Monday-Friday
6A        Morning Edition
9A        Music
3P        Fresh Air
4P        All Things Considered
6:30P  The Daily

7P        Eclectic After Dark
banner101 3
     LOCAL NEWS
{cbscrollpane height="540" width="1000" }
Aug 18, 2022

Healdsburg approves new surveillance tech

Noah Abrams
Lights, camera, Orwell? Following the trend of more than 100 cities across California, Healdsburg moved closer to erecting Automatic License Plate Readers, ALPR’s, at the city’s major entry and exit points. Considered by law enforcement a tool for investigating crimes, they're also a cause of alarm for civil liberties groups. Healdsburg police chief Matt Jenkins said the system doesn’t gather data on the occupants of a vehicle, but does capture identifying features. "ALPR technology goes beyond just reading the license plate." Jenkins told council members. "It is also able to detect the type of car, whether it's a sedan, a truck, it can detect the color of the vehicle and certain characteristics like a lumber rack. So the system would allow us to search using certain parameters like that." One concern raised over the use of ALPR’s - concerns the undocumented, federal intervention and deportation. Jenkins however said safeguards are in place. "There's two state legislations." Jenkins said. "The Values Act and the Cares Act that prohibit agencies in California from cooperating with federal immigration officials for the purposes of immigration enforcement. So those acts have been codified into government code that would prohibit us from doing that. It is also prohibited within the policy." But one commenter at Tuesday's council meeting channeled community concerns - saying they are no laughing matter. "I do think it's dangerous to laugh implications around immigration." The…
Aug 16, 2022

Lake Pillsbury could be drained - advocates see it as indispensable

Noah Abrams
Another lawsuit was filed this week in the continuing saga of the Potter Valley Project, a hydroelectric plant affecting the Russian and Eel Rivers. PG&E is in the early stages of surrendering control of the Project - a pair of dams, a diversion tunnel, and a hydro-electric station along the Eel River - and some groups are hoping the surrender will result in California’s next dam removal project. Others, not so much. "This is a regional water issue and multiple counties are involved and it has everything to do with the drinking water in Mendocino, Sonoma, and Marin counties." Carol Cinquini, a local advocate said. "It has everything to do with fire protection in, in those counties." "I like where I live, but it's getting hard to live here without knowing that I'm gonna have a steady water supply." And those of the words of Frank Lynch. Both Cinquini and Lynch are with the Lake Pillsbury Alliance, a nonprofit that advocates for the lake’s preservation. Filled 100 years ago by the completion of Scott Dam, Lake Pillsbury is in many ways the lynch pin of the Potter Valley Project. "Started out, they built the diversion point at Van Arsdale, which is 12 miles downstream from Lake Pillsbury in 1908, as a means to create power initially for the Potter Valley and Ukiah area, and also the supply water of the Potter Valley area." Lynch said. "And then in 1922, they realized they couldn't control the flows enough to sustain that power and water supply on a year round basis. So in 1922,…
Aug 15, 2022

Sheriff's Office releases body cam footage, audio in Chavez killing

Noah Abrams
Newly-released video and audio is shedding further light on the shooting of 36-year-old David Pelaez-Chavez by a Sonoma County sheriff deputy August 5th. Released Sunday afternoon via the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, the 11-minute video includes body camera footage from both officers involved and a slow-motion breakdown of the shooting. As well as audio recordings from two separate 911 calls placed by residents who had confrontations with Pelaez-Chavez the morning of the incident. A warning, we are airing some of the audio. One resident described an interaction with Pelaez-Chavez to 911 dispatch. "He was just up here asking me to kill him," the homeowner told the operator. "The man was up here with [unintelligible] three rocks, asking to kill him." Dispatch says, "Just a sec, I have to tell them that, ok?" The released body cam video includes footage from both deputies. Pelaez-Chavez can be seen running away, and the deputies attempting to engage and issue commands in Spanish, before yelling commands in English while chasing Pelaez-Chavez into Franz Creek. Pelaez-Chavez can be seen in the video shoe-less and yelling upwards at a sheriff's helicopter circling overhead, while holding a hammer and hand tiller in his left hand, and a large rock in his right. Pelaez-Chavez drops one rock, before being shot three times while bending over to pick up a second rock. [audio of shooting] The deputies say they attempted to provide medical care before a paramedic was…
Aug 12, 2022

Santa Rosa temporarily caps vacation rentals

Noah Abrams
VRBO, AirBnB, Homeaway - the name of the app may be different, but short term rentals have drawn the ire of neighbors all the same. Santa Rosa is the latest local city to put limits on them. "We live in hell, we live with beer pong. They're drinking, they're partying. I've been yelled at and screamed at for doing yard work." One commenter said. "Why is a city allowing an unmanned commercial business in a residential neighborhood?" Said another. "You have asked a city department that works only weekdays to invest and levy fines for violations that occur mainly on the weekends." Another remarked. For nearly two hours Tuesday Santa Rosa residents aired comments and complaints about short term, or vacation rentals, within the city. Ultimately the Santa Rosa city council chose to cap the number of short term rentals where a resident is not present, also known as non-hosted STR’s, at 198 - down from the 215 suggested by staff. Mayor Chris Rogers said the freeze, adopted as a temporary urgency ordinance, is needed while permanent regulations are crafted. "We need to make sure that we are crafting rules before we have too many people in the process." Rogers said. "And so until we actually have our rules in place long term, I think that it's reasonable for us to put a cap in place." One commenter, Charles Metz, pushed back on some concerns voiced over short term rentals. "In 2021 when we first opened up after lock-down, non hosted vacation rentals were among the first to open up…
Aug 12, 2022

"Strong recommendations" but no COVID requirements as schools reopen

Marc Albert
COVID is again spreading virulently in Sonoma County, but sending fewer people to hospitals. As schools open, precautions against the disease will be largely voluntary. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County's health officer laid out the reasoning at a meeting Wednesday. "Even though we're seeing a lot of transmission of COVID in the community, we are not considering a return to health orders or restrictions at this point. As school resumes, we will be operating under the latest California Department of Public Health guidelines, this includes a strong recommendation to continue wearing masks in indoor public settings, including classrooms." Recommendations, however strong, aren't mandatory. The county's office of education has other suggestions---hold large events outside, stagger dismissals so parents bunch up at school gates--but neither are required. Schools Superintendent Steve Herrington said adequate precautions are in place. "First and foremost, schools will remain open. There will not be a distance learning option. School will be the primary presenter of instruction. The reason for that is we have more tools to manage the illness. We have masks which have been distributed to every school site from the federal government. We have tests, which have been distributed to every school site and we have improved vaccines." Herrington said if and when an outbreak occurs, they'll be ready. "We are strongly recommending masking. We also know that should three or more students appear…
Aug 12, 2022

Santa Rosa looks to its housing future in updated plan

Quinn Nelson
Santa Rosa will have to build more than four thousand homes, apartments and other dwellings before 2031 to satisfy its state-mandated housing element. But what exactly is a housing element? Every eight years, the state assigns local jurisdictions a certain number of housing units that need to be met. Sonoma County's Housing and Community Development Office says these allocations are based on predictions the state makes about the future needs of the area and population growth. The housing element is the plan the city makes in order to meet these goals, as explained by Amy Lyle, a supervising planner for the city. “The housing element is one of the few areas where the state really does have a lot of control and a lot of regulation,” Lyle acknowledged. “We really don’t have a lot of local control as far as what’s included in the housing element, we just get to choose how we accomplish the state regulations.” The state dictates what types of units get built — cities must make sure they have enough housing for people of different income levels. The city also has limited control over how it’s all built. “We create streamlined policies and regulations to allow the development community to produce housing,” Lyle said. “But of course we don’t control construction costs or financing or anything of that sort, which is a lot of the hurdle right now, to actually get the housing built.” If the city fails to comply with their housing element, however, the consequences may be severe. “There…
Aug 11, 2022

