Category Archives: Land Use

Legislation creating Lytton tribal homeland near Windsor clears big hurdle

Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Legislation to create a tribal homeland next to Windsor for the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians has cleared a significant hurdle, gaining approval in the U.S. House of Representatives last week and moving on to the Senate.

Known as the Lytton Rancheria Homelands Act, the bill would create reservation lands totaling more than 500 acres adjoining and southwest of Windsor, enabling the Lyttons to go ahead with a tribal housing project and pursue plans for a resort hotel and large winery.

“It’s a big step for the tribe,” said Lytton attorney and spokesman Larry Stidham, who noted it cleared the Committee on Natural Resources and passed without opposition on a routine floor vote.

But Windsor residents opposed to the Bill — H.R. 597 — said they were not permitted to testify against it and vowed to fight on.

“It’s far from over,” said Eric Wee, a founder of Citizens for Windsor, which adamantly opposes the Lytton project. “We are hoping our senators look at this and take in the strong opposition against this.”

Wee said his group has collected nearly 3,500 signatures in opposition to the Lyttons’ plans.The bill moves to the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee to consider for a hearing.

Read more at: Legislation creating Lytton tribal homeland near Windsor clears big hurdle | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Granting of Point Reyes ranch long-term leases halted in lawsuit settlement

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Granting long-term leases to the two dozen ranching families that have raised cattle for generations at Point Reyes National Seashore would be halted under a proposed court settlement announced Wednesday to resolve a lawsuit brought last year by three environmental groups.

The tentative deal, which involves the groups and the National Park Service, manager of the 71,000-acre seashore on the Marin County coast, requires park managers to study impacts on the environment from decades of ranching and opens up the possibility that grazing dairy and beef cattle could be curtailed or ended.

Both the ranchers and environmental groups claimed victory in the settlement of a closely watched case, seen as having wider implications for management of federal land.

“This is what we asked for in the lawsuit,” said Deborah Moskowitz, president of the Resource Renewal Institute, one of the environmental groups. “It’s good news.”

Dairy rancher Jarrod Mendoza said the settlement was “a temporary win” for ranchers, who would get five-year leases.

Ranchers have been operating on one-year leases and Mendoza, a fourth-generation rancher, said he was “hopeful” that 20-year terms would ultimately be allowed. Mendoza, who milks about 200 cows a day at his ranch, said he hopes to continue in agriculture for the rest of his life.

Moskowitz and Mendoza acknowledged the settlement does not address the question of whether cattle can coexist with wilderness on a scenic peninsula inhabited by tule elk, eagles, black-tailed deer and bobcats.“I think those questions will be answered in the general management plan,” Mendoza said, referring to a park planning update required by the settlement,

Read more at: Granting of Point Reyes ranch long-term leases halted in lawsuit settlement | The Press Democrat

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Habitats, Land Use, Wildlife

Sonoma County approves sale of old Santa Rosa hospital site to housing developer

J.D. Morris, THE NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

Sonoma County has approved a deal to sell an 82-acre former county hospital site where a developer plans to build 800 rental units, housing for veterans, a grocery store, an amphitheater and other amenities.

County leaders have touted the sale to Bill Gallaher, a politically connected Santa Rosa developer, as a clear-sighted move to meet an urgent regional need — expanding the housing supply, especially for renters, who’ve seen rates skyrocket in recent years.

The deal was approved 5-0 by Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday.

The health care complex is centered around the former Community Hospital, built in 1936 and vacated in 2014 after Sutter Health moved into its new hospital off Mark West Road. The aging building did not meet current seismic building standards and racked up costly maintenance bills, according to the county. Much of it is slated for demolition under Gallaher’s proposal.

Though a sale of the property was first raised as a possibility more than a decade ago, the deal approved Tuesday has faced strong criticism from neighbors, health care advocates and others since it was first unveiled as a proposal in February. Opponents raised concerns about the loss of health care services on the site and the future of open lands on the property.

But proponents, including Gallaher’s representative, have emphasized all along that the details of the project will ultimately be Santa Rosa’s permit and planning process is complete, and officials expect that period to last about 18 months.

Read more at: Sonoma County approves sale of old Santa Rosa hospital site to housing developer | The North Bay Business Journal

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Sonoma County zoning board rejects new Healdsburg winery sought by Oakville Grocery owner

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Westside Road has 29 approved wineries, making it one of the most concentrated winemaking zones in Sonoma County, alongside Dry Creek Valley and Sonoma Valley. Some neighbors have grown increasingly frustrated with the spread of wineries and events in those areas, and county supervisors are expected to return to that discussion sometime this fall.

A proposed new winery in one of Sonoma County’s most popular grape-growing and wine-tasting regions was rejected Thursday by county planning officials over concerns about traffic safety and the high concentration of existing wineries.

The Board of Zoning Adjustments voted unanimously to deny a permit for a Westside Road winery southwest of Healdsburg envisioned by Leslie Rudd, the owner of the Oakville Grocery stores. Rudd’s team plans to appeal the decision to the Board of Supervisors, making for another high-profile case in the countywide debate about the spread of wineries and the special events they often host.

Read more at: Sonoma County zoning board rejects new Healdsburg winery sought by Oakville Grocery owner | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Shoring up the state: Is California’s response to rising seas enough?

