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     LOCAL NEWS
Jun 11, 2021

Drought so severe, even water 'royalty' could run dry within a month. 

by Marc Albert
Holders of the most senior water rights in the upper Russian River drainage, typically spared during shortages, could soon face a new reality. State water officials meeting Tuesday will get knee deep in a process that could force even those with the most senior rights---mostly farmers and municipalities with claims more than a century old---to stop pulling water from the river, or risk significant fines. Without drastic action, Lake Mendocino could run dry before the end of the year. Sam Boland-Brien, a program manager at the State Water Board, SAYS that would be devastating. "The main stem of the Russian River could become no longer a river, just a series of disconnected pools" What's being considered Tuesday would apply to areas upstream of Dry Creek. That's where releases from Lake Sonoma partly replenish the river. Downstream, conditions are less dire. At least for now. An approval sends the issue to the state Office of Administrative Law, which could codify the decision early next month. Boland-Brien SAYS plans under consideration would also grant temporary authority for enacting more restrictions, including to junior, senior and riparian water rights holders downstream of Dry Creek. It is unclear if that will happen. Reservoir levels would need to plunge further and other criteria met, before curtailment orders are extended further. It is however possible. "Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma are at the lowest levels ever recorded at this time of the year since they were…
Jun 11, 2021

Sonoma County teens go the distance for climate change

by Tessa Paoli
Dozens of people, young and old, created an aisle to welcome the Sonoma County teens who have been walking hundreds of miles for the past two weeks to spread a message about the urgency of climate change. They are part of the Sonoma County hub of the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led organization with a mission to stop climate change and create jobs along the way. Their starting point was Paradise, ground zero for the devastating 2018 Campfire. "In my bag I have jars of viles of ashes from homes that were lost in Paradise. But as a generation, we have the power to change the trajectory," Ema Govea, 17, said in a speech at the rally. Govea is one of the Sonoma County Sunrisers who marched from Paradise. "At first my feet were really sore and like I had a bunch of blisters," Govea said. "But what really what keeps me going is thinking about why I'm doing this and this moment in this movement that I'm a part of. And Santa Rosa isn't where the march ends. The group continues on to San Francisco to stand outside of Senator Dianne Feinstein and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's houses to ask them to help pass the Civilian Climate Corps, that would create billions of jobs to combat the climate crisis. Rachel Cohen, a sixteen-year-old who lives in Sebastopol, helped organize the action and is joining the marchers today towards San Francisco. "We are young and strong and determined and we are scared honestly too," Cohen said. "This shows we are ready to challenge ourselves and to walk 266…
Jun 09, 2021

Despite recent setbacks, Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit is confident it can deliver

by Marc Albert
Just as its Larkspur station opened, making San Francisco commutes viable, half a world away, a mysterious ailment started sending people to hospitals. After an initial jump, ridership faltered, then plunged. "We just opened that segment in January of 2020, we had our two best ridership months in January and February, and then of course in mid march, everything abruptly stopped." That's Heather McKillop, chief financial officer of Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit. As the region closed down, passengers vanished. Now, more than a year later, with the COVID pandemic easing, SMART is restoring more runs and offering discounts. It's now operating13 weekday round trips and six on Saturdays. Staffing and funding shortfalls are keeping the rails vacant Sundays. At least for now. It's doubtful SMART will replace 1.4 million vehicle trips this year, something promised in the 2008 ballot argument, but McKillop sees tailwinds building, at least in terms of ridership. Rising fuel prices, returning congestion as workplaces reopen, coupled with discounted fares, should lead more locals to give the train a try. Denser pockets of residential and workplace development near stations should help in the long run. Meanwhile, although funding to extend SMART to Cloverdale is tied up in lawsuits, a key hurdle may disappear with a pen stroke. "There's an earmark in the currently introduced transportation infrastructure bill for the Healdsburg bridge, and if that ends up staying in there, that is a huge…
Jun 09, 2021

Sonoma County Resiliency: One teacher gets through another abnormal school year

by Tessa Paoli
Samantha Kim is 25 and started teaching at Steele Lane Elementary School in Santa Rosa, right after she graduated from Sonoma State in 2017. She now teaches a combination class of fifth and sixth graders. “These kids are starting to form their own identities a little bit and finding out what they know, what they believe in, and their personal philosophies,” Kim said in a zoom interview in March. Now in her fourth year as a teacher in Santa Rosa, Kim had lost weeks of school because of wildfires and smoke. So when the pandemic hit last March, it felt familiar at first. “I hate to say it seems so normal, but I almost feel like when it's announced, it's just like, oh, yep, another year,” Kim said. When her school was first shut down in 2020, Kim thought it might be similar to wildfire season, missing a few weeks and then back to the classroom. “I remember it because it was a Friday the 13th, and it was the day they were going to spring break,” Kim said. “And I remember not realizing the severity of what was going to happen. I don't think anybody really did. But they asked us to plan for two days worth of at home learning, which, thinking about it now, like come on, it’s been over a year.” As the pandemic continued, Kim, just like all teachers throughout the county, had to adapt to an entire year of online teaching. “The first week, I just sat at my computer and I was like, I I don't even know what to do,” Kim said. “Because I don't know what is expected of us. I don't know what…
Jun 09, 2021

Sonoma County to revisit ban on disposable food containers

by Tessa Paoli
The proposal for a county-wide ban on products containing polystyrene foam as well as non-recyclable and non-compostable items, like Styrofoam, isn't new. Six jurisdictions including Sebastopol, Sonoma, Windsor and Healdsburg have already adopted an earlier version of the ordinance starting in 2019, in addition to one-hundred and twenty cities across the state. An updated ordinance drafted by Zero Waste Sonoma this year also includes a ban of the chemical PFAS, or fluorinated organic compounds that resist heat, oil, stains and grease and is often used in food container linings. PFAS have gained national attention for possibly causing health problems, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. "This has been a long time coming, we've been talking about this on the zero waste board for over a year," Supervisor Susan Goran said. Goran said the pandemic delayed the progress of the ban, considering the board passed a resolution in 2018 committing to becoming a zero waste county by 2030. But over the last year, businesses were having a hard time just surviving. That's why the ordinance wouldn't go into effect until next January, giving local shops time to use the banned products that they currently have in their inventory. Michael Siminitus, a member of Sebastopol's Zero Waste Committee, urged the board to follow the city's footsteps in implementing the ordinance across the county. "Personally I hate seeing these products in takeout restaurants in Sonoma County as…
Jun 08, 2021

Santa Rosa considers extending, weakening eviction protections

by Marc Albert
As Santa Rosa officials consider extending a COVID-related eviction moratorium, housing advocates worry changes will leave tenants with few real protections. The urgency proposal would extend protections beyond the end of June, but essentially roll back additional protections added by Sonoma County earlier in the pandemic. While tenants suffering significant financial or physical harm by COVID, would still be protected if they fell behind on rent, evictions could go ahead if a tenant violates a lease by having a pet, for example. Noa Hughes, a member and volunteer counselor for Sonoma County Tenants Union, calls the proposal a return to normal that's coming too soon. "Normal meant people having to pay a third or half of their paycheck towards rent. Normal meant displacement and gentrification. Normal has meant dire circumstances for tenants in Sonoma County." Neither city, county, state or federal rules waive rent payments. Tenants received a few extra months to get current. Hughes says Santa Rosa dropping Sonoma County's tenant-friendly strictures would only deepen a crisis. "Opting out would mean that, for starters, among other things, that landlords could cite other reasons to try and evict tenants. Reasons that we know mean a pileup of more eviction filings, more tenants being scared, more people losing their shelter." A Santa Rosa City Council meeting on the issue got underway at 4 pm.
Jun 07, 2021

Compost facility could be years away

by Marc Albert
Compostable trash will continue making a long haul out of Sonoma County for at least another year and a half, after a proposed local facility fell through. 100,000 tons. That's about the weight of 581 empty 747 jetliners---equivalent to how much yard waste and compost will be trucked to adjacent counties this year. The figure will grow in the future. A proposal cutting short that long haul for organic waste recently fell through after investors got cold feet. That's left officials from Zero Waste Sonoma pondering the next course of action---six years after a facility at the county's central landfill was shut down over concerns material could wash into a creek. Executive director Leslie Lukacs says Zero Waste Sonoma is exploring all options, including inviting new bids--termed a 'request for proposals,' or R-F-P. "If we are to do an RFP we would have to open up the process again, because so much has changed in the last three years--since Renewable Sonoma was awarded the project, that it would make sense to update any RFP process, but at this time we're analyzing our options." Those include a facility proposed on a 17-acre site near Petaluma along Stage Gulch Rd near Old Adobe Road. Environmental reports on that project, envisioned to process material from Marin and Napa counties, should be completed in about a month. Sonoma County could contract to send its compostable waste there as well. When properly processed, yard waste and kitchen scraps become compost, a building block…
Jun 07, 2021

Sonoma County Resiliency: One mom's journey through distance learning

by Tessa Paoli
“Everybody knew James and they accepted him,” Larkin O’Leary, a mom and co-founder of the nonprofit Common Ground Society, said in a zoom interview last January. O’Leary’s seven-year-old son James started at Madrone Elementary School in 2019. She said he loved being at school, he was known as the 'Mayor of Madrone,' playful and social. And six months into the school year, the pandemic hit, right before spring break. A few days before his sixth birthday. “We didn't really get to celebrate his sixth birthday because he is so medically fragile that we were too scared to have people over," O'Leary said. "We did like a zoom thing." And for a year he learned at home, in front of the computer, along with the majority of the over 9,000 kids with disabilities or individualized education programs designed for special needs across Sonoma County. James was diagnosed with Down Syndrome at birth and has hearing loss. But last year, right before he started kindergarten, he was the healthiest he’d ever been. “Currently, he is your typical child,” O’Leary said. But James, unlike most kids his age, has experienced lockdowns since he was born. He’s had 29 procedures and surgeries in his short life that have forced the family into quarantines before and after surgeries, not seeing friends or extended family to ensure he doesn’t get sick. So when COVID-19 hit, O’Leary said her family was used to sheltering in place. “You know, it's been really stressful for him," O'Leary said. "Because I think…
Jun 04, 2021

