Chris Smith: Oakmont survived the inferno and now, too, pickleball


Pickleball is a word seldom heard since Oakmont was evacuated under siege by flames that inflicted vast damage near and destroyed two homes within the east Santa Rosa 55-and-older village.

It’s being uttered again because of the conclusion of a long-awaited study on the noise produced by the playing of pickleball on tennis courts at the East Recreation Center: Those decibel levels are well within what Santa Rosa allows.

With that finding, the board of the Oakmont Village Association will seek city permission to permanently convert two of the East Center’s tennis courts to six pickleball courts.

If that conversion, budgeted at about $7,500, goes ahead, it will lay to rest the counter proposal to spend $310,000 or more to construct four pickleball courts on a piece of bare land near the central Berger Center. The battle over that project nearly tore Oakmont apart.

Gloria Young, president of the homeowners’ board, senses that the move to instead convert long-existing tennis courts for pickleball play is restoring goodwill and a sense of community to Oakmont.

“I think we want to get back to that,” she said.

MIGHT ITALIANS HELP? It’s happened in the past that disasters have hit Italy and Italian-Americans in the North Bay and across the country have gathered and sent aid.

On Friday, the Italian Consul General of San Francisco will come to Santa Rosa to discuss with Italian-American fire victims whether they could use some help from their homeland.

Local Italian-Americans will greet Lorenzo Ortona at a dinner at 6 p.m. in the community room at Brookwood Mobile Estates, 7000 Montecito Blvd. To RSVP for the $15 meal, email

Fire victims who’d like to meet and hear Ortona but skip the dinner can arrive at 6:30.

HEALING AND ART: Since the fires, the Jewish Free Clinic is sees twice as many patients.

The clinic on Santa Rosa’s Montgomery Drive survives on local support, and some artists are doing something special to attract dollars to the mission.

At 5 p.m. Sunday at Gallery 300 on South A Street, several artists will show and speak about their work. Fifty percent of the afternoon’s sales will go to the free clinic.

That gathering is free. At 6, p.m., folks will stroll to Spinster Sisters. A meal, also a benefit for the clinic, will be $125.

If you’d like to go, shoot an email to

THE FIELD TRIP had some Santa Rosa third-graders on the edges of their seats for months.

The 90 students at Helen Lehman School at last raised the money needed for an excursion to the California Academy of Sciences, most of the cost involving the $1,800 charge for bus transportation.

The students had just settled into their seats for the earthquake show when alarms sounded. Not another fire!

The kids were standing outside when fire engines arrived. It turned out to be a false alarm.

But by then it was almost noon, the day’s schedule was shot and the youngsters were hungry. A decision was made: to eat lunch and head for home.

The day was pretty much a disaster. Teacher Melissa Madigan welcomes donations for a second Academy of Sciences field trip, mailed to Helen Lehman Elementary School, Attn: 3rd grade team, 1700 Jennings Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95401.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and