Julie Cart, VENTURA COUNTY STAR

In Sonoma County, Highway 37, built on a base of mud, flooded on 27 days last winter and has already sunk more than two feet, according to Sonoma County Supervisor David Rabbitt. He said that the state’s transportation agency, Caltrans, told local officials that it could get to the problem in 2088.

Four affected counties, unable to wait 71 years, are considering a number of options, including putting the critical commuter highway atop a 6-foot levee. The price tag for the 20-mile project is as much as $4 billion, and no one knows who will pay for it. 

For Will Travis, it began 12 years ago, with an eye-opening article in the New Yorker magazine about rising seas and the widespread flooding and dislocation that would bring. As the executive director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the region’s coastal management agency, he needed to know more.

Travis directed his staff to research the issue. In 2007 they handed him a report that foretold catastrophe. The agency produced maps with colorful, frightening flood projections and shared it with local policymakers. Trillions of dollars in public and private infrastructure were at risk, Travis told them. The time to prepare was now.

Yet the region’s elected officials and Silicon Valley’s cluster of high-tech firms were deaf to the urgency of his message. No one was planning for higher seas. Their problems were more immediate.“

What I heard a lot was, ‘I’m trying to get my kid into a good college, my wife wants me to lose weight, the car transmission is making a funny noise and you want me to worry about sea level rise?’” Travis said. “‘Yeah, I’ll get to that when I prepare my earthquake supplies.’”

He crafted a policy response for his region anyway. In 2011, after four years of scientific analysis, intense bickering, and legal fights, the commission issued what Travis described as the nation’s first enforceable requirement that all shoreline development address the problem of rising seas.

Read more at: Shoring up the state: Is California’s response to rising seas enough?

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Transportation

Ex-Cloverleaf Ranch site proposal sparks debate over development in rural buffer zones 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Plans to revive and revamp shuttered lodging and event grounds off Old Redwood Highway are being met with resistance from Sonoma County environmentalists who say the project will encroach on rural lands voters eight months ago overwhelmingly agreed to protect from large-scale development.

The project would transform more than 20 acres just north of Santa Rosa into a new business called Solstice Sonoma, envisioned by San Francisco architect Kevin Skiles and his partners as a modern yet rural getaway for weddings and retreats, and for others seeking an escape barely removed from city services and Highway 101.

Originally developed as part of the Cloverleaf Ranch camp and horseback riding school next door, the site is located within one of the buffer zones between cities that received an additional 20 years of protection through the passage of Measure K last year.

Known technically as community separators, the buffer zones remain subject to longstanding county rules requiring voter approval of large new projects such as major housing tracts, shopping malls or other commercial developments.

Proponents contend the Solstice plans are in keeping with county land-use rules, including Measure K. Construction would be hidden behind a hill covered in grapevines, rendering the new development invisible to passing motorists, and the site was used for decades as a camp and event facility.

But critics say the proposed construction goes far beyond what land-use rules allow in rural buffer zones and what voters agreed to in November. They see the project as a key test of the strength of Measure K, which passed with more than 81 percent of the vote.

“This project definitely pushes the envelope,” said Teri Shore, regional director for the North Bay office of Greenbelt Alliance, which spearheaded the ballot measure. “This is one of the last visible green buffers between Santa Rosa and Windsor.”

Parts of the project were evaluated Wednesday by Sonoma County’s Design Review Committee, which still needs to hold at least one more meeting to consider the proposed design in more detail. That committee does not have any land-use authority — ultimately, the county’s Board of Zoning Adjustments will need to approve or deny the project, a step at least a few months away. The zoning board’s decision can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

Read more at: Ex-Cloverleaf Ranch site proposal sparks debate over rural buffer zones | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Transportation

Yes In My Backyard, says Bay Area housing advocate

Richard Scheinin, BAY AREA NEWS GROUP

Brian Hanlon used to work for environmental agencies and regards himself as a political progressive. Then several years ago, he began to feel the crunch of the Bay Area housing crisis. Why was everything so insanely expensive? And what was with all these zoning laws that were preventing new houses from being built?

Hanlon switched careers and became a full-time housing advocate, one who says, “Yes In My Backyard,” to affordable housing as well as to luxury housing, condos and mixed-use projects near transit hubs. That motto is now the rallying cry for the region’s growing YIMBY movement, of which he is a leader. YIMBYs say the region must get its head out of the sand and expand its meager housing supply. How else will it ever reduce the competition for homes that keeps driving prices up – and pricing so many people out of their own communities?

“I’m someone who supports whichever housing policies are going to benefit people who need housing the most,” says Hanlon, who concedes that being a YIMBY can make for unpredictable bedfellows – for instance supporting developers while opposing aging and otherwise left-leaning NIMBY homeowners who block any new housing in their neighborhoods.He is policy director of the San Francisco YIMBY Party and co-executive director of the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund (CaRLA), which has targeted local governments that block residential development. And, oh, yes – he and his girlfriend pay $2,000 a month for a “tiny” one-bedroom apartment in an old building in downtown Oakland.

This interview (keep reading) was edited for clarity and length.

Read more at: Bay Area housing crisis won’t end without a big buildout