Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tom Lynch resigns from RRROC, what's the world coming to?

Good grief, Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee members seem to be fleeing in droves! Could the long hours and no pay have something to do with it? After losing three members in less than a year (John Uniack, Chris Auzston, and Elio "Buck" Sierra), Tom Lynch tendered his formal resignation this evening. RRROC now has one vacancy each for the residential tenants and residential home owners categories.

During tonight's monthly RRROC meeting at the Guerneville Veterans Hall, Lynch explained that he wanted to avoid possible "conflicts of interest" due to his construction company's future projects (ooh! ooh! What are they?). His fellow RRROC members said they would miss him, and so will I. His jovial presence has calmed many contentious meetings. Dan Fein stated that "Tom is the longest-serving member of RRROC -- 25 years."

Lynch also currently serves on the Zoning Board. He first appeared on the local political scene as "Manure Man" in 1985, when he protested Santa Rosa's "accidentally" discharging 750 gallons of "effluent" into the Russian River by covering four entire city blocks around Santa Rosa's City Hall with manure. He almost made it to the City Hall steps before running out of you-know-what.

Oddly enough, Lynch was not pulled over by law enforcement, despite the fact that he was driving a tractor and broadcast manure spreader around Santa Rosa at three in the morning. Our very own aggressive, ticket-mongering CHP officer -- who currently rules River Road with an iron fist -- probably still wore diapers back in those halcyon days.

On a positive note, RRROC voted to FINALLY approve the Design Guidelines document for the Russian River Corridor, provisional on a few "insubstantial" changes, plus further discussion on recommended architectural styles (based on ones which have historically existed in the area), as suggested by RRROC member Catherine Young. She was concerned that the lovely, Beaux-Arts style of the "Bank Building" in Guerneville would be disallowed for future projects because it wasn't specifically included on the list (for some interesting insights about why the "Bank Building" was abandoned over 20 years ago, read local author Stephen Pizzo's book Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans).

Gee, the Design Guidelines only took 9 years to complete. But it was definitely worth the wait. I should know, because Yolanda Solano from the Permit and Resources Management Department read all 56 pages aloud to us during the meeting. I now understand why my 8-year-old daughter needs me to read her to sleep. Yet many folks expressed appreciation for the vastly-improved, simpler, more accessible, and better organized document Solano presented. She responded graciously by giving credit to the Design Guidelines Task Group* for their extensive reviews and recommendations.

RRROC also formally approved the list of individuals appointed to the Brand Working Task Group by Kathleen Kane from the Community Development Commission (CDC) . The newly-created task group will work with the County's consultant, Great Destination Strategies (GDS) and the CDC towards providing advice and feedback towards developing, branding, and facilitating our local tourism industry. For some reason, this makes me cringe, even though I know that tourism is our economic life-blood.

The Brand Working Task group will include some of the most dynamic business people in our community, including Margaret Kennett, Jan Russel, Peter Hacket, Lynette McClean, Justin Lacy, Kim Holliday, Robin Johnson, Phillip Hampton, Camille La Grande, and Lynn Crescione.

Speaking of Lynn Crescione, she totally kicks butt as the new RRROC chairperson. Meetings used to drone on and on for as long as four hours. Nowadays, decisions are quickly made, and meetings last two hours maximum. This may have something to do with the fact that budget cuts have tightened funding guidelines. Nonetheless, Crescione deserves major high-fives for achieving briefer, more tightly-focused meetings.

In addition, Jennifer Howse from the CDC reported on the following projects:
  • $4 million in redevelopment funds are available for non-housing projects and $800K for housing-related projects this year.
  • Sweet Water Springs' improvements are moving along.
  • the Guerneville River Park's clean-up is completed.
  • the RiverKeeper's park is connected to a new and more reliable water supply.
  • 24 businesses have applied for commercial rehabilitation loans and seven have been approved for design grants.
  • Two housing rehabilitation projects are in the development stage. No new loans have been approved.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Graffiti Abatement Program will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in October. If approved, the program will receive funding.
  • The Fife Creek Commons (formerly known as the 5th & Mill Affordable Housing Project) has begun. The mediation, final report, relocation of the Marshall House, and grading permit paperwork have been completed. Financing is expected to close by early October.
  • Improvements to the Rusky Rika Dacha apartment complex on River Rd. have been completed.
  • Great Destinations Strategies (GDS) will hold a public meeting on November 3rd to discuss brand concepts.
* The following individuals have served on the Design Guidelines Task Group: Jon DeSalvio, Lynn Crescione, Catherine Young, George Zastrow, Carl Combs, Mitch Gordon, and Gillian Hayes.

Rockin' Rio Nido ...

I apologize to both of my readers for neglecting my blog this summer. Sorry, blog, I've been two-timing you ... three-timing, actually. With a house full o' kids, working on Rio Nido's new Web site ( with neighbors, and writing a new "Rockin' Rio Nido" column for the Sonoma County Gazette with my friend and neighbor Elena Chronis (catch up on Rio Nido's summer happenings in the September issue -- formatted as a PDF), there hasn't been a spare minute. Plus, the distractions of Johnson's Beach, the Rio Nido Roadhouse's offerings, and lively Homeowners Association events have proven WAY too distracting. Now that school has started, I can get back to work ...