Category Archives: Sustainable Living

Op-Ed: Concerns that linger about Chanate deal

Maggie Bradley, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

I have three serious concerns regarding the Chanate Road property development. The first one is about the manner in which the Board of Supervisors handled the sale and future development of the taxpayer-owned land surrounding the property. The second is the manner and way the public’s concerns were handled by Supervisor Shirlee Zane. And the final concern is about the lack of sustainability in the building and development of this new community.

The first issue has to do with accessibility and information. Who has it and how do they get it? What I know, based on the reporting done by The Press Democrat and from others, is that there were two proposals vying for the development contract. Two supervisors had only read Bill Gallaher’s proposal prior to the vote.

The property to be developed is in Zane’s district. Gallaher is a generous donor to select individuals running for public office. Zane is a recipient of Gallaher’s generosity. Komron Shahhosseini, an employee of Gallaher’s, is a member of the Sonoma County Planning Commission who was appointed by Zane. Although this project will be decided by the Santa Rosa City Council, Planning Commission members can have major influence on development projects throughout the county. Gallaher was awarded the bid and plans to build 800 new homes. Shahhosseini is now a partner of Gallaher’s and is the development’s project manager.

The other proposal, from Curt Johansen, included approximately 500 homes and was designed as a completely sustainable development.

The second concern has to do with Zane’s response to the distress expressed by the public over the traffic and scope of this development. Do the math. The impact of more than 800 new homes (most likely with two cars) making between 1,600 (one car, two trips, to and from work) and 3,200 (two cars, two trips) trips on two-lane roads must not be tossed off as unimportant. Include the traffic from the new retail area and apartment complex. Then consider the minimal public transit available in that district. It is a recipe for a traffic nightmare and certain gridlock.

Zane’s response to that legitimate concern (I’m paraphrasing) was to say that she had recently driven the road several times and the traffic wasn’t that bad.The public’s anxious concerns regarding potential development (more homes) on Paulin Creek Preserve were earlier diminished as likely irrelevant. What was disappointing was Zane’s passing the buck and blaming the mix up on “staff,” dramatically declaring that she was “blindsided” by the news (“Sonoma County signals intent to protect Santa Rosa meadow,” May 4). However, when the news broke a few months ago, it was treated as no big deal.

Zane seemed confident that something would be unearthed during the environmental review that would somehow render the issue of building on the preserve moot. What and why? If the preserve can’t be built on for environmental reasons, how can the land right next to it be developed?

Finally, the votes in favor of Sonoma Clean Power and the SMART train are strong indicators to our elected leaders that we as a community want to move more toward sustainability. I could find no mention of sustainable building in Gallaher’s proposal.The other proposal by Johansen had sustainability baked into the development on all levels.

As a medium-sized city, Santa Rosa has an opportunity to become the national model for sustainable development. Let’s grab it.

Maggie Bradley is a 40-year resident of Sonoma County whose son was born at the former Community Hospital on Chanate Road and has been closely following plans for development of the site. She lives in Santa Rosa.

Source: Close to Home: Concerns that linger about Chanate deal | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Bike to Work Day just another day for two Santa Rosa men 

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

May 11 is Bike to Work Day in Sonoma County: Refueling stations will be set up across the county. Click here for more information.

With supplies for his kindergarten class strapped to his bicycle and a pacemaker keeping things orderly in his chest, Steve Bush leaves his home in Santa Rosa’s junior college neighborhood for his morning commute.

The 54-year-old schoolteacher pedals north on Old Redwood Highway before crossing over Highway 101 on Airport Boulevard. The 7-mile journey to Sonoma Country Day School near Windsor is one Bush has made daily for years, rain or shine.

He has few alternatives. About a decade ago, Bush and his wife, Meredith, sold their car. It’s been two-wheels traveling for the couple ever since.

“It’s nice to wake up in the morning with a bike ride and to relieve all the tension in the evening on the way home,” Bush said this week. “It makes my life better.”

Thursday is Bike to Work Day across the Bay Area. But for some, like Bush, it’s just another day to keep doing what they do as a matter of routine and passion.

In recognition of Bush’s dedication, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission named the Santa Rosa man Sonoma County’s bike commuter of the year.

Bush shares the honor with Shaun Ralston, regional program manager for Sutter Health, who cycles to work from his home in the McDonald Avenue area to Sutter’s hospital at Mark West Springs Road, a one-way trip of about 4.5 miles.

