Posted on Categories TransportationTags , ,

Railroaded: Behind the scenes of SMART’s freight takeover

Will Carruthers, NORTH BAY BOHEMIAN

Two Press Democrat owners deeply involved in North Bay rail politics

On the muddy banks of the Petaluma River in downtown Petaluma, a new housing complex is rising. Crews employed by the A.G. Spanos Corporation, a Stockton-based developer, are constructing a 184-unit apartment complex on a lot sandwiched between a row of historic businesses and the tidal slough.

Before laying out the concrete foundations, the crews ripped out a few hundred feet of railroad tracks that crossed the lot. The old rails were part of a spur located less than a mile off the century-old main line running between Sausalito and Eureka. Planning and construction could not commence until Spanos controlled the legal “rights of way” on the tracks.

Rights of way are contractual easements that allow their owners to travel across another’s property. In this case, the easements on the riverfront tracks had value because the developer needed to extinguish them in order to build. That fact cost Spanos millions of dollars.

Public records reveal that lengthy negotiations between the Spanos corporation and two state-created rail transportation agencies for ownership of the rights of way preceded breaking ground for the construction project. One right of way was owned by a passenger line, Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit district — SMART. A second right of way was owned by a state-owned freight line, North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA). Both railway agencies saw the sale of the easements as potential cash cows.

Read more at https://bohemian.com/freight-railroaded/

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , ,

Sonoma Creek has salmon again!

SONOMA ECOLOGY CENTER

The abundant rainfall that Sonoma County received in late October created ideal conditions for Chinook (King salmon) to return to Sonoma Creek. Several streamside residents contacted Sonoma Ecology Center with the news and sent in photos and videos of salmon transiting their favorite creek viewing spots. In response, SEC’s Richard Dale and Research Program Manager and aquatic scientist Steven Lee jumped into action and ran out to the creeks to document the event. One outcome was this amazing video Steven assembled of the salmon as they made their journey upstream and began settling into their spawning habitats.

Chinook were known to have successfully spawned in Sonoma Creek a few years ago, and it’s possible some of these are their offspring returning to spawn. The Sonoma Ecology Center has conducted studies of young fish migrating out of Sonoma Creek and found, in addition to steelhead, a surprising number of young Chinook are heading out to the bay and ocean. It’s hard to know for sure if these fish originate from Sonoma Creek – there are many salmon released from hatcheries in the Central Valley who could be making their way up our waterways. Some of the fish we observed do have clipped adipose fins – an indication that they were raised in a hatchery. However, many of the fish in Sonoma Creek right now lack this indicator and their size suggests that they are the right age to have come from the last run here.

Read more at https://sonomaecologycenter.org/sonoma-creek-salmon/?

Posted on Categories Habitats, Land UseTags , , ,

Sonoma Developmental Center Specific Plan updates

PERMIT SONOMA

Permit Sonoma has released the SDC Alternatives Report which presents and analyzes three draft land-use alternatives to guide redevelopment of the 900-acre site. Each alternative transforms the shuttered campus, bringing significant benefits to the community including affordable housing and diverse living-wage jobs. View the alternatives report here on the project website, and get ready to share your feedback at one of the community outreach events below!

Alternatives Overview
All of the alternatives create important community amenities. Plans call for between 990 and 1,290 housing units, creating a walkable community with an emphasis on affordable housing and active transportation to lessen automobile use. All three alternatives propose the protection of 700 acres of open space between Jack London State Park and Sonoma Valley Regional Park, and each alternative expands the existing wildlife corridor and preserves Sonoma Creek and its tributaries. Commercial, recreational, and civic spaces are proposed to benefit residents, employees, and the greater Sonoma Valley.

Developed after extensive feedback from the community and technical experts, each alternative approaches achieving the goals for the campus differently:

Alternative A: Conserve and Enhance preserves the most historic buildings and the second most jobs of any proposal;
Alternative B: Core and Community creates the most housing units and creates a walkable mixed-use core;
Alternative C: Renew creates a regional innovation hub bringing the most jobs of any proposal, neighborhood agriculture, open space preservation, and housing units to support these uses.

Community Input
Permit Sonoma wants your feedback on the alternatives at three upcoming public meetings!

Please join us to discuss the alternatives and the future of the SDC site at one or more of the following meetings:

SDC Alternatives Workshop on Nov 13 at 10-11:30 am
Zoom registration: https://dyettandbhatia.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYvdeqopjksH9WSm0ml5nN1evaOGrARPZOP

SDC Spanish Language Town Hall on Nov. 16 at 5:30-7 pm
In person at Hunt Hall @ St. Leo’s Catholic Church, 601 W. Agua Caliente Rd Sonoma, CA 95476
Joint SMAC/NSVMAC/SVCAC Meeting on Nov. 17 at 6:30 pm
Zoom link: https://sonomacounty.zoom.us/j/96931443054?pwd=UFAxc2o1bHRTRW9waWxSR2NCdDZqZz09

In addition to the public meetings, stay tuned for an online survey that will ask you to give input on the options presented in each of the Alternatives, as well as other priorities for the site.

