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Sonoma becomes nation's first 'Slow City'

  • Virginia Hubbell, president of the Cittaslow Sonoma Valley Foundation, helped bring Sonoma Valley the first "Slow City" designation in the United States (By CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / THE PRESS DEMOCRAT)

A commitment to restrained growth and other tenets of the sustainability ethic has earned Sonoma Valley the nation's first “Slow City” designation, a broader interpretation of the international Slow Food movement.

Envoys from the international organization Cittaslow, translated from Italian as “slow city,” will travel to Sonoma in January to bestow the honor.

The city — and the rest of Sonoma Valley — becomes the first American area to be admitted to a group of 129 communities from 29 countries that subscribe to the Cittaslow philosophy, a movement that began in 1999 in Italy.

Virginia Hubbell of Sonoma, a management and growth consultant for nonprofit organizations, was the driving force behind the city seeking the accreditation.

“The idea is that a small town really has the capacity to change laws and oversee the legislation and policies they make so that the community, all of it, can really step forward and be involved in the process of building a sustainable town,” Hubbell said.

“What drew me to it is the idea of connection. My dream for Cittaslow in Sonoma Valley is to have all of our citizens, everyone who lives in our valley, to feel they are connected to their town and to each other.”

Prospective Cittaslow members have populations of less than 50,000 and are evaluated in 54 categories, including sustainable agricultural practices, land use and infrastructure, environmental policy, support for local food cultivation and preparation, conservation of traditional artisan products, hospitality programs, historic preservation and educational programs for all ages.

The city council and the Slow Food chapter also must support the application, which they did in Sonoma's case.

Sonoma Mayor Steve Barbose said the five-member council enthusiastically supported the designation, which extends to the Sonoma Valley community, particularly for the international partnership opportunities and tourism potential it brings.

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