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LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS - October 2015

LETTERS to Sonoma County Gazette READERS - October 2015

Disaster Response

After the Valley Fire erupted in Lake County last week, burning 75 thousand acres and destroying more than 500 homes, including Middletown, Cobb and surroundings, and forcing thousands of people to flee, disaster response began to mobilize, raising over $18,000.  

In Sebastopol, locally owned Community Market and Andy’s Market began donation drives, with trucks streaming northward full of disaster relief supplies for Lake County residents. Restaurants held fundraisers. Evan Wiig of the Farmer’s Guild and the Sebastopol Grange organized a fundraiser in 72 hours, held last Thursday at the Grange. Chefs pitched in, farmers donated produce, cheese makers donated cheese, dessert makers brought pies and cakes, Strauss ice cream was donated, and an amazing silent auction was held with seemingly countless donations. West County schools donated the use of their Analy parking lot and shuttle buses were donated. More than 300 people showed up and over $18,000 was raised!

As I watched all these events unfold it made me reflect on the power of community. Sometimes we feel discouraged because we feel unable to turn world events in a good direction. But when this disaster struck, the responses were, and continue to be, amazing. The feeling Thursday night at the Grange was beautiful, so many people united in service to those in need. One message I get loud and clear. Together united we are powerful. May we remember that and work together more and more.

Jerry Allen, President, Sebastopol Grange



Sonoma County Salmon Broodstock Program

Excellent eye-opening article by Ann Maurice regarding the Coho.

I can’t help but wonder why anytime I read about the watershed/Coho issue, the fact that illegal pot grows along our tributaries are also diverting water and leeching toxins back into the streams is not included along with vineyards?



The Coastal Plan

I attended the meeting at Timber Cove with members of my Jenner community. Here’s my take on what happened last night. Shepherd suggested I send this to you.

Timber cove public workshop: Some thoughts regarding the meeting.

Although the meeting at the packed, “standing room only” Timber Cove Fire Station was supposed to be about the whole Local Coastal Plan update, the focus and reason most of the attendees were there had to do with the growing (percieved or real) encroachment of the wine industry upon our coast. 

Jenner was represented by 4 longtime members of our community. The ladies presenting and representing the county PRMD (why are they usually ladies?) had experience with contentious crowds and were ready for this one. They were challenged by many knowledgeable citizens in the audience including the most forceful former supervisor Ernie Carpenter who, as a supervisor, had been at ground zero of drafting the last coastal plan and had exact institutional memory of its evolution and language.

I’ve never read through these plan elements before or have much of an understanding of the bureaucratic procedure of these “workshops”. I had developed some questions and comments but had to compete with half of the room to get them heard. If I had been from the New York Stock Exchange I would have had a better chance of getting called while my arm was raised. The presenters called over and over many of the people they already knew by name. It seemed like the New York Stock Exchange in that so many people were raising their hands at the same time and fighting for audience and attention. And the hard challenges to the presentation although civil and on the edge of respectful, put the county officials on the defensive.

Basically – and in part due to the news articles and flyers discussing the “Our Coast is Threatened”, the people who showed up were opposed to the allowed development and expension of the wine industry in our coastal 

hills. Although the presenters said the language of the original coastal plan has not been changed to facilitate the permitting of agricultural conversion to grapes then tasting rooms and wineries, it exists all over the language I read in the Land Use Element section which is the only section I’ve read so far. Not having read this stuff before it gave me a headache.

The local residents are right in telling the county that the coast is not appropriate for the big money investment schemes that potentially can move in. The Coastal Hills Rural Preservation organization fought the development of Lester Swartz’ Fort Ross Winery and are currently challenging the industrial Rana Ling publishing facility and housing expansion. I didn’t see much love for the Fort Ross winery in that room. I see wineries as industrial processing plants, not the warm and fuzzy agricultural tourism the county allows to take hold on the scenic nooks and crannies of our county, disrupting the quality of life of longtime residents.

The narrow rural roads, limited emergency services, potential for catastrophic fire and scenic beauty are being impacted now by bicycle tourism and if the county allows the expansion wineries, tasting rooms, event centers under the so called “agricultural tourism” being promoted in their coastal plan, it will negatively alter the quality of life for coastal residents and wildlife. The water grab for grapes was discussed. There is limited water in those hills and pumping it onto grapes will further deplete the aquifer or local creeks and the Gualala watershed.

I think the message the presenters will take back to their bosses, the supervisors, will be clear coming out of this meeting: The coastal hills and surrounding area locals are going to fight to take out any language that makes it easier for the wine industry to get permits to expand into their area. A proposal was made to separate viticulture from agriculture and make it play by a different set of rules.

It was clear to me that there is an articulate, experienced and committed group that is ready to fiercely oppose winery expansion into our coast. I’m ready to work with them and encourage my Jenner and larger community to stay informed and do the same. 

Preserve Rural Sonoma County had placed informational flyers on the seats with suggestions for on “What You Can Do” and website links. This was useful.

Missing at the meeting were the corresponding county representative of this area, Supervisor Carrillo and his appointee to the Planning Dept., Tom Lynch. 

Ken Sund

Coastline Development

Please stop any and all coastal development. The impact to the coast, habitats and roads would be detrimental. If you pursue this venture I’m sure California and other e r environmentalists will gladly boycott all wines from the coastal area that was previously protected. We can also inform our favorite restaurants not to buy from their suppliers. This land was protected in the past for a reason. Don’t ruin California’s pristine northern coastline and make it look like southern California. Greed is the only reason you would allow this. It is really sad if you choose to do so.

The Williamson Family,
Melinda and Gordon, 
Elizabeth and Brett



Stealth Move on Sonoma Coast

Right on Rueben! The coast is not just for the people who live there, but for all of us. Indeed the west coast is everyone’s coast… the Kansans, the Iowans, etc. It’s America’s west coast.

