Cittaslow USA meets in Sebastopol
On Saturday, March 30,Sebastopol hosted the second Annual gathering of Cittaslow USA, the national organization for Cittaslow cities in the U.S. Twenty representatives attended the event held at O’Reilly Media, including Mayor Michael Kyes of Sebastopol, Councilmember Sarah Gurney, and councilmembers from Sonoma and Fairfax.
Cittaslow (pronounced “chee-TAH sloh”; translation: “Slow City” in Italian) is an international movement of 168 cities across 26 countries. It began in Italy as an offshoot of the Slow Food movement and involves urban planning, cultural, and civic activities that preserve local flavor and quality-of-life by emphasizing 6 priorities:
• Support for locally made products and agriculture;
• Celebration of local culture and history;
• Welcoming of visitors and fostering of neighborliness;
• Integration of technology for well-being;
• Protection of the environment;
• Development of community-friendly infrastructure.
Sebastopol applied for and was awarded the designation as a Slow City in 2010 under the direction of then-Mayor Gurney. The City has since formed an Ad Hoc Committee, Cittaslow Sebastopol, which seeks to leverage that designation through collaboration with businesses, non-profits and governmental agencies.
“The Cittaslow designation has united our community. Importantly, it offers us a powerful way to boost our local economy,” Gurney said.
Saturday’s get together involved the three founding cities of theCittaslow network in the U.S.: Sonoma Valley, Fairfax andSebastopol. In addition, the Canadian Cittaslow city in Chowican Bay, British Columbia made an appearance via video interview.
Each city reported on their successes and challenges since last year. The founding cities also strategized about ways to work together in the future to increase visibility for Sonoma and Marin counties.
Promoting Sebastopol as an eco-tourist destination was a top priority expressed by residents who attended the Planning Commission’s Community Meetings last January.
“One of the great opportunities afforded by Cittaslow Sebastopol,” Kyes said, “is its ability to band together with the other two towns to promote our region as a unique tourist destination for people who hold values similar to our own.”
“There is quite a contingent of travelers involved in the ‘slow tourist’ movement nationally and internationally,” Cittaslow Sebastopol Co-Chair, Tasha Beauchamp said. “We are currently collaborating with the Sebastopol Downtown Association and the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce to brainstorm on ways to attract the attention of visitors like this who share our ‘Local Flavor. Global Vision’ mentality.”
Some of the ideas that have been mentioned included creation of a “Three Slow Days in the Wine Country” tour; a conference; a “Slow Tour of the Wine Country” map; or a website to emphasize local businesses, organizations and activities that are especially “cittaslow.”