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Ban the 'Boutique' 

Proposed overpriced hotel would ruin Sebastopol's small-town charm

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I am a single mother who works full-time, and I am on no government assistance. I scraped together enough money to qualify for a loan earlier this year to buy my first home, which I purchased at Bodega Avenue Townhouses, located just west of the French Garden restaurant in Sebastopol.

The owner of the French Garden is proposing to build a two-story, 18-room, 8,000-square-foot hotel between the restaurant and town homes on a small narrow sliver of land. I went to the planning commission meeting on Aug. 13, where the owner's request to change the zoning for the hotel was heard.

The hotel is planned in an area with 10 schools within a one-mile radius. There are two large parks right down the street from the proposed site. I have major concerns about the safety of the kids that ride bikes to and from school and the parks. All the hotels in Sebastopol (two hotels and four B&Bs) are marketed as "close to wineries." How close to wineries do you want your kids to be when hotel patrons are driving home after a day of winetasting?

Also, I ask Sebastopol, do we need another hotel? There are six lodging establishments in Sebastopol, totaling 123 rooms. The Barlow is already adding 60 rooms in a 34,000-square-foot hotel less than three miles from this proposed site. The Barlow's rooms will be $270 per night. Why do we need another expensive boutique hotel so close to this one?

The planning commission approved the construction plans with a vote of four in favor and two against. Chair Evert Fernandez asked that the vote be postponed until more schools and interested parties could be contacted for comment, since the planning commission only provided one week of notice regarding the meeting. However, commissioner Colin Doyle was very vocal about not contacting any additional interested parties and pushing the vote ahead—even though the developer said he would wait.

I urge all parents in Sebastopol to state their opposition to the construction. I also volunteer to be contacted by any interested parties. Let's keep Sebastopol a true town and not turn it into Napa—a destination for overpriced boutique hotels for winetasters!

Alexis Heemstra lives in Sebastopol and can be reached at

Open Mic is a weekly op/ed feature. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write

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