Newest Windsor council member on barriers to office

by Tessa Paoli
"People I was running against knew that the residents of Windsor are definitely interested in Rosa. But I thought they were doing anything and everything possible to keep me out of the council," Windsor City council member Rosa Reynoza said. Reynoza ran for mayor in 2020 and lost to Dominic Foppoli, who resigned after nine woman came forward with sexual assault allegations against him. Since his resignation, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department has opened a criminal investigation into the former mayor. And the state campaign watchdog has started an investigation into Foppoli's past campaign spending and fundraising. Right before the mayoral elections last summer, Reynoza says Foppoli offered her commission appointments and donations to nonprofits of her choice if she left the race. "It felt a little icky or slimy. It just seemed like something Dominic would do," Reynoza said. And that wasn’t the first time Reynoza has felt pushed out of Windsor politics. Since 2016, she ran four times for a council seat and lost by a few hundred votes each time and didn’t feel support from other council members. Whatever happens with the investigations, Reynoza says the events surrounding Foppoli has affected the trust between local government and residents. But that there have also been silver linings. "The amount of people that are paying attention, it’s growing and I think that’s a good thing," Reynoza said. "One of the things I hope to bring is more civic engagement. And I’m here to…
Jun 04, 2021

Sonoma County Drought Townhall Raises Fears

by Chris Lee
Two county supervisors hosted an online drought meeting June 3. Supervisors Hopkins and Gore presented some dire predictions from water experts and warnings for well owners. More from Chris Lee
Jun 03, 2021

Every drop counts in this year's historic drought

by Tessa Paoli
"Everyone’s water use matters, it all adds up. We are going to get through this drought drop by drop," Barry Dugan, Principal Program Specialist at Sonoma Water, said. "There's a lot of ways we can all reduce our water use." Two consecutive years of below-average rainfall and low reservoir levels may make this year the worst drought in the County’s history. Sonoma Water Agency, that provides water to more than a half million residents in the North Bay, has pledged to reduce water consumption by twenty percent. And has petitioned the state to preserve the water in the Russian River Watershed. But Dugan said everyone can do their part at home to save water right now. "Take shorter showers, reduce your irrigation, only do full loads of laundry," Dugan said. "We got through the pandemic by working together, for the most part, and that’s the way we are going to get through this drought." The Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership is giving out free water saving kits on June twelfth to any resident that needs one, first come first serve, in various locations throughout the county. The kit includes buckets, shower timers and self closing garden nozzles. For more information, visit: https://www.savingwaterpartnership.org/
Jun 03, 2021

D.A. settles with MoviePass over bait & switch, fraud

by Marc Albert
Officers of a company offering deep discounts on movie theater seats, will pay $400,000 after the firm, MoviePass, descended into a legal drama of its own. Prosecutors, including Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, say numerous plot twists in the subscription-based service's terms defrauded customers, lured by promises of unlimited cinema for a single, monthly fee. Ravitch, in a statement, accused company officers Theodore Farnsworth and Mitchell Lowe of using "unlawful, unfair, and fraudulent business acts and practices." Prosecutors contend that following a change in ownership, the firm recruited subscribers promising unlimited admissions to theaters for a monthly fee starting in 2017. Later, and without informing customers, the company changed its terms, allowing subscribers entrance to three films per-month. Farnsworth and Lowe agreed to pay $400,000 under terms of the settlement. The company ceased operating in 2019 and filed for bankruptcy last year. Deputy district attorney Matt Cheever, who helped prosecute the case said the bulk of the funds would be split with three other counties, though Cheever said $50,000 was set aside. "In this case the money would go to help fund future consumer protection investigations and prosecution" MoviePass was also accused of continuing to automatically bill former customers that had discontinued their memberships. The company also failed to inform customers using automatic bill payment of changes to the terms of service.
Jun 02, 2021

Fire risk danger growing, spreading

by Marc Albert
A fire season like no other seems to be developing, with the latest predictions from long range forecasters showing a convergence of ominous news. A normal June would seem lush by comparison. Typically, by late spring, vegetation would be drying, despite wringing the last bits of moisture from the soil. This year, officials say, grass, shrubs trees are as dry now as is typical for mid-July. A spark is often all it takes. Stephen Leach is a forecaster with Predictive Services, a federal inter-agency weather forecasting group. "To be at the point of peak fire season already here as June begins, means that we're off and running, with high threat every day of fires growing large, spreading fast." Looking ahead, Leach and colleagues say weather patterns will bring elevated risks. The southwest monsoon should deliver more thunderstorms---and lightning strikes---than typical to the Sierra, disrupting CAL FIRE'S ability to quickly respond to new blazes elsewhere. The official outlook, published late Tuesday, sees above normal potential for significant fire reaching to the coast in September and October. One positive note: the stingy rainy season stunted the normally thick grasses that turn flammable by summer, Leach said. However, many shrubs have shifted into self-preservation mode, letting branches dry up and die off, adding potential tinder to any sparks. Leach said the two trends are a wash.
Jun 02, 2021

