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District 5 Supervisor Lynda Hopkins

News From The Fifth - Lynda Hopkins Newsletter

Aug 14, 2018
by Lynda Hopkins, 5th District Supervisor - Sonoma County

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Hello West County!

While it may be summertime, our office has been busier than ever this After a five-hour hearing, our Board of Supervisors approved stricter rules governing cannabis businesses and farms. Our revisions to the original ordinance continue to allow for production and sales of recreational cannabis products, but a new requirement will mandate that cultivation permit applicants operate on at least 10 acres of property. The Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission directed staff to pursue further revisions to enhance neighborhood compatibility. In addition, to support regulatory certainty, the Board approved increasing the term permits for zoning and use permits from one year to 2 and 5 years, respectively. We also established 1,000-foot setbacks for public parks and reduced penalty rates from 25 to 10 percent to align with other tax penalties currently in place.
 
The public hearing on cannabis was just the first phase review of our cannabis policy, and staff will continue to balance cultivator and operator needs while honoring neighborhood concerns about safety and living conditions. I believe that cannabis has the potential to support diversification of agriculture and economic development in Sonoma County, but as we strive towards those benefits, we must protect rural neighborhood character and address the legitimate concerns raised by neighbors. It’s been wonderful to hear so many productive suggestions and comments on the topic from West County residents, and I am proud of our community for stepping up and engaging in this democratic process.
 
While we work on our cannabis policy, we are also juggling equally important initiatives, including:
  • Funding for our fire and emergency services, reducing fire risk and improving forest health in west county
  • Implementation of fire camera system and seeking funding for fire weather monitoring throughout Sonoma County
  • Addressing homelessness in the Lower Russian River area
  • Drafting onsite wastewater treatment system policy that abides with state requirements and makes (affordable) sense for our communities
  • Addressing our housing crisis so that county workers can afford to stay in Sonoma County
  • Establishing MACs for the Lower Russian River and Sonoma Coast
Cheers,
Lynda

Getting fire ready

The end of July brought massive fires to our northern California neighbors. From the recent Mendocino Complex to the devastating Carr fire in Redding, we are consistently reminded that we need to be fire ready, even as we continue to recover and rebuild from last October's storm.
 
Many of our local volunteer fire departments have kicked their fire prevention and rescue training efforts into gear. The Forestville Volunteer Fire Protection District has published a community evacuation plan. The maps, created by Geyserville Chief Marshall Turbeville, were constructed as guides to highlight routes of exit and exceptional situations in the Forestville neighborhoods.
 
Camp Meeker's fire department is working the community to spearhead a mock evacuation for the area, should a fire strike. More coastal, Bodega Bay CERT plans to hold a town hall meeting on Monday, Aug. 13 at the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District Station at 6 p.m. to discuss the chances of wild land fire in Bodega Bay. The meeting will cover conditions likely to cause a wild fire, how to prepare your property and self and what to expect should a fire ignite.
 
SoCo Firefighters
The Sebastopol Fire Department recently completed animal rescue training, making it one of two large animal rescue teams in the county. During a recent town hall with State Senator Mike McGuireSebastopol Fire Chief Bill Braga said the department is working harder than ever, focusing on fire prevention as well as training its 32 volunteer firefighter crew. According to Braga, our earlier fire seasons is forcing him, as Fire Marshall, to enforce the city's vegetation ordinance three months earlier than usual.
 
It's true; Senator McGuire spoke about it during his town hall meeting, explaining the definition of the term, 'new normal' that we throw around so often. The 'new normal' we talk about is a world with a hotter climate, wildfires that are larger in size and scope and that are burning longer and hotter than ever before. State legislation is working on bringing more funding to wildfire prevention, but its a slower process than we'd like. Locally, the county has allocated funding for more staffing during our longer fire seasons and for infrastructure improvements. We want to make sure that when a fire strikes west county, we're ready.

MAC Maps

The long-awaited draft boundary maps for the Sonoma County Coast and Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Councils are ready. We are asking residents in each MAC region to provide feedback on the proposed boundaries. Specifically for River MAC, we are seeking input on the proposed districts.

Downloadable maps are available on Supervisor Hopkins' website.