Read more at: Bike to Work Day just another day for two Santa Rosa men | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living, Transportation

Novato goes “deep green” in commitment to sustainability

NOVATO NEWS

At their May 2 meeting, the Novato City Council unanimously voted to participate in Marin Clean Energy’s (MCE) Deep Green/100% Renewable Energy Program, in which all the energy used comes from renewable sources—50% wind and 50% solar generated in California. Additionally, the Council vote included  conducting energy audits on City facilities to further reduce energy use.

“This year we are taking our commitment to sustainability to the next level,” said Mayor Denise Athas. “We are going beyond only greening our city operations and vehicle fleets. We are investing in programs and staffing to set a new standard for climate leadership and ensure a sustainable future for our community.”

Currently, the City is a participant in MCE’s Light Green program, which means at least 50% of the City’s electricity is being provided by renewable sources. For the past year, MCE has been able to provide 52% renewable energy, which is broken down as follows: Wind: 36%, Biomass/bio-waste, geothermal and small hydro: 11%, Solar: 5%. The remaining portion of the City’s electricity is generated through large hydroelectric, gas and unspecific sources of power (as reported by the California Energy Commission’s Power Source Disclosure Program).

MCE partners with PG&E to give residents and businesses choices about how much of their electricity comes from renewable sources. There are currently three different levels of MCE participation customers can choose from:

1) Light Green: 50% of energy used comes from renewable sources.

2) Deep Green: 100% of energy used comes from renewable sources.

3) Local Sol: 100% of energy used is locally produced solar energy (program is limited to residential customers).

The City’s participation in the Deep Green program, a stated goal in the City’s adopted Climate Change Action Plan, will save approximately 300 metric tons of carbon dioxide, which would meet 86% of the City’s 2020 target to reduce its emission levels.

Read more at: City of Novato, CA : News : City Goes “Deep Green” in Commitment to Sustainability

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Sustainable Living

Op-Ed: The time has come to create ‘sustainable tourism’ standards

Janis Watkins, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County’s stunning rural beauty, pristine coast, charming small towns and scenic wine valleys are unique characteristics that draw visitors by the thousands. The boom in tourism has many benefits, including more jobs, increased tax revenues for the county and cities and a lively social vibrancy. But that success has also brought impacts.

Affordable housing in Wine Country has been hit hard by the tourism boom. Although tourists didn’t cause the housing crisis, tourism has exacerbated it. Residents are seeing the loss of housing stock to owners of second homes, Airbnb rentals and outside investors drawn by our local charm, who gentrify or “scrape and replace” neighborhood homes.In Healdsburg, an affluent visitor destination, 21 mostly Hispanic families suffered mass eviction by an outside investor. Some neighborhoods are hollowed out, degenerating into a set of part-time strangers. Low-paying tourism jobs are increasing, worsening the affordable housing deficit.

The increased number of tasting rooms, with evermore intense events, raises the specter of “Napafication.” Rural residents experience traffic congestion, loss of rural character, noise and out-of-scale alcohol tourism-related development. Two-lane Highway 12 is already over capacity with traffic, especially in the northern Sonoma Valley where special events attract more than 170,000 people annually. Approved and modified permits for five facilities alone will add another 25,000 vehicle trips. Similar over-concentration occurs on Westside Road and in the Dry Creek Valley.

In Healdsburg, 37 tasting rooms are concentrated downtown, and they will pay top dollar, driving up rents to where other types of businesses have a hard time competing. For about half the year, tourism swells the population, which puts stress on public services at local taxpayer expense. Sonoma, the other plaza town, has a similar pattern. These tourist-focused towns have fewer services and less space for locals, less diverse economies and are vulnerable to boom-and-bust economic cycles. As once thriving communities become more commercialized, and their assets degrade, they lose their unique qualities, and tourists move on to more charming locations.

Solutions are at hand. Increasingly, Sonoma County is looking for ways to preserve the robust benefits of agricultural tourism, while balancing tourism with local residents’ needs and promoting a diverse economy.

The Board of Supervisors directed development of zoning code amendments, siting criteria and standards for winery events to address the impacts of wine-related tourism. Supervisors have signaled that new development in areas of concentration will face greater scrutiny and guidelines to limit detrimental concentrations and impacts to rural character from business activity in the Sonoma Valley, on Westside Road and in the Dry Creek Valley. Developers have their sights on coastal areas. Luckily, county planners recently put a hold on a wine-tasting, brew pub and art venue proposal in the historic village of Freestone.

