On an item that was only on the surface about a paint color, the Sonoma City Council on Monday denied an appeal by residents who hoped to overturn a city design commission's approval of a pink-painted door at an ice cream shop on the historic plaza.
The discussion, in a full council chamber, during which perhaps 20 people spoke, demonstrated the civic engagement that Sonoma prides itself on. It touched on matters to do with the city's identity and historic nature and with preserving that; with the process of government decision-making; with how to encourage or deter small businesses; with adjusting to the times; and, a little bit, with the color pink.
"The Marmadukes did everything they were supposed to do. &#8230; I don't particularly like that color," said Mayor Tom Rouse, referring to Troy and Dawn Marmaduke of Sonoma, owners of Grandma Linda's Ice Cream, who ran the store as a Ben & Jerry's franchise until October, when they struck out on their own. The vote was 4-1 to deny the appeal, with Councilman Steve Barbose in favor of granting it.
On changing their brand, the Marmadukes sought a new color scheme, and in December received approval from the Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission to paint a small area of the building's exterior — less than they'd originally applied for — Cerise Delight, including the door.
That upset people who believe the color is at odds with both the 124-year-old, stone building on First Street East and the rest of the historic plaza. A group of 12 had appealed that decision.
On Monday, Karla Noyes presented a slide show of the Renaissance Revival-style building's lineage and said: "Because of its astounding history, architecture and materials, the historic value and integrity of the Pinelli Building must be preserved in total, with paint colors that are appropriate to the historic character of the building."
The plaza's buildings "are the identity of historic Sonoma that provide the cultural and economic center of our town," said Patricia Cullinan, arguing against the paint scheme.
But some supporters of the Marmadukes, several wearing pink shirts or coats, said that opponents were stifling a small business to which the color was suited and that they were too loyal to the past.
"I'm actually lactose intolerant, but I'm also intolerant of small-mindedness and people's resistance to movement and change to the future," Shotsie Gorman said.
"The Marmadukes did their due diligence and, you know, it's an ice cream parlor - I think it's appropriate for an ice cream parlor," said Lynn Abate-Johnson.
Loyce Haran, one of the appellants, responded by saying, "We are pro business and we are excited about the idea of an ice cream parlor remaining there. But we are about keeping the historic buildings and plaza the way it is."
The chairwoman of the design review commission spoke, too, defending the process by which the commission had approved the Marmadukes' application.
"Nothing was taken lightly," Leslie Tippell said. "The Marmadukes made a lot of concessions," including using less pink than they had wanted to.
Barbose said he would have preferred to uphold the appeal, ask the commission and city staff to develop a color palette to guide future such decisions on the plaza, see then whether the Marmadukes' pink fit in, and, if it didn't, cover their costs to change it.