Posted on Categories TransportationTags ,

Cotati voters to have say on roundabouts — again

Amie Windsor, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Round and round they go: Cotati voters will have their say on roundabouts after a citizens’ initiative to repeal a citywide ban on the traffic configuration has gathered enough signatures to be placed on the November ballot.

A ban against the love-it-or-hate-it road junction has been in place since voters passed a measure in 2012 prohibiting the construction of roundabouts and traffic circles within city limits.

That original ban was also a voter-driven initiative after the council planned to install two roundabouts on Old Redwood Highway as part of a $3.5 million redesign of its downtown. The plan was part of a long-planned revitalization intended to maintain Cotati’s small-town feel, spur economic activity and make the highway safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

At the time, opponents said the traffic circles would jam traffic, cause accidents and stifle business along the half-mile corridor. Ultimately, they were never constructed.
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Eris Weaver, one of three proponents for the repeal, said the original arguments against roundabouts were false.

“I don’t know why people lose their mind about roundabouts. I think it’s fear of the unknown, maybe,” Weaver, who serves as the executive director for the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/cotati-traffic-roundabouts-vote/

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , ,

Neighbors in rural Petaluma fight winery over tasting room proposal

Jennifer Sawhney, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

A neighborhood battle has quietly erupted west of Petaluma among the bucolic, rolling hills along Spring Hill Road. The cause? A local winery’s proposed tasting room.

Azari Winery’s owners have spent five years and more than $100,000 so far on the 2,800-square-foot tasting room, which they say is well-considered, safe for the area and perfectly legal.

But a group of over 30 neighbors has a different take, calling the winery’s new addition an “event center” and saying it could have harmful environmental and agricultural impacts on their rural neighborhood, and be an inroad to further development.

“You’re never going to tear a building down to put it back to farmland,” said Shelina Moreda, a fifth-generation dairy farmer who pointed to the loss of dairy farms as cause for concern. “Once these things come in and move in, you have forever lost that farmland — forever. The problem with it is that it’s not just one building, it’s the chain reaction that it affects.”

Some of these neighbors have had family in the area for over a century, while others arrived more recently for the calm setting. Evidence of their growing dispute with Azari Winery is already visible along the roadside, where they’ve posted red-orange signs reading, “No event center on Spring Hill Road.”

Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/news/azari-winery-tasting-room-fight/

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , , , ,

Sonoma County releases draft environmental report for Sonoma Developmental Center

Phil Barber, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A long-anticipated draft report released Wednesday calls for approximately 1,000 housing units — including 283 affordable units — to go along with 940 on-site jobs and a resident population of 2,400 at the site of the historic Sonoma Developmental Center near Glen Ellen.

Those numbers, which are in line with previous proposals, are bound to add fuel to the ongoing debate about how best to use a property that has been called a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by neighbors and officials alike.

“I think 1,000 is too big, and 283 is too small,” said Tracy Salcedo, a longtime Sonoma Valley resident, writer and advocate for the former institution for the developmentally disabled. “And we are stuck in a conundrum where financial feasibility is dictating how we do right thing. The right thing should be to provide more affordable housing, and turn our creative energies toward that rather than inundating the north end of the valley for what’s essentially too few affordable units.”

Sonoma County’s land use planning and development agency released the draft Environmental Impact Report and accompanying Specific Plan on Wednesday.

Totaling more than 800 pages, the two reports constitute the first narrowly drawn proposal for redevelopment of the iconic 945-acre site, which was home to a state-run hospital for the developmentally disabled that was established in 1891 and closed in 2018.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/county-releases-draft-environmental-report-for-sonoma-developmental-center/

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags , , ,

Planning commission works on new rules for Sonoma County winery events

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Sonoma County Planning Commission on Thursday made some progress to finish new rules to regulate winery events that have triggered disputes between neighborhood activists and the wine industry over past years.

