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Plaza dogs are being looked after by the City Environment Commission
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Plaza dogs are being looked after by the City Environment Commission

This week, the Community Services and Environment Commission will meet to discuss several possible changes to Plaza’s use policy. They will also consider allowing leashed dogs to be allowed in the park for a trial period.

The seven-member Community Services and Environment Commission advises the council in matters related to the preservation and improvement of parks, recreational areas and open space. They also review major event applications.

The Sonoma City Council asked CSEC members to review a list of ongoing issues affecting downtown Sonoma and make recommendations on how the commissions can help find solutions.

CSEC members will discuss a variety of topics at their February 9 meeting. They will make recommendations and make recommendations, including whether the city should modify its longstanding no dog policy for Sonoma Plaza or allow leashed pooches to certain areas of the park.

Are there dogs on the Plaza?

Dogs are not permitted on the Plaza at the moment. Staff at the city say that the policy is difficult for them to enforce. This can lead to conflict with owners who are not cooperative and can become aggressive or argumentative when they are informed. Staff recommends a pilot period where dogs are allowed to walk on the Plaza with the exception of the children’s playground area and the Tuesday Night Market during summer to avoid conflicts.

Bob Edwards, a local dog advocate, wrote Jan. 27 in the Index-Tribune that he urged the city not to end the trial period. He said there was no health or other reason for dogs being kept on leashes from the Plaza.

Edwards said that it is rare for a dog-owner to neglect to pick up after Fido. This situation can be easily rectified with signage and waste bag dispensers like those installed by the city along its miles of bike trails, where one rarely sees unretrieved dog waste.

However, Lisa Janson, City Events Manager, was more skeptical at the Jan. 12 joint City Council/CSEC Meeting.

Janson cautioned that when there are so many people at the Plaza, you can have dog fights and dogs charging into picnicking people.

Climate Action

The City Council would like the CSEC clarify its role regarding the city’s Climate Action Plan. Climate action is currently under the jurisdiction of the Joint Climate Action Subcommittee. It is made up of two members from the CSEC as well as two members from the City Council. The commission will discuss Wednesday whether to increase membership in the subcommittee, or whether a separate Climate Action Committee should take over its responsibilities. If either option is preferred, the CSEC will discuss the number and origin of the members that the committee will have.

Plaza Special Event Permits

The city events manager and the Special Event Committee can place conditions on permits for special events. In the past, the CSEC attempted to impose conditions upon special events permits. This included surveying attendees about their mode of transport to the event. However, there is confusion over the criteria the CSEC may use to deny an application for an events. The CSEC recommended last year that the Mexican Independence Day celebration be held, due to public health concerns resulting from the pandemic.

The CSEC will propose amendments to Wednesday’s special event policy. These changes relate to the authority of the commission to impose conditions or reject requests for special events.

Restructuring of the Tree Committee

The city Tree Committee is composed of two members from the CSEC, and one certified arborist. It reviews the potential impacts of development on existing trees adjacent to or on the site of the project. In January, the City Council considered the possibility of having staff with the assistance a certified arborist assume the responsibilities. According to the city staff report from the February 9 meeting, the main benefit is the reduction in the amount of staff time required for Tree Committee activities.

Wednesday’s meeting will be a recommendation by the CSEC on whether city staff should assume the responsibilities of Tree Committee. If so, the CSEC will suggest ways to improve functionality of Tree Committee, while also considering staff availability limitations.

Plaza Improvements

At the January joint meeting, the idea of adding bike racks around the Plaza was brought up. CSEC members pointed to the fact that a bike plan for Plaza was originally developed a few decades ago but never implemented. On February 9, the commission will discuss adding more bike racks to the Plaza. They also plan to make other improvements like upgrading the public trash stations, installing additional water bottles filling stations, and upgrading the public restrooms.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. It will be held via Zoom. To attend, visit

Email Jason Walsh at [email protected].

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