Dear Editor:

I am deeply concerned about the continued high turnover rate of the Healdsburg High School administration. From 2016 until now, only one principal has lasted longer than two years. What seems to be the problem?

If they are being terminated, why do unqualified candidates continue to be hired? If they are resigning, is the environment so terrible at HHS that someone doesn’t want to work there for longer than two years?

From where I stand, with this continued turnover, it doesn’t seem to be a problem of the principals themselves, but rather the levels above. I know it’s important for local children to attend Healdsburg public schools. The population of students is dwindling due to economics and alternative schooling options, among other factors.

I would like to send my children to HHS, but I have no faith in the backbone of the school. New principals come with new rules, curriculum, programs, ideas about funding and more. If there is a new principal each year, there is no consistency and our students’ education will suffer. 

As elected trustees representing our community to oversee the district, our local Board of Education has an important oversight role to play in ensuring our schools are high performing.

With this lack of continuity in administrative leadership, our schools continue to decline. I’ve asked the Board to be the strong advocates we elected them to be—to ask tough questions and demand accountability. This is critical to our community!

Jessica Hicks

Rising Water Rates

Healdsburg’s failing water and sewer infrastructure, and the need to secure a reliable water source, are now an emergency priority for the city to address (“Water, Wastewater Rate Increases On Tap,” March 28). It will be costly and will require rate increases. However, the new rate structures borne by residents should not be made in isolation and without the current City Council rethinking its entire budget and allocation of resources.

Under the city’s current proposal, the rate increases are eye-popping. The average family households’ water and sewer bill will go from $166.53/month to $200.73/month. That is the highest in Sonoma County, and 80% higher than the $111/month rate in Windsor. In 2 years, the rates will reach $272.30/month—that is an extra $105.78/month, and almost + $1,300 a year more than we pay now.

In the past three years, the Council has expanded our local government’s role beyond critical infrastructure, public safety and affordable housing to spend millions on new initiatives such as DEI, Universal Income Pilot Studies and Climate Action projects that surpass state mandates.  While laudable, we cannot afford those new initiatives and need to refocus city funds.

Residents and businesses in Healdsburg should require the City Council to prove that they have scoured their budgets to 1) reduce overhead/staffing costs where possible, and 2) redirect funds allocated for any “nice to have” projects to address our critical infrastructure needs and, as much as possible, reduce the dramatic impacts born by residents.

We cannot continue business as usual in the face of this elephant in the room. When city staff notes in their Feb. 5th preliminary report that “while the new proposed revenue increases are significant, they are fundamental to meeting the basic operating needs of the utility funds and securing safe and reliable water and sewer services”—they are correct. But that must include the City Council and staff making hard choices about their operating costs and projects, in addition to residents.

Karen Maley

Timeshares in Healdsburg

National real estate firm Pacaso offers fractional ownership “vacation homes” in tourist destinations. Pacaso homes are functionally timeshares: each 1/8 owner gets 44 days a year. Now, Pacaso has entered the Healdsburg housing market—even though Healdsburg prohibits timeshares.

But there’s a new addition to the Pacaso playbook: “do it yourself” (DYI) co-ownership. Purchase a whole vacation home using Pacaso’s legal templates (about $300) to set up your own timeshare business. No tourist occupancy tax (TOT) will be collected on these businesses.

Pacaso recently listed four DIY homes within Healdsburg, including on Grove and University Streets and in the Mill District—but those listings have suddenly disappeared from its website. It seems Picasso scrubbed the Healdsburg listings this past Monday, April 1, after we sent an email to City Council members and others about Pacaso’s play on Healdsburg.

Pacaso has been moving into lower-priced listings, including homes under $1.5 million in Windsor, Santa Rosa and Cloverdale. If this happens in Healdsburg, will it impact local efforts to expand housing opportunities for all? Will it impact our existing and planned hotels, which collect TOT?

We need to understand the implications of Pacaso targeting housing in Healdsburg. The city should initiate a planning process and enact a moratorium in the meanwhile. As of 2023, the County of Sonoma strictly regulates the Pacaso model.

Ask your elected officials about timeshares in Healdsburg. Are they legal here? Do we need to reinforce our timeshare ordinance?

Warren and Janis Watkins

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  1. I agree with Karen Maley’s letter about the rise in Healdsburg’s water and sewer rates. The City Council needs to use our money for infrastructure, not pie-in-the-sky fantasies.

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  2. I agree with Karen Marley’s letter about the rise in Healdsburg’s water and sewer rates. I might add electric rates. The City Council needs to stop spending on fantasies and spend our money ( taxes ) on infrastructure. As a long time resident of Healdsburg, the City Council can not keep spending money they don’t have and expect residents to pay their expenditures.

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