Help Us Plan the Future of the Fairgrounds! 

Response Form

Because the Petaluma Fairgrounds is such an important part of our community and history, we’re introducing a new process to ensure voices from across our city are considered in planning its future.

If you respond, you will be entered into a lottery drawing. If you are selected through that lottery from among all respondents, you will serve on a Panel of 36 Petalumans from all walks of life. You and your fellow Panelists will provide recommendations directly to City officials. Your unique perspective is vital.

This Panel will be the first of its kind in California – as a Panelist, you would be making history

WHENIf In Person (102 hours):
Three long weekends and two Saturdays between May and July; additional hours TBD If Online (90 hours):
Half-day & evening sessions between May and July; additional hours TBD 
STIPEND$2,040 if in person or $1,800 if online ($20/hour).
HOWReply online by April 10
What Is the Topic of This Panel?

First off, don’t worry – you do not need to know anything about the topic now. You’ll be working with your fellow Panelists to learn all you can during the Panel. The City-owned Fairgrounds property is a landmark destination in central Petaluma that touches all members of the community. It provides many valuable services, houses numerous businesses and nonprofits, and hosts innumerable events. For the past 50 years, the City of Petaluma has leased the property to the 4th District Agricultural Association, which operates the Sonoma-Marin Fair and manages the property. The existing lease will expire in December 2023. The future of the Fairgrounds is one of the most important topics before the City, and a vision for the property that reflects the community’s goals is essential. It’ll be your job – if you’re randomly selected for this Panel – to advise the City Council on the Fairgrounds’ future.

What Is a Lottery-Selected Panel?

A Lottery-Selected Panel is a different kind of democratic process that brings together a group of everyday people to examine an important public issue. Residents just like you are selected by lottery to reflect our community in terms of age, gender, location, race, and other factors. The result is like having a city in one room. Panels are coordinated by professional facilitators, who help everyone fully participate and work together. Panels are designed to reduce the influence of political bias and instead emphasize collaborative problem solving and quality information. Outside research backs this up, showing that LotterySelected Panels handle even complex policy questions effectively and fairly.

What Is the Goal of This Panel?

After learning about the topic and considering many possible options, the Panel will write recommendations about the future of the Fairgrounds property. The City Council will thoroughly consider and publicly respond to the Panel’s advice. (See the FAQ for more info.)

Who Is Conducting This Panel?

This program is a partnership between the City of Petaluma and a nonpartisan nonprofit called Healthy Democracy, which works on innovative ways for the public to participate in local decision making in communities like ours. The Petaluma Fairgrounds Advisory Panel is funded by the City of Petaluma.

How Will This Panel Convene Safely During the Covid-19 Pandemic?

Depending on current public health guidance and the preferences of respondents to this letter, the Panel will either be held in person or online. Your answers to the public health questions on the response form will help us determine how the Panel should be convened to meet the needs of the most Petalumans possible. Covid vaccine or daily negative test will be required for all Panelists and staff (tests will be provided).

Who Is Eligible? How Will Panelists Be Selected?

To be eligible to serve on the Panel, you must:

  • Currently live at the address on this mailing, or have received it through a social service agency.
  • Be 16 years of age or older on May 13.
  • Be available on each day and time the Panel is scheduled to meet (listed on the response form).
  • Not be a current employee of the City of Petaluma, or a current or former elected official.
  • Either mail your reply by April 5, or reply at by April 10.

Panelists will be selected from among all the replies to this mailing. Panelists will be selected at a public Lottery Event, to be broadcast live online on April 13. Selected Panelists will be notified by April 18. See the FAQ page for more info about the selection process and privacy.

If Selected, What Will I Receive as a Panelist?
  • A $20/hour stipend. Total stipend depends on whether the Panel meets in person (102 hours: $2,040) or online (90 hours: $1,800).
  • Accessibility assistance. Everyone will be able to participate, no matter their needs.
    • Reimbursement of expenses incurred to participate, including transportation costs and costs for childcare or eldercare.
    • Language access for Panelists whose primary language is not English or who require auditory/visual assistive technologies to participate.
    • If online: one-on-one tech support and loaner technology, as needed.
  • A one-of-a-kind experience in democracy. This will be a unique opportunity to work with your community to directly influence City policy.
What If I Have Additional Questions?

For further information about being a Panelist or about the Panel process, please see the FAQ in this mailing or contact Healthy Democracy at or (707) 789-1099.

Frequently Asked QUESTIONS

Why Are You Asking Demographic
Questions on the Form?

Democratic lotteries are a unique way to bring new and diverse voices into public decision making. By collecting demographic info, we are able to select a Panel through the lottery that reflects Petalumans’ many kinds of diversity – age, race/ethnicity, gender identity, location, educational attainment, housing status, and experience of a disability. Your privacy is guaranteed; see below for more info.

How Will My Responses to the Form
Affect My Chances of Being Selected?

Selection for the Panel is randomized but also takes into account the demographic information that you share on this form. This form is not an application or a test; you do not need any special qualifications to be selected. The Panel is selected through a lottery drawing from among all respondents to this mailing.

How Will My Privacy Be Ensured?

Your personal information will be known only to Healthy Democracy project staff. Only Panelists’ first names will be used publicly during the
process. Panelists’ contact and demographic information is confidential personal information that is not subject to public disclosure. Although parts of the Panel will be live streamed, Panelists may choose to avoid being on camera.

What if I Am Selected and Then Not Able to Participate?

All selected Panelists are expected to participate for the full process. A group of alternates will also be selected in case any Panelist must drop out before the first session.

How Will the Process Look Different
if Online Versus In Person?

If the Panel is held in person, it will meet for three long weekends (two 3-day and one 4-day) with additional sessions held on Saturdays in between. If the Panel is held online, it will meet over three 2-day weekends (5 hours per day), three Saturdays, and additional shorter sessions on Wednesday evenings. In both scenarios, Panelists will be paid for 15 additional hours after delivering their final recommendations to City Council on July 11th, to further engage as needed.

Can More Than One Person Reply from My Household?

Absolutely. In fact, we encourage all available members of your household, aged 16 and up, to reply. No two members from the same household will be chosen for the Panel, but the more replies, the more representative the Panel will be. Several response forms are enclosed, and you may make more copies. Just remember: everyone who replies must currently live at the address on this letter, or have received this letter through a social service agency.

Why Is Healthy Democracy Conducting This Panel?

Healthy Democracy has more than a decade of experience designing similar Panels around the country. They are best known for the Citizens’ Initiative Review, where randomly selected residents evaluate ballot measures and provide trustworthy, nonpartisan voter information for the state voters’ pamphlet.

What Will the Panel Produce?

The Panel will work together to write three policy reports. Remember, no prior experience is required – you will work through a process with your fellow Panelists to develop these materials.

  • Principles – a prioritized list of overarching values, decision-making criteria, key interests, and important activities that any final recommendation should take into consideration.  
  • Pathways – an outline of the possibilities and visions for the Fairgrounds site, including options considered and rationales based on lived experience and outside evidence.
  • Final Report – the Panel’s final recommendations, including preferred Fairgrounds land use(s) and rationales, dissenting opinions, and supporting details.
What Will Happen to the Panel’s Reports?

The Panel’s reports will be delivered to the City Council and the 4th District Agricultural Association, who will be asked to thoroughly consider and publicly respond to them. The public will have opportunities to engage with the Panel’s recommendations, and Council will utilize the Panel’s advice when determining next steps for the Fairgrounds property. After presenting its Final Report, the Panel will reconvene during the rest of the decision-making process to follow up with decision makers about its recommendations.