County's SDC proposal would bring 2,400 residents, 1,000 homes to shuttered campus property

Marc Albert
A vibrant, new walkable town that's a refuge from modernity will rise between Glen Ellen and Eldridge over the next two decades if all goes according to plan. The new town would replace the shuttered Sonoma Developmental Center, a century plus residential treatment center for the developmentally disabled. The plans---officially a 'specific plan' and accompanying environmental documents were released Wednesday, capping a months long process as a preferred alternative took shape. Bradley Dunn with Permit Sonoma laid out the main points in a press conference Wednesday. "We are looking at up to a thousand units of housing with two hundred and eighty three affordable," Dunn said. "More than nine hundred jobs, which would provide diverse, living wage employment in an economy that is dominated by agriculture and hospitality. The plan includes open space protection for more than seven hundred fifty acres between Jack London Park and Sonoma Valley Regional Park and the preservation of Sonoma Creek and its tributaries." A wildlife corridor, a main concern of local environmentalists, would also be preserved. Environmental studies found adequate water supplies on-site and no major added risks during a wildfire evacuation. The plan calls for a road connecting the site with State Route 12. Additional bicycle paths and sidewalks, along with frequent bus service to Sonoma and Santa Rosa---with bus shelters and real time arrival information, is supposed to reduce traffic impacts. Adding…
Aug 10, 2022

More Sonoma County nurses grapple with pay issues

Noah Abrams
America’s healthcare system is stretched thin and that was before the myriad stresses of Covid. Now for some Providence Health nurses, payroll errors are adding to the pile of issues. Missing paid time off, base pay reductions, and unpaid hours are among the payroll issues at six Providence Health facilities, including Petaluma Valley Hospital, Santa Rosa Memorial, and Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa. Healthcare workers voiced their outrage at the paycheck errors they say are the fault of a new payroll system. Nurses working for Sutter Health protested the same exact situation earlier this month. Santa Rosa Memorial registered nurse Peter Brackner described issues at the hospital during a virtual press conference held by the National Union of Healthcare Workers Tuesday morning. He said the pay discrepancies have left precarious workers even more vulnerable. "With this pay system that they've introduced, we've had at least four of our brand new grads that didn't get a paycheck at all." Brackner said. "I live paycheck to paycheck as many of us do. I can't imagine to have worked two weeks and not get paid at all." In a statement, Providence said the new payroll system, called "Genesis", was introduced to integrate numerous outdated administrative processes, including payroll, timekeeping, and HR. Despite the issues, Providence said the majority of paychecks have been delivered on time and accurately. But Brackner said the pay discrepancies fit into a larger pattern…
Aug 10, 2022

Neighbors voice concerns over safety of proposed housing development

Noah Abrams
Hurting for water and hurting for housing - Santa Rosa is caught in a delicate dance as the city tries to balance its need for new homes. At a virtual neighborhood meeting Monday residents in a small West Santa Rosa neighborhood aired their grievances and concerns over a proposed new housing development. Crime, vagrancy, traffic, and noise topped the list of concerns. Called Alta Santa Rosa, the proposal includes just under 800 new multi-family homes, over 1500 parking spaces, and nearly 5,000 feet of retail space. Situated between Guerneville Road, Lance Drive, and Comstock Middle School - Alta Santa Rosa would be built on top of a largely undeveloped grassy lot. The major concern for residents neighboring the nearly 35 acre site: safety. "I was here during the Coffey Fire, that corner on Lance and Guerneville was blocked for about 45 minutes." One resident said. "Besides Lance emptying out into Guerneville Road. What other way can all of these 800, some people leave?" Said another. "I don't see it feasible to be able to evacuate north." A third resident added. Justin Neuroth, who lives on one of the two properties that make up the proposed development site, said he is in favor of the project - despite his future displacement. "I know a lot of neighbors like to walk down Lance Road and walk their dogs, but, we get a lot of unsavories that like to park down there, do all kinds of things." Neuroth said. "The owners of the property around us really do as little as possible to…
Aug 10, 2022

After Athena House closes, what next for Sonoma County treatment?

Quinn Nelson
Where can people struggling with substance abuse in Sonoma County go to get help? And who will provide it? Just some of the questions being raised after Athena House, the thirty-three year-old treatment center in Santa Rosa, closed its doors in July. For Jasmine Palmer, a former patient at Athena House, its closure will leave a large void. “Our county is number three in the state for the most fatal overdoses…so this population, they need more services," Palmer told KRCB News. "And it’s near and dear to my heart because I went through the program in 2011, and I know what it’s done for me and I’ve seen lots of other women have their lives changed because of it. And currently we have no treatment facilities…for anybody struggling that needs help…people have to go out of county.” Buckelew, a nonprofit that provides mental health and substance abuse services for the North Bay, has stepped in to support Palmer with fundraising. According to Patricia Gallagher, Buckelew’s chief philanthropy officer, they may try to fill the void Athena left. "We know what works to keep people on this journey to recovery and we believe an expansion in Sonoma would be logical for us, and we are exploring options there,” Gallagher said. Even with Buckelew’s support, Palmer said finding financial support has been challenging. A lot of people want to help, but to purchase a location, it’s going to take more private donors, which we don’t have at this point," Palmer said. "We’re probably around twenty…
Aug 10, 2022

Facing legal challenge on well permits, county supervisors delay decision

Marc Albert
After more than three hours of deliberations, officials punted on a proposal significantly changing how the county issues permits for water wells, pushing any decision to September or October at the earliest. While added scrutiny is coming, the board ultimately felt there were too many variables and too little public input to move forward. The county is under legal threat over contentions that it approves groundwater wells with no meaningful study. Environmentalists contend those wells are reducing water levels in protected streams--and killing protected species. Drevet Hunt with the California Coastkeeper Alliance, the group that brought legal action over how the county manages certain rivers and streams, called the proposal a start. But also one that fails to comply with the law. "The appropriate approach we believe would be to enact an emergency regulation that would pause the issuance of groundwater well permits," he said. Ultimately, that was a step the board opted not to take, though several members say they fear planning officials will be inundated with well applications once word spreads that a new, almost certainly more lengthy and costly process is imminent. "I am not supportive of a moratorium, because that is a de-facto moratorium on every building development in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County at this point. Like, we have areas that have good ground water," said Board of Supervisors Chair James Gore. To truly safeguard the area's protected rivers and…
Aug 09, 2022

Enviros suing county; say mismanagement is draining Russian River basin

Marc Albert
A revised county plan, adding additional reviews, water meters and other restrictions on new water wells in unincorporated Sonoma County...isn't enough to stave off a looming lawsuit. The suit accuses local officials of hurting protected species by pulling too much water from local watersheds. After the environmental group California Coastkeeper Alliance signaled they would not drop their lawsuit, county staffers moved quickly to revise proposed changes to the county's well ordinance. While officials are set to debate the provisions Tuesday, the organization has already reached a verdict. Drev Hunt is legal director of the Coastkeeper Alliance. "The county's proposal to adopt this ordinance is a partial solution, but it doesn't go far enough." Coastkeeper's suit follows a 2018 appellate ruling which found some aquifers are interconnected with rivers and streams, and as such, deserve similar protections to those provided to navigable rivers under federal and state statute. Daniel Cooper is an attorney at Sycamore Law, which is suing the county. He said the litigation's goal isn't to upend rural life, but to assure it can continue without further harm to salmon, steelhead and other endangered species. "We're not proposing drastic changes to people's lifestyles or that everyone has to have a low-flow showerhead, but there does need to be a holistic analysis of what the county's doing and do it. And, that's not what the ordinance proposes, the ordinance, it mouths the right…
Aug 09, 2022