The panel revisited the draft that it initially considered last June, and again in February, in its quest to find a balance between rural neighbors who have complained about traffic and noise among wine tourists, against the local industry that contends the need for visitors.

But after five hours of debate, commissioners said they realized they had more work to do and would reconvene June 7 in attempt to finish the proposal. The Board of Supervisors is slated to take up the proposal on Sept. 27.

The rules would apply to only new and modified event applications. There are more than 460 winery permits in Sonoma County and roughly 60% have visitor components, such as tasting rooms, according to county staff.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/business/planning-commission-works-on-new-rules-for-sonoma-county-winery-events/

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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 Land Use, TransportationTags , , , , ,

Sonoma County winery events could be limited by Planning Commission

Bill Swindell, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

After years of wrangling, Sonoma County officials are moving forward this week with a measure that will spell out what wineries can and can’t do when it comes to hosting events.

It’s the latest chapter in a long debate that has pitted the politically powerful sector against local activists and residents who say an influx of tourists is threatening their quality of life with traffic congestion and noise.

The county’s Planning Commission will hold a Thursday meeting in which the panel intends to vote on a draft ordinance that has been crafted by staff.

Planning Commission Meeting information

Planning officials searched for a middle ground between the interests of a main economic driver in the county against mobilized community groups in the areas of Sonoma Valley, Westside Road and Dry Creek Valley where the issue has become a flash point. Permit Sonoma held a virtual forum in February to solicit suggestions from stakeholders and their input went into the document.

The ordinance would set new standards for winery events, spelling out rules covering parking and traffic management; food service; event coordination with neighbors; and noise.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/business/sonoma-county-winery-events-could-be-limited-by-planning-commission/

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

Press Release: Sonoma County Planning Commission to hear draft winery events ordinance

Bradley Dunn, PERMIT SONOMA

Permit Sonoma has published Sonoma County’s first draft Winery Events Ordinance, which would set new standards for winery events like parking requirements, food service, event coordination, traffic management, and noise standards to address the impact of winery visitor-serving uses on agricultural land.

“The wine industry plays a critical role in Sonoma’s economy,” said Tennis Wick, Director of Permit Sonoma. “We are proud to work with the industry and neighbors to develop regulations which balance winery needs while protecting our rural communities and agriculture.”

The standards will provide a baseline for how the County balances preservation of agricultural areas with sustainable development of wine industry events when evaluating individual projects and their impacts. Permit Sonoma will utilize these standards when considering new and modified use permit applications for winery visitor-serving uses. The draft Ordinance provides consistency and clarity to the use permit evaluation process, reduces impacts to surrounding properties, protects agricultural lands, and preserves rural character.

Staff will present the draft to the Planning Commission at a virtual public hearing on June 3 at 1:50 p.m. The Planning Commission public hearing will be conducted via videoconference. Members of the public may watch, listen and participate in the hearing through Zoom or by phone. Additionally, written comments can be submitted through May 28, by 5 p.m. via email at PRMD-WineryEvents@sonoma-county.org.

After the Planning Commission Hearing, staff expects to present a final draft Winery Events Ordinance to the Board of Supervisors for approval on Aug. 17.

The draft Ordinance is posted on the Winery Events website.

The agenda for the virtual Planning Commission hearing and project staff report will be posted one week before the hearing on the Planning Commission calendar. https://sonomacounty.ca.gov/Planning-Commission/Calendar/Planning-Commission-Meeting-May-20-2021/

For more information about the public hearing, to submit comments, or to review project files digitally, members of the public can send an email to PRMD-WineryEvents@sonoma-county.org, call (707) 565-1900, option 5, or visit the project website: www.sonomacounty.ca.gov/WineryEvents

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/sonoma-county-planning-commission-to-hear-draft-winery-events-ordinance/

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , ,

Amazon delivery hub a ‘freight terminal,’ say zoning officials

Christian Kallen, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A proposed Amazon delivery hub outside Sonoma is a freight terminal and not a storage facility, an influential county panel ruled this month, a critical distinction that could subject the sprawling warehouse to a lengthy environmental review process.

