Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , , Leave a comment on Developer to spare more oak trees in Windsor housing project

Developer to spare more oak trees in Windsor housing project

A controversial apartment project proposed in downtown Windsor has a new name, and a new design that calls for the removal of almost 50 fewer oak trees than before.
The old “Bell Village” moniker has been dropped, replaced by “Vintage Oaks on the Town Green,” but the changes are more than just a renaming and appear to have gone a long way toward appeasing critics.
In the face of strong opposition from some residents and feedback from the Town Council, the developers went back to the drawing board and came up with a plan that expands open space, preserves more trees and adds a variety of housing.
“We think we have a better project because of this,” said Peter Stanley, a Santa Rosa architect and principal in ArchiLOGIX, the company hired to help design and develop the apartment project. “We have a significantly different site plan than we did before.”
Prodded by Town Council members who wanted to see more than just three-story townhomes, the project still calls for a total of 387 units, but would be split almost evenly between townhomes and “stacked flat” apartments, with most of the apartments served by elevators to better accommodate seniors and disabled persons.
The changes are getting generally favorable reviews from critics of Bell Village, with some caveats.“I was encouraged they redesigned it to save more trees. I felt our message has gotten through to them. I have to say I’m happy about that,” said Eric Wee, a Windsor resident who spearheaded a petition drive that was signed by more than 1,000 people urging the Town Council to reject Bell Village.
He noted that the revised plans call for cutting 47 fewer trees than before, but said he still wants to walk the site — the former Windsorland mobile home and trailer park — to see which trees are proposed for removal and which will be saved.
And Wee remains concerned that the apartment project has too many units, considering that combined with another proposed development — Windsor Mill — they would add almost 800 rental dwellings to downtown Windsor, increasing traffic and potentially altering the character of a town defined mostly by owner-occupied, single family homes.
The developers and their supporters counter that Vintage Oaks is exactly the type of higher density housing specified in Windsor’s general plan, on an infill site close to a train depot, within walking distance of parks, schools, shopping and restaurants.
Read more at: Developer to spare more oak trees in Windsor | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , Leave a comment on Chinese developer’s purchase of Sonoma Valley property could revive resort project

Chinese developer’s purchase of Sonoma Valley property could revive resort project

Eloísa Ruano González, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A large undeveloped property near Kenwood that was at the center of a bruising land-use fight a decade ago has been purchased by a Chinese real estate firm, raising both eyebrows and questions about the future of the picturesque community in the heart of Sonoma Valley.
The $41 million purchase, of a 186-acre site off Highway 12 near Lawndale Road, includes rights to develop a luxury resort and winery, along with a restaurant and almost a dozen high-end homes.
It remained unclear this week what the new owner, Tohigh Property Investment, a subsidiary of Chinese developer Oceanwide Holdings, intends to do with the property.
Read more via Chinese developer’s purchase of Sonoma Valley property could | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Land Use, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Santa Rosa was once Meadowlark Woods

Santa Rosa was once Meadowlark Woods


“Meadowlark Woods” is the translation of the Mishewal-Wappo name for the Santa Rosa area: whitsé la holma noma. At the time the Sonoma Mission was established in 1823, whitsé la holma noma was west of Mishewal lands, in Pomo territory. It was a place they passed through on their way to the coast.

Meadowlarks must have been abundant in those days. About the size of a robin, they have a yellow chest with a black V, and a distinctive song.

Meadowlarks build their nests in small depressions in the ground, often weaving grasses and stems together to create a weatherproof dome.

The Mishewal name is a clue to what Santa Rosa was like before it was (re)settled in the 19th century. As their name suggests, meadowlarks like open grasslands and the edges of marshes. “Meadowlark Woods” evokes a mosaic of grasslands, trees and wetlands.

Frank Marryat, an Englishman who visited in 1850, described it as, “sprinkled with oak trees, and it seems ever as if we were about to enter a forest which we never reach, for in the distance, the trees, though really far apart, appear to grow in dark and heavy masses.”

Grassland birds tend to have more complicated songs than those of forest birds. Perhaps it was this complexity, which more closely resembles human speech, that inspired the Coast Miwok, another neighbor of the Mishewal, to say that meadowlarks “talked too much” and “could speak any language.” (Mockingbirds have a similar reputation. Their scientific name means “many-tongued mimic” — they copy the sounds of other birds, insects, amphibians and even machines.)

Children were told not to speak to meadowlarks. They were likely to insult you by saying you were stingy, or mean, or that you ate too much. One 19th century story tells of a Chilean immigrant who was approached by a chattering meadowlark that taunted in Spanish, “Lopez ya no tiene mas whiskey” (Lopez has no more whiskey).

