Feb 4, 2019
by Lynda Hopkins, 5th District Supervisor - Sonoma County
On the morning of February 1, hundreds of people gathered in Rohnert Park to hear the forecast of our county's future. Not only did we get a recap of where we've come from from Chair David Rabbitt, we also got a glimpse into where we could be headed.
Despite uncertain national economic forecasts, California's economy is booming and Sonoma County is strong. Jerry Nickelsburg, director and senior economist with the UCLA Anderson Forecast, commended our county for working with speed and scale to begin the rebuilding process after the 2017 wildfires scoured through Santa Rosa.
"Speed is key in recovery," he told the crowd at the Double Tree Hotel. "You don't see this kind of speed in recovery. It's a good start."
It is a good start: Since the fires, we've netted 1,765 housing approved permits. More than 1,000 of those houses are in unincorporated county, though the bulk of those are rebuild houses. Housing, Nickelsburg said, will be key to driving our county's economy. We need to be able to house the people who want to work here in Sonoma County; those who work here in Sonoma County shouldn't be commuting hours on end, and vice versa.
As Chair Rabbitt said during his State of the County speech, "When you're in the middle of a crisis, you have to take bold action." To that end, the county is readying to bring in affordable housing on West College Avenue and Roseland Village in Santa Rosa. The City of Santa Rosa and County have also partnered to create the Renewal Enterprise District, which enables both agencies to access funding and financing through state and federal partners. In conjunction with $12 million HEAP (Homeless Emergency Aid Program) Funding, one-time block grants that can be used to fund housing projects for our area's homeless population, I feel that our county finally has the momentum to begin tackling the housing crisis.
One step at a time.
Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Meeting: Tuesday, Feb. 5, 8:30 a.m. (Board of Supervisors' Chambers)
Palm Drive Health Care District Town Hall Meeting: Tuesday, Feb. 5, 6 to 8 p.m. (Sebastopol Grange)
Palm Drive Health Care District Town Hall Meeting: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 6 to 8 p.m. (Salmon Creek School)
Palm Drive Health Care District Town Hall Meeting: Monday, Feb. 11, 6 to 8 p.m. (Graton Fire Department)
President Abraham Lincoln's Birthday (County Offices closed): Tuesday, Feb. 12
Palm Drive Health Care District Town Hall Meeting: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 6 to 8 p.m. (Sebastopol Community Cultural Center)
Presidents' Day (County Offices closed): Monday, Feb. 18
Palm Drive Health Care District Town Hall Meeting: Monday, Feb. 18, 6 to 8 p.m. (Bodega Bay Grange)
B-RAD Beach Cleanup: Saturday, Feb. 23, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Goat Rock Beach)
Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council Meeting: Monday, Feb. 25, 5:30 p.m. (Guerneville Elementary School Community Room)
Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Meeting: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 8:30 a.m. (Board of Supervisors' Chambers)
Lower Russian River Wastewater Citizens Advisory Group Meeting: Thursday, Feb. 28, 6 to 8 p.m. (Monte Rio Community Center)
Sonoma County Coast Municipal Advisory Council Meeting: Thursday, March 7, 5:30 p.m. (Bodega Bay Grange)
The Sonoma County Coast and Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Councils will hold their first meeting in the next few weeks. The River MAC's first meeting will be Monday, Feb. 25 in the new community room at Guerneville Elementary School. The Coast MAC's first meeting will be Thursday, March 7 at the Bodega Bay Grange. In accordance to the Brown Act, agendas for each meeting will be posted on location and online at least 72 hour prior to the start of the meeting. Both MACs are governed by the Brown Act; the public is invited and encouraged to attend.
Members of the public who wish to receive agendas by email may request to do so by contacting Fifth District Field Representative Amie Windsor at email@example.com or 707-565-2241. If you are already signed up for either MAC newsletter, you will already receive the respective MAC agenda.
Each municipal advisory council is divided into seven districts. Each district is represented by one or two representatives who can be contacted via email. All representative email addresses are available on the MAC websites:
Each MAC website also hosts information about the boundaries of the municipal advisory councils and will serve as the home for all meeting agendas and minutes. Both MACs will need the participation and energy from the community members who wish to share their concerns and priorities in order to be effective representatives.
Date: Monday, Feb. 25, 2019
Location: Guerneville Elementary School Community Room
Address: 14630 Armstrong Woods Road, Guerneville, CA 95446
Time: 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Date: Thursday, March 7, 2019
Location: Bodega Bay Grange
Address: 137- Bodega Avenue, Bodega Bay, CA 94923
Time: 5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
The long-anticipated changes to the county's onsite wastewater treatment system (OWTS) manual is set to be heard by the Board of Supervisors in mid-March. The revisions to the OWTS manual, which aim to protect the health of our water sources and bring us into compliance with state code, will affect septic systems of homeowners throughout the county.
Permit Sonoma staff spent the late summer and fall months touring Sonoma County, providing community meetings about the OWTS and taking feedback and questions from the public. The manual was updated in response from the community -- which included roughly 300 comments -- and from the OWTS AD Hoc Committee, made up of Chair David Rabbitt and myself. As part of the Ad Hoc Committee, we are in the process of reviewing the revised draft and have directed staff to present the proposed policies to more community partners before finalizing the document.
