part of their "wine country experience." 

I have seen many changes over the years. Businesses have come and gone; demographics have changed. Yet the constant has been the town square. It has always been a place to meet, to relax during the hot summer months and a way to orient oneself to what is happening around the square.

Dustin Valette's proposal will add an additional vitality to not only the square but to the whole downtown, and the community. And his willingness to keep the two existing retail businesses there rather than pushing them out demonstrates his commitment to the local economy and those who work and live there. 

I agree that Healdsburg cannot be just for tourists. It needs to be a people centric community that works together to support and promote the immediate and broader vision that is the heart and soul of this unique place to live and work. And, at the same time, it must provide a nexus for both local patronsand visitingtourists, which is crucial to the town's ongoing survival. 

I understand Mr. Valette has been willing to address the local concerns voiced. A healthy dialogue is good. Shutting the door on this opportunity for the community has no immediate or lasting merit. I look forward to regularly visiting and taking friends and guests to his completed vision –  and listing to my friends marvel, "What a place. What a square. What a town."

Paul Rest


Restaurant is great for downtown

EDITOR: The Matheson is a great project for Healdsburg. This restaurant will give much pleasure to the local community and the people who love to visit Healdsburg. I live in Windsor, which I do love but they do not have the class that Healdsburg has and will not have this new restaurant. You can trust Dustin to continue to support Healdsburg in a very positive and productive way. He is a hardworking and dedicated man.
 It just seems to me that there should be rules required to build/open a restaurant that the new owners can see and comply with and then get approved right from the start. If they meet the rules already in place they should be approved without any more delay. 

I have been at all the meetings in regard to approving this restaurant. Some of the people we have been hearing from want to change the rules already in place. There should be a meeting just for the people of Healdsburg to voice their opinions for change but it should not be at the meetings that were for the approval of the restaurant.

I have seen the Healdsburg Planning Commission make changes that will cost the new restaurant a lot of money because one person on the commission thought about it. No vote or discussion with the other council members, the public or the new restaurant owners, just take out another row of tables and make the setback 10 feet rather than 3 feet. What do the rules say about setbacks already in place? Add double pane windows for the neighbors, add bushes to the glass wall that you need to add. What are the rules already in place in regard to these items? These changes were all in one meeting. If you need to make changes to the rules already in place the meeting for approval of the restaurant is not the time or place to do it.

Please support The Matheson project, it will be a great addition to the Healdsburg town center.

Carol Toney


Support from the desert

EDITOR: While my wife and I recently relocated our family out of Healdsburg full-time, we still maintain a family home on University Street. We are regular customers of Valette and we can't imagine Healdsburg doing anything but embracing the wonderful concept that is The Matheson. Dustin and his team have continued the tradition of family, food, wine and fun that is what Healdsburg is known for worldwide. His family history and his dedication to community have been demonstrated time and time again, and the press his existing restaurant brings is always positive and reflective of the Healdsburg we all want to see continue. It is our great honor to know Dustin and his entire family and it is without reservation that we enthusiastically support The Matheson.

Dan & Olga Bowen

Gilbert, Ariz. and Healdsburg

Need to know impact of project

EDITOR: About Healdsburg's 106 Matheson, a project by applicant/new owner tech entrepreneur Craig Ramsey. We learn about Dustin Valette’s 231-seat restaurant, but citizens need facts.

I faithfully served these past four years on Healdsburg’s city council and was the 2018 mayor during the shaping of this project. Land use for this area is called the Plaza District.

The Planning Commission must find the project consistent with the purpose of the zoning district. Scale is the issue. As proposed, this restaurant seeks to be three times the size of current Plaza restaurants. 80 seats are consistent.

How will this huge restaurant impact downtown parking, an already-crisis-level shortage of hospitality worker housing, and, even more immeasurable and significant, our historic Plaza Park area? Healdsburg’s General Plan specifically states, “the Plaza District is to promote uses that are small-scale in nature and that would not function effectively in another area.” 

As reader, voter, and citizen, I want to know how this project impacts our unique, historical Plaza Park of Healdsburg.

Please come to the planning commission meeting at city hall on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at 6 p.m.

Brigette Mansell


Vineyard sees restaurant value

EDITOR: My name is Ben Papapietro and I have owned a business in Healdsburg since 2005. I believe that the Matheson project will be of great value to the Healdsburg community. The building will support the original design by keeping and restoring the facade. The business will hire from the community and will be of great appeal to families and locals who are looking for a much needed, family friendly restaurant. It will also be a place that I can recommend to my clients. I completely support Dustin Valette in his attempt to bring this project to completion. 

Ben Papapietro 

Papapietro Perry Winery, Healdsburg

Points for restaurant approval

EDITOR: Today Healdsburg is arguably the most cogent example of gentrification which has manifested into a growing crop of trendy new restaurants and bars. Farm-fresh ingredients and cool vibes with high priced menus define the existing restaurants in the Plaza. 

Locals with budgetary limitations have very few dining/getting together choices.