You can read the draft report and register for upcoming public participation opportunities at https://www.sdcspecificplan.com/.

Source: https://mailchi.mp/18b2fd7e8006/sonoma-developmental-center-specific-plan-updates-13413680?e=d2966a32b0

Posted on Categories Habitats, Land UseTags ,

Supervisors to protect Paulin Meadow in Santa Rosa as open space

SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is expected this week to approve the transfer of Paulin Meadow, a 10.42-acre property adjacent to the County of Sonoma-owned Chanate campus, to the Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (Ag + Open Space). The transfer from the county’s general services department will ensure the protection of the woodland area as open space in perpetuity.

This collection of parcels consists of Paulin Meadow, Ag + Open Space’s Paulin Creek Preserve (8.89 acres), and land owned by Sonoma Water (26.57 acres). These properties function together as an informal urban nature preserve and recreation space, with the approximately 1 mile of informal trails on Paulin Meadow connecting the Sonoma Water parcel to Ag + Open Space’s Paulin Creek Preserve, as well as to the surrounding neighborhood.

“It has been a long-time goal of the community and a promise by the county to protect this particular property for the benefit of the surrounding neighborhoods, as well as the wildlife that inhabit the meadow,” said Supervisor Chris Coursey, whose district includes Paulin Meadow. “We are happy to find a solution that ensures this well-loved open space area remains protected forever and will become part of the larger nature preserve along Paulin Creek.”

“Paulin Meadow is a wonderful nature preserve; a community gem,” said Caroline Judy, Director of General Services. “We are so happy to have an agreement that will ensure it is protected.”

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/supervisors-to-protect-paulin-meadow-in-santa-rosa-as-open-space/

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , , ,

Appeals of state-mandated housing targets by Sonoma County, Windsor denied

Ethan Varian, PRESS DEMOCRAT

A regional planning agency Friday issued preliminary denials of appeals by Sonoma County and Windsor seeking a reduction in their upcoming state-mandated housing goals, which are set to dramatically increase starting in 2023.

Though not final, the denials mean officials governing the county’s unincorporated areas and its fourth-largest city will likely need to set in motion plans to approve the construction of thousands more housing units for all income levels between 2023 to 2031.

In a virtual public hearing Friday, representatives from the county and Windsor presented their appeals before the Association of Bay Area Governments — the agency tasked with determining how state housing targets are distributed across the nine-county region. While acknowledging Sonoma County’s severe housing shortage as the area continues to rebuild after a string of destructive fire seasons, officials asked that their goals each be cut by at least half and redistributed to other jurisdictions in the county.

“We simply do not agree with the location,” said Tennis Wick, Sonoma County’s top land use official.

The unincorporated county’s home building goal — known as its Regional Housing Needs Assessment — is set to jump to 3,881 total units, half of which must be for residents with low incomes. That’s up from just 515 homes for the current eight-year cycle. There are about 54,000 households in unincorporated communities, the second most in the county, according to state officials.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/appeals-of-state-mandated-housing-targets-by-sonoma-county-windsor-denied/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land Use, WaterTags , , ,

Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office files civil case against vintner Hugh Reimers for environmental damage

Bill Swindell, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch has sued vintner Hugh Reimers and his business over environmental damage her office says was caused by improperly clearing land near Cloverdale to build a vineyard in late 2017.

The prosecutor cited two specific causes of action in the case that was first filed in July by Deputy District Attorney Caroline Fowler against Reimers and his business, Krasilsa Pacific Farms: water pollution and stream bed alteration; and unfair business competition.

The civil complaint was the result of an investigation that was led by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board and the Sonoma County Department of Agriculture. The water board found in 2019 that Krasilsa Pacific violated the California Water Code and the federal Clean Water Act for clearing and grading 140 acres. The board concluded that the work on a section of the farm’s more than 2,000-acre property was done without applying or obtaining the necessary permits required by the county to operate a vineyard.

The water board is in settlement negotiations with Reimers and Krasilsa over a cleanup and abatement order it issued over specific water code violations, said spokesman Josh Curtis.

“If we cannot come to mutually acceptable terms, the regional water board will consider all its enforcement tools as options in resolving this matter to the benefit of our community and the people of California,” Curtis said in an email.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/business/sonoma-county-district-attorneys-office-files-civil-case-against-vintner-r/?ref=mosthome

Posted on Categories WaterTags , , ,

Rainstorm in review

SONOMA ECOLOGY CENTER

From bone-dry creek beds to rushing water in just one wet week – it’s been a turbulent ride of literal highs and lows for our watershed in the past seven days.

Last Sunday’s storm was the biggest in our area’s history in terms of volume of water over such a short amount of time. When you look at the numbers it makes quite the splash.

On the Sonoma Developmental Center campus where the Sonoma Ecology Center is located we received a total of 12 inches in 24 hours – when you factor in the 2.75 inches of rain that we measured prior to the Sunday, October 24 weather event we’re clocking in at 14.75 inches for this year. This is more than we received in precipitation all of last winter, all in just one week!