Palaez Chavez, killed by sheriff deputy, remembered at solemn vigil

Marc Albert
Led by clergy, and adding a solemn, contrast to an otherwise festive Friday evening in Courthouse Square...about 100 people gathered for an hour-long vigil memorializing David Palaez Chavez, a week after he was killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy. Family members, many having driven from as far as Fresno, stood stoic, still coming to grips with tragedy. Chavez's elder brother Jose briefly addressed the crowd, with translation provided by members of the North Bay Organizing Project. (English translation) "It hurts me that after murdering my brother, now they are murdering who he was. For us, he was a son, a brother a family father and a hard worker. My brother did not deserve to die like this. He was a good man. A happy, joyous man" Local activist Robert Evans, a leader in local efforts for law enforcement reform, said only forceful public pressure would assure a thorough and fair investigation. "The only way any measure of police accountability has happened in Sonoma County, since I've been working on this for 20 years here, is by the demand of the will of the people."
Aug 05, 2022

Deputy who shot and killed Chavez exonerated in similar 2016 incident

Marc Albert
Marin authorities say it will be weeks before a cause of death or other information regarding a fatal shooting involving Sonoma County sheriff's deputies can be released. Chief Deputy Coroner Roger Fielding told KRCB News it will be up to six weeks before a cause of death or other information can be shared, pending the completion of a toxicology report. Authorities are investigating the death of thirty-six-year-old David Chavez , who was killed last Friday in a confrontation with law enforcement. Chavez had allegedly attempted to enter two different remote estates east of Healdsburg, breaking a window at each. According to the sheriff office's narrative released Monday night, nearly four days after the killing, deputies pursued a barefoot Chavez for forty five minutes through thick brush after Chavez allegedly stole and crashed two vehicles. The pursuit ended in the bed of Franz Creek. According to an official report by Santa Rosa Police, Deputy Michael Dietrick who fired his weapon, and Deputy Anthony Powers have been placed on paid administrative leave. Last week's incident wasn't Dietrick's first fatal encounter with a suspect. In March 2016, while serving with Clearlake police, Dietrick fatally shot a burglary suspect during a struggle. Dietrick was exonerated following an investigation by the Lake County Sheriff's office. The District Attorney there declined to file charges. A year later Dietrick became a Sonoma County deputy. A vigil in Chavez's memory is being planned…
Aug 05, 2022

Officials urgent appeal: conserve water now

Marc Albert
Water supplies are running low across Sonoma County, while long range forecasts and a recent federal decision are likely to intensify local shortages. "We're in a significant drought. Conserve water. Every drop counts," County Supervisor James Gore told a drought town hall Thursday. Long range forecasts suggest La Nina type conditions continuing into the rainy season. The atmospheric condition typically shifts the jet stream northward, according to Christopher Godley with the Sonoma County Office of Emergency Services. "Next year we could have more significant impacts than those we are currently facing. Saving water now while it's easy is going to be easier than trying to save water when it's harder." This week federal energy regulators approved utility PG&E's request to abandon it's Potter Valley Project...sharply cutting the amount of Eel River water funneled into the Russian River. "Because of this, there's going to be significantly less water coming from up north, from Lake Pillsbury, through the Potter Valley Project into the east fork of the lake and down into lake Mendocino. As a result there's going to be less to pump out of the Russian River and we're all going to be impacted, Gore said." Additional containment orders could come Friday. Gore said individual responsibility and collective action can ease pressure on water supplies. "Just like fire preparedness, everything you do each and every day makes a difference. Conservation has to be a way of life for us in…
Aug 04, 2022

Petaluma adds temporary tenant protections

Noah Abrams
This week Petaluma’s city council meeting stretched late into the night over a contentious tenant protection ordinance. Aiming to have tenant protections in place before county-wide eviction bans expire, Petaluma took up discussion of a new ordinance on short notice, prompting a flood of public comments. The proposed regulations addressed a number of aspects of tenant rights outlined in state law - going beyond what is already mandated by the 1985 Ellis Act and 2019’s Tenant Protection Act. Keith Becker reflected the feelings of many landlords and property managers objecting to what they said is an overreach of city policy. "If you pass an ordinance like this, you will not have small investors." Becker said. "You will only have large corporations and hedge funds who will be willing to invest in Petaluma for single family residences, because they are the only ones who are prepared to commit." The local law offers things like moving assistance equal to 100% of a months rent if a tenant is evicted by the withdrawal of a property from the rental market - even more if the displaced tenant is low-income, elderly, or disabled. Diana Kingsbury, a tenant organizer, implored the council to adopt the additional protections. "I've heard from a lot of tenants about a lot of issues that they're afraid to even bring up to their landlord because there's that ever present threat of eviction." Kingsbury said. "Tenants are the ones that are paying the landlord's mortgages with their own hard…
Aug 03, 2022

New housing in Sebastopol moves forward

Noah Abrams
Environmental reviews and zoning regulations are so often the sworn enemies of housing development. “Workforce housing” - is new the term used by local governments and advocates looking to fill a housing gap for the many struggling to find affordable accommodations close to their jobs. Despite the normal hurdles, one new housing project has gotten the go ahead from the Sebastopol city council though, and while small, it may offer an example for more infill housing in the future. City officials agreed to allow a zoning exception for four new townhouses along Main Street. It's in an area normally reserved for commercial use - and in what can be a rare feat with housing projects, the move was met with approval from neighbors, who spoke at this week's council meeting. "So it's gonna be good to have more housing, even though we're gonna be impacted." One neighbor said. "I live right behind here." Said another. "Thank you for keeping me in mind with everything that you guys are doing. It's been totally professional." One commenter did express concern over increased water use because of new units, but council members were unanimously in favor of the new development, with one even commenting on design elements. Council member Una Glass: "If I can get on my soapbox here, I think front porches ought to be for people to sit in where they can actually be interacting with their community and neighbors, rather than it being like a little narrow thing that you're gonna fall off of." Glass…
Aug 03, 2022

Investigation underway into fatal shooting by county deputy

Marc Albert and Noah Abrams
Santa Rosa Police and the Marin County Coroner's office are investigating the shooting death of 36 year old David Chavez of Lower Lake by a Sonoma County deputy Friday. An autopsy was underway Tuesday. Santa Rosa Police spokesman Sergeant Christopher Mahurin said results of a toxicology report would likely take several weeks. The shooting occurred in a creekbed Friday morning, where deputies had caught up with Chavez after he reportedly bushwacked a mile barefoot through thick brush. "Was there any narcotics or drug use that also caused some of his behavior to escalate the way that it did, and like, again, you talked about run with no shoes over a forty five minute period over a mile through areas which normal people would not be doing without proper footwear," Mahurin said. According to the sheriff's official account, over the course of two hours Friday, Chavez allegedly shattered a window at two homes in a rural area near Healdsburg, stole and crashed two vehicles, fled on foot through rugged terrain and threatened deputies with hand tools and a large rock when confronted. According to Mahurin, Deputy Michael Dietrick fired three rounds. It's unclear how many struck Chavez. At one of the residences, the homeowner fired two warning shots. Police claim Chavez urged the homeowner to shoot him before leaving. While paramedics were staged in the area, a helicopter was needed to reach the scene, delaying treatment for about half an hour. While the county operates mobile support…
Aug 01, 2022