Today, there’s little risk of being mocked by a meadowlark in Santa Rosa. A few large oaks, the last survivors of Meadowlark Woods, can still be found in its urban neighborhoods. But to hear a meadowlark you have to leave the city and go to a place that remains open and grassy.

Contact Glen Ellen-based historical ecologist Arthur Dawson at

via Sense of Place: Meadowlark Woods.

Posted on Categories Forests, WildlifeTags , , Leave a comment on Historical extent of oaks in Sonoma County

Historical extent of oaks in Sonoma County


Oaks are intricately tied to the human history of Sonoma County, California. The impressive size of individual trees, and the extent and beauty of the lowland groves are common themes in our county’s historical records. Early writers often compared the valleys where oaks grew to a park, with open spaces between the trees and little understory . This is a testament to the natural vigor of the trees themselves, and to the stewardship of native peoples, who had been tending the land here for thousands of years.

Quotations from early California settlers

“We passed through an extremely large roblar (trees very tall and thick) . . . running 3 leagues [8 miles]east to west, and a league and a half [four miles] north to south” — Jose Altimira, founder of the Sonoma Mission, describing Sonoma Valley in 1823.

“the valleys are . . . sprinkled with oak trees, and it seems ever as if we were about to enter a forest which we never reach, for in the distance the oaks, though really far apart, appear to grow in dark and heavy masses” — Frank Marryat, describing Sonoma Valley in 1850.

Oak landscape as first recorded

The Spanish term “roblar,” commonly used in Mexican California, is not really conveyed by the English words “forest,” or “grove.” An “oak-dominated landscape” is probably close, if we imagine a place on the floor of a valley where oaks are prominent among a mosaic of grasslands, wetlands, and riparian corridors (see map on the following page). Within a roblar, oaks grow in varying densities, from savannah to denser woodlands. Historically, the roblars of Sonoma County were likely dominated by Valley oaks (Q. lobata) and their hybrids, though blue, black, Oregon and coast live oaks (Q. douglasii, kelloggii, garryana, and agrifolia) were also part of the mix.

Read more at Historical extent of oaks, Sonoma County, California.

Posted on Categories Forests, WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on Canker disease threatens coast live oaks in California

Canker disease threatens coast live oaks in California


California’s coast live oaks are facing a big, new threat carried by a tiny, burrowing beetle.

Foamy bark canker disease develops from a fungus hosted by western oak bark beetles — and it is very bad news for the stately trees.

The Orange County Register reported Sunday ( ) that scientists in California have not seen the beetles carrying the fungus before.

After infected beetles bore into the trees, the fungus blocks water and nutrients from circulating. Eventually, reddish sap and cream-colored foam begin to ooze from the trunk and branches. Slowly, the tree dies.

Once the sap and foam stop flowing, the only immediate evidence of a problem is the small holes that the beetles created to get inside the tree.

via Canker disease threatens coast live oaks in Calif. – SFGate.

Posted on Categories WildlifeTags , Leave a comment on SRJC oaks just the latest to be mourned

SRJC oaks just the latest to be mourned

SRJC-oakHere’s the “nut graf” for this column, as we say in the trade: It has been said, by respected historians, that forests were so dense in the eastern part of what would become the United States that, before European settlement, a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic seaboard to the Mississippi River without touching the ground.
This is a terrific image, isn’t it?
Of course, we are now told, by iconoclastic bloggers, that it isn’t true. That the Native Americans cleared land just like the latecomers, that forests recede on their own and, I suppose, that no squirrel has that kind of stamina. Thus, the westbound squirrel, leaping from leafy treetop to treetop, passes into folklore. But the point is still taken. There were plenty of trees here in the 1600s. And most of them are gone.
The reason I bring this up is the current news that some of Santa Rosa Junior College’s majestic oaks, which have long defined that beautiful campus, are doomed.
This is admittedly very bad news. The account I read estimated they were about 100 years old. I’m not an arboreal scientist, but I do know that the SRJC campus was built on a 40-acre parcel of “oaks and wildflowers” that was owned by the Chamber of Commerce and designated for a park called Luther Burbank Creation Gardens, honoring the famed horticulturist who died in 1926.
via LeBaron: SRJC oaks just the latest to be mourned | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Local OrganizationsTags , Leave a comment on Diseased oak trees slated for removal at SRJC

Diseased oak trees slated for removal at SRJC


Four large oak trees at Santa Rosa Junior College, including two that tower over the middle of school’s central lawn, providing a leafy canopy for graduation ceremonies and Day Under the Oak events, are slated to be removed after they were found to be diseased.

The removals, which officials said are driven by safety concerns, will bring to six the number of oaks — some heritage size and age — lost on the Mendocino Avenue campus since November.

via Diseased trees slated for removal at SRJC | The Press Democrat.