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One of the questions asked of mayor Gold was about her ideas to make downtown more local-friendly.
One of the questions asked of mayor Gold was about her ideas to make downtown more local-friendly; what can the Council do to encourage / support entrepreneurship specifically aimed at meeting our resident's shopping needs? Photo: nextdoor.com/city-of-healdsburg

Residents ask 2020 Mayor, Leah Gold…

Dec 29, 2019

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Mayor Leah GoldWhat are your ideas to make downtown more local-friendly; what can the Council do to encourage/support entrepreneurship specifically aimed at meeting our resident's shopping needs?

MAYOR GOLD: There are economic trends in retailing much broader than Healdsburg at play here. Most shoppers are willing to drive in order to access a broader selection and lower prices than a small store can offer. Downtown rents are high and local merchants must compete for good employees, economic realities that drive prices up. The Council has no control over what property owners charge for commercial leases. Our only tool of influence is zoning, which we have used to maintain uniqueness (by prohibiting chain stores in the Plaza district) and variety (by limiting the concentration of tasting rooms).

Here’s a wild idea: if the City had the resources to construct or lease a building downtown, we could offer space at a reduced price to entrepreneurs who offer something unique and valuable to our retail mix. Perhaps an affordable housing project could also include affordable commercial space?

Why is there opposition on the council for a homeless encampment? These folks need help now and it's beyond frustrating that the city seems unable to come up with a solution.

MAYOR GOLD: I share your distress at the plight of the unsheltered. But I’m not an expert on the topic, so I defer to the judgment of the experts the City has hired or contracted with: our Community Housing Director and the Reach for Home organization. They don’t regard encampments as the best use of scarce resources. They view long-term stability as a more successful strategy. I have participated in the recent Homelessness Summit meetings steered by Supervisor Gore, with the goal of combining our resources for meaningful solutions for the north county.

In light of the most recent news about methane impacts on climate, please justify not supporting a reach code that requires all-electric for future development?

MAYOR GOLD: I appreciate the passion and commitment of the residents who argued for an all-electric reach code. My feeling is that this measure is largely symbolic, since no major residential projects are possible in Healdsburg: a total of 160 potential new units was the estimate of staff. The difference in potential GHGs by allowing an exception for gas cooking and decorative fireplaces was very small, so I felt that an element of choice could be maintained at a low environmental cost. I think we should focus our efforts on more significant GHG sources, such as transportation. And I urge all Healdsburg utility customers to opt for our Green Rate, to hasten the day that all the electricity we provide is from renewable sources.

Looking back a year from now what changes and accomplishments (policy, process etc.) will feel like real successes.

MAYOR GOLD: I hope to continue lowering GHG emissions through the initiatives currently underway, such as the construction of solar arrays on our wastewater treatment ponds, increasing the percentage our electricity that comes from renewable sources, and completing the Foss Creek Bicycle Path. I hope a Council majority will materialize that supports lifting the current prohibition on cannabis sales in Healdsburg, which would increase economic diversity, provide useful tax income, and be more convenient for our residents and visitors. I would be very pleased if I could gain Council support to curb our explosive growth of hotel development - we are currently on track to double the rooms in Healdsburg within a short period of time, and I think it would be healthier for our hospitality industry and for our town’s character to take a break. Unfortunately, I cast the only dissenting vote on the latest hotel proposal, so that achievement seems unlikely in the short term.

It always feels like a big win when we find ways to create or maintain affordable housing. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success in that area recently, and I hope to uncover more opportunities! I’m concerned about the momentum with which our housing stock is being converted to vacant or occasionally occupied second homes, which drives up prices and diminishes community connection. Other jurisdictions have found ways to disincentive second home purchases, I would like to lead an effort to do so here.

Finally, access to the natural environment is a high value for me. I want to expand our recreational opportunities by improving access to the river and to the Fitch Mountain Open Space Preserve, and connecting them with the Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve. And hey, how about creating bicycle paths through our agricultural valleys? Let’s get cyclists off dangerous winding roads and into the stunning rural scenery. Such routes would broaden our appeal to visitors and be a terrific resource for our residents.

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