“Sustainable tourism” is also being discussed in Healdsburg and Sonoma. City and local leaders are considering how to create sustainable tourism, and the mayor of Sonoma is seeking coordination with Healdsburg on this effort. Sonoma County Conservation Action, a leader in grass-roots environmental issues, supports this collaborative approach. The process should involve broad outreach to residents, environmentalists and the lodging, wine and business sectors, and it should create specific enforceable measures that protect the carrying capacity of communities and balance the needs of tourism and residents.

Janis Watkins, a resident of Healdsburg, is a member of the board of directors of Conservation Action. 

Source: Close to Home: The time has come to create ‘sustainable tourism’ standards | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living, Transportation

Overfishing pushes global fisheries to the brink

Andrew Jacobs, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Once upon a time, the seas teemed with mackerel, squid and sardines, and life was good. But now, on opposite sides of the globe, sun-creased fishermen lament as they reel in their nearly empty nets.

“Your net would be so full of fish, you could barely heave it onto the boat,” said Mamadou So, 52, a fisherman in Senegal, gesturing to the meager assortment of tiny fish flapping in his wooden canoe.

A world away in eastern China, Zhu Delong, 75, also shook his head as his net dredged up a disappointing array of pinkie-size shrimp and fledgling yellow croakers. “When I was a kid, you could cast a line out your back door and hook huge yellow croakers,” he said. “Now the sea is empty.”

Overfishing is depleting oceans across the globe, with 90 percent of the world’s fisheries fully exploited or facing collapse, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. From Russian king crab fishermen in the west Bering Sea to Mexican ships that poach red snapper off the coast of Florida, unsustainable fishing practices threaten the well-being of millions of people in the developing world who depend on the sea for income and food, experts say.

But China, with its enormous population, growing wealth to buy seafood and the world’s largest fleet of deep-sea fishing vessels, is having an outsize impact on the globe’s oceans.

Having depleted the seas close to home, Chinese fishermen are sailing farther to exploit the waters of other countries, their journeys often subsidized by a government more concerned with domestic unemployment and food security than the health of the world’s oceans and the countries that depend on them.

Read more at: China’s Appetite Pushes Fisheries to the Brink – The New York Times

Filed under Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable Living

Oakland law firm demands Windsor review garbage contract proposals 

Kevin McCallum, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

An environmental law firm that helped shut down Sonoma County’s composting operation is now taking aim at efforts by Windsor and Santa Rosa to pick a new garbage company to serve their residents.

The Oakland-based firm Lozeau Drury last week sent an 83-page letter to Windsor demanding a full environmental review of the various proposals the town has received for its 10-year garbage contract.

Attorney Richard Drury, in a letter received just a few hours before the Windsor Town Council was set to meet April 19 to pick a new garbage hauler, argued the town had failed to review the impacts on air quality, greenhouse gases and neighbors of a planned facility in southwest Santa Rosa.“There are few decisions that a town can make that have more direct environmental impacts than the determination of how to handle its garbage,” Drury wrote in his letter.

The town had concluded no environmental review was needed. In light of the letter, town attorney Robin Donoghue urged a delay until the town could review it and respond appropriately.

The move drew a sharp rebuke from Councilwoman and Mayor Debra Fudge, who viewed it more as a bid to influence the town’s selection process than protect the environment.

“I saw the CEQA letter as an effort from someone associated with one of the haulers to try to blow up our process, and I’m not happy about it,” Fudge said.

Read more at: Oakland law firm demands Windsor review garbage contract proposals | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living

Republic’s Sonoma County MRF (Material Recovery Facility) expansion makes room for new material lines 

Cole Rosengren, WASTE DIVE

These facilities and many others are part of the ongoing trend that has made single-stream material recovery facilities predominant in the U.S. Recently announced advances in artificial intelligence indicate this shift could accelerate in coming years with a move toward greater efficiency and potentially less need for human labor.

Republic Services recently announced an expansion of the Sonoma County Recycling Center in Petaluma, CA that increases capacity to 200 tons per day.

The facility grew to 38,000-square-feet to accommodate a new processing system from the CP Group. This made room for multiple new material lines, a baler and a bale storage area to protect sorted material from the weather.

A multi-year analysis from the county and multiple municipalities pointed to self-haul material, commercial dry waste and construction and demolition waste as three areas to focus on. As a result, the facility now has a new in-feed conveyor for commercial cardboard, mixed paper, containers, film and plastics and a hopper-fed C&D system with sorting stations.