The county Board of Zoning Adjustments upheld an appeal challenging the use permit granted for the Schellville building in January 2020 by Permit Sonoma, an agency that oversees development and land use planning in unincorporated areas of the county.

At the very least, the board’s decision will delay final county approval for the 250,000-square foot warehouse to operate as a “last-mile” delivery hub for the online retail giant. It may place the building’s proposed usage on a course for review under the California Environmental Quality Act, a potentially lengthy and demanding process.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/north-bay/amazon-deliver-hub-a-freight-terminal-say-zoning-officials/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , , ,

Sonoma County supervisors endorse airport terminal expansion

Guy Kovner, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Given a PowerPoint-aided tour of a proposed $25 million addition to the terminal at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, county supervisors on Tuesday approved of the project that comes with one large catch: it depends on securing a federal grant.

“It is a great airport to fly in and out of,” Board Chairman David Rabbitt said, noting it is “easy to park” and “people are friendly.”

“What you do there is so important for this county,” Supervisor Susan Gorin told the tour guide, Airport Manager Jon Stout.

Gorin personally values the United Airlines service to Denver started in March, facilitating visits to and from her grandchildren, 18 months and 4 years old.

But the airport, which started commercial service with about 109,000 passengers in 2007, is a bit of a victim of its own success, measured by carrying more than 440,000 passengers last year and nearly 90,000 in the first three months of this year.

The 15,000-square-foot terminal is already congested at peak midday hours, and the crowding will get worse as summer arrives with as many as 17 flights a day, Stout said.

There will be four flights in some two-hour periods, funneling up to 600 people through the terminal that houses airline ticket counters, baggage collection and various kiosks.

The proposed 30,000-square-foot expansion would include a two-lane passenger checkpoint, up to 350 seats, new restrooms, four more ticket counters, a new concession area and a larger “meet-and-greet” area for welcoming incoming passengers, Stout said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9547921-181/airport-terminal-expansion-gets-informal

Posted on Categories Land UseTags , ,

How to help west county residents impacted by the flood County declares health emergency due to hazardous waste, ‘flood crud’ Petaluma police arrest man asleep at the wheel Santa Rosa: 250 million gallons of treated sewage released into waterways since storm Two major southwest Santa Rosa developments set for review

Will Schmitt, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A landmark Roseland project featuring new housing and public space is poised to move forward while another nearby planned subdivision appears stalled ahead of hearings before the Santa Rosa Planning Commission this week.

The commission will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday at City Hall to consider the Roseland Village Neighborhood Center project and the Dutton Meadows subdivision in southwest Santa Rosa. The two projects combined could create up to 386 new housing units in the least developed corner of Santa Rosa.

Trumark Homes initially proposed building more than 100 townhomes on about 18 acres it bought nearly two decades ago near Hearn Avenue and Dutton Meadow, a project the city approved in 2006. However, the San Ramon-based developer abandoned the project because of the recession.

Environmental studies already were taken care of, he said, but “the project never penciled” out, said Robin Miller, Trumark Homes planning director. The Dutton Meadows project was revived after the 2017 wildfires, he said.

The current proposal calls for up to 130 single-family homes and 81 detached secondary housing units, with about 20 of the homes designated as affordable housing.

The current design would be financially feasible for Trumark, Miller said. If it doesn’t go forward, Santa Rosa would “lose 211 home opportunities.”

Santa Rosa made housing a top priority even before the 2017 fires, which wiped out 5 percent of the city’s housing stock. The City Council has passed a battery of new measures meant to make the city more attractive to housing developers, particularly those who wanted to build downtown apartment towers.

But concerns about how Trumark’s current project could impact traffic in the future led city staff to oppose it.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/9322585-181/two-major-southwest-santa-rosa