The cost in restaurants is strikingly more than what locals would pay for dinner at local fast food restaurants.

Offering high-quality food at affordable prices for families and senior citizens is what the 106 Matheson project is determined to do.

The advantage of a large restaurant can…

a. Provide high quality food and drinks at a lower price by procuring items in greater bulk quantities at a discounted price.

b. Offer several types of atmosphere at the same time. Accommodate a small group in a private dining area while also serving a large group for multitude of public social events.

c. Provide more flexibility for affordable additional discounts for senior citizens.

I wholeheartedly support the project.

Boris Landau


Restaurant support from the vine

EDITOR: I would like to show our support for the project, The Matheson. My grandparents were neighbors with Dustin's grandparents back in the early days of Healdsburg. I remember many stories about "Mr. Valette" and the Valette family as a child. 

It is refreshing to see a local family operate a business on the plaza that will have appeal to our local community. We have wonderful restaurants here, but I believe we have a shortage of family friendly, affordable dining available for our local community by a local family.

I hope you can see the value of restoring and improving this building in Healdsburg’s historic downtown. They have integrity and will happily comply with all of the reasonable requirements. It just seems right that a historic family is able to do this project rather than another outside "group.”

Tom Rochioli

J. Rochioli Vineyard and Winery

Small town charm won’t be lost

EDITOR: I am writing in support of the proposed 106 Matheson project. I live in downtown Healdsburg a few blocks from the plaza. I actually do spend some time in the plaza, occasionally having lunch or just sitting for a few moments when running errands, or enjoying one of the many great events in our town. It is a beautiful resource. It will not be harming an old, neglected building by renovating it into two restaurants, as the facade of that building is nearly noticeable through the sparse winter tree canopy in the plaza. It won’t be harmed from people enjoying a meal or glass of wine at a restaurant and looking over the green space. It won’t be harmed from more of us walking or driving to dine. Our small town charm won’t be lost because we add two restaurants.

Our small town charm is made up of our people and the quality mix of locally owned retail, lodging and restaurants, along with housing. The restoration of this historic building is vital to keep a great historical building in use, while also providing an improvement to our plaza area. The key to keeping downtowns like ours, in small towns, vibrant and successful is having a quality mix of different kinds of dining, retail and leisure spaces. This project will do a great job of staying within the conforming design guidelines, while also connecting to new some recently adopted ones, as well. The long neglected back facade will get a refresh that is consistent with the other properties on the southern end of the town’s entrance. This is one of the few projects that actually has some parking with the existing lot behind it and the developers will even improve the appearance of that area, too.

Equally positive is keeping Copperfield's and the other local retail establishments available to us. Shopping local is key to our small town survival. Many of us who live downtown already walk to dine to and shop routinely. Having another great destination for dining with a lower price point is quite appealing. 

Finally, I would add that the developer has been more than patient with city staff, planning and zoning committee, the usual flock of naysayers to everything and to all citizens who have questions. He is well within his legal rights to develop this project and I think it is time to support the project and move along. Enough is enough.

Debbie Mason 


Valette speaks to project

EDITOR: We were advised to keep the project quiet though I feel with all the misinformation out there it would be best to talk to people and explain our vision and motivation for doing the project.

As you might know, my great-grandfather, Honore Valette, was a baker. He migrated from France and started opening bakeshops in the Bay Area. He moved to Healdsburg and his first bakery was at 106 Matheson St., the existing Fabrications location. He ran it back in the ’20s then retired and bought a farm off Mill Creek Road in Healdsburg. Later, he moved to where we are now and helped get the Home Bakery started, this is where we now have Valette.  

When I heard that John Holt was selling the 106 Matheson building, I was very excited to have the opportunity to keep the original building in the family. I partnered with Craig Ramsey, a family friend who shares the same vision for community and preservation. Our intention with The Matheson is to create a restaurant that we can all call home, a restaurant that locals and visitors alike can share and break bread together. Our concept will be two parts, the main dining room (total of 98 seats including the bar and kitchen counter seating) will have a more diverse menu focusing on simpler and lighter dishes, envision the Hawaiian Ahi Poke from Valette or quick grilled Branzino with charred lemon and toasted chili. The upstairs area, which we’rere dubbing Roof106, will have views of the Healdsburg Plaza and focus on al fresco dining with simples dishes from our wood-fired oven, think some of our house made charcuterie and cheese while sipping a glass of wine in the warm summer sun.  

At thematheson.com, there is much more in-depth explanation, along with our plans that we submitted to the city explaining the 43-stall parking lot we own and how we’re preserving Copperfields Bookstore and Plaza Gourmet.

In the age where everyone is yelling and picking a side, we truly feel this a compromise and balance. We are preserving a historic building, doing a mixed use; residential, restaurant and retail and paying homage to our history. The view from the plaza, which has been the focus of discussion, is not changing, we are 53 percent restaurant and 47 percent diversified community driven retail. This to me is how we should preserve Healdsburg, blending old and new, appealing to both us residents and visitors alike.

