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Monday, August 1, 2011


Sebastopol Runs on Volunteer Effort 
I hope it’s well-known and much appreciated that our firefighters and about one-half of our Police Department are volunteers.  Without the generous contributions of these “employees,” the City couldn’t survive financially. 

Our community runs on volunteer effort, too.  There are more individuals and service organizations than there is room here to name.  Let me express my appreciation to these folks for their dedication.  I extend special commendation to the board members and other civic leaders who take on extra responsibilities.  All of these folks, in whatever capacity with whatever group, donate their time, money, creativity, energy, and hearts to ensure our economic, social, and cultural vitality.   

We also have a lot of citizen groups that have been born out of common interests and continue to pursue their concerns together.  One such group coalesced at the City’s last Economic Summit.  SESAW [the Sebastopol Economic Summit Action Work group] has met regularly for more than a year, discussing concepts for an economically viable “smart growth” vision for Sebastopol.  SESAW has just launched The CORE Project, an international design competition to generate innovative ideas to renew the city’s center.   

The competition materials state that its overarching intent is to explore how the physical presence of the city can become a more economically thriving and aesthetically vibrant place, reflective of the natural beauty of the region, the progressive character of the community, and its strong environmentally conscious reputation.  The goal is to inspire “out of the box” proposals that implement real, holistic change, start a discourse about the direction of our future, and assist community leaders in plotting our course.  The international competition, if successful, will help meet our need for a vision for our long-term future, as we transition from our agricultural past to our lively and sustainable future.  It will make use of Sebastopol’s designation as the second Cittaslow City in the USA and the brand, “Local Flavor. Global Vision.”

The CORE Project emphasizes four CORE variables:

Traffic - The traffic puzzle is at the heart of reclaiming and sustaining the city for its livable future.  The Town Plaza is a vital gathering place but it is situated like an island in a river of high traffic… 
Commerce - Like many small cities, Sebastopol’s tax base lacks a significant commercial/corporate tax contribution. City revenues are consistently low…Part of the Design Challenge is to generate a more attractive commercial environment which highlights Sebastopol’s emerging aesthetic and destination character.
Greening the City - Sebastopol is widely recognized as a progressive community with an informed, active citizenry. We seek designs that will significantly increase dissemination of green knowledge, including issues ranging from sustainability initiatives and public education displays to promotion of tax benefits of commercial energy efficiency, etc.
Aesthetic Flow - Some of the city’s creeks have been partially day-lighted, but connectivity of these zones is minimal and could be improved.  Bike-ability and walk-ability also could be improved.  Main Street and Highway 116 tend to ‘stretch’ out the identifiable city center…[quoting from CORE materials].

Entrants from diverse disciplines are invited to participate, including architects, landscape architects, developers, engineers, urban planners, transportation planners, students, and other creative visionaries.  Multidisciplinary, collaborative design teams are encouraged.   The fees are: $150 for professionals and $75 for students.  There will be a public exhibition, online publication of the top award winners, and cash prizes [determined by the number of entries].

The competition will be juried by locally-known luminaries [subject to confirmation]: Lois Fisher, Town Planner; Kevin Kellogg, Architect; Curt Johansen, Sustainable Developer; Ned Kahn, Artist; and Brock Dolman, Watershed Ecologist and Permaculture Designer. 
The dates are:

August 29, 2011 – Registration opens
October 17, 2011 – Registration closes
October 24, 2011 – Submission deadline
November 4-5, 2011 – Design awards and reception
There is mention of a possible follow-up forum to determine implementation of design ideas, perhaps in the summer of 2012. 

I thank this group of volunteer professionals for taking on the complicated tasks they’ve defined.  Our City budget doesn’t have any funds for visioning exercises.  We face the responsibility of updating our General Plan, the “Constitution” for our community planning, without money to do the work in the sophisticated ways we might have in years earlier.  The CORE Project will inform and enliven our efforts.

By Sarah Glade Gurney [ or voice message: 824.1871]