The huge fluctuations in streamflow which you can see represented below by a USGS streamflow graph of Sonoma Creek at the Agua Caliente Bridge aren’t a typical start to the wet season. In a couple of days Sonoma Creek went from running at 0 CFS (cubic feet per second) to well over 6,000 CFS. That’s a big change in a short amount of time.

Read more at https://sonomaecologycenter.org/rainstorm-review/

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , ,

Guernewood Park resort developers seeking minor land use changes

Rollie Atkinson, SOCONEWS

120-room destination project has been proposed since 2008, delayed by local economy cycles

A 10-acre riverfront parcel at the center of Guernewood Park has set vacant for almost 50 years since the half-abandoned Ginger’s Rancho resort was torched by vandals. Before that it was the site for almost a century of the Guernewood Park Resort that hosted big band dances, tourists debarked from excursion trains, beach revelers and bowling and roller rink enthusiasts.

The current owner of the property, Kirk Lok, of Lok Hospitality, has been trying to win final approvals to build a new resort since at least 1998. On Oct. 28, Sonoma County’s Board of Zoning Adjustments will hold a public hearing to consider approval to allow for a streamside conservation plan and riparian zone encroachment for his 120-room development. Most of the approvals for a Guernewood Park resort have been previously granted as ebbs and flows of the local economy and tourism business have stalled Lok’s timing to break ground.

Lok recently brought in a new investment partner, Noble House Hotels & Resorts, which owns and manages high-end destination properties on the west coast and beyond. The firm is based in Kirkland, Washington.

The Oct. 28 hearing will begin at 1 p.m. and is a virtual meeting hosted on Zoom. The meeting I.D. is 962-4871-2760 and the passcode is 693832. The project was the subject of a recent a Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council meeting where concerns were raised about increased traffic on Highway 116 and a shortage of nearby worker housing for the proposed 37 employees. Several MAC members also voiced support for the project that includes public access to the river and the preservation of hundreds of mature redwood trees. The site is bordered on the east by Hulbert Creek.

Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_sebastopol_west_county/news/guernewood-park-resort-developers-seeking-minor-land-use-changes/article_82afdbd4-342d-11ec-bf71-6361653fa09d.html?

Posted on Categories TransportationTags , , , ,

Op-Ed: For Uber and Lyft, the rideshare bubble bursts

Greg Bensiger, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Piece by piece, the mythology around ridesharing is falling apart. Uber and Lyft promised ubiquitous self-driving cars as soon as this year. They promised an end to private car ownership. They promised to reduce congestion in the largest cities. They promised consistently affordable rides. They promised to boost public transit use. They promised profitable business models. They promised a surfeit of well-paying jobs. Heck, they even promised flying cars.

Well, none of that has gone as promised (but more about that later). Now a new study is punching a hole in another of Uber and Lyft’s promised benefits: curtailing pollution. The companies have long insisted their services are a boon to the environment in part because they reduce the need for short trips, can pool riders heading in roughly the same direction and cut unnecessary miles by, for instance, eliminating the need to look for street parking.

It turns out that Uber rides do spare the air from the high amount of pollutants emitted from starting up a cold vehicle, when it is operating less efficiently, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University found. But that gain is wiped out by the need for drivers to circle around waiting for or fetching their next passenger, known as deadheading. Deadheading, Lyft and Uber estimated in 2019, is equal to about 40 percent of rideshare miles driven in six American cities. The researchers at Carnegie Mellon estimated that driving without a passenger leads to a roughly 20 percent overall increase in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions compared to trips made by personal vehicles.

Read more at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/17/opinion/uber-lyft.html

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags ,

Supes say no to cannabis moratorium, recommend ‘wide net’ exploring policy options

Brandon McCapes, SOCONEWS

The county’s comprehensive update of its cannabis cultivation ordinance was back before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Sept. 28 — and along with it came the usual controversy between cannabis farmers and anti-cannabis neighborhood groups.

After hours of presentations, discussion and public comments, the supervisors approved county staff’s recommendations that seven broad topics be explored in the context of the future ordinance and the environmental impact review (EIR), per staff recommendation.

Significantly, a moratorium on cannabis cultivation permits was not included in the list of recommendations nor supported by the board. A moratorium of all new cannabis cultivation permits until the adoption of the new cannabis ordinance is an option favored by neighborhood and environmental groups, and one the board has discussed. Earlier last month, the board passed a 45-day moratorium on new multi-tenant cannabis permits, but not on cannabis permits altogether.

On June 8, the supervisors directed county staff to complete a comprehensive update of the county’s cannabis ordinance, based on community input and an EIR. Though public outreach will continue throughout the three-year process, slated to end in 2024, this summer’s public outreach efforts were a first step toward an ordinance update, according to the board’s meeting agenda report.

Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_county/supes-say-no-to-cannabis-moratorium-recommend-wide-net-exploring-policy-options/article_a1e2bff0-2dd2-11ec-a9d9-ff30ec144a7f.html?utm_source=soconews.org&utm_campaign=%2Fnewsletters%2Fheadlines-soconews-west-county%2F%3F-dc%3D1634320840&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline