Posted on Categories Land Use, Local OrganizationsTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Winery event center backlash grows in rural communities

Winery event center backlash grows in rural communities

Padi Selwyn, Co-chair, Preserve Rural Sonoma County, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
They used to call it God’s Country and then the Redwood Empire during the logging years. After a planting spree in the 1990’s, when vineyard acreage more than doubled to more than 60,000 acres, Sonoma County was rebranded appropriately as Wine Country. This boom created a frenzy of activity, the rampant overdevelopment of wineries and event centers, 90% of which are now located in our rural areas – that’s 439 facilities.
Cumulative Impacts 
The County of Sonoma has ignored the cumulative impact these facilities are having on traffic safety, our watersheds, our neighborhoods, and the intent of our general plan, which was to preserve greenbelt areas and community separators. They have ignored agricultural zoning by bending the rules to accommodate big business wine, and now we are seeing irresponsible behavior by the Board of Zoning.
On June 4th, the 7171 West Dry Creek micro-winery and mega-Event Center was presented to the Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA)/Planning Commission.  However, the project defined in the June Staff Report was not the same project description presented for public scrutiny and input for the cancelled May 21st hearing.  Rather, it was materially different than both the project defined in the Use Permit and the previous application upon which the County based its environmental review.
The BZA decision included multiple fatal flaws:
1) the public had no chance to review the revised application,
2) the impacts of the intensified hospitality uses, including a commercial kitchen and weddings and 4,000 square feet of new facilities were never evaluated for impacts to road safety, and
3) the expert technical studies submitted by neighbors were ignored.
This process was clearly unethical and contrary to state law, yet it was approved by the BZA in a 4 to 1 vote!
Overtaking Rural Regions
Preserve Rural Sonoma County (PRSC) is challenging the very disturbing trend of the county to blindly approve more and more event centers overtaking our rural areas, on one and two lane roads, where road safety issues and traffic congestion continue to deteriorate. The state of California is requiring groundwater sustainability – yet the county keeps approving more and more of these water-guzzling projects.
There are 2,600 special winery events each year permitted by the county, and an unknown number of non-permitted events. There are now twice as many event centers as the General Plan planned for by the year 2020! It seems that our Planning Commissioners and BZA members have not read the plan, yet they have been entrusted with our future.
Dairyman Winery/Factory
The Dairyman project, proposed for just outside the Sebastopol city limits on Hwy 12, is especially egregious as it may locate a huge development in an environmentally sensitive community separator, converting agricultural land into an industrial sized bottling production and party facility.  This violates the intent of the greenbelt community separator and the General Plan.

Joseph Wagner, the developer, and Caymus family of winemakers, has requested a use permit for:
• The production of 500,000 cases of wine, 250,000 gallons of distilled spirits
• 62 events each year with up to 600 guests each
• 87k square feet of production and office areas
They will be trucking in 99% of their raw materials, as they only grow 1% of what they need for their production goals. Hwy 12 is already a traffic nightmare and with the number of events and tanker trucks, we foresee an untenable situation.
The Wagner family was fined $1 million 2 years ago in Napa’s largest winery settlement for exceeding the permitted production capacity at their Rutherford winery, producing 20x more wine than allowed by their permit.  NOT a good neighbor!
The driveway into the Dairyman property crosses the Joe Rodota Trail, our popular walking/bike path. This will create safety hazards.
Because the property was formerly a dairy, it is zoned agricultural. We don’t believe that an industrial sized bottling and distillery factory should be allowed on land designated as agricultural and in a community separator.
The Dairyman project is the wrong size, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.  
Balance Sought
With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, it’s hard to fathom how proposals for winery/resort/event center projects continue to be considered by our county.
County officials must begin to restore the balance between supporting tourism, without impacting the wonderful rural character that makes this area such a great place to live, to work and to visit.
Our battle is going to be a long one.  But, we feel that protecting our rural lifestyle and scenic beauty is critical work, for us and future generations.
To keep updated on these issues, – visit
And join the Facebook supporters at

Source: Winery Event Center Backlash Grows in Rural Communities, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

Posted on Categories Transportation, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County bird watching, bike rides and hikes