SoCo Sheriff's Office releases name, narrative about man killed by deputies

Katy St. Clair/Bay City News
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office has released the identity of the man killed in an officer involved shooting on Friday as well as more information about the killing. 36-year-old David Pelaez Chavez of Lower Lake was shot and killed by a deputy after officers said they repeatedly asked him to drop a claw hammer and a tiller and threatened to throw a rock. According to the sheriff's office, its communication center first received a phone call at 7:30 a.m. on Friday about a suspicious vehicle in the 10000 block of Highway 128 in Geyserville. The vehicle had initially arrived there at 5:30 a.m., the sheriff's office said. Deputies arrived and found a silver Nissan with no one inside; the car was not stolen and no crime appeared to have occurred, they said. At 8:20 a.m., the call center again received a report of a suspicious situation at a residence in the 5200 block of Tre Monte Lane in Healdsburg. The resident said that someone had just tried to use a rock to break a window at his home. A follow-up interview revealed that the homeowner said Chavez walked onto his property carrying large rocks. He was not wearing any shoes. The resident said he armed himself for his own safety. Chavez allegedly walked over to the exterior door of a bedroom and used a rock to smash the windowpane of the door, deputies said. The armed homeowner told Chavez to leave, firing off two warning shots to get the point across. Chavez then encountered an employee of the homeowner, forced him away from his…
Aug 01, 2022

New airport hotel clears county approval

Noah Abrams
New developments within Sonoma County can be a challenging proposition for even the most determined builders. On paper, the Hyatt Place Wine Country Hotel has slick aerodynamic features, roof-top views, and a shady tree-lined lot. Despite some push back, the plans have been cleared for take-off. Over three years on from initial proposal, is closer to construction after the county board of supervisors recently signed off on the project's environmental documents. The 165-room, six-story hotel, with a 150-plus-seat rooftop restaurant is slated to be built on one of the few remaining undeveloped lots near the Sonoma County Airport. Claudette Diaz with Permit Sonoma said as part of the approval process, the developers promised to help pay for community improvement projects. "Funding to the Sonoma County Fire District, dedication of county rite of way and maintenance, a fair share contribution." Diaz said. That means the developers will give a $250,000 contribution towards a new fire engine, cover maintenance and repairs for sidewalks and landscaping in certain areas, and contribute about 15 percent for future intersection improvements. "This is about as good a spot for a hotel as I could imagine, a five minute walk to and from the airport." Eric Price said. An architect for the project, he claims it will be efficient with water and energy use. "We're using majority of low water use plants like olive trees, black oaks." Price said. "We are looking at incorporating a solar array.…
Jul 28, 2022

Cannabis operation holds off neighbor's opposition

Noah Abrams
Sonoma County officials recently weighed in again on the operation of a controversial cannabis farm in Petaluma on Purvine Road. Along this bucolic stretch of farmhouses and green fields within Petaluma’s so called “Dairy Belt” a fight over cannabis has been waged with searing intensity for the past four years. On one side is Sonoma Hills Farm, a self described “premium craft cannabis” farm, the other side, a group of unhappy neighbors. County officials recently denied an appeal which aimed to stop Sonoma Hills Farm’s cultivation activity, with water use a major point of contention. Appellant Sanjay Bagai claimed Sonoma Hills Farm’s water well capacity projections can't meet its water needs. "All residents around this cultivation insisted that these projections were incorrect and inaccurate." Bagai said. "A 72 hour well test was scheduled by PRMD, but then mysteriously withdrawn. So all we have on record is a well test report from 1977, which clearly shows that there is not enough water to support this cannabis cultivation." But county staff said their investigations into water use at the site have actually shown water use well *below* the maximum allowable use. "Actual water use in 2020 was 1.2 acre feet and actual water use in 2021 was 1.1 acre feet." According to Crystal Ackler, a supervising planner for the County. "In both years, the actual water use was below the estimated use and also below the limit set by the condition of approval." Sonoma Hills Farm business…
Jul 27, 2022

Restraining order stands, county prevented from clearing Joe Rotoda Trail encampments

Greta Mart
A temporary restraining order against Sonoma County and the city of Santa Rosa remains in place for the time being. That’s what a federal judge ruled Wednesday in an unusual case; one in which local unsheltered individuals are representing themselves in court. The case is Mcloud v. County of Sonoma et. al. and in a federal court building in downtown Oakland, Denise Mcloud and co-plaintiff Brian Barnard asked the judge to continue to block local officials from clearing their encampment along the Joe Rodota Regional Trail. In an emotional appeal, Barnard said he couldn’t face moving yet again. One of plaintiffs’ arguments was that despite the county offering temporary shelter as an alternative to living along the trail, it’s only for 30 days, and then what? “The placements are temporary…if they don't pass a background check they're back on the street,” said Denise Mcloud, speaking to KRCB after the hearing. She said she and the other people living along the trail want somewhere safe to be. “We've never made it impossible for [trail users] to not have a path,” Mcloud said. “We clean up after ourselves, when we leave a spot, we don't leave it dirty for the county to come and clean up after us. We do that ourselves. So hopefully, you know, I'm gonna come back, ready to fight again.” While District Judge Haywood Gilliam, Jr. said he didn’t believe the plaintiff’s had “freestanding rights to occupy this property indefinitely”, he wanted to get to the bottom of what the county and…
Jul 27, 2022

SRPD shines light on military equipment arsenal

Noah Abrams
Police departments across California are being compelled to transparency in unprecedented ways. Projectile launchers, chemical agents, and armored vehicles are just some of the gear designated “military equipment” by AB 481. AB 481 is a 2021 state bill aimed at promoting police transparency and protecting civil rights. As part of the bill’s requirements, this week the Santa Rosa Police Department disclosed its equipment; and it needed a sign off from the city council on how the department uses that equipment. The SRPD has eight of the eleven items designated in AB 481. Police Captain Dan Marincik detailed the current inventory and said the equipment is necessary to help in situations like active shooters or high risk arrests. "They really just, they give us those options that we need to safely resolve, really, these violent, volatile incidents and to maintain the safety of our community." Marincik said. "Again, these are infrequent events, that doesn't mean we can't be prepared for them, and we need to have the effective tools in our place to be able to deal with them and, and really maximize the safety to the community and to us as well." Members of the public balked at the inventory and use policies though. Commenter Alyn Wolves decried the department’s need for “military equipment”, which he said is more likely to be turned against residents than violent criminals. "So all of this is just fear mongering." Wolves said. "So police can have new shiny toys. When these weapons…
Jul 27, 2022

Nearly extinct white abalone possibly on road to recovery

Marc Albert
Fished to near extinction, abalone, the hard-shell giant mollusks are about as rare as a marine hen's tooth. Two decades of strict protection under the federal Endangered Species Act have yet to reverse more than a century of overfishing. But an extreme federal effort underway in Sonoma County is showing promise to rescue one sub-species--the rare white abalone from oblivion. Burbling water and the hum of refrigeration units drown out the crashing waves on a windswept rise near Bodega Head. Inside a non-descript shed, a small team of scientists are working to give this vanishing species a future. "They broadcast spawn, which means males release sperm, females release eggs, they go up into the water column, they meet, they become babies and they settle back down." That's Alyssa Frederick, a post doc with the captive white abalone breeding program at UC Davis' Bodega Marine Lab. The method worked fine until industrial scale fishing and a wasting disease erased their abundance. "They are really, really bad about long distance relationships, so when there's only one percent of them left, there, there aren't males and females close enough together to make babies out in the wild."
Jul 26, 2022

Programs to help small farms get added state funding

Noah Abrams
Drought and wildfires have hit small farms in Sonoma County hard. For many farmers and grape growers along the Russian River, 2021 was a harsh wake up call. Stringent water rights curtailments left many unable to water crops during a critical point in the harvest season. One such farmer was Rebecca Bozzeli, who runs Lantern Farm, perched along the Russian River in Cloverdale. Bozzeli said 2021’s curtailment orders brought her operation to a halt. "Probably an acre of land uses about five to 10,000 gallons a week." Bozelli said. "What the state wanted us to use, or what they were allowing us to use was 6,000 gallons a month. We basically had to stop farming." Evan Wiig is with CAFF, the California Alliance for Family Farms. it helps connect small farmers like Bozzeli with state funds for drought relief. Wiig said this year’s state budget includes needed funding "Farmers are dealing with more today than they have in living memory." Wiig said. "Farmers wells are going dry. Our reservoirs are being depleted; and so the funding that we got passed, $43 million is going to go directly to programs that would provide direct funds for farms who are struggling most during this drought." CAFF, whose mission is to promote sustainable, just, and equitable farming practices, celebrated a number of other farming programs which recently received an influx of money in the 2022 state budget. "This is something that CAFF advocated for, trying to get funds to help farmers transition to ecological…
Jul 26, 2022

Fates of fish and flow of the Eel River still uncertain

Noah Abrams
The Potter Valley Project is a century-plus-old hydroelectric plant north of Ukiah. Owned by Pacific Gas and Electric, it transfers water from the Eel River to the Russian River, providing drinking water to many in Sonoma County. But big changes are on the way. "Everyone who is a PG&E customer is currently paying PG&E to run these facilities, kill fish and not determine the proper solution." Redgie Collins said. "They need to step up to the plate and be the stewards in the environment that they claim to be in order to move this process as quickly as possible." That's how Collins, with the conservation group California Trout, described PG&E's handling of the Potter Valley Project. Cal Trout’s criticism follows a letter to federal agencies claiming PG&E fails to protect endangered salmon and trout populations in the Eel River, below the dams of the Project. On behalf of the utility, PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras said in a statement emailed to KRCB the company is “strongly committed to environmental responsibility,” and that PG&E runs the Potter Valley Project in full accordance with federal regulations. That's including how many endangered fish can legally be killed, otherwise known as incidental take, under its operating license. Fish protection is part of a larger fight over the future of the Potter Valley Project, which consists of two dams, a powerhouse, and a water diversion tunnel between the Eel and Russian rivers, all of which PG&E is in the process of…
Jul 22, 2022

Researchers looking for local wildfire victims to tell their stories

Quinn Nelson
In recent years, wildfires have kept devastating Sonoma County, a trend that may only increase as climate change progresses. So why do so many people opt to return after fires like Tubbs, Kincaid or Glass? A team of researchers at the State University of New York at Albany have designed a study focusing on how something called 'place attachment' influences where people choose to live following a disaster. “Place attachment is really a concept that captures the emotional and functional paths that people have to place and where they live,” said SUNY Albany Professor Alex Greer. “So it’s the idea that your home, or your community, is more than just what it's made up of, it's also the memories you’ve made there, the fact that you’ve raised children there…but also the functional paths, the things like it’s affordable, it has easy access to the bus line…it’s all those components that make place special for someone.” Researchers will use a unique method called photovoice, an approach that lets survivors of a disaster tell their own story. “Photovoice is a process where…you ask them to take photographs over a two or three month period based on a set of prompts that you give them,” Greer explained. “So a prompt might be something like ‘take a photo of somewhere important to you,’ or ‘take a photo that encapsulates what you lost after the fire'…and the idea there is that if place is such an important concept in recovery decision-making and housing decision-making, then letting people…
Jul 22, 2022

Water savings from audits, better tech, adding up

Marc Albert
Small savings add up. With droughts seemingly longer and more frequent, utilities across California are begging customers to cut usage by a fifth. In Sonoma County, Santa Rosa's WaterSmart initiative, is helping that city go above and beyond. In a story last week, we took you along as utility technicians scoured homes for leaks, tested faucets and shared conservation strategies. In the second in our series, we focus on the incentives, encouragement and technology helping drive conservation. Though she'll miss croquet on a lush lawn, Sue Grave says she is prioritizing. "I want drinking water, and I want water for the next generations, you know, people after us too," Grave said. When Holly Nadeau with Santa Rosa Water pulled up to Grave's home off Mendocino Avenue near Santa Rosa High, it was hardly turf--more the color of the surrounding hills, cured by the summer sun. She informs Nadeau that she'd ceased watering, ahead of the visit. "I can see that," Nadeau replied with a laugh. "I know, at this point, thank you, we appreciate that you've been doing your part to conserve water, we would normally ask that folks, or require--in order to be prequalified--that the lawn's been maintained and regularly irrigated, but because of the drought we're not punishing people for helping us meet our water saving goals, so that's not a requirement at this time, it's suspended, for now, so I can see I can prequalify the front and now, I'll just have to see the backyard." Nadeau was…
Jul 20, 2022

Sebastopol adopts climate action framework

Noah Abrams
There's a lot to navigating our changing climate. To do so Sebastopol recently adopted a Climate Action Framework by a unanimous vote. It's a sort of a roadmap designed to guide the city towards climate resilience. Kenna Lee spoke on behalf of Sebastopol’s Climate Action Committee. "Climate resilience is the preparation and response to the effects of climate change." Lee said. "And the main effects that we see here in Sonoma County and in Sebastopol are fires, floods, drought, excessive heat, and that comes with issues of continuity of electricity." Phoebe Goulden, a fellow with AmeriCorps CivicSpark program who helped draft the framework, said it's a way for the city to meet its climate goals. "That's that carbon neutrality by 2030 by both reducing emissions and sequestering carbon from the atmosphere." Goulden said. "It's also preparing for the climate impacts that the city is already beginning to experience and ensuring that all community members and particularly those who are most vulnerable to climate impacts are included in these climate efforts." Of the major action areas to reduce emissions identified in the framework, transportation loomed large. With an estimated 45 percent of vehicle trips around the city involving only a single passenger, Goulden identified electric vehicle use as one area to reduce emissions. She said though, EV adoption in the city remains low. "One of the goals in the transportation section is to support a rapid equitable transition to…
Jul 20, 2022

Sonoma County keeps clean energy loan program going, for now

Greta Mart
For the foreseeable future, Sonoma County residents can continue to access low-interest loans to cover costs like retrofitting a house for earthquakes, installing a greywater or solar system on a ranch or buying a pool cover. There are now about 125 distinct projects eligible for county financing; the whole point is to reduce greenhouse gasses and fight climate change, "Through energy efficiency, water conservation, and renewable energy," said Jane Elias, one of the county staffers who runs SCEIP. That stands for Sonoma County Energy Independence Program, and for over a decade, it’s been helping county property owners be safer and save energy and water. Money is available for residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, multifamily and certain nonprofit projects. It has a fixed interest rate, now 6.99%. But there’s no money down, no income or credit qualifying and minimal fees. And it’s run by the county government, so there’s no profit-making incentive or shady deals. But SCEIP has ongoing financial issues. Once again, hat in hand, program staff had to go to the board of supervisors this month and ask for a loan to keep it going. "There's no surprise that we're here today," said Supervisor David Rabbitt. "Every time we've had the bond reauthorizations for the last, what, three, four times probably it's been…’around the corner, around the corner, what are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?’ The business model no longer works. SCEIP is losing money." Rabbitt says he…
Jul 19, 2022