Email feedback to Amie Windsor at amie.windsor@sonoma-county.org.

Lower Russian River MAC residents will also have an opportunity to provide feedback during a third town hall meeting on Saturday, Aug. 18 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Guerneville Elementary School.

The Lower Russian River MAC includes: Forestville, Rio Nido, Hacienda, Guerneville, Vacation Beach, Monte Rio, Villa Grande, Cazadero proper and Duncans Mills.

Lower Russian River MAC Map

The Sonoma County Coast MAC includes: Valley Ford, Bodega, Bodega Bay, Jenner, Timber Cove, Fort Ross, West Cazadero and the Sea Ranch.

Sonoma Coast MAC Map

Homelessness in West County decreases

Many of you have likely already read articles about the homeless report, or perhaps you’ve read the report yourself (If you haven’t, note the link to the report at the end of this article). As such, I won’t go into the nitty gritty detail of it, but I’d like to highlight a few key points:
 
Our overall homeless population increased countywide over last year but decreased in West County; the 2018 count tallied 214 homeless people in unincorporated West County and 69 in Sebastopol, a decrease of 36 and two, in each respective area.
 
The report suggests that the October 2017 firestorm played a big role in the increase in the county’s homeless population. The report doesn’t go into why West County saw a decrease in numbers, but I think the efforts of our local nonprofits, supported by the county, were integral in having more people in more houses than before.
 
I have to thank the great nonprofits we have working with the county’s Community Development Commission – the programs they have implemented with the $1 million we received mid-2017 are starting to show real results. According to Tim Miller, executive director for West County Community Services, 62 individuals have been housed using the homelessness funding. Miller said only eight individuals were housed prior to the point-in-time count, adding that the drop in numbers of homeless in West County has only increased since February. 
 
Read about the work of our other nonprofit agencies here.
 
And access the 2018 Homeless Point-In-Time Count here.

Water Plan Update

The Russian River Watershed Pilot is well on its way, working with county, regional and state agencies to update the California Water Plan. The pilot, one of two in the state, was established by the state water board to establish practices and procedures that will place the Russian River watershed at the forefront of watershed conversation and resource management. The effort focuses on protecting and enhancing the Russian River’s natural resources for our communities and from our communities.
 
The Pilot was borne out of the Russian River Confluence, a group of stakeholders from both Mendocino and Sonoma counties dedicated to driving community toward a healthy, resilient and regenerative Russian River watershed. The Pilot’s purpose is to establish a sustainable, resilient Russian River watershed through collaborative actions and efforts. It isn’t an easy task by any means, but they’re making headway. So far, they’ve established that solutions need to be intra-agency and with multiple benefits. But a major roadblock prevents them for even conjuring such solutions: funding. Currently, federal and state grants used for watershed conservation and resource enhancement projects are so specific that very little can actually be achieved. The Pilot wants to focus on freeing such funds from their current soiled system so they can actually see big picture projects achieved.
SoCo Beach
 
If it sounds high level, it is. But the Pilot’s work comes down to this: In order to make the Russian River the best Russian River it can be for all stakeholders, we need to work together to create solutions that will protect and enhance its resources now and well, well into the future.
 
Before the solutions comes the road map, which the Pilot is working on concluding. The draft state Water Plan is set to be published in late September, with a public comment period and public comment workshop occurring in October. The final report will be finished in early November before the California Economic Summit on Nov. 15 and 16.
 
To learn more about the Russian River Watershed Pilot, click here.

Go Green!

The Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District is offering a grant and rebate program to support the development and proliferation of a clean air, electric vehicle community in our district. The fossil-fuel transportation sector accounts for roughly 65 percent of the state's greenhouse gas emissions. It also emits toxins, fine particulates and pollutants, which form smog in the air we breathe. A transition to an EV community protects our air quality and fights climate change.
 
Go Green! offers grants for public chargers and rebates for home chargers and EVs to residents of the Northern Sonoma County Air Pollution Control District. This program is separate (but can be used concurrently) from Sonoma Clean Power's Evergreen program. The grant application forGo Green! is open from Aug. 1 to Nov. 16.
 
To learn more about Go Green!, click here.
To learn more about Sonoma Clean Power's Evergreen program, click here.

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