Windsor attempting to turn page on Foppoli

by Marc Albert
Windsor's town council will plot a course forward tonight, following the resignation of Mayor Dominic Foppoli in the face of sexual assault allegations. Several options are before the council Wednesday evening: set a special election for a new mayor; elevate a sitting council member to mayor, or possibly find a third way. If the council appoints one of its own members, a special election would be needed to fill that seat on the dais. Foppoli's term, which a new person would take over, concludes at the end of 2022. Seating a new mayor who is not currently on the council would avoid the need for another election, but would also leave residents with little official say. Foppoli resigned May 24 after nine different women accused him of sexual abuse in recent years. The council is also set to consider a proclamation in support of survivors of sexual violence and formally seat Rosa Reynoza to the council. Reynosa emerged victorious in a special election last month, besting four other candidates.
Jun 01, 2021

Clock ticking on recall with candidates yet to emerge

by Marc Albert
Candidates hoping to unseat Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch have about a month left to file their candidacies. Sonoma County voters will face two questions on a September 14th special election ballot. Whether to recall Ravitch, who has been county district attorney for the past decade, and if so, who will replace her. Recall proponents accuse Ravitch of failing to prosecute alleged malfeasance by local law enforcement and inadequately prosecuting PG&E for causing wildfires. The campaign to unseat Ravitch is funded by William Gallaher...a local developer who has donated about half a million to the effort as of the end of March, according to recent campaign finance documents. The money has been spent on consultants, according to public records. Ravitch's defenders raised $18,000 over the same period, with less than $12,000 remaining at the start of April. Ravitch maintains the recall is political retribution for prosecuting Gallaher, a developer sued by elderly residents of an assisted living facility he operates, over accusations residents left to fend for themselves during the Tubbs Fire. Oakmont Management Group settled with Ravitch and state prosecutors for half a million dollars. Ravitch's term concludes at the end of next year. She has announced she would not seek another term. Organizing and holding the recall will cost the county between $600 and $900 thousand dollars, according to an official estimate. Gallaher has been involved in political fundraising…
Jun 01, 2021

Hundreds of new apartments could rise in Santa Rosa

by Marc Albert
Part of California's big push to build more housing, plans for close to 400 new apartments go before Santa Rosa officials this evening If approved, the three separate proposals would build 371 apartments, 271 of them either meeting the definition of 'affordable' or classified as 'supportive.' Meaning geared toward the recently homeless and offering on-site services. All three projects are scheduled for consideration by Santa Rosa's zoning board Tuesday evening. Any final decision could be appealed. Casa Roseland would rise four stories along Sebastopol Avenue west of Dutton. Part of the larger Roseland Village project, it would also have shops and open space. The Stony Oaks proposal would bring 142 affordable units to a four-story structure along Hearn Avenue. The third project, Sage Commons, would add 54 units of supportive housing. Backers of the already-approved project for College Avenue west of 101 are seeking minor alterations. The meeting gets underway at 5.
Jun 01, 2021

Pride celebrations begin in Sonoma County

by Tessa Paoli
Organizers from Sonoma County Pride raised the rainbow flag today on top of the Rosenberg building in downtown Santa Rosa. This kick-off to Pride month was extra special, after in-person events, like the annual parade, were done virtually last year. "I think this year's pride is so much more important than a lot of other prides in some ways," Grace Villafuerte, Sonoma County Pride's Vice President and Volunteer Coordinator, said. "For a lot of people who have been in isolation they've been asking us all year, when can we come together. So it's this feeling of comfort when we can come together." Starting today, rainbow flags are flying in various cities throughout the county and cities like Healdsburg are showing solidarity for the first time this year. The theme of Pride 2021 is "Beyond the Rainbow - Thriving, Reviving and Surviving." The annual parade will resume as a Wizard of Oz themed, drive-through on June 5th at the Graton Resort and Casino in Rohnert Park. And as California emerges this month from pandemic lockdown, a hybrid of weekly virtual and in-person gatherings are planned throughout the month. Including an ongoing virtual scavenger hunt. Sonoma County Pride’s Christopher Kren-Mora said the organization has been planning this year's festivities for almost a year. "It will be a nice collection of diversity this year in events, as well as people, I think we will see a lot more people come out now that mask and COVID regulations are slowly being released,"…
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May 27, 2021

State Lawmakers to Attorney General: Probe PG&E Fire Victim Trust

by Lily Jamali
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has asked for California Attorney General Rob Bonta to probe the spending and administration of the PG&E Fire Victim Trust. The request comes after a KQED investigation into overhead costs of the Trust, which was established as part of a December 2019 bankruptcy settlement between the utility and nearly 70,000 victims of fires caused by PG&E equipment. The investigation found the Trust spent nearly 90% of outgoing funds on overhead last year, while the vast majority of fire victims waited for help. “We urge you to use the full authority of your office to review the fund’s recent expenditures and the fund’s administrators,” said the letter, which was signed by 11 state senators and assemblymembers who represent areas impacted by PG&E fires between 2015 and 2018. “We hear every week from residents who've been waiting two years for settlement payments that they are due. Their lives are on hold until they receive these dollars,” said state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, whose district includes parts of Sonoma County. “It's unacceptable. It's egregious and it has to change, and it's why we're calling on the trustee to expedite payments to fire survivors in Northern California,” he added. State Assemblymember James Gallagher, a Republican who represents the fire-ravaged town of Paradise, first announced last week on KQED Forum that he and colleagues were preparing a letter calling for more transparency. KQED's investigation "raises a lot of…
May 27, 2021

