Meet the 21 residents who will help shape Petaluma’s General Plan

The City is forging ahead on its General Plan update, a process that will remake its guiding document that serves as a blueprint for its future.|

In the last few weeks, Petaluma’s City Council cemented critical next steps for its General Plan update process, hiring a consultant and populating a General Plan Advisory Committee with 21 city residents. Council members sifted through 129 applications when selecting the group, judging candidates primarily on their experience and skill base, said Principal Planner Christina Paul.

“The committee will be one of our key community touchpoints, so they will serve as community representatives to a certain extent, because they were selected from among the community and have a wide range of expertise and experience,” Paul said.

Members will meet publicly each month throughout the next two years, beginning mid-March, and will provide feedback to council and staff on the process and draft materials.

Here’s an introduction to the advisory committee, culled from the citizens’ application materials.

Dave Alden is a semi-retired entitlement consultant and founder of Urban Chat, a local land-use advocacy and education group. He has served on a half-dozen city and county governmental bodies and advisory committees, and holds two engineering degrees.

Panama Bartholomy is a Climate Action Commission member and leads a nonprofit focused on zero-emission construction. A professional in climate change and land-use policy, he has served on a handful of Sacramento commissions, including advising in its 2007 General Plan update.

Stephanie Blake is the CEO of Skylight Studios, a high-profile venue and marketing firm known for transforming historic and under-utilized spaces in cities like San Francisco and New York. A recent transplant from Brooklyn to Petaluma, Blake holds a degree in history.

Phil Boyle is a senior planner with Corte Madera, and has served on three other Petaluma citizen advisory committees. He has 20 years of experience in city planning and as a volunteer with Rebuilding Together.

Matt Brown is a former Press Democrat reporter and the former editor of the Petaluma Argus-Courier. He is currently a communications specialist with the County of Sonoma. A former Peace Corps volunteer and foreign correspondent, he covered Petaluma for five-plus years.

Erin Chmielewski, treatment manager at a Veterinary Hospital, is a member of the North Bay Organizing Project. She has helped organize the Petaluma Progressive Festival, Women’s March and recent demonstrations with Indivisible Petaluma and Petaluma Peace Team.

Delia Diaz is the chief financial officer of Traditional Medicinals, a botanical wellness company known for its teas and tinctures. She is a Spanish speaker and first-generation immigrant, and has degrees in accountancy, and in strategy and marketing.

Mary Dooley is a principal architect with a Petaluma-based firm, and has served on commissions for the Central Petaluma Specific Plan and Station Area Master Plan. She is board member of the Petaluma Arts Center and holds a degree in architecture.

Sierra Downey was a content marketing specialist at the County of Sonoma before the pandemic, and has been a community organizer with the local Sunrise Movement chapter for over a year. She holds a degree in mass communication and journalism.

Jessie Feller is the executive director of the nonprofit, Meeting of the Minds, a knowledge-sharing and leadership platform connecting urban sustainability and technology leaders for purposes of city planning. She holds degrees in urban studies, Hispanic studies and environment and development studies.

Ali Gaylord is the director of housing development at Midpen Housing Corporation, an affordable housing developer. Gaylord, who holds a degree in economics, is also a volunteer board member at Generation Housing, a Sonoma County housing advocacy nonprofit.

Yensi Jacobo, director of youth services at Petaluma People Services Center, is a former Peace Corps volunteer and holds a degree in educational leadership and societal change. A first-generation American and bi-lingual Latina, Jacobo has also served as a translator with UndocuFund and is a volunteer with Mentor Me.

Roger Leventhal is a senior engineer with Marin County’s Department of Public Works. He has served on three Petaluma committees and commissions over the last decade, including his current term on the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee. He’s a licensed civil engineer with a degree in hydraulics and coastal engineering.

Iliana Inzunza Madrigal is the program manager of Community Action Partnership Sonoma County’s Vía Esperanza, a family resource center assisting the low-income Spanish-speaking community. She is a current member of the Petaluma Youth Commission and sits on the Petaluma People Services Center board.

Roberto Rosila Mares is an aerospace systems engineer at Lockheed Martin, and has represented San Jose State University’s student body in lobbying efforts as a student. A first-generation Mexican-American, he is a Petaluma native and volunteer with Casa Grande High School’s STEM team efforts.

Kris Rebillot is director of communications at Buck Institute for Research on Aging and chair of Petaluma’s Senior Advisory Committee. She holds a degree in journalism and speech and previously worked as a reporter before becoming a communications specialist.

Bill Rinehart is principal landscape architect with Johnson Rinehart Landscape Architecture and serves on the Historic & Cultural Preservation Committee. He has served on a number of Petaluma and county technical advisory committees and has been a land planning and design consultant for 30 years.

John Shribbs is the president of the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance and is chair of the Petaluma Tree Advisory Committee. He’s a retired science teacher and research biologist, and is involved with several local organizations and non-profits. He holds degrees in biology, pest management and horticulture.

Joshua Riley Simmons is an ecosystem strategy lead at Tidelift, a software solutions company. He serves on Petaluma’s Technology Advisory Committee and has volunteered as a community organizer with local groups and nonprofits, including helping to broadcast city council and school board candidate forums.

Janice Cader Thompson is a retired dental hygienist and former city council member, with experience on city and county boards. She is the co-host of a local radio commentary show and is involved in a handful of local volunteering and nonprofit groups.

Bill Wolpert is a self-employed architect who participated in Petaluma’s last General Plan update about 20 years ago. He has served on several local commissions, including Petaluma Planning Commission, Historic & Cultural Preservation Committee and the Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee.

(Contact Kathryn Palmer at, on Twitter @KathrynPlmr.)

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