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Rangers’ suit claims Broadway Under the Stars is ‘inappropriate’ use of Jack London park

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

An association of active and retired state park rangers has sued over the continued use of Jack London State Historic Park for open-air Broadway-styled musical productions that since 2012 have drawn thousands of enthusiastic patrons to the protected ruins of the late novelist’s old winery on summer nights.

The unprecedented lawsuit by the more than half-century-old California State Park Rangers Association claims the State Parks department improperly approved a five-year extension for the Transcendence Theatre Co., contending its large-scale productions conflict with the park’s general plan and the historic site’s protected status.

“The issue, in its simplest form, is that California State Parks is attempting to legitimize the creation of a large, ongoing, multi-million dollar operation and commercial-style theatrical facility right in the heart of Jack London State Historic Park, a national and state historic landmark, and within the ruins at the Beauty Ranch area of the park,” Mike Lynch, president of the rangers association, CSPRA, said in a written statement.

The lawsuit says State Parks officials should have subjected the operation to more thorough study and public scrutiny under the California Environmental Quality Act, the state’s bedrock land-use law.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10104973-181/lawsuit-targets-transcendence-theatre-operations

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Op-Ed: Turning a freeway right-of-way to green space

Thea Hensel and Tony White, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For more than 50 years, a two-mile strip of land in southeast Santa Rosa remained vacant and unused. Originally purchased by Caltrans as a right-of-way for Highway 12, the freeway was never built and the land remains neglected. When it was proposed to extend the freeway through Spring Lake Park, community opposition led to abandoning that proposal, and neighbors started thinking of converting this empty land into an asset, an urban greenway.

In 2009, local citizens formed the Santa Rosa Southeast Greenway Campaign, which developed a vision for the land and organized a campaign to plan and promote a greenway. From the start, the project attracted a team of natural leaders with extensive business and government experience. Applying their skills, they recruited a host of volunteers to spread the word and promote the Southeast Greenway.

The campaign forged alliances with local officials and agencies, environmental, educational, running and biking groups and raised funds to engage the community. In 2014, Caltrans decided to rescind the freeway designation and offered to give Santa Rosa the opportunity to purchase the land for a greenway.

Meanwhile, the campaign continued its work, creating a partnership with the Sonoma Land Trust, Sonoma Water, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Land Paths and the city of Santa Rosa. It is a shining example of a public-private partnership in which grassroots activists work for the benefit of the greater community.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/opinion/9903430-181/close-to-home-turning-a

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Petaluma forging ahead with Lafferty Ranch plans after dropping lawsuit

Matt Brown, PETALUMA ARGUS-COURIER

Petaluma city leaders are forging ahead with plans to create public trails on Lafferty Ranch, a scenic Sonoma Mountain property east of town that the city has owned for decades but has been tied up in legal disputes for a generation.

Disputes over public access to the 270 acres of wooded, rolling hills the city has owned since 1959 have polarized Petaluma politics since the 1990s, when council meetings overflowed with angry constituents and devolved into shouting matches.

Multiple legal claims have been fought, while mediation and near-agreements have played out behind the scenes.

But it now appears Petaluma believes it has the legal right to move forward with public access without a court order.

A lawsuit against adjoining property owners Kimberly Pfendler and the Bettman-Tavernetti families, pressed six years ago by open space advocates Friends of Lafferty Park and the city, was withdrawn in April with no agreement.

Mediation talks to allow some kind of public access broke down when the parties could not agree on access to parking and where trails might be allowed.

Sonoma County Superior Court records show the case was dismissed without a resolution.

“We did not reach a settlement and we are not going to reach a settlement,” City Attorney Eric Danly said. “It is not in litigation any more. The parties have withdrawn from mediation.”

Read more at https://www.petaluma360.com/news/9651791-181/petalumas-lafferty-ranch-lawsuit-dropped

Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Sonoma County renews effort to sell Chanate Road property for housing

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Call it Chanate 2.0.

Sonoma County supervisors are once again seeking to sell a nearly 72-acre property in northeast Santa Rosa to an affordable housing developer, reviving an effort started more than three years ago that triggered a neighborhood rebellion and a legal challenge that ultimately forced the county to cancel a deal with a prominent local homebuilder.

The property in question is at 3313 Chanate Road, site of the old county hospital and later Sutter Medical Center. It was slated by the county to be one of Santa Rosa’s largest single housing projects in recent memory.

But the legal setback prompted the county in October to walk away from a multimillion-dollar deal with developer Bill Gallaher, who wanted to build 867 housing units on the sprawling site, including rental apartment buildings three or four stories tall, a prospect that neighbors vehemently opposed.

In December, supervisors voted to start all over again, and county staffers last week solicited financial offers from about 650 organizations, including five local Native American tribes.

Prospective buyers are limited, under state law, to designated public agencies and “housing sponsors” that would focus on building affordable housing, with parks, schools or other government facilities as alternatives. For housing sponsors, the property would carry a 55-year deed restriction for affordable housing.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9284804-181/sonoma-county-renews-effort-to

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Santa Rosa bans use of Roundup at city parks

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday banned the use of synthetic weed-killers like Roundup at dozens of parks, buildings and medians around town.

The decision came on a unanimous vote — with Mayor Chris Coursey absent and barely any audience in the council chambers — to approve a one-year extension of the contract with a company that has provided city landscape maintenance services since 2014.

But it culminated a citizen campaign, initiated three years ago, to eliminate use of synthetic herbicides on city property.

The company, Golden Gate Landscape Management, has sprayed glyphosate-based weed killer on parks and other public property under its $509,000 annual contract. The council renewed the contract, but added a prohibition on glyphosate.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8657806-181/santa-rosa-bans-use-of?ref=most

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Forests, Land UseTags , , ,

Op-Ed: Keep commercial marijuana away from our parks

Deborah A. Eppstein and Craig S. Harrison, KENWOOD PRESS

We are shocked by proposed changes to the Cannabis Ordinance that would reduce buffer zones around parks to allow commercial marijuana cultivation on park borders. We think the current 1,000-foot setback from parks to neighboring parcel boundaries should be increased to 2,000 feet. Instead, on Aug. 7, the Board of Supervisors may decide to measure setbacks from the site of the grow instead of the parcel boundary, acquiescing to heavy lobbying by big growers. This would undermine the protection of our parks.

Why is the county rushing to authorize marijuana cultivation next to our parks and homes? It should employ the precautionary principle, as for any new business model. If transition from illegal to legal grows proceeds smoothly, the county can then reconsider modifications on where grows are permitted, based on real-life experience of what works and doesn’t for the community. Instead, the prevailing mood seems to be speed and greed.

Sonoma County is blessed with parks. Hood Mountain Regional Park, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Jack London State Park, Trione-Annadel State Park, North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park, and Taylor Mountain Regional Park are treasures. Why endanger them?

Robust buffer zones improve fire protection, facilitate finding illegal grows, and maintain the parks’ undeveloped nature with a transition zone. Allowing commercial grows to operate close by undermines enforcement and the safety of park visitors, who might encounter violence both from illegal grows masquerading as legal ones or legal grows near park boundaries. In rugged areas, it is common for hikers to wander beyond park boundaries. On Cougar Lane, which abuts Hood Mountain, growers often patrol their land with firearms and attack dogs. This intimidates neighbors and potentially hikers in the park.

Read more at http://www.kenwoodpress.com/pub/s/guested

Posted on Categories Forests, Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

The trail blazers: local eco-pioneers lead the way

Jonah Raskin, THE SONOMA VALLEY SUN

Last October’s firestorms stunned Sonoma Valley citizens, though once the smoke cleared and embers were extinguished, families and friends ventured out to see the spectacle of blooming flowers and green trees.
Richard Dale, the executive director for 26 years at the Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC), said that the disaster brought about “heightened interest in the environment.” Some of that concern, he added, was “about the need to prevent future fires” and some was “amazement at the natural world.”

In light of our recent fires, and droughts and floods, it might be useful to remember that the pioneers who crossed the plains, forded rivers and scaled mountains were the opposite of conservationists. In fact, they made a continental-sized mess by slashing forests, exhausting soils, polluting waters, exterminating Indians tribes and decimating wild life.

Read more at http://sonomasun.com/2018/06/21/the-trail-blazers-local-eco-pioneers-lead-the-way/

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Friends rally for Santa Rosa’s open-space heart, Trione-Annadel State Park

Gaye LeBaron, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Parks like this need friends, which is why, three years ago, an organization that calls itself just that, Friends of Trione-Annadel, was organized. Its membership represents the spectrum of usage — hikers and horsemen, runners, mountain bikers — everyone from the casual stroller to the dedicated botanist and naturalist on the prowl to catalog a new plant.

Today we’re talking about Trione-Annadel State Park, that magnificent stretch of hills and dales where, if a runner, hiker, horseman or mountain biker starts in Howarth and enters through Spring Lake, he or she can do at least 15 miles on pathways before emerging in Kenwood.

(Of course, as armchair jockeys are quick to point out, then they have to get home.)

I am aware I am preaching to the choir here because most of you already know what an asset this is to our area. It is the most-used park in this part of Northern California, closing in on 150,000 visits a year to its 5,500 acres.

All that love comes with some problems, as Supervising Ranger Neill Fogarty points out. One, of course, is abuse — physical abuse to the fields and forests by those who would “make new trails,” daredevils who sometimes fail to abide by the old rules of kindergarten to “play nicely with others,” and financial abuse from the hundreds, maybe thousands, of people each year who don’t pay the toll.

The appreciative ones, according to Fogarty, pay up at the Channel Drive entrance, and many park visitors have annual park passes, but there are the inevitable freeloaders, their mission made easier by the fact the park can entered from so many populated areas — not only Santa Rosa, Kenwood and Bennett Ridge but all borders in between. Many nearby homeowners can walk into the park from their neighborhood.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8402436-181/gaye-lebaron-friends-rally-for

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Hood Mountain Regional Park to grow with donation of Santa Rosa Creek property

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A pristine, quarter-mile stretch of upper Santa Rosa Creek will be permanently protected as part of Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve after the Sonoma Land Trust’s recent purchase of a 40-acre parcel on the park boundary.

The new property, located near the Los Alamos Road entrance at the northern end of the park, contains the last stand of redwoods in headwaters of Santa Rosa Creek and a cool shaded creek canyon ideal for rare steelhead trout, one of which was spotted in its waters just last week, land trust representatives said.

The newly acquired property is relatively small — particularly compared to the 1,750-acre wilderness park it adjoins — but it has important value as a buffer between the park and a growing number of estate homes being built in the area, along Los Alamos Road, the nonprofit group said.

It also extends an established wildlife corridor through the hills above Highway 12 and the Oakmont/Kenwood areas. That corridor has become a focal point of local conservation efforts in recent years, as land managers seek to create room for mountain lions, deer, bear and a host of other critters to roam across Sonoma and neighboring counties.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8172398-181/hood-mountain-regional-park-to

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Sonoma County advances key Bay Trail link, with projected cost of up to $14 million

Kevin Fixler, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The estuary of Tolay Creek southeast of Petaluma offers refuge to a host of wildlife, including rare shorebirds and waterfowl and a species of endangered mouse that lives only in the salt marshes of San Francisco Bay.

But the tidal waterway, which widens as it drains into San Pablo Bay just south of where it crosses under Highway 37, also sits in the way of a key link in the 500-mile trail envisioned to one day circle San Francisco Bay. About 70 percent of the network is complete.

To span the creek and close the 0.8-mile gap between two existing trails, parks officials are proposing a foot and bike path with a hefty projected price tag: $9 million to $14 million, depending on the design and alignment.

“It’s not a cheap endeavor,” said Ken Tam, planner with Sonoma County Regional Parks. “Where the trail alignment is located is actually in mud flats, and the materials to support a pier structure have to go very, very deep in the bedding to be sound. That increases the overall cost of the construction.”

The money could come from an proposed ballot measure in June that would increase in tolls on state-owned bridges in the Bay Area by $1 to raise an estimated $4.45 billion for transportation upgrades in the region. Up to $100 million could go to a long-delayed overhaul of Highway 37, where rebuilding costs are estimated at $1 billion to $4 billion.

The proposed Sears Point trail connector was endorsed as a parks priority last month by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors after an initial study highlighting the recreational demand and obstacles associated with the project.

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8156043-181/sonoma-county-advances-key-bay