Sonoma County bird watching, bike rides and hikes

Click here for downloadable maps.
Wildlife abounds in Sonoma County during all seasons and includes seals, sea lions and the occasional elephant seal and the twice-annual flotilla of Humpbacks. There are bobcats, skunk, otter, raccoon, fox, muskrat, deer, coyote and lions. Also voles, opossum, mice, rats and a raft of amphibians, lizards and fish. The black bear has made a tremendous comeback as well with estimates of more than 30,000 in Northern California alone.
But no form of wildlife is viewed as often as birds. Open ocean, rocky coast, beaches, estuaries, bays, rivers and streams, wetlands, chaparral, farmland, vineyards, forested hills and mountains provide habitat for over 394 species of birds. This provides a rewarding and engaging pursuit for people of all ages making bird-watching America’s most popular and widespread hobby.
The mouth of the Russian River is reported to have 70 breeding bird species within a five-kilometer ‘block’ which encompasses it, according to the Madrone Audubon Society. It’s tops among the 195 blocks Madrone delineated to assist them in their breeding bird census.
Many species are more common during spring, autumn and winter but since we’re into summer, listed are a few of the more abundant and common summertime and year round species and where they might be found.
In the woodland and brush along Austin Creek where it empties into the Russian near Casini’s campgrounds there’s an abundance of bird life. Houses line Austin Creek and their yards provide habitat for many species as well.
It’s where four different habitats, each especially attractive to particular species, come together. Thus pelagic birds like cormorants and gulls make excursions up from the river mouth, riparian birds such as herons, wood ducks, kingfisher which favor riverine wetlands are common (actually they’re spectacular but they’re still Common).
Meadow and garden birds such as woodpeckers, grosbeaks and orioles, thrushes like the Swainson’s which we hear but rarely see, bluebirds, flickers and dozens more.
Soaring hawks abound, buteos such as red-tails, red shouldered hawks, along with turkey vultures and the occasional bald-eagle.
Osprey are common and may be heard, seen and discovered in their nests without much trouble.
Read more at: Sonoma County Bird Watching, Bike Rides and Hikes – Part 2

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , , , , Leave a comment on Dairyman winery proposal faces challenges from community

Dairyman winery proposal faces challenges from community

A massive winery proposed by a Napa County winemaker near the crossroads of Highway 12 and Llano Road east of Sebastopol will now be subject to a full environmental review, but opponents of the project are still pulling out all the stops in hopes of stopping it.
The applicant, Joe Wagner, a second-generation vintner from the Caymus winemaking family, agreed to a full environmental impact report (EIR) early this month for his Dairyman project after receiving significant backlash from the community.
Opposition to the proposed winery and event center that envisions 500,000 cases of wine production a year, 250,000 gallons of distilled spirits, as well as about 60 events a year and wine tasting, became official at a Feb. 4 Sebastopol city council meeting.
Although the 68-acre property is outside of Sebastopol’s jurisdiction, council voiced opposition to the project and solidarity with members of the public that showed up in force once the winery application became public in late January.“
After (the council meeting), we met with a number of people and decided we needed to mobilize,” Ruben Weinzeg said.
To that end, Weinzeg joined a group spearheading the creation of Neighbors to Preserve Rural Sonoma County (PRSC), which is working in partnership with the Rural Alliance, a local grassroots organization “working to preserve the natural resources and rural character of Sonoma County.”
PRSC believes it has discovered a technicality that could throw a wrench in the works, as the winery will need to get an easement to cross the Joe Rodota Trail for access to the property.
The groups are encouraging the Sonoma County Parks and Recreation Department to deny the easement, citing precedence when the county denied an easement to Santa Rosa Junior College for a 20-acre parcel on Highway 116 to the north of Sebastopol that abuts the JRT.
That property now belongs to Sebastopol Independent Charter School, which is in talks with the county Regional Parks Department.But the Dairyman process is still in its infancy, as the EIR will take at least a year and has not even officially begun as yet.
Read more via: Winery proposal faces challenges from community – Sonoma West Times and News: News

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable Living, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , Leave a comment on Sonoma and Napa County residents oppose winery over-expansion

Sonoma and Napa County residents oppose winery over-expansion

Residents from throughout Sonoma County are meeting to strategize about challenging recent proposals for new and expanded wineries as event centers in rural areas. Meanwhile, the Napa County Board of Supervisors has scheduled a March 10 meeting to hear critics of winery over-development.
The huge Dairyman Winery and Distillery proposed for high-speed Highway 12 in the greenbelt separator between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa has been the main target of Sonoma County opponents. It is near the intersection of an already congested two-lane highway and the frequently-flooded Llano Road in the vulnerable Laguna de Santa Rosa vicinity.
Groups such as Sonoma County Conservation Action, Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, Sebastopol Water Information Group, Rural Alliance, Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, and Apple Roots sent critical comments on Dairyman to Sonoma County’s Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD).
Vocal Dairyman opponents include a former County supervisor, former mayor, former Planning Commissioner, and former PRMD planner. Environmental scientists, sustainability advocates, food farmers, concerned parents, and the maker of the acclaimed film “Russian River: All Rivers” have spoken against the Dairyman application.
Entrance to Dairyman Winery just east of busy intersection on Hwy 12
They oppose it on many grounds: congested traffic; water over-use, especially during droughts; blocking the popular Joe Rodota trail; damaging the fragile Laguna de Santa Rosa and its wildlife; zoning violations; chemical use that would pollute water, air, and land; and violating the Sonoma County General Plan.
Grape growers and the wine industry contribute many valuable benefits to Sonoma County. Most critics appreciate a good glass of local wine. But they advocate moderation when it comes to such proposals, contending that Dairyman is too big and in the wrong place.
Imagine tipsy tasters crossing the Joe Rodota Trail, full of bikers, skateboarders, children in strollers, walkers, and pets and then entering 60 miles-an-hour traffic. The application demands that Trail users “yield” to the winery’s many vehicles attending up to 58 events a year with as many as 600 people a time.
Read more via Sonoma and Napa County Residents Oppose Winery Over-Expansion.

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , Leave a comment on Ruling a setback in Santa Rosa’s efforts to preserve bicycle route through Oakmont

Ruling a setback in Santa Rosa’s efforts to preserve bicycle route through Oakmont

Bicyclists and horseback riders do not have a documented legal right to ride through a gated community near Oakmont, a Sonoma County judge ruled this week.
Tuesday’s decision by Superior Court Judge Elliot Daum is the latest setback to Santa Rosa’s effort to preserve a popular bicycling route through the Wild Oak subdivision.
The judge found that while there was discussion during the planning process in the 1970s about extending public access to bicyclists and horseback riders, the 2,300-foot-long easement recorded on the property in 1980 permits public access for pedestrians and emergency vehicles only.
“There was no express grant of any public easement rights for bikes/horses,” Daum wrote in a 28-page ruling.
Read more via Ruling a setback in Santa Rosa’s efforts to | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Sustainable Living, TransportationTags , Leave a comment on Completed bike path offers safe Petaluma-Novato link

Completed bike path offers safe Petaluma-Novato link

It is now possible to walk or ride a bicycle directly between Petaluma and Novato without facing hair-raising freeway traffic. Caltrans on Friday was set to open a one-mile section of bike path in northern Marin County that bridges a key gap between new frontage roads constructed in the Sonoma-Marin Narrows corridor along Highway 101.
The new path connects Olompali State Historic Park with a new frontage road built just west of Highway 101 at the Redwood Landfill interchange, said Steve Williams, Caltrans spokesman. It is part of an 18-month Caltrans project that extended the northbound carpool lane, improved the landfill interchange and built new frontage roads and bike paths.
“We’re very happy,” said Tom Boss, events director with the Marin County Bicycle Coalition. “Before, you’d have to ride your bike on 101 or go miles out of your way to get between Petaluma and Novato. Now you have a more direct route.”
From Atherton Avenue in Novato, cyclists can use bike paths on the newly built Redwood Boulevard frontage road to Olompali park. From there, the new bike path extends north to the Redwood Landfill interchange and a newly extended San Antonio Road with a bike lane that fronts the freeway to the Sonoma County line.
Cyclists can continue west on San Antonio Road to I Street, which leads to the center of Petaluma.
On the Sonoma County side, construction is underway on a project to build a new highway bridge over San Antonio Creek and add frontage roads and a bike path along Highway 101 from Petaluma south to the county line. When complete in 2017, that project will connect to the bike path and bike lanes open on the Marin County side.
via Completed bike path offers safe Petaluma-Novato link | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, TransportationTags , , Leave a comment on Sonoma County to discuss Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma Valley bike and pedestrian trail

Sonoma County to discuss Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma Valley bike and pedestrian trail

Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Thursday’s meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Sonoma Veterans Memorial Hall, 126 First St. W., Sonoma.
The two others sessions will be held in Glen Ellen — from 9 to 11 a.m. on Oct. 4 at Dunbar Elementary School and at the same time Nov. 1 at Sonoma Valley Regional Park.