Sonoma County to waive health fees for local businesses

by Tessa Paoli
Sonoma County small businesses forced to close during the pandemic now have access to $2.8 million in grant money. Nick Rodin took over Petaluma Tattoo a few months before shelter-in-place. The shop has struggled through the pandemic as a brand new business. "As far as my finances, it’s just in shambles so we are recovering from that," Rodin said. Rodin was delayed in opening the shop because he couldn’t get his initial permit. Then when he finally got it in June, he was shut down two more times in the fall because of how widespread the virus was throughout the county. All body art shops had their permits extended for six months during the pandemic but Rodin says he’s glad to hear more relief is coming, however big or small. "It would be a nice gesture from the county to the community to help us get back on our feet," Rodin said. The Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce serves 400 businesses...and CEO Mark Bodenhamer says he's worked with businesses that received expensive bills from the county health department during the pandemic, so movement on this type of relief is essential. "A few hundred dollars isn’t going to save a business and solve everyone’s problems but it’s a great symbolic gesture, every bit helps and it allows us to invest more in circulating back into the economy," Bodenhamer said. The county is also waiving the usual fees owed by businesses like tattoo parlors, restaurants and even swimming pools, so they don't have to pay for the months they had to close.
May 26, 2021

Sonoma Water to revive old well during historic drought

by Tessa Paoli
A $400,000 plan is in motion to revive an old well as a way to conserve water during one of the worst droughts in Sonoma County's history. One of the three dormant wells that Sonoma Water owns, which were built in the late 1970's in the Santa Rosa Plains, is on Todd Road and it's been inactive since 2010. Sonoma Water General Manager Grant Davis says it runs deep down into the earth, about the length of three football fields . "These wells were put in and have been used the decision was made to not rely on them in 2010 and we would only bring them online if they were absolutely needed, which is what we are doing right now," Davis said. In the midst of one of the county's worst and earliest droughts, the agency is asking the 600,000 residents in it's water system, which include cities like Petaluma and Windsor, to reduce water consumption by 20 percent to lessen the demands on the Russian River watershed. Davis says the new well project, which can produce up to 1.6 million gallons of water a day, will help cities meet that goal by providing water to local dairy and livestock farms. Right now, those farms rely on hauling truckloads of water in to survive. Some cities have recently had to scale back their hauling programs. Tawny Tesconi is the Director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and says this new source of water is vital. "It's going to be possibly the difference between a dairy going out of business or not this year," Tesconi said. After the well is up and running by the…
May 26, 2021

PG&E settles Kincade suit with Sonoma County & cities

by Marc Albert
Sonoma County and four local cities will receive $31 million after settling with Pacific Gas & Electric Corp., over the 2019 Kincade Fire. The deal was announced this morning. KRCB's Marc Albert has the details... Announced a month after Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravich filed criminal charges, utility PG&E settled a separate civil lawsuit today, agreeing to the multi-million dollar payments within 30-days. The county and the cities of Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa and Windsor will share the proceeds. Attorney John Fiske of Baron and Budd represented the local governments. "Public entities are put in a position where they have to react and respond to these fires, but also lose property and resources themselves." Those costs include overtime and staff expenses, degradation to local streets by semis hauling debris along with damage to open space and natural habitat. Expenses for which the cities and county were uninsured or underinsured. Calfire determined PG&E equipment sparked the blaze that ultimately forced 186,000 from their homes and destroyed 374 structures. PG&E did not admit liability in the settlement. Civil suits filed by fire survivors are not part of the deal. Separately, PG&E also agreed to settle with Shasta and Tehama County over expenses incurred during another fire, the Zogg Fire, for 12 and a half million dollars.
May 26, 2021

Frustration and Tears as Paradise Turns out to Protest the PG&E Fire Victim Trust

by Lily Jamali
PARADISE, Calif. -- Teri Lindsay said she had no intention of speaking at a fire survivors’ rally that drew about a hundred people to the Skyway in Paradise Saturday. But as her daughter, Erika, stood by her side — tears streaming down the young girl’s face — Lindsay voiced her frustration at her family’s living conditions 2.5 years after the 2018 Camp Fire. “Everytime she sees smoke, she cries. She can’t heal until we can go home,” Lindsay said of Erika, who was seven when the 2018 Camp Fire destroyed their house, and thousands of others in Paradise. The fire was caused by equipment belonging to PG&E. They’ve been living in a trailer overlooking a branch of Lake Oroville ever since. Like the vast majority of the 70,000 fire victims of PG&E fires caused between 2015 and 2018, Lindsay has not yet received any money from the Fire Victim Trust. The Trust was set up last year to distribute billions of dollars as part of a settlement between fire survivors and PG&E. Lindsay said she was motivated to join this weekend’s rally after reading a KQED investigation, published earlier this month, which showed that the Fire Victim Trust racked up $51 million in overhead costs last year, while distributing $7 million to fire victims during that period. The investigation was based on KQED’s analysis of federal bankruptcy court filings, court transcripts and correspondence between the Fire Victim Trust and fire victims. At the end of last year, fire victims had received less than 0.1% of…
May 25, 2021

