Group plans new parklet for Main Street
The new parklet, a project of The Hub, is the first of several new ventures meant to reshape development in Sebastopol
The folks who run Soft Medicine have big plans for the future of Sebastopol—and they’re starting with a parklet that will be open to all restaurants and diners on Main Street.
Called “The Downtown Family Food Park,” the new parklet will be located on a portion of the Miller Oil property next door to the Basso Building, where Soft Medicine is located.
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“The main thing that downtown is missing is it doesn't have something like the Barlow, where kids and dogs and families can just sit and then order from a bunch of places,” said Jonathan Pinkston, one of Soft Medicine’s owners. “We have three seats outside and the Cookie Company has five seats, but they're right on the road…and it's not kid friendly. But we need a kid-friendly downtown.”
Pinkston is also one of the founding organizers of The Hub, a new organization that is rethinking how development should happen in Sebastopol. Unlike more established groups (like the Sebastopol Downtown Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Core Project, and Sebastopol Tomorrow), The Hub is made up mostly of people in their twenties and thirties. They are looking at creative solutions for ways to stay in Sebastopol, a town where sky-high housing prices puts single-family homes out of reach of most people.
The new downtown parklet is their first cut at making downtown Sebastopol a more inclusive urban space.
Miller Oil, a small smog check and oil change business, has long been considered a source of visual blight in downtown, a rectangle of asphalt with junky cars and boats in permanent need of repair
“I was basically like, ‘Hey, you're not making money on these junk cars. What's up with this?’ And basically offered to rent it from him on behalf of everyone downtown—all the food places—and they [Miller Oil] said yes,” Pinkston said.
The Hub plans to start development of the parklet in February.
“We're not going to rip anything up,” Pinkston said. “We're just going to be doing like a floating deck that will have some tables and a little awning thing over that. Wi Fi from this building [the Basso Building] will reach out there, so there'll be Wi Fi. We'll have a little outdoor stage where someone could play guitar. And there will be six or seven tables. So you could have 23 people sitting out there, and we're going to keep some parking spots along the road.”
“It will basically be an impromptu parklet, kind of like what we had during COVID in downtown, but with a much bigger footprint and set back from the road. We’re working with Bamboo Sorcery, and the idea is that we're going to have bamboo on the street side and the auto parts side. So all you will see from the parklet is towards Rite Aid so it won't feel so much like you're on the main road.”
Pinkston said they hope to have the parklet completed by May—though like all outdoor construction—that depends on how much rain we get.
A bigger vision for Sebastopol
The parklet is just the beginning of changes that The Hub would like to see around Sebastopol.
“The core of the business is really about revitalizing Sebastopol and changing who moves here and who stays,” Pinkston said. The mission statement for The Hub is “Making Sebastopol more regenerative, sustainable, and equitable for all beings.”
In addition to being one of the co-owners of Soft Medicine, Pinkston works as an alternative healer and green builder. He grew up in nearby Santa Rosa, but was attracted to Sebastopol’s more alternative culture—a culture he feels is threatened by developments like the long-promised Hotel Sebastopol, with its $500-a-night rooms.
“Since I was a kid, it's like 10 times more expensive to live here, and the wealth disparity is off the charts… it's great that we have this beautiful space and the Barlow is here, but there's a lot of inequality that's coming with all that abundance.”
“There's about eight of us that created the concept for The Hub. Some of them are in Soft Medicine, some of them live in the community. And we basically created this container within which there's a land trust, Living Earth Land Trust, that can buy property and protect it.”
Pinkston mentioned a few other people who are involved in The Hub, including Matt Jorgensen of the Joysong Collective and Adam Bulbulia of Heart-Centered Revolutions. Bulbulia is also president of the Sebastopol Downtown Association.
“We are turning the Basso Building into the headquarters of The Hub—a temple to all things healing—and we are focused on sewing regenerative culture into the fabric of Sebastopol through a central location,” Pinkston said.
The Hub is thinking big—it’s looking into creating a small business incubator across the hall from Soft Medicine and thinking about how to use the land trust to create affordable housing in Sebastopol. Another big item on its wishlist: it would prefer if the lot now slated for Hotel Sebastopol were turned into an an extension of the plaza, with fenced off play areas for children and dogs.
The Hub has been holding public meetings about the group’s plans for several months now, advertised on social media.
“We’re trying to be really inclusive and make sure we have buy-in. We want to make sure that The Hub is taking the community's perspective on everything into account,” said Kate Doherty, another co-owner of Soft Medicine and a founding member of The Hub. “That's why we've had all of these meetings about what to do with this building and with the outside eatery [i.e., the parklet]. It's all been pretty open to the public. We posted it on our social media, whoever wants to come comes.”
Doherty was very involved last year in some Sebastopol revitalization meetings held by the Sebastopol Downtown Association. She sees a different demographic attending meetings for The Hub.
“We definitely don't have the same people who were going to those meetings going to this group. That’s why I was saying, it’s important to continue to have inclusivity and get the word out.”
Though The Hub has been holding monthly meetings, Pinkston said these will probably be replaced by weekly meetings of the working groups formed at earlier Hub meetings, focusing on areas such as housing, business incubator, and the parklet.
The next meeting on the The Downtown Family Food Park is Saturday, Feb. 17, 4 to 6 pm. Pending good weather, the meeting will be in the parking lot itself. To find out more about The Hub, go to thehubsebastopol.com.
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