Tag Archives: open space

Santa Rosa meadow up for sale by Sonoma County over neighbors’ objections 

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

At the end of Beverly Way, a small and secluded street in northeastern Santa Rosa, lies the entrance to a grassy meadow beloved by local residents who for decades have wandered through the open field and among the massive oak trees beyond.

Visitors to the Sonoma County-owned land are welcomed by a prominent sign just beyond the street that declares the property part of the surrounding Paulin Creek Open Space Preserve, a more than 40-acre swath of land situated south of the former county hospital complex and above the Hillcrest neighborhood near Franklin Park.

But the meadow’s inclusion in a forthcoming county land deal — the sale of 82 acres to a local developer whose plans include hundreds of new housing units — has neighbors alarmed that the county is, perhaps unwittingly, turning over the field to housing construction.

A 16-foot banner recently staked down by Beverly Way neighbors speaks to that concern.“The county is selling our meadow to an apartment developer,” it proclaims, encouraging like-minded individuals to help prevent “the destruction of our preserve.”

Read more at: Santa Rosa meadow up for sale by Sonoma County over neighbors’ objections | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Op-Ed: An affordable housing fix: Make room for granny

Editorial Board, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

We’ve said it before. Building more houses is a surefire solution to the affordable housing crisis.

Of course, that’s easier said than done. We’ve said that, too.There are practical obstacles — unsuitable land, inadequate water supplies, endangered species protections, steep fees for the new parks, new schools and other infrastructure needed to serve new homes. Oftentimes there are political obstacles, too, everything from neighborhood opposition to a specific development proposal to reflexive objections to growth of any kind.

Is it any wonder that communities across the state are struggling to meet the need for affordable, habitable housing?

There isn’t a solution that will satisfy everyone.It’s going to take a variety of strategies to chip away at this problem, and state legislators are reviewing proposals to facilitate an approach that could produce a significant amount of new housing without sprawl: adding granny units to single-family homes.

Supervisorial candidates in Sonoma County have floated the same idea.

Consider this: Construction began on about 1,500 new housing units in Sonoma County in 2015. And that was the largest number in several years. Adding a second unit to 10 percent of the existing homes in Sonoma County would create about 12,000 new housing units. A similar increase across the nine-county Bay Area would translate to about 150,000 new housing units.

An improbable scenario? Yes, it is. But it illustrates the scale of the potential gains to be made by scattering new housing throughout existing neighborhoods.

Read more at: PD Editorial: A housing fix: Make room for granny | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Sustainable Living

Sonoma County voters to decide on extending open space protections 

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

On an already bulging ballot, Sonoma County voters this fall will be asked whether to extend open space protections that for the past 20 years have helped shield more than 17,000 acres of farm and untouched lands from large-scale development.

community separatorsThe Board of Supervisors last week voted to place on the Nov. 8 ballot a measure extending for another two decades the county’s longstanding rule requiring property owners seek additional voter approval for projects such as large housing subdivisions, for example, or commercial projects on largely undeveloped county lands separating cities.

Open space advocates argue such protections affecting buffer zones between cities, known technically as community separators, help curb urban sprawl and contain growth. They do not prevent development outright, but make it more difficult by requiring voter approval to increase the intensity of development in designated rural areas. The protections, in place since 1996 and 1998, are set to expire at the end of 2016 and 2018, respectively, though other rules regarding the parcels will remain in place.

“This doesn’t remove development potential. Whatever people are allowed to do now, they’ll still be allowed to do,” said Teri Shore, regional director for the North Bay office of Greenbelt Alliance, the nonprofit spearheading the initiative. “This is essential if we want to maintain our rural landscape. The voter protections simply help strengthen the community separators.”

Supervisors last week approved a parallel proposal through a general plan amendment that will triple the amount of land included in the buffer zones. The new greenbelts, slated for final approval by supervisors in August, include 37,700 acres of largely undeveloped county land north of Santa Rosa, east of Sebastopol, around Cloverdale and Healdsburg, south of Petaluma and between Penngrove and Cotati.

Read more at: Sonoma County voters to decide on extending open space protections | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Sonoma County may ask voters to continue greenbelt protections

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County voters next year may be asked to renew environmental protections that for almost 20 years have shielded 17,000 acres of county farmland and open space from development.

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday is set to consider placing on the November 2016 ballot an initiative to extend the county’s community separators, voter-backed scenic buffers between urban areas approved in the late 1990s that expire next year.

Community separators dot the Highway 101 corridor from Healdsburg to south of Petaluma and include pockets east of Santa Rosa, in the Springs area and outside Sebastopol. Together with similar protections enacted by most cities over the past two decades, growth has been steered into existing development patterns within city boundaries.

But environmental advocates say with regional pressure to build new housing and population growth — the number of people living in the nine-county Bay Area swelled to nearly 7.6 million last year, a 1.3 percent increase from July 2013 to July 2014 — those separators could be at risk of being developed with large-scale housing projects and businesses.

“If these expire, the county could issue permits for development on the fringe of urban areas,” said Dennis Rosatti, executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action, the county’s largest environmental organization. “We don’t want to see that happen.”

Rosatti said he and others are concerned about large multi-unit apartment buildings and commercial development encroaching on agricultural and environmentally sensitive lands, and losing the distinct separation that exists between most cities in the county.

Conservation Action and other high-profile environmental groups are steering a campaign to convince the Board of Supervisors to extend the current protections for 30 more years through a ballot measure.

They are also pushing the county to expand protections on 22,081 additional acres by amending its land-use policy in the general plan. Those areas could include scenic hillsides, meadows and river basins between Rohnert Park and Petaluma, stretching east to Sonoma Valley.

Other proposals include designating additional acres around Cloverdale and Healdsburg as community separators. At present, community separators do not extend north of Healdsburg.

Read more: Sonoma County may ask voters to continue greenbelts | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use

Public open space outside Santa Rosa grows with deal for Mark West Creek land

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Generations of kids and other nature lovers will continue to enjoy outdoor experiences at a Mark West Creek ranch northeast of Santa Rosa under a new conservation deal that maintains public access to the property in perpetuity.

More broadly, open space advocates say preservation of the 124-acre Rancho Mark West builds upon a legacy of protecting land from development in the sensitive environmental area while offering the public more opportunities to engage with nature a short distance away from Santa Rosa.

“We hope to be able to walk people from Santa Rosa to Rancho Mark West to spend the night. That would be a pretty incredible opportunity,” said Craig Anderson, executive director of the nonprofit group LandPaths.

LandPaths will continue to operate In Our Own Backyard, Owl Camp and other popular outdoor programs for kids at the St. Helena Road ranch under an updated conservation easement that protects public access to the site.

Read more: Public open space outside Santa Rosa grows with | The Press Democrat

Filed under Land Use, Wildlife