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My Positions on Key Issues

Sebastopol Inn: Yes, because I feel we have an obligation as a compassionate community to house the homeless, and that supporting this proposal is our only reasonable option given the following realities: the City has no "seat at the table" regarding the County's proposed purchase of the Sebastopol Inn as housing for the homeless (the transaction is between the property owner and the County), the County is requiring that all jurisdictions provide housing for the homeless, we have no alternative equivalent move-in ready option to offer the County, and there is some reassurance in the details made public (tentative population consisting of medically fragile seniors, with 24 hour on-site supervision). Given these realities, the City’s strongest position is to maintain positive open communications with the County, so that we have a means to advocate for conditions that address the concerns of local businesses and residents.

Police Audit: Yes, because an audit is the best option we have to identify any changes needed in our police department and to make those changes, so that everyone – the general public and our police officers – can have confidence that we live in a town with a police department that serves the public well, keeping us safe and following good, responsible, ethical, community-oriented policies and procedures.

Black Lives Matter Mural: Yes, as an opportunity to give a creative voice to an important issue that is touching our lives and igniting our emotions.  There was a sense of urgency that drove a need for quick action on the mural question, and the quick action taken gave a message that was powerful and validating, especially for the local youth who drove City protests. For future art projects with this level of prominence (in the plaza) and permanence, my preference would be to involve a larger segment of the community – businesses and local artists - to make the final installation, and the process leading up to it, even more powerful. 

Tobacco Ordinance: Yes, as a decision that will protect youth from tobacco products and vaping, but does it in a way that feels reasonable in its recognition of the impact this change will have on local businesses now selling those products.  Additional observation: This ordinance was a great example of Sebastopol locals taking constructive action to change a situation that they felt was bad for the community.

Business Loan Program: Yes, as a way to address the immediate survival needs of our local businesses, without causing unreasonable fiscal distress to our limited City budget, and knowing that there is much more work that needs to be done by the City to address the needs of our local businesses.

Housing: In preparation for the September 16th Gen H Panel Discussion, I did a deep dive into Housing in Sebastopol. I talked to our Mayor, Vice Mayor, and our Planning Director Kari Svanstrom. Read the "Housing Element" that lays out Sebastopol's housing plan (effective 2015-2023) in incredible (129 page!) detail.

Bottom line: It became clear to me that Sebastopol's housing polices already encourage building that is affordable and inclusionary. Ideas that are discussed in other jurisdictions are already allowable here: tiny homes, co-housing, dense (for us) projects, mixed use, multi-generational, ADUs, Jr ADUs, affordable by design, etc etc. We even have some policies that are particularly pro-affordable housing and won't be seen in other communities. For example, in other communities a developer can choose to pay a fee "in lieu of" complying with the requirement that affordable units be included in the project. Not in Sebastopol - if a project here has an affordable unit requirement, the developer has no choice but to include a certain number of those units.

The barrier we can't conquer? Astronomically rising building and land costs that drive developers away from smaller (more affordable) living units and towards larger (higher ticket price) homes.
Good news: We do have a few projects in town that (if they come to fruition) will be larger complexes that house more people in less space. And although this may sound scary for some (can you say "urban sprawl?") our very active Design Review Board can be relied upon to keep an eagle-eye on that piece of the puzzle.
What to do: We need to keep pushing on the larger denser developments (with a nod to our vigilant citizenry and to the Design Review Board as to monitor impacts: traffic, environmental, livable city issues, etc). And we need to examine our existing living spaces to see if there are financial or other methods to address the intersecting needs of our different population groups (e.g. seniors who want to downsize but have no good options within Sebastopol, and young families who need a home but can't afford one).
Are there easy solutions? No. We already know that. If it were easily solved, we wouldn't have panel discussions like the one last night. But that doesn't mean we can't tackle it. Having a space to call your own, where you can lay your head down to sleep and know that you and your family are safe for the night, is essential. It drives the rest of our quality of life issues, on an individual and community level: the economy, social stability, community and hope for the future....

Diana Rich, Sebastopol City Council
321 S. Main St. #60, Sebastopol CA 95472
707 861-0032
FPPC #1430199
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