Sonoma Raceway Use Permit FAQs
Why does the raceway need to update its current use permit?
The current use permit reflects a rigid snapshot of activity at the raceway nearly two decades ago. These proposed revisions will update outdated conditions and give the raceway the flexibility to adapt to changes in its industry, as well as overall business conditions. The raceway has proposed a number of changes to the use permit operating conditions, the most notable of which would allow for one annual multi-day music festival on the raceway grounds. The raceway has also requested the ability to host small corporate events, parties, community fundraisers, etc., that do not involve motor racing.
Can't the raceway already do whatever it wants on its property?
Activities at the raceway are strictly controlled by a 54-page use permit with specific conditions governing attendance, traffic, noise, hours of operation and a variety of other areas. Many of those conditions reflect activity at the raceway nearly two decades ago, including many things that no longer occur. In addition, the current use permit and county general plan limit activity at the raceway to racing and related vehicle uses.
How will these changes affect the surrounding area?
All of the changes proposed will be studied in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) contracted for by the Sonoma County planning department and paid for by the raceway. The EIR will identify all potential impacts of the changes the raceway has proposed and recommend ways to mitigate those impacts.
Will the raceway look any different?
The only permanent improvement proposed at the facility is the installation of lights at the karting facility to accommodate use of the kart track in the evenings. The music festival will take place entirely within the existing areas of the facility used for racing and other support activities. All staging, lights and sound equipment for the festival will be temporary.
The raceway's events already cause a ton of traffic, won't this make it worse?
- Traffic is largely a function of attendance. The raceway's attendance is strictly regulated in the use permit. The changes proposed to the attendance limits will have the net effect of adding one large attendance weekend to the raceway's annual calendar.
- The raceway has devoted considerable time and resources to improved traffic management in cooperation with Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol.
- There will be a major emphasis on camping and multi-day attendance at the music festival which will help limit daily traffic in and out. The raceway is also working on plans to expand its new train service to the festival, including the potential use of the SMART commuter system when it comes on line.
What about the noise from these new events?
The raceway's existing use permit allows for a certain number of unlimited noise days and the raceway will adjust its schedule to accommodate the new music festival within those existing limits. However, the EIR will include a detailed noise study to determine what new or different off-site noise impacts might be created by the music festival and will recommend measures to mitigate increased impacts.
Will the music festival be anything like BottleRock?
It will be the same only in that it will be a multi-day, multi-stage event, but we anticipate a higher level of national musical talent with a focus on delivering a true at-event wine-country experience. There will be a broad range of venues available for guests seeking a variety of experiences, including VIP seating and lounges, along with opportunities to showcase and enjoy local foods, wines, arts and culture. The raceway will also offer extensive camping to allow an emphasis on multiple-day attendance.
When/how often will the music festival occur?
The proposed use permit changes would allow the festival to occur one time per year, likely in the spring or fall.
Will local businesses have an opportunity to participate in the new music event?
The festival will include local restaurants and wineries in the food and beverage concessions, as well as VIP hospitality environments. It will also offer opportunities to showcase and sell local products. In addition, music events historically result in strong local hotel bookings. Sonoma Jazz+ is the most recent example.
How will the community benefit from the proposed use permit changes?
- The music festival will bring high profile national performers to a world-class event in Sonoma's backyard. It will not only be a fun outing for local music enthusiasts, it will provide employment opportunities for local residents, revenue to local business and a strong promotional platform for the local visitor-serving industry.
- Sonoma Raceway and its concert-promoter partner have also committed to set aside a percentage of festival revenues, minimum of $200,000 per event, to be distributed to youth-serving non-profit groups in Sonoma County.
- The proposed use permit changes will allow raceway hospitality facilities to be made available for a variety of fund-raising and other community events.
In addition to the music festival, what else does the track want to do?
Other proposed changes in the updates use permit include:
- Increased noise threshold for certain racing school programs 10 days per year
- Additional evening use of the main track for certain noise-controlled car programs
- Three additional days for non-racing promotional activities (e.g. pyrotechnics or jet flyovers)
- Development of a winery tasting room.
- Addition of lights to the karting facility and extended hours of operation to 10 p.m.
How can I participate in the process and express my support or concerns?
As the raceway's proposal moves through the county review process, there will be a series of public hearings before the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission, the County Planning Commission and ultimately the Board of Supervisors. Members of the public are welcome to voice their comments and concerns at each of these hearings, as well as via letter to the editor at local newspapers. The county will post advance notices about dates and times of these hearings, or feel free to contact Diana Brennan, vice president of media & community relations, at the raceway at email@example.com.