Measure R eliminates archaic regulation
Editor: The Winston/Carranza City Council exposé provided in last week’s Tribune claims that the writers are “chilled to the bone” over the city council’s authority and responsibility to oversee planning and development if Measure R is successful.
The No on R proponents proudly claim that Healdsburg is the only city in Sonoma County with a growth management ordinance (GMO). That means that every other city’s elected councils do, in fact, have the authority and responsibility for planning and development. Like it or not, that is how a democratic system works. Every time I hear warnings about “trusting the council,” I can’t help but wonder – if the council can’t be trusted to oversee planning, why are they trusted to oversee the city’s finances, utilities, park and recreation operations, transportation, etc?
If the council can’t be trusted, then shouldn’t Healdsburg have an FMO (finance management ordinance), a UMO (utilities management ordinance), a PRMO, a TMO, etc?
In the same letter, the authors uncovered the fact that I own a parcel adjacent to the railroad depot. Their sleuthing was indeed accurate. The Healdsburg Lumber parcel they refer to has been owned by the Ziedrich family for 43 years. They claim that we stand to benefit by “lifting the cap.” I fail to understand how my family can benefit from the passage of Measure R. At any time during the last 43 years, we could have pursued a rezone (currently zoned Mixed Commercial) and probably built four to eight large McMansions. Most developers will agree that the greatest profit potential exists with that category of construction.
As a reminder, Saggio Hills would probably never have occurred had the GMO not passed in 2000. The property owner had no choice but to develop a resort due to the GMO’s limited allocations. The same likely applies to the current developments on Healdsburg Avenue and Grove Street.
If Measure R does pass, what it could mean for Healdsburg is that parcels like ours could include duplexes, cottage-court development, tiny homes, townhomes, condominiums, rental apartments and moderately-sized single-family dwellings. That translates into workforce housing.
If Measure R doesn’t pass, then parcels like ours would be limited to McMansions or hotels/resorts.
A yes on Measure R should translate into more housing choices and maintaining our diversified population. A no on Measure R retains an archaic regulation that has outlived its purpose and restricts us from doing what we all know is needed to achieve our housing goals.
Eric and Janet Ziedrich
Careful of bad words
Editor: I read and look at pictures in the newspaper. I love seeing my friends in the newspaper. Once I was in it too! I read a little of it. Today I read it and I saw a bad word. I did not feel comfortable when I read it (in my mind). Please be mindful of what you’re writing because some kids like me read it too, not just grown ups.
Liliana Echols Nieto, age 8
Editor: I, as are many of my neighbors, am concerned about the rise in the cost of living in Healdsburg. In fact, I could say that I am triply concerned: I am concerned as a resident who cares about my neighbors, my community and the character of our town; I am concerned as a landlord and homeowner about how I could be affected by policies related to this issue; and I am concerned as a financial analyst and consultant for the wine industry about how it harms farmers. Though we have heard much about the threats our housing crisis poses, this last issue is one I would like to shed light on.
The cost of vineyard labor has been rising dramatically in Napa since 2003, much of this driven by the cost of rent or the substitute cost of long commutes. Inasmuch as such wage inflation was caused by the rising cost of living, it did not actually accrue to workers, but instead passed through to the wallets and cash registers of landlords and gas stations.
During the decade between 2003 and 2012, Sonoma County’s vineyards experienced significantly lower labor cost inflation than in Napa. Since 2012, however, I have been seeing more and more evidence that we have now entered a phase of unsustainable housing costs that, in addition to its many other harms, is driving up farming costs. This could seriously harm our most important industry’s ability to weather the inevitable downturns in grape prices that occur due to economic downturns, grape supply imbalances, or other events.
Right now our community is engaged in a healthy, though heated debate about Measures R and T. Whether these measures pass or not, they will not solve our housing crisis, as we have a relatively low stock of parcels available for development and a great deal of demand for housing. At best, these measures will make a small, marginal difference, like speed bumps slowing down a car. At worst, they could be counterproductive. More important than who wins the fight over these measures is whether or not, when the dust settles, we come together and ask “What’s next?”
Surely, however passionate we may be about housing issues, we do not doubt the motives of our neighbors who disagree with us. Both sides of the fight over Measure R have a lot of energy right now, focused on solving our housing crisis. Let’s start talking now about how to come together and use this energy, regardless of the outcomes of these two referenda, to find long-term solutions. I have heard some great ideas out there.
My favorite is the creation of a community land trust. Two other good ideas: that we might want to consider some rezoning or facilitate the construction of granny units and tiny homes. I am sure that there are many more great ideas I have yet to hear about. I hope that, on Nov. 9, we can all shake hands, congratulate each other on contributing to the democratic process and start answering the question of “What next?”