The revised OWTS manual will be available at least two weeks prior to the board meeting. Any comments should be directed to all members of the Board of Supervisors, either by email or in person at the board meeting on Tuesday, March 12.
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board is also getting ready to approve new health standards this spring. The standards, known as the total maximum daily load (TMDL), limit the amount of e.coli and other bacteria allowed with the Russian River. To control the TMDL, the Water Board has the authority to require homeowners within 600 feet of the Russian River or major tributaries to have septic systems that are up-to-date. In other words, homeowners who are reliant on cesspools or unidentified OWTS will likely need to update their systems in the future.
While the thought of updating a septic system can be daunting and overwhelming, there are a lot of interested community members and organizations working to help our lower income communities make the transition from cesspools to a solution that is both cost effective and environmentally friendly.
The Lower Russian River Citizens Wastewaster Advisory Group, or LRRCAG, is composed of nine community members who volunteer their time each month to meet with the Regional Water Board staff, County staff and Sonoma Water Agency staff to be informed and assist with the problem solving involved with this future regulation. Once the scope of the TMDL is defined by the Regional Water Board, we will be hiring an ombudsperson on board to assist residents with resources, information and potential grant opportunities.
In March, Caltrans will present its draft TCR, or transportation concept report, for Highway 1 to the Coast Municipal Advisory Council. This draft TCR is Caltrans’ long-term plan for the northern part of Highway 1, running from the southern part of Marin County, up to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line. The TCR is really an effort to address two major issues we’re facing on Highway 1: How do we (1) make sure Highway 1 meets the needs of all the people it serves, both residents and tourists, while (2) protecting and enhancing its natural environment that is becoming increasingly subject to the irreversible effects of climate change?
While this is a general planning framework, it sets a tone for future Highway 1 projects and community input is important. While Caltrans held one public meeting on this draft TCR in spring 2016, there has been an opportunity for public comment in Sonoma County. The first opportunity to learn more about the draft TCR will be during the Coast MAC meeting on Thursday, March 7. During the meeting, Stephen Yokoi, Cameron Oakes and Josephine Hsai from Caltrans will present the Draft TCR and what it could mean for our Coast Highway (Fun fact: Did you know that Sonoma County is the only California county that refers to Highway 1 as the Coast Highway?)
In a nutshell, Caltrans notes that Highway 1 lacks proper visitor facilities and suggests that improvements could go hand-in-hand with much needed realignments in certain areas, including north of Bodega Bay. Furthermore, the effects of climate change, including increases in sea level, storm damage and coastal erosion, put much of our Coast Highway at risk, especially in the area north of Bodega Bay. Caltrans’ reports considers the financial risk of maintaining culverts versus repairing with bridges along the more northern part of our coast like Fort Ross and Timber Cove. These are decisions that, in the event of a natural disaster, could mean the difference between keeping our coastal communities connected to or isolated from vital resources when they'll need them the most.
It is important for our coastal communities that rely on Highway 1 to have an opportunity to not only understand Caltrans’ concept and plans -- which will literally pave the way for the Coast Highway’s future -- but to also have a voice in the matter. Stephen, Cameron and Josephine will provide attendees with the next steps, including ways to provide Caltrans with feedback. My office will make sure to share that with all of our coastal communities through use of the newsletter, Coast MAC, local newspapers, post office bulletins, social media and more.
If you are interested in seeing the draft TCR, please email our office and let us know. The document is 71-pages long and, according to Caltrans statewide policy, not available online. We are happy to share it with those interested parties. Copies will also be available at the March 7 meeting.
The Palm Drive Health Care District will hold a series of town hall meetings to inform the public about a sale agreement the district would like to get into with American Advanced Management Group (AAMG). The District, which owns the hospital (formerly Palm Drive Hospital, formerly Sonoma West Medical Center, now called Sonoma Specialty Hospital), would like to sell the hospital to AAMG, which currently manages the hospital. Because the District is funded through property taxes and owns the building and the property where the hospital sit, voter approval is necessary for a sale.
A special election will be held on Tuesday, March 5 for Measure A, which asks property owners within the Palm Drive Health Care District for approval to sell the hospital to AAMG.
Vote by mail begins Monday, Feb. 4 and will rely on the county'snew voting system. This new system, which replaces the county's 35-year-old ballot style and tallying system, has more modern technology and security features but still relies on paper ballots.
All questions and concerns about the potential sale of the hospital, the town hall meetings or anything else related to Palm Drive Health Care District can be directed to the District's Executive Director Alanna Brogan: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the usual West County news, I have some family news to share: Linden Hopkins was born at 5:51 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24, at home, weighing 8 pounds, 11 ounces, and measuring 21.5 inches long.
Linden is already adored by his big sisters, who show their affection by trying to pet every tiny adorable part of him and fighting over who gets to hold him for how long.
Our family of four is now a family of five and I'm already discovering the new joys of being a mother of three, a mother of a son...and part of a parenting team that is officially outnumbered!
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