It Finally Opened
Buy a great bottle of wine now, and it probably will be at its peak in a few years. The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University is that $145 million bottle of wine. The long-awaited center's grand opening with pianist Lang Lang was held in September after nearly 20 years of fundraising, despite certain phases of the project remaining unfinished. Hopes are being pinned on the stature of the main hall, named for near-billionaire and former Citigroup CEO Sandy Weill, to spur donations toward completion of the smaller student venue known as Schroeder Hall.
Indeed, the only portion of the GMC yet to be funded is the very impetus for the whole thing, a small, acoustically lush choral recital hall for student groups and choirs. As the New York Times put it, reviewing the grand opening weekend against the relatively small music program at SSU, "The proof of the venture's success will not be whether Mr. Lang and other superstars perform there regularly but whether the Green Music Center will spur enough growth in the university's music program so that Sonoma State will one day have a student orchestra to play in its expensive new hall."—Nicolas Grizzle
The Hometown Rag
We were thrilled to hear that the Press Democrat was returning to local ownership, then dumbstruck when the two principal owners were named: Darius Anderson, a powerful state lobbyist, and Doug Bosco, former Congressman and current political powerbroker. Anderson has ties to the Graton Rancheria's Rohnert Park casino, PG&E, CVS and Sutter Health; he also once sued his neighbor for calling the cops on his loud party. Bosco, voted out of Congress for a check-bouncing scandal and a supporter of offshore oil drilling, fancies himself a kingmaker of candidates, able to fundraise from the excavation and winery sectors. Both men promise to keep their influence away from the editorial board, and, having affinity for and trust in many PD reporters, we'll take the dutiful stance that time will tell.
Further investors were named closer to the sale's closure: they include Norma Person, widow of Evert Person, who sold the paper to the New York Times in 1985; Jean Schulz, widow of Charles Schulz; and, ho ho ho, Sandy Weill, former Citigroup CEO and orchestrator of the repeal of Glass-Steagall. So, basically, when you see a front-page Press Democrat headline reading "Charlie Brown Loves Gambling Capital Gains from Credit-Default Swaps with Pinot-Sipping Efren Carrillo in Shadow of Beautiful Asphalt Plant," don't be alarmed.—Gabe Meline
We Love to Drink
The Bohemian declared the craft beer revolution in 2011, and 2012 continued the explosion with meteorite speed. Breweries and pubs opened left and right, while Russian River Brewing Co.'s Pliny the Younger kept drawing block-long lines and being named the best beer in the world. Old Redwood Brewing, a Windsor venture run by a crew of intrepid nanobrewers, opened its doors in August. 101 Brewing Co. in Petaluma started catching buzz with its delicious Heroine IPA just a few months ago. After two years of work, Beltane Brewing in Novato held a grand opening in early December, providing easy access to brewer Alan Atha's elixir-like hop creations.
In Santa Rosa, Heritage Public House announced plans to move to the old Video Droid location on Mendocino Ave., expanding the craft beer pub's reach geographically and socially (right next to SRJC—smart move, Dino!). Pub Republic, with multiple craft beers on tap and an expansive food menu, moved into Petaluma. Hopmonk Novato opened its doors in November, offering house-brewed beers and its normal wide selection of quality ales and lagers on tap.
But wait, there's more! 2012 saw the release of 'The Northern California Craft Beer Guide,' Bohemian contributor Ken Weaver's comprehensive and beautifully illustrated guide to our area breweries and beers. You could use this puppy to cram the next two years full of Nor-Cal beer adventures and never run out of places to go. And for the one-stop shopper, BeerCraft, a craft beer shop in Rohnert Park, announced that in addition to offering a stellar selection, it'll be opening a tasting room sometime in the next couple of months. If the selection of beers rivals that of the taproom at the Coddingtown Whole Foods, then we're in for some trouble—of the best kind—in 2013.—Leilani Clark
The Giants Won the World Series, Sure . . .
. . . but come on, that 10-run rally by the Petaluma Little League team to force extra innings, are you kidding me? Just try and tell me you weren't jumping out of your couch and screaming your head off and going totally batshit crazy. Sure, they lost, but those guys—Cole Tomei, Hance Smith, Quinton Gago and others—are names that won't be easily forgotten around here.
While baseball dominated conversation, cycling hit a thorny patch: Lance Armstrong was stripped of all his Tour de France titles, and Santa Rosa's Levi Leipheimer, a longtime friend and teammate of Armstrong, confirmed what everyone had long suspected by admitting to doping. (Just after having Barry Bonds as a guest at his Granfondo, at that—ouch.) The Tour of California returns to Santa Rosa next year, and Levi's Granfondo plans to continue, but both will be very strange, different-feeling events.—Gabe Meline
May the Low-Income Housing Be with You
Yeah, there was that day back in October when everyone and their aunt posted a mouse-shaped Death Star to their Facebook page. But George Lucas hasn't just been busy pledging to donate his $4.05 billion buckaroos from selling to Disney this year—he's also turned petulant/charitable locally, depending on whom you ask.
