Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Fred Allebach on Sonoma's General Plan Meeting, June 25, 2024.

I received an email this morning from my friend, Fred Allebach, about tonight's City of Sonoma General Plan meeting, emphasizing the need for integrating equity into the city’s long-term planning. Fred stresses that "the General Plan is a 20-year blueprint for Sonoma planning and policy." He urges the City to ensure that the plan includes more explicit equity policies and accurate local data, particularly on demographics and socioeconomics, to address systemic discrimination effectively. He points out that "[t]he city proclaimed that systemic discrimination is a social ill and needs to be remedied in its recent Juneteenth Proclamation," serving as a foundation for these calls to action.

Fred argues that "the General Plan process is now a chance to walk the talk," referring to the opportunity to reflect these equity commitments in tangible planning policies. He highlights deficiencies in the current General Plan’s data and analysis, pointing out the lack of comprehensive local studies and the over-reliance on general data sources that do not accurately reflect local conditions. Fred is right when he asserts that accurate local data is vital for creating policies that genuinely address the needs of disadvantaged communities in Sonoma.

A significant concern he raises is the omission and underplay of local demographic, economic, and educational equity issues in the existing conditions baseline report. He warns that "if the existing conditions baseline report as initially written omits and underplays local demographic, economic, and educational equity issues, this will stand for 20 years," perpetuating existing inequities. Allebach cites the example of socioeconomic demographic stats from the 2023 Housing Element analysis, noting the  acknowledgment of disadvantaged communities in Sonoma Valley, which is not adequately addressed in the current General Plan.

Fred also questions the motives behind the apparent lack of detailed local data analysis in the General Plan and Housing Element. He notes that there are community fairness concerns, stating, "it's my contention that the Housing Element and General Plan are intentionally underplaying local equity issues." He believes that addressing these issues might disturb the status quo preferred by influential city stakeholders.

Fred calls for a comprehensive revision of the General Plan to include more localized and accurate data reflecting equity issues. I'm glad we have Fred doing this important work, and his meticulousness in addressing all the concerns comprehensively. More information on the meeting, including how to participate, is at the following link: