Municipal Advisory Council moves forward in Kenwood, Glen Ellen
[Editor’s Note: Gamel is a participant in the MAC committee and is reporting on the issue as such.]
The idea of a Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) for Eldridge, Kenwood and Glen Ellen is still simmering, as First District Supervisor Susan Gorin is heavily invested in negotiating a long-term plan for disposition of the state-owned Sonoma Developmental Center, creating another MAC for the densely populated Springs area, and coping with whatever else is on the county’s cash-starved agenda this year.
“As communities evolve in Sonoma Valley, it has become apparent that there is a need for higher level of services in those municipal areas,” Gorin said. “Parking enforcement in the Springs was just authorized by the Board [of Supervisors], and this fund will cover those expenses until a more permanent solution is found. Trash cleanup in our streets and creeks is becoming more pressing, and the fund may have to finance those services.”
A MAC advises the supervisor on the municipal needs of the area and priorities for resources to fund those needs. “When we have concurrence on the functions and boundaries of the proposed MAC, I will finalize the by-laws and boundaries and submit them to the board for approval, as I did for the Springs MAC,” Gorin said.
Council members of both MACs will be trained by the various county departments to gain insight into what a MAC can effectively do or recommend.
A MAC would sound out residents living within its boundaries on specific issues that could become the focus of county action – including roads, housing, development, and anything else the district supervisor thinks warrants local discussion and input.
Six members of a local ad-hoc committee met on Monday, Feb. 11, in Glen Ellen to work out the next step to develop a framework for a MAC that would represent the people at the north end of Sonoma Valley. Such a group might not necessarily be united in issues, or even service needs, but would share enough in common to work together to influence county priorities and spending.
The county will also provide administrative support for the MAC, for taking notes, paying rent, insurance, translating minutes and agendas, and the like. These would be paid for by Transient Occupancy Tax funds, Gorin said.
Gorin has already allocated $10,000+ for several projects proposed by the Glen Ellen Forum, including a community kiosk, bench, and minor landscaping improvements around them. “I hope to offer similar small grants for community projects proposed by each of the MACs when they become operational, but the funding is limited.” The Forum is a community nonprofit, and as such, doesn’t fill the same role an advisory MAC would.
Glen Ellen resident Arthur Dawson and I met with Gorin at her Santa Rosa office on Jan. 25. We were joined by Sonoma County Planning Commissioner Greg Carr, and the four of us discussed possible MAC boundaries and concerns that an Eldridge, Kenwood and Glen Ellen Municipal Advisory Commission (EKGMAC) might encompass.
“The boundaries should be condensed enough to include the primary municipal areas of Eldridge-Kenwood-Glen Ellen,” Gorin said. “They could be conjoined together primarily along Highway 12, or have separate boundaries for Kenwood and Glen Ellen/Eldridge.”
The EKGMAC committee members discussed a preliminary boundary map and suggested including the Eldridge, Kenwood, and Glen Ellen zip code areas, along with a patch between Eldridge and the Springs suggested by Gorin.
The makeup, mission and character of MACs are as diverse as the communities they serve.
The newly minted Springs MAC is already seeking candidates for seven positions: one will be a member of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC), one from the Sonoma Valley Unified School District, and one from the Springs business community, with four more at-large members appointed by the supervisor, plus two alternates.
One of the SVCAC members will have a liaison role with each MAC to coordinate and communicate, Gorin said.
“Planning for the Sonoma Developmental Center will involve a much broader community than just the EKGMAC since it affects the valley and county in significant ways,” Gorin said. “Both MACs and the SVCAC will be involved in the update of the County General Plan in the near future.”
At the Monday meeting, the committee members all agreed that an EKGMAC should look at public works projects for study and funding, help target affordable housing projects, help target money from parks and the Open Space District, and be a voice at the table during the SDC transition over the long term. This list is not exclusive; other issues may be added as they develop.
The local group consists of Dawson, myself, Shannon Lee, Margaret Spaulding, Kate Eagles, and Larry Davis. Dawson, Lee and Spaulding all live in Glen Ellen; Davis lives on Sonoma Mountain Road; Eagles lives on the far side of the SDC near Madrone Road; and I live on Adobe Canyon Road.
Dawson and Lee have been active in Glen Ellen issues for many years, including development of the Glen Ellen Forum, and Lee has been very active with the Glen Ellen Fair. Dawson is a historical consultant for property analysis through his company, Baseline Consulting. Both Dawson and Lee are regular contributors to the Kenwood Press.
Lee feels that the meetings and discussions developed through MACs will be a positive vehicle to promote understanding of local issues and search for consensus.
Spaulding has been a member of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission since 2015, first appointed to finish the term of the late Kirsten Lindquist and serving her own terms since then. She and Matthew Dickey represent the North Sonoma Valley on the 17-member SVCAC. Their role is primarily to review the larger development projects that are proposed in an area that stretches roughly from the Springs to Kenwood. One of the two would likely serve as either a member or an observer of any EKGMAC formed for our area.
“This will be another opportunity for people in the community to put democracy to work,” Spaulding said after the meeting.
Davis has been a community activist for decades, a former candidate for First District Supervisor, founder of Friends of Maxwell Park, and a member of many organizations in Sonoma County. He has been vocal in advocating local input into county-wide policies.
I have lived in Kenwood since 1978 and have been reporting on the area since 1988 when the Kenwood Press was started. I have also worked for the Sonoma Index-Tribune, the Petaluma Argus-Courier, the Novato Advance, and other publications, and have covered county and state government issues for most of that time.
Eagles has lived in the Rancho Madrone area for over 20 years, sending her kids to Dunbar Elementary and befriending many people in the Eldridge and Glen Ellen communities. She is an independent consultant for recycling industries. She represents Eldridge and the people living on the Sonoma side of the SDC property.
Eldridge was the formal name of the property encompassed by the Sonoma Developmental Center, named after retired sea captain Oliver Eldridge who originally suggested that the 1,700-acre site near Glen Ellen be used to house developmentally challenged people.
There is no firm date set for moving ahead with the formation of an Eldridge, Kenwood, Glen Ellen Municipal Advisory Committee, but it is likely to happen this year.