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To the Editor,

So it goes … What a great article Jay Gamel put together in celebrating his semi-retirement. He captured so much in so little space. He’s not just a good writer, he’s an extraordinary writer … he’s clear, interesting, detailed, imaginative, and so much more. He should be teaching journalism to a whole bunch of local newspaper writers. We will miss him, no doubt about it — but he said, in his last official article, that he’ll still be writing, just not as often … so we all lucked out … he’ll still be with us! So good luck, Jay, and thanks for the memories!

Tom Anderson


To the Editor,

I am president of the board of directors of Oakmont Village Association, an over-55 homeowners’ association in east Santa Rosa. The overall Oakmont Village community includes well over 5,000 residents, employees, and others. It is located in an otherwise rural area on the western edge of the Valley of the Moon, near Trione-Annadel State Park and Hood Mountain Regional Park, and east of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

Our entire Oakmont Village community was evacuated twice recently due to nearby wildfires. During both the Nuns Fire in 2017 and the Glass Fire of 2020, our only egress was via Highway 12, the crowded two-lane road we share with all the other Valley residents. During both evacuations massive traffic jams caused bottlenecks, with thousands of us anxiously trapped for hours in our vehicles. While no lives were lost in these evacuations, during future wildfire events facing the same evacuation challenges we may not be so fortunate.

All of Sonoma County’s proposals for developing the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) involve dense housing and a boutique hotel. Like Oakmont Village, the SDC site has been exposed to significant recent wildfires. Under all three of the proposals, evacuation of SDC residents, employees and guests would further burden our already inadequate evacuation routes. These proposals would not only court disaster for these people, but it will also increase emergency egress problems for Oakmont Village and all other northern Sonoma Valley residents and will impede fire departments and other responders dealing with emergencies.

The development projects under consideration will also increase traffic congestion in general, exacerbate water shortages for our drought-stricken region, and adversely impact the local environment. These problems are all well articulated by the North Sonoma Valley Municipal Advisory Council and the Sonoma Land Trust in the public media.

As a result, with those organizations, the board of Oakmont Village Association strongly opposes all three SDC development proposals. The OVA board of directors unanimously agreed at our meeting on Jan. 18, 2022, that none of the proposed development concepts would be in the best interests of our Oakmont community.

We also believe aggressive plans to include revenuegenerating elements (housing and a hotel to cover the long-standing costs of inadequate state care of the SDC’s aging infrastructure) should not be imposed on Sonoma County. Development should be consistent with the needs and desires of the local community.

We request that the County reject all the SDC proposals and delay any action until there is an adequate understanding of potential impact and relief has been negotiated so Sonoma County will not unfairly shoulder the entire onerous cost burdens (which some estimate at $100 million). SDC development plans must be based on the realistic needs of the local community.

Tom Kendrick

President, Oakmont Village Association