I popped into one of my favourite local businesses the other day, and noted that the flowerboxes and bench which normally sat outside were gone, leaving ugly scars behind on the sidewalk. When my business was complete and I was chatting with one of the staff, I said “hey, by the way, what happened with the bench?”
It turns out that herein lies a tale, a tale with lots of gesticulation and cries of rage. City Hall, in its infinite wisdom, just sent some sort of notice out informing people that if they want to have flowerboxes and benches, they need to pay a permit fee. Which is fine and all well and good, except that according to my source, it was $200 a year, plus a $100 renewal fee (another source on a different street quoted me $150/year). PLUS, if you want a bench or flowerbox, you need to buy from an “approved vendor,” and buy insurance.
Do I really need to spell out why this is insane? A lot of businesses are going to do what my friends at [redacted] did, and just take their flowerboxes out, thereby making downtown more ugly. One of my sources said she was seriously considering putting a chamberpot on the sidewalk, and I proposed “The Piss-Pot Revolt of 2008.” Downtown already looks awful, what with the hideous fake wood sidewalk and the dying trees and the fake cast-iron lampposts. Now, all of the character is going to be leached from it.
This is dumb. It is totally reasonable for the city to ask for a small permit fee, and to set up size limits so that the sidewalk is free and clear. It is not reasonable to charge through the roof and oblige people to buy standardized stuff. This is not Healdsburg, people, and I like it that way. I LIKE the random flowerpots and benches scattered around town. I like that they are all different. And I notice that they are starting to vanish in the wake of this announcement.
I propose a revolt. It doesn’t have to be a Piss-Pot Revolt, but it should be a revolt. I think that everyone who got one of those notices should just quietly take their benches and planters away, and decline to replace them. The city needs to learn that greed doesn’t pay.