MENDOCINO, 5/17/23 — Mendocino’s new ‘Keep it Local” group had its second meeting Tuesday night, with more ideas but a smaller crowd than the first meeting last month. The new group aims at building local resilience and strategizing how to deal with increased ownership of businesses from buyers outside the area.
After an article appeared in the Mendocino Voice earlier about hospitality properties on the coast being purchased by big corporations, Mendocino massage therapist Gabriel Sherry got to work. His new organization, Keep it Local, held its first meeting with a large turnout on a chilly April Saturday night in Mendocino Village. Suggestions were made to incorporate Mendocino as a city, an idea made impractical by the standards of Mendocino County’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), which oversees boundaries and agency and municipal reorganizations. Another was to work more closely with the Mendocino Historical Review Board.
Sherry, whose place of business, Sweetwater Spa and Inn, is for sale, was already worried about the impacts of outside ownership. He embarked on a campaign to educate people about the benefits of local control. The Grass Roots institute, a local grassroots group, has expressed an interest in helping Sherry’s new group raise money and utilize GRI’s nonprofit status. There has been debate about this new effort in the community on the MCN listservs and in other social media. The first meeting last month drew about 30 people but the second had about 10. More meetings are planned, but no dates set.
His ideas include educating tourists about where they can support local business. “We put a billboard up somewhere,. Maybe it’s coming on Highway 20. And it says welcome to one of the last, like, free places that still exists, because that’s what people love about this place here, this area feels so free,” said Sherry.
Sherry said a lot of travelers in the Bay Area place a great value on the Mendocino Coast and might be willing to invest to keep it unique.
“We basically have a graph up somewhere. We keep reflecting on how much of this area is actually locally owned, and how much of it is being bought by corporations. And we keep changing that graph in real time and have a website so that people can check in and also look for locally made products and locally owned businesses,” Sherry said.
Sherry has sought to get county residents interested in making offers for properties for sale and hopes employees and customers can learn how to participate in a local buy. He believes his efforts can influence sellers, even those with few ties to the area, to consider local bidders. His employer, the Sweetwater Spa and Inn, is a beloved spot among locals for its massage, various healing modalities and communal super-sized old growth redwood hot tub, as well as its water tower lodging. He told the group that the property may soon transfer hands. He has a vision for a senior wellness center and upgraded services for locals and visitors alike, with locals enjoying discounts on services.
Grocery Outlet critics suggest working with local government
Sherry invited speakers who are involved in the Grocery Outlet process in Fort Bragg to Tuesday’s meeting. Annemarie Weibel and Leslie Kashiwada described how the chain store had made several attempts over the years to site one of its discount groceries in Fort Bragg. In this attempt, which has succeeded so far, Grocery Outlet prepared a full environmental impact report in response to a legal threat by critics. The city did not demand the EIR and has been largely supportive. Kashiwada suggested that people involved in a keep-it-local movement work with the county. Talking to Supervisor Ted Williams was suggested, but that got mixed reviews from the audience, which offered both praise and caution. Kashiwada suggested Williams would listen and to give him a chance.
Sherry, a young man who hopes to beat the high costs and stay in Mendocino long-term, said he doesn’t have much luck trying to interest people from his generation.
“I’ve talked to those 45 and younger in this area. They have basically said I don’t have the time or the money to care about this issue,” said Sherry. “So I started thinking, like, Yeah, we’re gonna have to lean heavily on like, the older population because some of them have more time and also because they have seen this area and known it for a long time and know what is at stake,’It’s hard to change the winds, right?”