Windsor begins recycled water program

Noah Abrams
photo credit: Courtesy of the Town of Windsor Water savings - it’s a necessity during this time of drought. Starting Wednesday, July 20th, Windsor residents will have a new opportunity to use recycled water. Permit purgatory had long put the kibosh on recycled water use for many Windsor residents. Thanks to a recent change in the Windsor’s state-level water permitting though, residents can now access recycled water, up to 300 gallons at a time, for irrigation use. Shannon Cotulla, Windsor’s Public Works Director, said the water is recycled from the city’s regular use. "The potable water that is used in our businesses and residents in the community, their waste water comes to our water reclamation facility and it goes through a multi-step treatment process." Cotulla said. "And it is ultimately generated as effluent and recycled water, which is then available for reuse." The program fill station is at Keiser Park on Windsor River Road. Mike Cave, with Windsor’s operations department, said interested residents can easily register for the program. "So it's a single page application, essentially." Cave said. "It would be the end user, the address and the approximate area that they would like to use the recycled water in. They can apply online right now in advance, and that's about it. We'll give them site supervisor training, the do's and don't s with their recycled water." The only notable concern from the recycled water use is runoff, which Cave said is a non-issue. "We don't…
Jul 18, 2022

Santa Rosa encouraging water conservation through free audits, rebates and expertise

Marc Albert
There's a lot of big ideas for solving California's perpetual water shortages. Desalinate ocean water. Tow giant bags of water or use a pipeline to pull water out of the mouth of the Columbia River. But there are also less ambitious and perhaps more practical ways too. The city of Santa Rosa is looking to help, one drip at a time. Thomas Hare and Holly Nadeau are water resource specialists from the Santa Rosa's water department, On a recent Wednesday, in the Oakmont district, they were welcomed to the home of Leslie and Greg Gossage...ready to get down to some detective work. "So, what I'd love to do is just start off by looking inside and testing the toilets for leaks, and then we'll take a look at all the flow rates for the sinks and the showers and then we'll come outside and take a look at the irrigation system and see if we can see any leaks and breaks, see if anything looks wrong," "OK, sounds good." The group crowds into one of the home's two restrooms. "We're going to throw a dye tablet into the toilet, it's just a blue, vegetable dye" According to Thomas, toilets can be a frequent culprit. "Toilets are sneaky, they can use thousands of gallons...seeping, so we're going to test how that seal is....and the water level looks fine on this one, good, good water level (laughter), absolutely (toilet tank lid clinks)." After losing a home to fire and staying in temporary housing, the Gossages moved to Oakmont in May. Typical of the neighborhood, the 35 year-old house is…
Jul 18, 2022

Santa Rosa considers saying "no more" to new gas station construction

Quinn Nelson
Santa Rosa may join Cotati, Petaluma, Sebastopol and Rohnert Park in becoming the latest city in Sonoma County to ban the building of new gas stations. With the state on track to end sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035, more and more cities are considering not allowing new station construction. “The idea is to allow modifications that will not expand fossil fuel infrastructure but that keep gas stations safe and operating as they are now," said project planner Shari Meads with the city of Santa Rosa, speaking at a recent planning commission meeting. Amy Lyle, with the city's planning division, said that researching gas stations has raised questions about environmental justice, especially in areas the division is calling “equity priority communities.” "The equity priority communities are the overlap of the areas with the lowest income and the areas with the highest percentage of people of color," said Lyle. "So we know that gas stations have an environmental justice aspect; that they do have a correlation with environmental hazards, water quality issues, air quality issues…it was very interesting to find that most of our gas stations are already located within those equity priority communities, so it really is impacting our most vulnerable populations.” The fact the proposed ordinance does not have any effect on existing gas stations has been difficult to navigate, according to Lyle. “That’s really the crux of the matter: how do you alleviate the issues that are already…
Jul 14, 2022

SoCo supes approve project to improve county response to floods and drought

Katy St. Clair/Bay City News
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved a project this week that the county hopes will improve its response to the threat of extreme weather and fires in the wake of climate change. The move will bring in more staffing and integrate agencies such as Sonoma Water and the county's Department of Emergency Management. The Drought Response and Flood Control Coordination Project, which was unanimously approved, aims to tackle at least five initiatives, all of which will need to come back before the supervisors for final approval. They include modeling and risk assessment for certain flood zones, Russian River water supply resiliency, protecting water quality, Alexander Valley water resource resiliency, and Green Valley Creek habitat and public safety improvements. Sonoma County is prone to "atmospheric rivers," according to Director of Emergency Services Christopher Godley and Grant Davis, general manager of Sonoma Water. The weather events are not very frequent but have intensified with climate change and have a big impact on flooding. Science magazine posted a study in 2019 that said Sonoma County had experienced the highest flood damages in the state over the period of 1978 to 2017, costing the county $5.2 billion in damage over 40 years. The ongoing drought emergency also brings threats of fires. Supervisor Susan Gorin said that "urgency requires" the county to act on these issues. Creating the project is not only necessary to ensure the best practices for disaster…
Jul 14, 2022

Hundreds turn out for pro-choice rally in Santa Rosa

Greta Mart
The Women's March Santa Rosa Reproductive Rights Rally saw people from around the North Bay gathering in Santa Rosa Wednesday evening to show support of reproductive rights and protest the recent US Supreme Court decision to overturn federal abortion protections. Many were holding colorful and clever handmade signs and waving to passing cars honking in solidarity. KRCB was there and asked people why they decided to come to Courthouse Square and join in the public rally. Here are some of their answers... That was Cameron Mason, Randi from Sacramento, Matthew Malik, Leslie Graves, Tess Phliger and Jay Mullano speaking to KRCB at a pro-choice rally in downtown Santa Rosa this week.
Jul 14, 2022

Sebastopol grants controversial alcohol permit

Noah Abrams
A local alcohol use permit has been given the go-ahead in Sebastopol. While that's not typically controversial, this heavily-scrutinized saga played out in an unlikely arena - the city's planning commission. First denied an alcohol use permit by Sebastopol's planning director, well-known Sebastopol restaurateur Lowell Sheldon successfully appealed that decision at Tuesday's commission meeting. Sheldon’s newest venture, Piala Georgian Cuisine, now has conditional approval from the city to serve beer and wine, which Sheldon calls essential to the business’ survival. His state-issued permit is now pending final approval. Sheldon was originally denied the alcohol permit following public testimony over his alleged behavior, including sexual assault and inappropriate workplace conduct. At a June 28th planning commission meeting, former employee Jesse Hom-Dawson described during public comment the alleged behavior she said Sheldon subjected her and others to. "I was the victim of his sexual harassment, an incident that can be confirmed by a formal investigation from an outside HR firm." Hom-Dawson said. "Many of Sheldon's letters of support mentioned making mistakes and how people deserve second chances harassing and assaulting women is more than a mistake. This is behavior that goes back over 13 years. When Sheldon tells you the problem is three disgruntled, former employees, not the consequences of his own actions. He does not understand the harm he has caused and has…
Jul 13, 2022

Petaluma unveils homeless action plan

Noah Abrams
Petaluma’s un-housed population has been at the center of multiple high profile events including fires, federal injunctions, and controversial encampment clearings. In an effort to reduce homelessness over the next three years, Petaluma has adopted a new strategic action plan. In recent years Petaluma has played host to a number of progressive local efforts and initiatives. The city has banned new gas station and fossil fuel infrastructure development, and has experimented with using a democratic lottery process to redevelop the Petaluma Fairgrounds. That outlook appears to extend to the city’s approach to homelessness. "The city has been showing a willingness to innovate." Andrew Henning said. "So there's the People's Village project; the city brought in Downtown Streets Team. There's the SAFE team, which is an alternative to law enforcement - in terms of emergency response." Andrew Henning is a consultant who helped Petaluma develop its recently adopted Strategic Action Plan to End Homelessness. Henning identified a separation from county services and a lack of landlord outreach as weak points in the city’s current approach. He said the strategic plan starts by looking at systemic issues. "People might be going through behavioral health issues that are leading people to a crisis situation that is leading them to homelessness." Henning said. "Either that person self-resolve their homelessness, the system prevents their homelessness or rapidly resolves it, or that person is…
Jul 13, 2022

