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Gentrification dooms a Neighborhood

by John Omaha

© 2018. All Rights Reserved.

What I will miss most is the children. Babies in carriers, ten year old girls coming from soccer games with their “besties,” boys in baseball uniforms. That’s what Carmen’s Burger Bar has meant to me. A neighborhood restaurant serving families. The bar defined the smallish adults’ space. The large dining area opened up with tables and a high ceiling where families assembled. Older folks came in. A covered porch in front provided al fresco dining. Carmen’s Burger Bar served the families of the Proctor Terrace area. It has been—and will be until June 30—a place where families could gather and order excellent hamburgers, an assortment of Mexican food, milkshakes, beer, wine, and Margaritas for a reasonable price. Carmen’s Burger Bar was a focal point for the neighborhood. All that will change after June 30 when the Stark’s juggernaut displaces Carmen’s, replacing it with a new iteration of the upscale Willi’s Wine Bar that burned down in the October fires.

The Stark empire comprises four upscale Sonoma County restaurants metastasizing from Stark’s Steakhouse. Willi’s Wine Bar was located on Old Redwood Highway north of town. None could remotely be classified as a neighborhood restaurant. I have never seen a kid in a sports uniform in any of them. I have eaten alone in all of them paying at least $100 for food and wine. Hardly a family friendly venue.

Proctor Terrace organizes a warren of streets around a small shopping center featuring the Pacific Market and Carmen’s, brooded over by the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. The new Willi’s Wine Bar will not be a place to take your kids after a tough game or to socialize with the parents of the kids’ teammates. Not a place to watch the Giants on one of Carmen’s two TV sets or to feed a family of four for $50. Willi’s attracted crowds of Mercedes-driving young, college-educated well-paid professionals who could afford the steep prices. If they had children, they’d left them with a sitter.

I will miss the children, the families and the feeling of neighborhood.