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OpEd: Stealth Move on Sonoma Coast - By Reuben Weinzveg


OpEd: Stealth Move on Sonoma Coast - By Reuben Weinzveg

Stealth move to allow intrusive development of the Agricultural areas of the Sonoma Coast

By Reuben Weinzveg

In a quiet effort to rewrite the Sonoma County General Plan Coastal Agriculture element, the Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) has been revising the ordinances that have protected the coast for decades, and would open the floodgates to development. Two community meetings along the coast have been held, ostensibly to share the 79 pages of new proposed ordinances, but residents say that the PRMD staffers neglected to inform them of the most dramatic changes to the Coastal Agriculture elements.

The new plan amendments will totally undermine the safeguards offered in the current General Plan by suddenly allowing permitted development of industrial winery/event centers on what are presently purely agriculturally-zoned lands on the Sonoma Coast.  Much like the effect of the cumulative impacts that currently negatively affect areas like the Dry Creek Valley and Valley of the Moon, the Sonoma Coast is the next development target by the wine industry.  Big Wine’s lobbyists have managed to insert language into the General Plan amendment process that would permit marketing, promotion, events and industrial development on Agriculture Zoned lands along the Sonoma Coast. 

With the onset of warming temperatures inland, the Sonoma Coast is the new target for winery/event center development and widespread planting of cooler temperature varieties such as Pinot and Chardonnay grapes.

Gazing down on Goat Rock from Jenner Headlands - Sonoma CoastThe coastal land rush seems to have already begun. An investment group led by Flanagan Vineyards owner (Windsor) bought a 300 acre parcel near Bodega (part of a 500 Ac parcel, Platt Vineyard, which was listed for $19.5 million complete w/ 8,000 SF!! Estate home).  The vineyard is part of the Sonoma Coast American Viticultural Area.  First the vineyard (yes, this is Ag, and we don’t have a problem with that beyond the monocrop aspect, removal of Oak, Fir, Pine, Redwood and all other native biota), but next we can expect winery buildings, bottling plant, visitor parking, commercial kitchen, new wells into the aquifer, wastewater treatment, event parking, traffic, alcohol impaired drivers on narrow coastal roads.   

Under the guise of protecting agriculture on these coastal properties, the wine industry is aiming to open the doors to unrestricted development on the coast.  Only a huge outcry from the public may be able to stop the powerful wine lobby from achieving this goal, and we won’t be able to rely on our Supervisors or the PRMD to help get the word out on the destructive impacts on both the environment and the communities that live respectfully with each other on the coast.

Neighbors to Preserve Rural Sonoma County has posted copies of the related proposed amendments and further details of the impacts on its web site at

It will be up to each person with any interest in our beautiful coastline to write your supervisors and the PRMD to demand a more open community process with respect to this important proposed amendment. This means more meetings for our coastal neighbors with this element being the main subject of discussion.

The citizen comment period ends in September with the next community meeting in Timber Cove at the Fire Station on September 14 at 4PM.  It is time for informed citizens to speak up now and if you can not attend the meeting please send your comments to all our supervisors and the Permit and Resource Management Department (email addresses on web site) to voice your concerns about the future of our coast. 



Reuben Weinzveg, retired CPA, is a 46 year Sonoma County Resident, past member of the Sonoma Land Trust (Treasurer and President), past board member and Treasurer of Community Foundation Sonoma County