Enviros call proposal inadequate; vow to press suit

Marc Albert
New rules that would add additional studies and raise the price of new ground water wells in Sonoma County aren't enough to end a legal challenge by environmentalists. The proposed rules are aimed at settling a lawsuit accusing the county of worsening the plight of endangered fish. Daniel Cooper, an attorney for the California Coastkeeper Alliance, said the initiative has no teeth. "This is not the solution. It's primary problem is there's just no standards. There's nothing there, it's entirely within the discretion of the enforcement agency or the Board of Supervisors as to what to do and how they would even determine if a new well would hurt fish. There's no criteria, there's no objective criteria whatsoever, it's all subjective hand waving at this point," he said. The proposed rules, released Monday, require hydrological studies of the impacts on certain waterways, including the Russian River, before a new well may be drilled. Cooper said the county's new plan is unlikely to prompt the suit to be dropped. "We'll probably be adding the ordinance, challenging the ordinance and adding that to our lawsuit." The group's legal challenge accuses county government staff of failing to consider the cumulative impacts of hundreds of groundwater wells. The Coastkeeper Alliance contends that makes local authorities derelict in their responsibilities to protect streams and rivers considered navigable waterways and thus subject to some federal protection. Despite strong words, Cooper…
Jul 12, 2022

West Sonoma County high school district eyes consolidation

Quinn Nelson
Public school districts in western Sonoma County might look different in a few years according to options laid out in a new report. The West Sonoma County Union High School District has asked experts to look at more consolidation. Outgoing county school superintendent Steve Herrington said financial strain moved the high school to consider merging with other districts. “They have a structural deficit, meaning that their program, and their operation as it now exists…has the need for changes," Herrington told KRCB. "And that’s why the high school district asked for the study. They know they have to make some changes.” Part of the problem is dwindling enrollment in county public schools, which has declined just over 16% in the past four years. "Sonoma County public schools has experienced a greater decline than the normal because of our four federal-aid disaster fires, one federal disaster flood, and the pandemic, and the cost of living," Herrington said. "When you look at west Sonoma County as a whole…the entire population base on that side of the county has had a greater decline than the metropolitan base." But the solution isn’t just as simple as combining districts. School districts are not all funded the same way. Some, called state-aid districts, get most of their money from California's statewide budget. Others, called community-funded or basic-aid districts, are funded entirely through property taxes. “All school districts are paid differently," said Linda Irving,…
Jul 12, 2022

Well permit fees to soar as board pressured to reduce stream impacts

Marc Albert
Digging a new well in some parts of Sonoma County may soon become a more expensive and lengthy process. All new wells would be metered and additional scrutiny will fall on applications for digging a new well near the Russian River and several other streams. The price of a well permit is also expected to more than double in many areas. That's the gist of proposed revisions announced Monday to the county's well ordinance, being pushed in response to an environmental lawsuit. The case, which is still ongoing, accuses local officials of ignoring cumulative impacts of groundwater pumping. The lawsuit was filed by California Coast Keeper. It seeks state intervention, arguing that an abundance of groundwater wells are depleting levels in the Russian River. Bradley Dunn of Permit Sonoma said only about a third of well permit applications should be impacted by the policy. "The Board of Supervisors is considering this action, which is really driven in part by a 2018 decision by the California court of appeals that found that state and counties have a public trust responsibility, and must include consideration of impacts to public trust resources when making groundwater decisions that could harm a navigable waterway." The proposed rules would cover the length of the Russian River, along with parts of Estero Americano, Salmon and Sonoma Creeks and the Gualala and Petaluma Rivers. Residential wells drawing two acre feet or less each year will not be subject to additional scrutiny. Those…
Jul 10, 2022

Petaluma receives $13 million for new rail station, bus improvements

Olivia Wynkoop/Bay City News
The city of Petaluma and the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District plan to deliver a second rail station and electrify busses after receiving a $13 million grant on Friday. The funds, which are provided by the California State Transportation Agency's State Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, will go mostly go towards the Petaluma North infill station and North McDowell Boulevard crossing upgrades. $3 million will help Petaluma Transit electrify and improve its bus fleet, as well as renovate bus stops. SMART Board of Directors Chair David Rabbitt said the city will see "greatly enhanced transportation option" with the new station and 4.4 miles of new SMART pathway from Penngrove to Downtown Petaluma. "We are grateful for the State of California's support, and we are thrilled to begin building Petaluma's transportation network of the future," Rabbitt stated. Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett said the grant money marks a "significant milestone," one that the city has been waiting for since SMART service began. "Not only will this funding deliver our east side station but will substantially bolster our transit fleet electrification efforts, helping us reach our 2030 climate neutrality goal," Barrett stated. "This successful regional partnership delivers for our community, our region and our future."
Jul 10, 2022

Santa Rosa city council to mull putting large pay raises for themselves on ballot

Katy St. Clair/Bay City News
A committee created to review Santa Rosa's city charter is recommending that the city council agree to adding a ballot measure in November that would greatly increase the compensation for council members as well as the mayor. The committee's findings and recommendations will be presented to the council at Tuesday's meeting. Cities in California have long grappled with city council compensation, which is by-and-large modest or bordering on poverty level in many municipalities. In Santa Rosa, council members are currently given $9,600 annually, paid in monthly stipends of $800, while the mayor receives $14,400 per year, amounts that have not changed since 2005. If a measure is introduced and passed this November, the elected officials will see a six-fold increase in their compensation. The committee's recommendation that elected council members be better compensated points to several things. Though the community observes the elected officials working at council meetings twice per month on average, behind the scenes, council members are expected to read and absorb a voluminous amount of reporting and analysis about everything from pavement condition indexes to fentanyl overdoses. They respond to constituents calls and emails, show up at community meetings and events, and many are expected to serve on other boards and commissions at the same time. Then there's the equity issue. Since pay for council members is far from a living wage, the position attracts retirees and other…
Jul 08, 2022

Drought similar to 2021, research suggests climate change is squeezing out 'normal' California winters

Marc Albert
Conservation will help the North Bay survive a third drought year, but growing signs suggest California winters are growing less and less reliable. Water supplies are about where they were last year at this time. Officials said at a town hall meeting hosted by Sonoma Water Thursday...that means a repeat of extreme conservation measures and more reliance on ground water should be enough. Brooke Bingaman, a forecaster with the National Weather Service, notes a fourth year of drought is possible. She says early analysis shows La Nina conditions may continue, at least though part of the coming winter. While La Nina is generally associated with drought in California, Bingaman said that's not always so. Nevertheless she said, significant long-term pattern changes are afoot. "What climate research is showing is that droughts are becoming more frequent and they are often lasting for more than just one year." Seasonal conditions are also growing more erratic, she says, citing last year. "October and December were very wet months, well above normal, but yet November, and especially January and February were extremely dry. Our winters now, it's no longer a gradual rain throughout those wet months, its feast or famine. We either get an atmospheric river that brings us a lot of rain all at one time, or we have periods where we are very dry and below normal." That's a problem when the state's reservoirs are designed to capture a steady stream of runoff or melting snow. In addition to…
Shinzo Abe
Jul 08, 2022

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is assassinated

Norcal Administrator
People across Japan are coming to terms with the shocking death of one of the nation's most influential modern leaders. More information and coverage from our partners at NHK here: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20220708_62/
Jul 07, 2022