County unveils new evac zones, maps

by Marc Albert
Sonoma County hopes new evacuation zones and maps will speed egress in an emergency. The maps chop unincorporated Sonoma County into 210 different zones. Incorporated cities have their own, though Sonoma and Windsor rely on the county's map. Misti Wood, a Sonoma County Sheriff's spokeswoman, says the new zones will help get people out of danger more quickly and efficiently than even recent years. "People who live here, quickly and easily know whether or not they're evacuated when they hear an evacuation notice." That's however predicated on knowing what zones your home, workplace and--for example--child's school are in. Officials unveiled the maps amidst another initiative: distributing so-called evacuation tags at more than a dozen events in recent weeks. These are emergency notices residents can leave, letting firefighters know that a home's been vacated, potentially speeding the rescue of those remaining in danger. Wood says hesitancy due to fears of looting are overblown. She says each recent fire has yielded about a dozen arrests of those breaching roadblocks, security has been good. "We were catching people for the most part before they were able to get a chance to do something more serious than that." Find your zone at https://socoemergency.org/get-ready/evacuation-map/
May 24, 2021

Decades-old clergy abuse cases inching through courts

by Marc Albert
Sonoma County residents victimized decades ago by Catholic priests are still awaiting their day in court. Public outcry following a Boston Globe investigation--popularized by the movie Spotlight led California lawmakers... in 2019... to reopen the statute of limitations for civil cases involving sexual abuse by clergy. Victims must file by the end of next year. Multiple suits now accuse the Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa of failing to protect children from Gary Timmons, a former priest now 80 who joined the diocese in the late 60s. According to the Megan’s Law database, Timmons was convicted of committing lewd or lascivious acts with children in 1996. He was released from custody four year later, in 2000. Attorney Mike Reck represents 10 local plaintiffs. Six have formally filed suits. Reck says rather than dismiss Timmons, the diocese reassigned him from one community to another and placed him in charge of a summer camp. Reck said the alleged abuse occurred over decades on diocese property in Santa Rosa, at the church summer camp and other locations in Northern California. Those cases are slowly grinding forward. In a recently ruling, an Alameda County Superior Court judge rejected facets of a procedural challenge by church lawyers seeking to dismiss the cases. “The Diocese of Santa Rosa, under the direction of the Bishop of Santa Rosa, in a concerted effort with the other Catholic bishops in Northern California, had their lawyers try to get the law invalidated, so that…
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May 21, 2021

Sonoma County shifts to pop-up vaccine clinics

by Tessa Paoli
So far, over half a million vaccine doses have been administered throughout the county, and local vaccine clinics have given out about a fifth of those doses. Because of that progress, most clinics will close down by the end of June and shift their focus on going out in the community to give people shots that need one. "we are a guest in a community, what events that are the community already participating in, that we could also participate in," Dr. Jason Cunningham, Chief Executive Officer at West County Health, said. Cunningham said community health workers are figuring out where people want vaccine popups and might show up at churches, schools and encampments. The hope is that going to places where residents are already gathering, will help get more people shots. He says there will also be a bigger focus on helping people sign up for shots and figuring out why people are hesitant in the first place. "Why is it that they're not interested in the vaccine yet or not quite ready to make that connection? That's more of an education and outreach campaign," Cunningham said. Four big vaccine sites will remain open to everyone in Sonoma County, including the one at Grace Pavilion and the Roseland Library Clinic. LISTEN TO STORY:
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May 20, 2021

Regulations coming for winery events

by Marc Albert
credit: 'goingslo'A long-awaited plan to regulate events at Sonoma County wineries will go before the public next month, one of the final steps before facing the board of supervisors. Six and a half years in the making, the proposed ordinance won’t change the status quo, though officials say it will shield locals from abrupt changes going forward. And provide new vintners a level playing field. Bradley Dunn is a policy manager at PermitSonoma. “We’re going to set new standards for parking, food service, event coordination, traffic management and noise. So we really think we’ll strike a balance between the needs of wineries, neighbors, rural communities and farming uses.” The new regulations, tentatively set to go before county supervisors in September, won’t really change much on the ground. That’s because the county’s 473 existing wineries were issued permits under current, generally more relaxed rules. If approved, the ordinance would only apply to new wineries or ones seeking to substantially alter operations. The revision was sparked by concerns that wineries throughout the county are becoming victims of their own success. Community complaints about traffic, amplified music, parking, tipsy drivers, crowds and off-hour events got the ball rolling. If approved as written, most winery functions would have to wrap up by 5 pm, though certain types could stop as late as 10 p.m. Other changes would bar parking along public or private roads and prevent the establishment of…
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May 20, 2021

Teens signing up for COVID vaccine in Sonoma County

by Tessa Paoli
Omé Gael Zúñiga, 14, getting vaccinated last Sunday at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa. (Photo courtesy of Martín Zuniga) When eighth grader Omé Gael Zúñiga went to get his first shot last Sunday, he was prepared for the worst because he has a fear of needles and oftentimes he faints at the sight of blood. But staff at the vaccine clinic at Elsie Allen High School in Santa Rosa knew what to do. "He laid me down on the ground and he started getting me into a conversation and he took my mind off of it," Zúñiga said. Even though he’s scared of shots, he says he signed up because he's weary after a year of distance learning. "Being vaccinated we can hang out normally like we’ve done before," Zúñiga said. "Being able to have a sleep over again, being able to stay up late playing video games." And his dad, Martin Zúñiga, has been working for months on art campaigns to convince his community to get vaccinated. He says he was relieved when his son and his friends signed up for the shot. "They also encouraged each other to vaccinate so they could be together," Martín Zúñiga said. "When he volunteered, we took it so seriously. He was happy that he could go back to normal." LISTEN TO STORY:
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May 19, 2021

