Healdsburg City Council race highlights tensions between tourism and locals

Ron Edwards has been walking 3 miles a day since September 8, knocking on doors, dropping off election literature, trying to convince people to elect him to Healdsburg City Council.

On Wednesday, Edwards said he was just two blocks from covering the entire city.

A retired caterer and cannabis producer, Edwards chose an image of the historic truss bridge spanning the Russian River in Healdsburg as his campaign logo. It was no accident.

“What I’m hearing is people really don’t want to be divided,” Edwards said when asked about the comments he’s been getting around town. During his door-to-door visit, he noted many disputes between “longtime residents, new residents and second home buyers”.

“The common thing is that we all love Healdsburg, and we all want to come together to have a good city.”

Edwards is one of seven candidates vying for three seats on the Healdsburg City Council. Two of them are four-year terms. The other, a two-year seat, will fill the post vacated by former board member Skylaer Palacios, who abruptly resigned in May, a year and a half after being elected.

Edwards is vying for that short-term seat, along with retired English professor Brigette Mansell and Matthew Lopez Jr., on the ballot as Matias, a 23-year-old Ph.D. candidate in physics at the University of Connecticut who took a temporary leave from his studies.

Mansell, who left city government in 2018, returns because she sees a city that is “unbalanced”. She is alarmed by the continuous “flow of money”; the rise of “ultra-luxury” housing estates to the north and south of the city; and the exodus of “businesses serving the local”.

Another call from The Ruse

An example of Healdsburg’s trend toward luxury developments is a controversial project just north of downtown called The Ruse. Donations made by the owners of this property to two candidates for city council brought them unwanted attention earlier this week.

After buying the Honor Mansion, a sleepy bed-and-breakfast on Grove Street, a group of local builders spent $14 million to renovate it. That group includes brothers Patrick and Jonathan Wilhelm, whose family built the Mayacama Golf Club, and longtime Silicon Valley executive Craig Ramsey.

On Sept. 1, the owners applied to the city for a conditional use permit for the facility, which they sought to run as a “private recreation club,” featuring an 18-hole green, six pickleball courts, a land of 2,392 squares. single-storey outdoor pavilion with a full kitchen, bar area and lounge, which could serve beer, wine and spirits on site.

This application was denied by the Healdsburg Planning Commission, which concluded that it was an inappropriate use for a residential area. The 3-acre property straddles two different Healdsburg zoning districts — one is “grove mixed-use” and the other is residential.

The owners of Ruse have appealed this decision. Then, in a 6-0 vote, the planning commission rejected the appeal.

On Friday afternoon, Patrick Wilhelm filed with the city an appeal of this dismissal of his previously denied appeal. The matter will now go to City Council which, due to Palacios’ departure, is reduced to four members, including Deputy Mayor Ariel Kelley, who can recuse herself from the vote because she lives near The Ruse. .

Returned Campaign Contributions

Earlier in the week, the city council candidates came under fire – particularly on the “What’s Happening Healdsburg” Facebook group – for accepting campaign contributions from Wilhelm and Ramsey and his wife, Kelly.

Evelyn Mitchell, who is now finishing her first term on the Council and running for a second, returned $2,000 to the Wilhelms and Ramseys.

Mitchell returned the donations out of “an excess of caution,” she said, and to avoid the appearance of a conflict.

She described the corruption allegations made against her on social media as “very offensive”.

“My integrity is one of my biggest assets,” said Mitchell, who runs an accounting consulting business. “So I’m proud of that. And that’s part of why I made the contributions.

Susan Graf, who is running for a four-year seat on the Council and whose name adorns the shop she has owned for a quarter of a century on Matheson Street, returned $2,000 given to her by the Ramseys and Wilhelms. She makes no apologies for accepting these contributions in the first place.

“Jeez Louise – I go back to 1999 with the Wilhelms. I went to their weddings, their birthdays, their baptisms,” she said, adding that she “won’t pretend” that they are not her friends.

About Bobby F. Lopez

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