Cotati bans new gas station development

Noah Abrams
High fuel prices remain a persistent concern across the state. But with an eye to a post-fossil fuel future, some cities in Sonoma County are preventing new fossil fuel infrastructure. Petaluma, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park, and now Cotati. The fourth and latest Sonoma County city to ban construction of new gas stations and fossil fuel infrastructure. Here's senior planner JP Harries speaking at a recent Cotati city council meeting: "There are currently five service stations in Cotati and another 11 in Rohnert Park." Harries said. "So there is abundance of gas stations. There's nobody that is burdened by not being close to a gas station. We have plenty, and when you get there, the lines are not long." Woody Hastings is with the Coalition Opposing New Gas Stations, advocating against new fossil infrastructure since 2019. He celebrated Cotati’s decision and said he sees it as part of a broader effort to transform our transportation infrastructure. "Let's not look at the snapshot of where things might be today or yesterday." Hastings said. "What is the trajectory here? And the trajectory is that fossil fuels will only increase in costs. Fossil fuels are finite fuels. It's not a question of whether we need to or should phase out of fossil fuels. It's a question of when." Hastings acknowledged the challenges presented by rising fuel costs, but said rising costs should be viewed as a catalyst to transition away from fossil fuels, not expand production of a finite resource. "All of the…
Jul 06, 2022

Sebastopol provides update on homelessness

Noah Abrams
Many in the RV’s and camper vans that once lined Morris Street in Sebastopol now reside in a sanctioned village. Sebastopol city staff recently provided an update on the months-old project. Elderberry Commons, Park Village, Horizon Shine. The three supportive housing sites within Sebastopol have met opposition, even as their purpose is to help alleviate homelessness. At a recent virtual town hall, Sebastopol councilmember Una Glass noted the success of Park Village, a renovated mobile home park that houses very low income and formerly homeless individuals. "The cost of running Park Village has gone down rather than gone up, even though we're housing more people." Glass said. "And that's because we're partnering with a nonprofit that knows how to bring more money to bear on the issue and on the problem and to provide the services." That partner is West County Community Services. WCCS's Dannielle Danforth: "Two of those new units were specifically pads for people and RVs that were living on Morris Street." Danforth said. "We've actually brought five units off of Morris Street, directly into Park Village and, and housed some of them." Adrienne Lauby, president of Sonoma Applied Village Services, or SAVS, spoke about their project Horizon Shine Village, that provides a space and services to most of the people formerly living on Morris Street. She said the first four and half months of the project have been mostly successful. "We don't have complaints from the immediate…
Jul 05, 2022

Local reaction to nation's new offshore drilling leases plan

Noah Abrams
Releasing controversial news right before a long holiday weekend: the classic tactic was used again July 1. This time it was by the Department of the Interior, which released a draft proposal to allow new offshore oil drilling. Quietly published on Friday afternoon, it's the newest proposed five-year program for the country's offshore oil and gas drilling. Released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a division of the Department of the Interior, the plan offers eleven new offshore drilling leases between 2023 and 2028. Ten in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Alaska. Valerie Cleland, with the National Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, said this draft program is in line with current policy, but not yet set in stone. "They do say that they would consider a plan that has no lease sales, but this is very much a business as usual offshore drilling plan." Cleland said. "The current five year plan is from the Obama administration and it also had 11 lease sales." Congressman Jared Huffman, who’s district covers much of Sonoma County, and who chairs the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife, condemned the plan. “Offshore drilling poses unacceptable risks, and the science and public opinion are clear: we should not put our…planet at risk just to enrich the fossil fuel industry." Huffman said in a press release. Cleland acknowledges Huffman’s efforts to stop offshore leasing, including legislation he introduced last year to protect West Coast and Alaskan…
Jul 05, 2022

Displacement, loss of rural lifestyle are top fears as Sonoma County launches search for thousands of building sites

Marc Albert
Rural aspects of the county would be plowed under, and those on the margins need protection from displacement were among the main themes as officials last week considered what to include in environmental studies of new, state-assigned housing goals. The county's must make it bureaucratically possible to add close to four thousand homes to rural and semi-rural parts of the county by 2031. Locals want officials to preserve rural character, and avoid displacement. Fred Allebach was among those who spoke last week, telling county planners they have a tall order. "This kinda puts the county in a bad spot," Allebach said. "But there's really nothing you can do, it seems like you're going to have to upzone and there's going to be the impacts and tough luck because there's 3,800 units that have to be accounted for." A bad spot may be an under statement. State officials, mindful of stratospheric home prices, have told the county it must clear the way bureaucratically for 3,881 new housing units to rise by 2031. The previous eight year period assigned the county 515 units. Those figures are for county administered areas only---each city has its own target. The county doesn't, and won't build homes. It will however, have to find places where building can happen, and if there isn't enough, change zoning rules until there is. Officials say the most likely route would be rezoning places considered 'urban service areas,' generally unincorporated towns. Allebach noted that boosting supply…
Jul 05, 2022

California's new budget includes historic funding for education

John Fensterwald and Yuxuan Xie/EdSource
California school districts, enjoy it, make it last and spend it wisely, because you may never see an education budget like the one that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Thursday. Total state funding for schools and community colleges will be $128 billion. That's a dramatic increase from 2011-12 when, in the depths following the Great Recession, districts and community colleges got $47.3 billion in funding from Proposition 98, the formula that determines how much of the state's general fund goes to TK-12 and community colleges. In 2022-23, the total increase in Prop. 98 funding alone will be $37.2 billion. Higher education funding also increased by 5% for general funding with new spending planned for Cal Grants, the state's financial aid program for college students. Inflation is running high, and staff shortages are big in many districts and charter schools. So a portion of that new money will cover rising costs, pay raises, new hires and a couple of billion dollars in districts' share of higher pension costs for teachers and other employees. The bulk of new money will go toward new programs and grants, most spread out over several years. Elementary school families, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, should see a tangible, even life-changing benefit starting this fall. Their districts will be funded to offer three hours of before- and after-school activities and six weeks of summer school. At a minimum, they must offer the programs to all low-income students and English…
Jul 01, 2022

Local Independence Day celebrations 2022

Quinn Nelson
After two years of pandemic cancellations, Fourth of July in Sonoma County is back in full swing. Scroll down to get links for more information. Events in Cloverdale include time-honored classics like the fireworks at Cloverdale High School, as well as the first annual Cloverdale Fourth of July Faire and Parade, which promises food, carnival games, and live music. Fireworks, put on by the Cloverdale Lions Club, start at 9:00 p.m., while the parade begins at 9:00 a.m. downtown. Neena Hanchett, director of the Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce, has high hopes for the new event. “We have a lot of volunteers involved…the whole thing, it takes people, it takes people committed to doing it, but I think it’s gonna be a ton of fun," Hanchett said. "Cloverdale’s always been about that.” The Rotary Club of Healdsburg will host a kids’ parade and duck dash on Monday morning, starting at Healdsburg Plaza at 10:00 a.m. In the evening, the American Legion-organized firework display will begin in the evening at 9:00 p.m. at the town’s high school. Mark Themig, community services director for the City of Healdsburg, said he thinks excitement is high after a long absence. “The fireworks were postponed for the first two years, so during '20 and '21," Themig said. "'20 was mainly because of Covid…'21 was mostly because of super dry conditions…I think people are looking forward to a Fourth of July celebration week…this will be the first time in a couple years that both activities are coming back.”…
{/cbscrollpane}
  • SoCo Calendar
  • Latest News
  • Right Now
  • Weather
  • Earthquakes
  • First News
 
 
Read More
 
thumbnail FirstNews logoA weekday early morning podcast that offers a first look at the top local news stories and weather forecast you need to start your day.

Sonoma County news stories featuring the latest in breaking news, county government, elections, environment, cultural happenings, and updates on your communities, from Petaluma to Cloverdale, and from Sonoma to Bodega Bay, and everyplace in between.

Subscribe to the Sonoma County First News podcast through our website, the NorCal Mobile App, NPR Podcasts, NPR One, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. 

 
Read More

Northern California
Public Media Newsletter

Get the latest updates on programs and events.