Supes scrap cannabis plan; vow thorough process

by Marc Albert
May 19, 2021 - Under pressure from all sides, Sonoma County officials today decided unanimously to head back to the drawing board for a local cannabis ordinance. Following hours of aggrieved public testimony, the board of supervisors voted five to nothing to re-open the process for crafting cannabis cultivation regulations. The move likely pleases few. Applicants hoping to legally grow marijuana complained they've been left in limbo four years after applying, and paying for permits up front. Opponents condemning the crop's use of water and demanding grows be restricted to indoor industrial sites, away from neighbors, also saw no resolution. Supervisor David Rabbitt, said an Environmental Impact Report should have been started years ago and acknowledged the board and county staffers have fumbled. "We've been spinning our wheels and haven't made much progress. And for that, we should apologize because I think it really, (pause) we haven't done any favors for the industry, for the neighbors or the county itself, so it's time to re-set." The board's move Tuesday rejected proposed amendments to the county code that would have changed the approval process for cultivation sites within areas designated for agriculture and resources. Opponents of cannabis cultivation complained that odors, traffic, crime and water usage would diminish property values. Proponents said concerns about water were overblown, that crime is more likely if the industry remained underground and that farm…
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May 19, 2021

COVID-19 restrictions to end next month

by Marc Albert
Barring a major outbreak of variants, Sonoma County, along with the rest of California, will end restrictions, including facial masks June 15. Although the county again missed benchmarks that would have bumped it into the least restrictive tier, health officials and political leaders Wednesday expressed confidence that a corner on the deadly pandemic, has been turned. 235,000 county residents are now fully vaccinated, according to county supervisor Lynda Hopkins, representing 57% of those 16 and older. Nearly four fifths of all senior citizens have received a vaccine. It's apparently working. Gary Green, an infectious disease specialist at Sutter Health in Santa Rosa, says the vaccinated aren't needing advanced care. "I haven't seen anyone with moderate-severe illness who has been vaccinated. The vaccine has been remarkably effective, and downstream in the ICU and the hospital we're seeing the effects of that. And I think we're almost to herd immunity, but we're not quite there and I think the vaccine campaign is important." With fewer infections popping up and little sign of highly contagious variants, officials expect Sonoma County to lift all restrictions along with the rest of California, including mask requirements, on June 15th. Officials are also starting to shift strategies. After an initial rush for vaccinations, demand has slipped, prompting a switch to smaller sites, 'pop-up' clinics and mobile services. Urmila Shende is the county's COVID-19 vaccine chief. "At…
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May 19, 2021

Santa Rosa to move forward on safe overnight parking sites

by Tessa Paoli
(photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr)This week Santa Rosa's city council discussed spending money on safe parking for unhoused people living in their cars, something advocates have suggested for years. The plan is to create an overnight safe parking site in each of the city’s seven districts. The proposed budget for the safe parking program is currently set at $315,000, but that may increase to include more housing services. The amount of spots available at each lot will depend on funding. This program would significantly expand the existing 20 safe parking spots located at churches throughout Santa Rosa. Homeless Services Manager Kelli Kuykendall said residents and businesses have urged the council to provide more shelter to the estimated 1500 unhoused people in Santa Rosa. "We’ve been very active in the last few years trying to respond to and address encampments throughout Santa Rosa and many of those have been vehicle encampments including RVs and trailers. And so there’s a real need in the community for it," Kuykendall said. Co-Founder of Homeless Action Adrienne Lauby said she’s been pushing for a safe parking program for six years. She said she is thrilled the city is moving forward with a program to provide immediate help, especially with the weekly encampment sweeps she’s witnessed over the last several months. But she said safe parking sites need to operate 24/7, so people living in their cars don’t have to wake up every morning and figure out where to park…
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May 17, 2021

Officials awaiting word on emergency cutbacks to Russian River.

by Marc Albert
Governor Gavin Newsom and Karla Nemeth, Director of the California Department of Water Resources ponder dried mud that should be deep beneath Lake Mendocino in this April 21, 2021 file photo, courtesy California DW Sonoma County officials are awaiting state permission to cut the amount of water flowing down the Russian River as local reservoirs continue receding. The Russian River may soon have more of the look and feel of a creek. Local officials are awaiting word from state regulators over an emergency plan that would see water levels dip by more than half, hoping to buttress sinking levels at both Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma, the river's major sources. In their emergency petition, officials are seeking an OK to cut minimum releases by as much as 60 percent. That could equal about 35 cubic feet per second. Sonoma County Water warns that without a waiver from current requirements, Lake Mendocino would be emptied by mid-September, about two months before the onset of the rainy season. The State Water Quality Control Board meets Tuesday, but the item is not scheduled for consideration. However, the waiver from environmental rules regarding flow rates appears likely. According to board data, critical drought conditions' exist when levels at Lake Mendocino are below 51,000 acre feet on May 16th of any year. According to Sonoma Water, the reservoir has dipped below 39,000. If the waiver is approved, flow rates on the river between Dry Creek and the ocean would be three and a…
May 14, 2021