Sonoma County on Thursday will hold the first of three meetings to discuss plans for a bicycle and pedestrian trail to run through Sonoma Valley.
The proposed 13-mile trail would start on Melita Road on the eastern end of Santa Rosa and run along Highway 12 to Agua Caliente Road in the Springs area. It’ll allow residents and tourists to travel safely along the busy road while visiting wineries, restaurants, parks and other popular destinations in the area, county regional parks planner Ken Tam said. He estimates the trail could cost $4.5 million.
Tam, who’s heading up the project, said the area already is popular among bicyclists.
“I normally see cyclists up and down that corridor,” he said, adding he often comes across tourists who pull over to the side of the road to snap pictures of Sonoma Valley’s open meadows, rolling hills and vineyards.
The county will be doing a study to determine how many people travel along that area, as well as look at a possible trail design, cost and other benefits. It received a Caltrans grant for about $190,000 to do the study.
via Sonoma County to discuss Santa Rosa-to-Sonoma Valley bike | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sonoma Coast, TransportationTags , , Leave a comment on Another small step in Bodega Bay trail

Another small step in Bodega Bay trail


Work is underway on a small section of a long-awaited bike and pedestrian trail designed to extend along 3½ miles of Bodega Bay coastline, part of it built on an elevated boardwalk at the harbor’s edge.

A crew began last week to clear brush and mark the route of the new half-mile segment toward the northern end of this seaside village, running roughly parallel to Highway 1 between the Bodega Bay Community Center and the entrance road to the state-run Bodega Dunes Campground.

But while a step in the right direction, the estimated $533,000 trail to be laid this fall is just that: a single step in what could still be a prolonged campaign to turn the complete multiuse trail plan into reality, thanks to cost, necessary engineering and environmental hurdles.

Of particular complexity is the milelong boardwalk section designed to skirt the commercial center of town along the harbor tidelands, an environmentally sensitive, seismically demanding stretch of land that also raises residential privacy and commercial right-of-way concerns, Sonoma County Regional Parks personnel said.

That phase, estimated to cost about $2.4 million for construction alone, “is at least 10 years out, because there’s no funding right now,” senior park planner Mark Cleveland said.

Read more via Another small step in Bodega Bay trail | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , Leave a comment on Pushing forward with Southeast Greenway in Santa Rosa

Pushing forward with Southeast Greenway in Santa Rosa


A long-envisioned proposal that would turn a narrow plot of land in southeast Santa Rosa into a public open space with bike paths, walking trails and other recreational amenities is expected to gain additional support Tuesday, when a coalition of community and environmental groups as well as government agencies will for the first time present to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors a formal proposal to take ownership of the 55 acres.

The city of Santa Rosa has agreed to take primary ownership of the state land, which park supporters hope to transform into a linear open space called the Southeast Greenway. Other partners would manage the land.

The big hurdle remains how the state intends to part with the property, once slated for the Highway 12 extension from Farmers Lane to Melita Road.

via Pushing forward with Southeast Greenway in Santa Rosa | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , , , Leave a comment on Campaign for Santa Rosa's Southeast Greenway gets boost

Campaign for Santa Rosa's Southeast Greenway gets boost


Supporters of a plan to build a park and bike path network on a strip of vacant land through southeast Santa Rosa — property once eyed for a Highway 12 extension — were buoyed by developments in Sacramento this week that could accelerate the transfer of the 55 acres from the state highway system to the Southeast Greenway campaign.

The work of removing the freeway designation from Farmers Lane to Melita Road advanced on parallel tracks in the state Senate and the California Transportation Commission as local transportation officials backed the efforts and Greenway advocates met with Caltrans to discuss the logistics of a land transfer.

“We’re starting to talk in more detail about how the property might be transferred,” said Steve Rabinowitsh, a former Santa Rosa city councilman and member of the Greenway campaign. “There’s a lot happening.”

State transportation planners bought the southeast Santa Rosa land in the 1950s and 60s when the area of the city was sparsely developed. The intent was to build a two-mile freeway bypass from Farmers Lane over Spring Lake rejoining Highway 12 near Oakmont.

Spring Lake has since become a county park and popular recreation area and Bennett Valley neighborhoods filled in around the land planned for the freeway. Santa Rosa residents resoundingly rejected the bypass, including a bridge over Spring Lake, saying it would be environmentally damaging and unnecessary.

via Campaign for Santa Rosa's Southeast Greenway gets boost | The Press Democrat.