Read more at: Republic’s Sonoma County MRF expansion makes room for new material lines | Waste Dive

Filed under Sustainable Living

Forests disappearing at an alarming rate, mostly for human needs

Ann M. Simmons, LOS ANGELES TIMES

They cover a third of the world’s landmass, help to regulate the atmosphere, and offer shelter, sustenance and survival to millions of people, plants and animals.

But despite some progress, the planet’s woodlands continue to disappear on a dramatic scale.

Since 1990 the world has lost the equivalent of 1,000 football fields of forests every hour, according to World Bank development indicators from last year. That’s 1.3 million square kilometers of forest, an area larger than South Africa, according to the international financial institution.

With the observance of Earth Day on Saturday, conservationists seek to drive home the message that protection of forests is more critical than ever.

“The situation is dire,” said Orion Cruz, deputy director of forest and climate policy for Earth Day Network, an organization that grew out of the first Earth Day in 1970. “Forests are being eliminated at a very rapid rate and collectively we need to address this problem as quickly as possible. There’s still time to do this, but that time is quickly running out.”

Tropical regions are seeing the fastest loss of forests.

Indonesia, with its thriving paper and palm oil industries, is losing more forest than any other country. Despite a forest development moratorium, the Southeast Asian nation has lost at least 39 million acres since the last century, according to research from the University of Maryland and the World Resources Institute.

Brazil, Thailand, Congo and parts of Eastern Europe also have significant deforestation, according to United Nations data.

Read more at: Status of forests is ‘dire’ as world marks 2017 Earth Day – LA Times

Filed under Climate Change & Energy, Forests, Habitats, Land Use, Sustainable Living

Sonoma County officials seek to resurrect regional green waste composting operation

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The search for a new home for composting Sonoma County’s green waste is moving forward as officials seek to finally end the costly practice of shipping green-bin material off to neighboring counties.Within several years, the county may again have a single main facility — or several smaller ones — to process grass clippings, food scraps and other green waste, which has been sent by truck to other counties for the past year and a half since the former central site shut down amid a lawsuit over water pollution concerns.

It is not yet clear exactly what form a renewed regional compost operation — long a disputed county matter — would take. But the Sonoma County Waste Management Agency is advancing plans to bring in a private operator to handle the green waste from local cities, with a request for development proposals likely going out later this spring.And the waste agency — which is on the cusp of securing a new lifeline from local governments — is looking to learn from its past troubles by shifting as much responsibility as possible onto the shoulders of the new private operator.

“Essentially, we’re just the customer at this point,” said Patrick Carter, the waste agency’s executive director. “We’re committing a flow of green waste to a private company on private land, where they assume all of the liabilities for making sure that it is in compliance and operating correctly, in exchange for us committing our flow for 10-plus years. It’s a different model.”

Sonoma Compost Co. processed green waste at the county’s central landfill west of Cotati from 1993 until October 2015, when its closure was triggered by a Clean Water Act lawsuit.

The county began sending green waste to sites in Ukiah, Napa, Novato and Vacaville for disposal, a practice that now costs more than $4.7 million annually, according to Carter.

Read more at: Sonoma County officials seek to resurrect regional green waste composting operation | The Press Democrat

Filed under Sustainable Living

Governor Jerry Brown declares drought over in California

Dale Kasler and Christopher Cadelago, THE SACRAMENTO BEE

The drought officially ended in most of California on Friday, but state officials vowed to clamp down on wasteful water use and impose a long-term conservation program that could create friction with urban water users.

Following a deluge of wet weather that left reservoirs brimming and the Sierra snowpack bulging, Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to a drought that brought California some of the driest periods in recorded history.

But the governor warned the state’s groundwater supplies remain perilously low in some areas, and the state will continue to forbid Californians from hosing off sidewalks, watering their lawns during or immediately after rainfalls, and other wasteful practices. Municipalities will have to keep reporting their monthly water usage. With climate change threatening to make future droughts worse, Brown and others called on Californians to remain cautious about water usage.

“The next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said in a prepared statement.

Dry weather began in earnest in early 2012. It wasn’t until January 2014, with conditions worsening, that Brown declared a state of emergency and the drought officially began. Friday’s decision rescinds that declaration, as well as most drought-related executive orders he issued when the drought reached its zenith in 2015.

Brown lifted the drought order in every county except Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne, where the governor said emergency drinking water projects will continue to help communities where wells have gone dry. The state will also continue fighting the bark beetle outbreak that has killed millions of trees weakened by drought.

Read more at: Gov. Jerry Brown declares drought over in California | The Sacramento Bee

Filed under Sustainable Living, Water