In April, Lucasfilm posted a strongly worded letter, stating that after 25 years, it was going to pull its application to build a film studio on Marin County's Grady Ranch. Citing bitterness and anger on the part of local neighborhood groups, Lucasfilm then announced that it would use the space to construct low-income housing, and the residents of Marin all clapped their hands, because 60 percent of the county's workforce commutes in due to Marin's exorbitantly high rent.
Kidding! No, what actually happened was a story ran in the New York Times where locals said the filmmaker's move was going to "incite class warfare" and turn the state's wealthiest county into Syria. In November, he became even more popular in the slow-growth region with plans to demolish a building from 1945 to make way for a park where statues of Indiana Jones and Yoda will be built. While he's at it, he should probably finance a Walmart, join the board of the Ross Valley Sanitary District and build a 10-story SmartMeter shaped like Jar Jar Binks in a designated wilderness or something.—Rachel Dovey
Walking Is Still Honest
Over 10 people were struck and killed by cars in Santa Rosa crosswalks in the last two years; many more were injured while walking or cycling. This is terrible and should stop, and is made even worse by the wonderful people who are getting mowed down by cars. One comes to mind: the eminently friendly Toraj Soltani from Mac's Deli, who was chased off the road and onto a golf course before being run over mid-fairway by an angry driver with a revoked license. Soltani isn't the only familiar face in downtown Santa Rosa to be hit by a car. Joseph von Merta, a longtime fixture on Fourth Street, was hit and killed on College Avenue in October. You don't know his name (he often spelled it differently when he talked to us), but you probably know his face, and it probably at one point or another asked you for change. Merta was homeless, in an almost proud defiance of normal life; every time I asked him if he'd found a place to live, he'd pat his sleeping pad and say, "I got it right here." Known variously as "Prince," "Siren" or "That Guy Sitting on the Fountain in Front of Ting Hao with the Puppet Stick," Merta was a quiet but reliable daily presence for over 15 years in Santa Rosa, asking for spare change and little else. Right before he died, he told me he'd just finished a job, was doing OK and planning to visit some family in the East Bay. A week later, he stumbled into the street at 5am and was killed, in the crosswalk, by a car.—Gabe Meline
Donkey Sauce & All
I shouldn't feel bad for a millionaire celebrity chef, but let's face it, Santa Rosa's own Guy Fieri had a really shitty year. First, his yellow Lamborghini was stolen from a garage in San Francisco. And by whom? A 17-year-old who was only caught because he reportedly shot a gun at two other teens in a fit of jealousy, leading authorities to discover his storage locker full of stolen goods, Fieri's Lambo among the loot. (So this kid, Max Wade, right, is sitting in jail the night before he's scheduled to be transferred, and his friends scale the barbed wire fence at the Marin jail, put a ladder beneath his window and try, unsuccessfully, to break the glass with a sledgehammer. In related news, Marin rappers Brilliant & Timbalias filmed a rap video, "Free Max Wade." Dude is his own franchise!)
Anyway, Fieri, who was Lambo-less for 10 whole months (I'm sure the insurance paperwork was a nightmare), opens a huge new Times Square restaurant, which seems to be a larger, more bombastic version of the establishments North Bay denizens are, for better or worse, familiar with. It gets unabashedly and hilariously shit on by the New York Times' Pete Wells, causing an uproar and official response by Fieri on The Today Show. "I stand by my food," he said, only semi-convincingly. "I stand by my team."—Nicolas Grizzle
Politics Suck and/or Rule
As expected, small-town politics got down and dirty during the 2012 election cycle. Remember 'Who is Stacey Lawson,' the anonymous internet campaign that uncovered details about the candidate's wealth, spiritual guru and New Age–styled writings on Huffington Post? Local politico Paul Anderson got about 30 seconds of fame from the stunt, but maybe he was on to something: Lawson didn't get elected.
Despite a groundswell of grassroots support, anti-war activist Norman Solomon didn't make it to the November polls as a Congressional candidate either, losing to Marin's golden boy Jared Huffman. Then there were those last-minute Gary Wysocky robo-calls, funded by the anonymous "Anybody but Wysocky." The hit-and-run tactic didn't work, as Wysocky was reelected to the Santa Rosa City Council, albeit in fourth place (just ahead of Don Taylor—whew, close one!).
