Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, WaterTags , , , ,

Reimagining coastal cities as sponges to help protect them from the ravages of climate change

Elena Shao, INSIDE CLIMATE NEWS

Infrastructure experts in the San Francisco Bay Area have begun replacing impermeable roads and stormwater drains with water gardens and restored marshlands.

As an environmental officer in Samoa, Violet Wulf-Saena worked with the Lano and Saoluafata Indigenous peoples to restore coastline mangrove ecosystems that could slow incoming waves and protect communities from storm and flood damage.

Two decades later, in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, she’s the director of a nonprofit called Climate Resilient Communities that works on the same issue: restoring marshlands and wetlands to better protect vulnerable neighborhoods in low-lying areas from sea level rise.

Some areas of the Pacific Islands, where Wulf-Saena grew up, are projected by conservative estimates to see the sea level rise 10 inches by mid-century. By then, East Palo Alto, about 30 miles south of San Francisco, where Wulf-Saena works now, may also be frequently underwater during high tide events.

“Nature is the best protection to sea level rise, and if we restore these ecosystems we can mimic a lot of that protection,” she said. “It can be like a sponge.”

Most aspects of the built environment in the modern city are designed to drain away water as quickly as possible. Rain slides off of roofs, over concrete and asphalt and down into sewers, where it’s then redirected to the sea, lakes or rivers. The traditional approach to large water events like floods and storm surges has been to engineer the water out of the way, using seawalls, levees and flood barriers.

This means that cities like San Francisco could face billions of dollars in flood and storm damage as climate change worsens and overwhelms that infrastructure, all without capturing and reusing a lot of that water, which could ease some of California’s periods of drought.

Now, infrastructure experts are pushing for urban spaces to be reimagined as sponges—not just by restoring marshlands, but also with more parks and gardens soaking up stormwater, pebbles underneath surfaces acting as natural filtering systems and a more porous type of concrete absorbing water and slowing it down.

Read more at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/08112021/reimagining-coastal-cities-as-sponges-to-help-protect-them-from-the-ravages-of-climate-change/

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 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 Habitats, Land Use, Local Organizations, Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

Sonoma Land Trust builds ‘living shoreline’ to thwart erosion at Sears Point

Guy Kovner, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Julian Meisler stood on a human-made levee at low tide along the shore of San Pablo Bay, surveying 1,000 acres of a dark brown, mostly barren mud flat.

“That’s exactly what we want to see,” said Meisler.

He is the project manager of Sonoma Land Trust’s 15-year campaign to restore wetlands intended to protect the Highway 37 corridor — with both a roadway and rail line — from flooding exacerbated by sea level rise.

And now the levee, a victim of erosion from wind waves, is being fortified by an unprecedented restoration project using hundreds of trees — some salvaged from wildfire burn areas — to blunt the waves and promote wildlife habitat.

It’s been six years since the Santa Rosa nonprofit’s Sears Point project breached the levee built 140 years ago to create farmland, and tides have since deposited two to four feet of sediment in the nascent wetlands.

At high tide, the mud flat becomes a lagoon up to two and a half feet deep, harboring shorebirds, waterfowl, river otters, bat rays and leopard sharks. People ply the water with canoes, kayaks and standup paddleboards, while hiking trails lead along the shore in what is now the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The project’s ultimate goal remains years away, when six feet of sediment gives root to vegetation transforming the wetlands into a verdant marsh, teeming with wildlife and absorbing high tides.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/sonoma-land-trust-builds-living-shoreline-to-thwart-erosion-at-sears-poin/

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

Point Reyes National Seashore capitulates to ranchers

George Wuerthner, THE WILDLIFE NEWS

The final Record of Decision (ROD) on livestock operations management at Point Reyes National Seashore was released this week. Unfortunately, and as feared, it not only maintains the ongoing degradation of this national park unit by privately owned domestic livestock, but it expands the opportunities for a handful of ranchers to do even more damage to the public’s landscape with additional lands opened for grazing, as well as the planting of row crops.

As in the draft document, the final management plan proposes to kill the native Tule elk if their populations grow beyond what the ranchers believe (as the NPS jumps to) is undesirable. The public submitted some 50,000 comments opposed to continued ranching and the killing of rare native Tule elk. Point Reyes Seashore is the only national park where Tule elk exist.

Among the impacts caused by the ongoing livestock operations is the pollution of the park’s waterways, increased soil erosion, the spread of exotic weeds, the transfer of park vegetation from wildlife use to consumption by domestic livestock, the use of public facilities j(the ranch buildings, etc. are all owned by the U.S. citizens but are used just as if they were private property, hindering public access to its lands.

Read more at http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2021/09/14/point-reyes-national-seashore-capitulates-to-ranchers/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Land UseTags ,

County set to hit the cannabis ordinance reset button next week

Rollie Atkinson, SOCONEWS

Four days of virtual vision sessions set beginning of three-year EIR and update process

After pulling the plug earlier this year on comprehensive updates to commercial cannabis cultivation ordinances and rules, Sonoma County planners and consultants are launching their self-proclaimed reboot next week with a series of virtual visioning sessions to gather public input on an eventual environmental impact report and proposed ordinance.

The reboot is the first step of a projected timeline of public workshops, draft ordinance work, draft environmental impact report (EIR) completion, planning commission hearings and culminating in the summer of 2024 with Sonoma County Board of Supervisors public hearings.

No one said writing rules to regulate a potential billion-dollar crop of commercial cannabis would be easy. The previous sessions of draft proposals, virtual town hall workshops, planning commission votes and the supervisor’s ultimate call for a “reboot” involved well over a thousand citizen comments and the specter of potential lawsuits.

The public virtual sessions will be held each day from Aug. 9 to Aug. 12, with duplicate sessions held each morning (11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and repeated in the evening (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.) Public comments will be taken by written responses only in a “chat board” format on a Zoom platform.

Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_county/county-set-to-hit-the-cannabis-ordinance-reset-button-next-week/article_d106b014-f652-11eb-be8d-8bf4d6bce2e1.html?

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land UseTags , , ,

Can rooftop solar save California’s open space?

Hayley Davis, BAY NATURE

This spring, Alameda County approved of the Aramis Renewable Energy Project, dividing East Bay environmentalists who disagree about whether the undeveloped North Livermore Valley should remain open ranchland and wildlife habitat, or whether part of the flat, sunny valley would be put to better use as a solar farm to help the Bay Area transition away from fossil fuels.

All around California, the development of open space to produce renewable energy has put climate and biodiversity goals at odds. To meet the state’s 2045 goal of 100 percent renewable energy will require between 1.6 and 3.1 million acres of wind and solar, according to projections from The Nature Conservancy, and much of that land, like the North Livermore Valley, has wildlife living on it. The debate has become acrimonious, framed as a choice between stopping the extinction of the desert tortoise or the extreme heat killing people in the Pacific Northwest.

But some scientists and activists say there’s another way: the deployment of distributed solar systems, such as those on rooftops and over parking lots. After federally threatened desert tortoises died as a result of the Yellow Pine Solar Project in the Mojave Desert, Kevin Emmerich, co-founder of Basin and Range Watch, wrote, “Does using renewable energy mean we have to push species toward extinction? No, these solar panels can easily go on rooftops and brownfields.” Already over a million homes in California have rooftop panels, and more residential rooftop solar is installed here each year than any other state by far.

Read more at https://baynature.org/2021/07/15/can-rooftop-solar-save-californias-open-space/?