The cart before the horse
Editor: I have read the city’s adopted Housing Action Plan (HAP). I don’t doubt that it represents a good faith effort to create housing opportunities for lower and middle-income people in Healdsburg. But its emphasis on abolishing the current growth management ordinance (GMO) is both puzzling and troubling.
The HAP lists five main objectives. The first three can be accomplished under the current GMO. They are: Increase the quantity and quality of deed-restricted affordable housing; encourage and facilitate private development of secondary dwelling units; and develop middle-income housing.
Only when you get to objectives four and five, having to do with market rate multi-family rental units and mixed developments, does the GMO have relevance. So why is there so much emphasis on abolishing the GMO? Will it make the housing market in Healdsburg accessible to average folks, as Measure R proponents claim?
Inflated housing costs are a huge problem in the Bay Area and in desirable communities across California, most of which do not have GMOs. Because Healdsburg is more desirable than most other communities, buyers will pay a premium to live or own a second home here. Homebuilders have no motivation to sell homes for less than the market will bear, regardless of construction costs.
Consider Sorrento Square, the market-rate development currently under construction on Healdsburg Avenue north of Powell. These units certainly look like they should be within reach of middle-income people. They are not large (1,650 to 1,850 square feet) and they sit on small lots on Healdsburg’s busiest arterial. But these homes are priced from $705,000 to $866,000.
Take one of the lower-priced models, say $750,000, which is also about average for a home recently sold in Healdsburg. Buyers will need to come up with a 20 percent down payment of $150,000 and support a monthly mortgage payment of about $3,700. To do so requires an annual income of about $150,000. But the median household income in Sonoma County is only about $63,000 (2015 data). These modest homes are clearly beyond the reach of average earners.
This example illustrates how far out of step our housing market is with local salaries. But Sorrento Square only represents 28 market-rate homes. What if they build 28 more similar units? How about 128? Unfortunately, even that wouldn’t make a dent in demand. Prices won’t decrease appreciably unless other negative economic forces go into effect. We can’t build our way out of the affordability gap.
I think we all support the goal of creating more housing opportunity for low-income and middle-income residents. But I want to see evidence that we are positioned to do so before opening the market completely to profit-driven projects. Asking the voters to repeal the GMO before the city has even begun to tackle any of the other goals of the HAP is putting the cart before the horse.
Once the city demonstrates real progress on toward these goals, such as finding funding sources for subsidized, deed-restricted housing, voters may feel comfortable amending the GMO. As it stands, I’ll be voting no on Measure R.
Yes on T
Editor: I just learned the Sonoma County Democratic Party endorses Healdsburg’s “yes on measure T.” Measure T puts a moratorium on water fluoridation until the city provides safety related evidence from the manufacturer that water fluoridated with its product is safe for everyone to drink. Back in 2014 dental professionals assured us that the fluoride chemical mix added to our water was safe and effective. But I felt manipulated when I discovered those reassuring, oversized mailers we received were designed and paid for by a single Sacramento special interest group’s $58,000 donation.
Now, two years later, a Healdsburg city staff report reveals: “The manufacturer or vendor cannot supply either a toxicological report or a written verification of the chemical’s safety for ingestion by all water consumers, once the chemical is properly introduced into the water supply.” (Page 162, 8/1/2016 city council agenda packet.) Not so reassuring after all. Healdsburg voters, brace yourselves. Given the fluoridation establishment’s tenacity and deep pockets we’re in for another barrage of slick advertising, this time to convince us that something they’re calling “standard testing” replaces toxicological reports and verification of safety. I’m tired of professional doublespeak instead of evidence. I’m voting yes on T — yes for truth and transparency concerning what is added to our tap water.
Editor: We are writing in support of Joe Naujokas for Healdsburg City Council. Joe has been sharing our work office for the last few years, and we find him eminently qualified for the city council. His current job entails managing diverse teams of programmers all around the globe working together to build profitable, e-commerce-enabled websites, and he manages them with patience, persistence, and efficiency ... qualities one hopes our council members embody.
Indeed, it has been invaluable to us working alongside him, as we have learned how to find compromise and productive paths forward working with diverse teams to accomplish complex goals. His flexibility and open mind allow him to adapt to the best solutions without ego.
Joe’s website has many of his positions on current issues carefully thought out and presented in detail, and with refreshing candor not normally part of political discussion. His willingness to state his opinions and then listen carefully to yours is a trait one wishes for in all of our politicians. For these reasons we wholeheartedly endorse Joe for the Healdsburg City Council.