Peace in Medicine director Robert Jacob proved that you could have your medical marijuana-infused cake and eat it too when elected as vice mayor in Sebastopol. (He also had my personal favorite campaign strategy: flyers taped to the beer taps at Aubergine.) It was a one-two punch in front of a San Diego nightclub when Efren Carrillo went ninja on a man outside a Too Short show for allegedly harassing his lady friends. All charges were dropped; the young Sonoma County supervisor doesn't seem much worse for the wear.
Michael Allen proved that moving to San Rafael doesn't guarantee political office when unseated in the Assembly by challenger Marc Levine. Susan Gorin and John Sawyer made nice (hugs, even!) at a December Santa Rosa City Council meeting after Gorin defeated the former mayor in a vicious fight-to-the-finish to replace Valerie Brown as Fifth District Supervisor.
And in the midst of Obama's re-election, Measure Q, a promising proposition for district elections, which would have ensured fair geographic representation in underserved areas in Santa Rosa, was defeated at the polls. And they say the weak shall inherit . . . ah, but not in 2012.—Leilani Clark
It was bad enough that we lost Copperfield's Used Book Annex in Sebastopol, and then—boom!—River Reader in Guerneville closed its doors as well. Those weren't the only major closures in 2012, of course: this was Santa Rosa's first year without the Harmony Festival, or the Handcar Regatta. Drake's Bay Oyster Farms was forced by the Feds to close after over a hundred years in Point Reyes, and Douglas Keane closed Cyrus Restaurant, probably while bemoaning something about foie gras and/or bulldogs (and/or landlords). While Traverso's closed last year, a different Italian institution underwent a major transformation in 2012: Canevari's Deli in Santa Rosa. Ed Canevari is still an owner, but the printouts of Elks Club–type jokes and "COFFEE: 35¢" sign are gone, as is the "O Sole Mio" window. (Ed continues to monitor the recipes.) And to kick off the year, Incredible Records in Sebastopol closed on Jan. 1.—Gabe Meline
Construction Time Again
Highlights of the development beat in the North Bay this year: Napa got really huffy about an old industrial site on the river, SMART construction kept people up at night and a tribal leader's ethnic origin was called into question.
In other news, a split Petaluma City Council approved the final EIR for the Deer Creek shopping center last April, which plans to house another branch of Friedman's. On the not-so-local side of the Petaluma spectrum, construction on the 34-acre site of a future Target is poised for early 2013. Up in Santa Rosa, discount chain Smart & Final plans to open a space in the Santa Rosa Avenue warehouse vacated by Circuit City. And more grapevines will be planted in West County, due to an October approval by county supervisors of Best Family Winery in Graton.
The ongoing Rohnert Park Casino saga, aside from casting the spotlight on Greg Sarris, is finally in the construction phase after the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria secured an $850 million financing package. The SMART Train moved forward this year, and Napa Pipe proposed putting a Costco on its embattled site, and many, many, many people filed lawsuits about zoning and traffic and other things that are just as exciting.—Rachel Dovey
Don't Bogart That Joint
Medical marijuana was both the biggest winner and the biggest loser this year. Federal government crackdowns on California dispensaries continued, the most high-profile being the April 2 DEA raid of Oaksterdam University in Oakland. On April 23, federal prosecutors threatened to seize the property that houses two Novato dispensaries, Green Door Wellness Education Center and Green Tiger Collective for violations of federal law and municipal zoning codes; both businesses closed soon afterward.
Kumari Sivadas of the Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana told that Bohemian that Sonoma County had seen a rise in prosecutions, seizures and arrests of people involved in cannabis collectives in 2011–2012. In December, supervisors Valerie Brown and Shirlee Zane's recommended measure to lower approved limits for cultivation and possession of medical marijuana was defeated, after criticism that the two had not engaged the public before the measure went to vote. Brown told a crowd of patients, lawyers and advocates in her final meeting as supervisor that she had "failed them" and that she was sorry.—Leilani Clark
Press Releases We Received in 2012!
"Manifest with Sex Magick—Magical Intimacy With Sexy Challenges."
"Article: Macho Men Prevail."
"Guide to Finding Your Cosmic Mate (For Those Unable to Find a Human One)"
"Nudity in America."
"It is total bullshit and an embarrassing waste of time, and I hope you enjoy it."
"Are Black Men Globally Relevant?"
"'From Menses to Menopause,' Skype-only class, $210."
"My medical records show that I have been urinating blood since 1991."
"Research on the History of Mental Illness in Dolphins and Dogs."
"First Post-Amputation Public Performances Announced!"
"Christmas Potluck for Everyone Interested in Secret CIA Mind Control Technology."—Gabe Meline