Can Sonoma County build its way out of growing pains? …..”no limits economy” not sustainable

…not to mention the hollowing out of neighborhoods by investors and loss of community. Tourism based economies are also the first to be hit in economic downturns.  See below…

Self-inflicted pains

EDITOR: In his Jan. 13 Close to Home column, Patrick Emery told the truth: “By no definition is an economy based on continued and escalating growth ‘sustainable’ ” (“Can Sonoma County build its way out of growing pains?”).

That is what we have here — a no-limits economy — led in this direction by the influential second-home and wine grape industries and supported, sadly, by a growing number of low wage field and service employees. These workers can’t compete for our pricey housing, so they must drive on Highway 101 to get here, only to return to their distant residences with unsustainable paychecks.

Meanwhile, market-rate housing units continue to be planned and approved by a majority of our city and county elected officials, with only a token supply of affordable homes required.

Emery wrote: “Voters will be more receptive to necessary short-term housing solutions if they see serious policy initiatives that challenge the crisis-inducing insistence on perpetual growth.” I agree. We have promoted this growing self-inflicted environmental and human tragedy.


Reprint of previous post:

5 Stages: “Tourism’s Faustian Deal” – George Caloyannidis: NAPA Vision 2050

  • Stage 1: Tourism is purely supplemental and supportive to an existing economic base.
  • Stage 2: The local economy increases its reliance on tourist dollars and is perceived by local governments and businesses as essential.
  • Stage 3: The dislocation of the local population begins, a gradual tearing of the social fabric, the proliferation of low paying jobs with the associated concentration of outsider investor wealth at the top.
    • Examples: Neighbors move out and part-timers or vacation rentals proliferate: neighbors do not know or talk to each other.
    • Low paying jobs proliferate – the income gap widens – only the wealthy are “thriving”
    • – Housing is not available – workers have to commute in creating more traffic congestion
  • Stage 4: By this stage, the process is irreversible. The deficit economy of tourism becomes evident as the wear and tear of the infrastructure requires ever increasing funds for maintenance and further destructive expansion. (Taxes, use and mitigation fees).
  • Stage 5: The Faustian deal is complete: Local government has negotiated itself into the corner of no alternative than the vicious cycle of even more and more tourism to pay the bills. It never catches up … the infrastructure erodes … once thriving communities are in tatters both in terms of infrastructure and social capital.Tourism then moves to other destinations – and the cycle starts again – devouring once thriving communities and locations with authentic character.

Examples: Tourism becomes “unwelcome” by local residents. – Traffic and road safety problems proliferate.  Local governments propose additional taxes on residents to pay for fixing roads, etc.  Are reluctant to  impose “mitigation fees” on the businesses benefiting from the tourism . – Authentic character is lost – feels like living in or visiting Disneyland