Dustin Valette


Restaurant will enhance downtown

EDITOR: We wanted to express our thoughts about the new restaurant that Dustin Valette has proposed, The Matheson. We were in attendance a few months ago at the city hall meeting when this was debated with great input from all sides. We started coming to Healdsburg in the mid 1990s and it is a special place. We have also been privileged to work with Dustin to help raise funds for dozens of charitable causes, including the Sonoma County Wine Auction. We also donated $25,000 of our savings towards the $250,000 raised and given to the Sonoma Foundation for fire relief by the Emeril Lagasse Foundation. Dustin has worked with us in these and so many other causes. We feel Dustin’s new restaurant in Healdsburg’s historic downtown will continue to add value and support the local economy. In addition to adding a new dining venue, Dustin’s proposal to improve the parking lot as well as the facade will only enhance our beautiful downtown. Our visitors and guests have made Healdsburg a favorite destination and the restaurant scene is a huge part of that attraction.

Michael and Valerie Thompson


Get the right plan for restaurant

EDITOR: On Feb. 12, our Planning Commission will review the design of Dustin Valette's new restaurant at 106 Matheson St. Many feel it's too large.

There may be a market to support a new, large restaurant, but does Healdsburg really need one? If we get a new restaurant, what would the community get out of it?

Valette has a well-deserved good reputation for generosity in town and certainly has a right to build this restaurant. Who doesn’t want success for a business owner who gives back? This project has been touted as a gift to the community. He aims to offer family friendly and affordable dining (some specifics would be nice on this count).

One benefit that’s routinely mentioned as a gift to the community when new businesses are discussed is good paying jobs. This may or may not be part of the vision here. But if the only way to deliver this, or to succeed at all, is to build something which is potentially out of scale with the surrounding area (which will create congestion, push parking to the max – among other impacts) then I think something is amiss economically. 

Some have suggested that if Valette were forced to scale down, he would have to veer into a model that only sold high-end dinners in order to survive. If the only way for a business to succeed is to cater to a tiny minority (the wealthy) then it's hard to imagine it being welcomed by the majority of residents.

I hope that we can have the best of both worlds: a viable business that does not seem out of scale with, or ride against the flavor of, our historic plaza, that provides a welcome product (family friendly and dining affordable to a majority of Healdsburg’s working class) while at the same time giving workers a wage that could potentially lift them into a position where they could afford to live in the town that they work in.

Too much to ask?

If you share these concerns, or oppose them, then show up at the planning commission meeting on Feb. 12.

Chris Herrod


Troop packs aren’t there without St Clair

EDITOR: Thanks for the nice article about our community packing gifts for our troops stationed overseas. But no discussion of this program should exclude the person behind this for many years: Mary St Clair. She began this program years ago when her son Dustin was stationed in Iraq, and she has beautifully organized it ever since. Obtaining donations, arranging shipping, getting volunteers, organizing the packing and, most importantly, making our troops happy overseas. She is tireless in her efforts to award our young men and women in service for our country.

So thank you, Mary St Clair!

Cathy and David Anderson

Thanks for the holiday spirit

EDITOR: I am writing to thank Healdsburg residents for sharing the true meaning of Christmas with children in need this past holiday season.

Because of the generosity of donors in Healdsburg and across the United States, Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, collected more than 8.8 million shoeboxes in 2018. Combined with those collected from partnering countries in 2018, the ministry is now sending more than 10.6 million shoebox gifts to children suffering from poverty, natural disasters, war, disease and famine.

These simple gifts bring smiles to the faces of children around the world. Packed with fun toys, school supplies and hygiene items, these gifts bring joy and are a tangible expression of God’s love. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 157 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in more than 160 countries and territories.

It’s not too late for people to make a difference. Though drop-off locations serving Healdsburg shoebox packers are closed until November 2019, anyone can still pack a personalized shoebox gift online at samaritanspurse.org/buildonline. Information about year-round volunteer opportunities can also be found at samaritanspurse.org/volunteerwithOCC.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in this global project. These simple gifts send a message to children worldwide that they are loved and not forgotten.

Dana Williams

Operation Christmas Child

Water workers go above and beyond

EDITOR: My husband and I want to thank and acknowledge some City of Healdsburg Water Department employees, specifically Steve “Shorty” Nelson, Victor Halverson, Ryan Alves, Jose Vasquez and Brian Medeiros. These hard-working and dedicated employees first came to our rescue on Jan. 16 to repair a broken water main in front of our house. The next week they were back, this time to repair a more serious situation. The heritage Valley Oak in front of our house fell on Sunday evening Jan. 20, breaking the water main again. It was an emergency situation and resulted in the water being shut off for the entire street. Monday was MLK holiday and these five men worked into the night to temporarily repair the water main and restore the water supply. They then responded to another emergency call after our water was restored. They were back on Wednesday to complete the repair.

They ware professional, courteous and dedicated. They made quite an impression on both of us. We want to say thank you to all five for coming out at night twice, giving up their holiday plans and staying onsite until water was restored. We really appreciate your hard work and dedication.

Ron and Kathy Dunn



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