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New Urbanism in Sonoma County

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Sonoma County is the second county north of San Francisco via the Golden Gate Bridge and US 101. It takes about 45 minutes (in no traffic) to drive from the county seat, Santa Rosa, to San Francisco. Sonoma is one of the most beautiful counties in the country, with the rugged pacific coast, rolling hills, forests, wine country, small farms, villages, and great small cities like Petaluma and Santa Rosa.

Our first stop was Petaluma to check out the "Theatre District" http://www.tndwest.com/petalumatheatredistrict.html

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Although I like that they are putting new apartments right downtown, I talked to the proprietor and found out that the rents are $1400 for a studio, $1600 for a one-bedroom! (and on up from there) That is higher than in Morningside Heights, the Manhattan neighborhood where I live. It seems they are charging San Francisco rents and catering to city emigres, not folks from Petaluma, which does not have an economy to support such rents.

Just after finding out that, we walked by construction workers striking for fair wages. They are charging such exorbitant rents for Petaluma real estate, and can't even pay their construction workers fairly?

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Overall I am excited to see how downtown Petaluma develops over time, but hope that some more affordable housing available to locals is also built.

Next, we went up to Windsor (pop 22,744), one of the most complete examples of New Urbanism I have ever seen. There were several streets lined with 3-4 story mixed use buildings with retail at ground floor and loft apartments above. I was especially pleased to see unique, local retailers. Most new urbanism is filled with the same national chain retailers that are found in any suburban mall. However, I didn't see a single national chain in Windsor.

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Although there is minimal transit access to the area as yet, this is the site of the future SMART rail station (Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit). The system will traverse 70 miles from Cloverdale in north Sonoma County to Larkspur in southern Marin County (with a ferry connection to downtown SF).

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As is typical of New Urbanism, residential parking is hidden in alley-accessed garages. Retail parking is also located off the main street.

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Outside the mixed-use area, there is new housing in low-density New Urbanist style.

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That completes the New Urbanism tour. Here are some more pics of Sonoma County for your enjoyment.

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wow those pics are great!

forgive me for asking, but where exactly is Sonoma County?

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forgive me for asking, but where exactly is Sonoma County?

Matt, c'mon! Read the very first sentence in the man's post!

When I visited, I was really surprised how undeveloped both Sonoma and Marin Counties were considering their proximity to the Bay Area, especially the areas right along the coast. They both seemed so anti-development.

These pictures remind me of Colorado quite a bit.

Thanks for posting!

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No dude I know they were near the bay area, I just wasn't sure where in relation to. The couple times i've been to San Fran, I was in San Fran, and then areas surrounding the bay. Didn't get outside of the urbanized areas, except to head to Reno.

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Widsor seems to have a very nice layout and design and the fact that smaller, local business was able to take hold is great.

Unfortunately I can't say the same for the architecture of the buildings. In particular, I am referring to the row of buildings shown in picture 2 and 7 (the ones with the giant pediment building). The developers had the right idea, and the buildings are far from terrible, but the features on these buildings are really out of proportion. Additionally, the use of siding combined with tall parapit walls and a few porches makes them look like metropolitan versions of "wild-western" buildings. If more quality materials such as brick and less but better details were used, much like the Hercules main street, I think the design could have been all the better.

Not to sound too negative, I do like that corner tower building. And from what I can see of them in the picture, the neighboring buildings look to be considerably well designed as well.

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