Paul and Jennifer Tincknell
Foul, smelly mess
Editor: I would like to ask for your help in spreading this message – please clean up after your dogs. Recently there has been an increase in the uncollected dog manure along Fitch Mountain Road. As a long time dog walker on Fitch Mountain Road, I have seen how nasty it can get if the dog waste is not picked up by each of us every time our dog leaves a mess. Perhaps it appears there is so much open space here on Fitch Mountain, what could it harm? But after a week or two of not picking up the dog waste the roadsides will become a foul smelly mess. Uncollected dog waste is a health hazard for us, our pets and the local wildlife. In addition, once the rains begin, the dog manure and the potential for disease will be washed into the river.
Beth for school board
Editor: As an educator and a mother, I am happy to endorse Cindy Beth for the Healdsburg Unified School District’s school board. I met Cindy when I started working at Healdsburg High School four years ago. Not only has she been an incredibly active parent but she serves as a member of the HHS Governance Council. As a governance council member she asks great questions and provides supportive and valuable feedback at meetings.
Cindy truly cares about what goes on at our schools. She advocates for youth and wants to make sure that all of our students are getting equal and quality education. Prior to volunteering at the secondary level she worked tirelessly on the Alexander Valley School Parent Club. She organized many events and put in thousands of hours helping to better Healdsburg Schools.
Outside of the school walls she used her incredible leadership skills as the president of the Healdsburg Little League. Both my children are active youth athletes and I was always so impressed by the organization and caliber of Little League under her leadership. I was equally impressed when she continued to be the president of Little League after her own son aged out. Her management skills and dedication to Little League has been a shining light on Healdsburg youth athletics. It is rare to find a person so dedicated so many aspects of education. It is my belief that she will be an excellent and well-informed addition to Healdsburg Unified School District School Board.
Verify fluoride safety
Editor: They’re at it again. A Sacramento-based special interest group is the sole donor funding a campaign against “Truth & Transparency” in Healdsburg. The first contribution report for the 2016 election shows that the California Dental Association (CDA) donated a whopping $20,000 to oppose the grassroots yes on T campaign. Why is it so important for these lobbyists to keep our little burg in the dark when it comes to fluoridation safety? Perhaps a look at their mission statement will provide some insight: “The California Dental Association (CDA) is a community of dentists committed to enhancing the professional lives of our members.”
These Sacramento lobbyists are doing their best to block our ability to obtain important safety information regarding our drinking water. A yesvote on Measure T will simply require safety documentation for the fluoridation chemical. Let the special interests know – we would rather enhance the lives of our community members. Let’s verify fluoride safety. Vote yes on Measure T.
Ideology, not facts
Editor: The entire growth management ordinance (GMO) debacle has been ideologically driven from the start. By that I mean the needs of the citizens of Healdsburg and the future of Healdsburg, came second to the ideology of the city council.
Our needs and our wishes in regard to the housing crisis were simply dismissed. The people of Healdsburg have paid an inordinate amount of money for a consultant and for a PR firm which, together with powerful financial interests, framed the housing crisis primarily as a GMO related problem. Early on, the city manager, David Mickaelian, did his part in framing the discussion by presenting rent control as something the city could not directly choose, and thus need not even look into.
This is an example of the logical fallacy begging the question. While Mickaelian was correct that the city council could not directly adopt rent control, the obvious question begged was: could it be done indirectly? There are at least two ways, but the city council gave this possibility no further consideration. It is crucial to understand that the housing crisis is not a product of the GMO. In fact, many cities without a GMO find themselves in housing crises similar to that in Healdsburg.
The city’s push to gut the GMO is not the result of a methodical search for an answer to the housing crisis, but rather the housing crisis has provided an answer to the question of how to present demolishing the GMO as somehow useful to Healdsburg. I encourage you to vote no on Measure R.
Why to vote yes on Y
Editor: Healdsburg’s library is part of the Sonoma County Library system. Measure Y provides for a one-eighth of a cent countywide sales tax, which will go only to the library system. That’s only a nickel on a $40 purchase. Our library system receives no operating funding from the county budget controlled by the county supervisors. It has to get by on a tiny fraction of property tax revenue, which has not kept up with inflation and is locked in place by Proposition 13.
During the recession, library hours were slashed, staff cut and expenditures reduced. The Friends of the Library used book sales generate money for children’s programs and enriching activities such a concerts and speakers, but Measure Y will provide a consistent source of funding to restore Monday hours, increase the number of copies of new books and e-books for faster access to popular titles, and continue access to streaming movies (all services which are available free from home via your library card number). The library system has a new strategic plan, developed with patron input at each library, to guide future budgets and provide for updating library computers and internet access, important for students and patrons without access at home.
Our library provides a safe and helpful place for children after school and research help for all from professional librarians. It is an important community asset.
A similar measure was on the ballot two years ago and received 63.3 percent yes votes, but 66.6 percent is required to pass. Measure Y would be the first funding increase for our county libraries in more than 40 years. Don’t be complacent. Read all the way down the ballot. Our library deserves your yes vote on Measure Y.