Norma Smith Davis


Definition of Sustainable 

Just read your article (Sustainable Solutions by Sam Euston) in the latest Gazette and I’m glad someone is taking this topic up seriously and following through on things (as mush as possible).

I noticed the definition of sustainability in the column and although I would support that definition I would like to add my own for future discussions in your column if it resonates with you:

Sustainability = the ability to continue doing something indefinitely without depletion to the earth or sentient beings.

So far I haven’t found a single business that could claim the above honestly – including Traditional Medicinals. So while I applaud and appreciate their efforts (and other companies like them), if they are using any fossil fuels (which I’m sure they are or for sure their employees are) then it is not sustainable since I think everyone agrees that fossil fuels are not renewable and therefore not sustainable. The intention of striving for sustainability is more accurate based on the definition above. Further, I would say that if someone is claiming sustainability for their business they are either lying (knowingly or unknowingly) or simply aren’t fully aware of the impacts they are having and are misleading the public at best and falsely advertising at worst. Sustainable sounds nice, but so far I haven’t found a single example!

To keep this all in perspective, I would say that as long as we buy into a capitalist system then it will be impossible to be truly sustainable as capitalism relies on consumption of goods and services (all of which require resources). This is certainly well known and documented by people like Richard Wolf but is not often acknowledged since it sounds radical.

Let’s keep the dialogue going and I welcome responses from others on this topic of sustainability and what constitutes true sustainability.

Taylor Lampson, Sebastopol


Hi Taylor,

I really appreciate your letter and your broader definition of “Sustainability”. 

Let’s consider your definition of: Sustainability = the ability to continue doing something indefinitely without depletion to the earth or sentient beings. 

And, let’s also include the Merriam-Webster definition of “sustainable”: a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. Just from another vantage point.

So, how do we get from where we are currently, to either definition? And let’s add to that the use of fossil fuels.

The presence of fossil fuel in some way, shape or form; had touched or been involved, in every interaction. When that level of dependency is present, it’s inevitable that just adding a few of life’s survival and scarcity challenges, along with financial profitability, dependency is exacerbated. 

Even Exxon’s own research, “global warming would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion” supports that fossil fuel contributes negatively to our environment.

Very concisely what came to me are the following:

•Bringing transparency through asking questions and sharing the information with others is valuable and raises accountability. 

•Ask questions regarding your  next product purchase: request a disclosure of ingredients, ask about the methods utilized to produce or create the product or service, ask about packaging methods guidelines along with waste practices.

•Support your cause by active participation and outreach. Your sincere contribution to the cause you feel most passionate about, can help to feed not only your passion, but those around you.

•Engage in a respectful dialogue: listen to, focus and act on a few items that your group (two or more) can agree on. 

•Brainstorm solutions that are doable (for your group). Brainstorming can produce synergy, passion, respect for one another’s viewpoint(s), contribution(s) and generate attitudinal motivation. 

•Understand that practicing sustainability is a process; mistakes are made for re-takes. 

Let’s keep the dialogue going and I welcome responses from others on this topic of sustainability and what constitutes true sustainability.

Sam Euston

Occidental Oriented – May

Thanks for the May 2015 update on Laurence Glass Works. I started buying stained glass from her back in the 1990s and I assumed she was still in the original gallery, out of sight of everything, there in downtown Occidental.

I will look for her new gallery next month when we drive to Sonoma for the Art Studio tour.

Dave Marks,Paradise, CA


Festival on Johnson’s Beach

Newsflash to the new owners of Johnson’s Beach: You still have a lot to learn about operating a business in a small town. My experience this weekend at the Jazz and Blues Festival was nothing short of shocking. The pettiness and rudeness with how I was treated is inexcusable. The woman you screamed at on the beach, my mother, has shuttled kids through Guerneville School for nearly 4 decades. My daughter was embarrassed by being kicked out, along with myself. She was attending her 11th Festival and celebrating her 12th birthday. For us to receive the reaction we did, because you didn’t like what you were hearing was so ridiculously rude I may never step foot on your beach again; My family and friends may not either. You see when a member of a community is mistreated,you are not upsetting just one person; more likely a household. Soon neighbors are involved, then the whole street,block and so on. Even if you don’t agree with the rule, ”the customer is always right”. You should accept the criticism with patience and grace.

Johnson’s Beach has been the backyard to this community for generations. Clare understood that. I’m not so sure the two of you do. I hope you listen to what this community is saying. I listened all summer to what the community had to say and still supported you. You probably weren’t even aware of what was being said. That was my mistake. You spoke of Johnson’s Beach as your getaway when you first purchased it. It is our home. I hope you can respect that.

Matt Cannata

A Rocky Start

When a person or group of people enters a long standing community, the conventional approach would be to assimilate, not agitate; unless you want a conflict or intend to conquer said community of course. I did not see assimilation on Johnson’s beach during the annual Jazz/Blues fest this year but agitation. 

While attempting to think of a good metaphor for this situation I remembered the story of “Stone Soup”. It’s the story of how everyone in the village has thrown something in the kettle and at the end they all enjoy a truly wonderful soup, even if they were unware of their participation.

Working together is how a community is created and goals are accomplished. It is assimilation, not agitation. If you want to join a community instead of rule it, you take ingredients, ideas, suggestions and yes even criticisms, and you put them in your kettle and stir. If you outright dismiss them you are not being fair to the community and you are likely missing an ingredient you may not even realize you need. Your soup may not turn out right – it may be bitter; it may need a little salt. You may end up sitting on a rocky beach by yourself or with very few joining you for dinner and the few who do come would not be equal to a community joining you for stone soup.

Rob Anderson, Guerneville