Help Us Investigate PG&E’s Power Lines

by Aaron Glantz and George LeVines/NPR, Lisa Pickoff-White/KQED, Chris Hagan/CapRadio, and KRCB’s Marc Albert
California’s public radio stations are investigating the safety of Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s power lines ahead of wildfire season. We want your help. Email pictures of the lines in your area to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Pacific Gas and Electric Company has sparked some of the state’s deadliest wildfires. The company pled guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter after the 2018 Camp Fire. It faces felony charges in connection with the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County and is being investigated for murder in Shasta County, after the Zogg Fire. The record that led a federal judge earlier this year to declare that "PG&E has been a terror — T-E-R-R-O-R — to the people of California.” Epic fires in recent years have highlighted the urgency of preparation, and spotlighted vast vulnerabilities. We wanted to get a better understanding of how dangerous the company’s power lines are heading into wildfire season, which given hot, dry conditions is expected to be among the most dangerous on record. So we created a map that highlighted the riskiest power lines in PG&E’s grid, taken from a recent audit by the California Public Utilities Commission Wildfire Safety Division, and layered that on top of a heat map provided by a CPUC heat map that shows areas at “extreme” and “elevated” wildfire danger this year. We’ve also mapped the electric circuits where PG&E believes there is the greatest risk of a tree catching fire by catching sparks from a power line or hitting a utility pole. Now,…
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May 13, 2021

State, insurers & homeowners cooperating to reduce fire risk

by Marc Albert
Image courtesy CalFireAs Sonoma County's fire season starts, state and local officials are pitching strategies and programs aimed at making homes more fire resistant. When fire rages out of control, few things survive. But smartly-built homes with fewer vulnerabilities have a fighting chance. On Thursday, in a pitch to encourage homeowners to go beyond ‘defensible space,’ State Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced the first fruits of efforts to collaborate with fire officials and home insurers to reduce vulnerabilities to wildfire. Novato Fire District Chief Bill Tyler, who took part in the virtual workshop, says recent fires have revealed weaknesses in construction that help spread flames from forests to neighborhoods. “It’s branches and embers that are showering from fires that could be a quarter mile away and they are landing on people’s ornamental vegetation, and they are landing on the roofs and they are hitting the vents, gathering in nooks and crannies of the house and they are starting fires.” Funded by a local property tax measure, Tyler says his department has hired five inspectors--looking for things like roof eaves and vents with mesh too big to block embers. The program provides matching funds to help defray costs of what's called ‘home hardening.’ And making sure the work is completed. Tyler says some homeowners, initially contacting the district over concerns about neighboring properties, learn a few uncomfortable truths. “They are surprised to learn…
May 13, 2021

Small uptick in cases keeps Sonoma County in orange tier

by Tessa Paoli
Although the county was eligible to move into the yellow tier last week, a small increase in cases keeps Sonoma stuck in the second least restrictive orange tier for at least a couple more weeks, along with the majority of other Bay Area counties. The county’s adjusted case rate is currently 2.4 and it needs to be less than two for two consecutive weeks to enter the yellow tier, where most businesses can operate indoors with modifications. Health officers said cases are trending in younger people in their 20’s and 30’s as well as sports teams, but there’s still a lot of unknown about the new cases. What's clear is the continued importance of getting as many people vaccinated in the county as possible. Although you can still get COVID if you’re fully vaccinated, officials say .03% of vaccinated people get the virus. So far, 69% of the adult population in Sonoma County is vaccinated with at least one shot, that number is expected to hit 70 percent this week, meeting President Biden’s national vaccination goal two months early. And as of this week, children older than 12 can sign up to get the Pfizer vaccine in California. Even if the county remains in the orange tier through May, Governor Gavin Newsom is hoping to end the tier system and fully open back up the economy on June 15, if cases and hospitalization rates remain low across the state.
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May 13, 2021

Each Sonoma County school district reopens differently

by Tessa Paoli
As state guidelines have shifted to allow schools to begin reopening, officials said nearly every district in Sonoma County is offering either hybrid or in-person learning. But each district is making their own decisions about how many days and hours children are at school for the few weeks before summer. Smaller districts like West Mark Union brought all grades back five days a week for half days in late April. Superintendent Ron Calloway said upping staff and re-hiring retired teachers was key. He also says the district was able to implement a reopening plan fast after being directly affected by the Tubbs fire, that caused three weeks of canceled classes and evacuations in 2017. "The staff understood what this was going to mean for us and how we would always be flexible," Calloway said. Tracy Smith, superintendent of Rincon Valley school district in Santa Rosa, said avoiding disruption was a big factor for their district. Smith says the district expanded from a hybrid model and started bringing younger students in the classroom five days a week for a half days. But older students are returning four days a week for a couple hours for PE and art classes in an effort to keeps students with their original teachers. "We choose to have the continuity and the stability for the kids to stay with their teachers in the same classroom, in the same time frame for the last five weeks of school," Smith said. Many parents have demanded more in-person instructions leading up to summer…
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May 12, 2021

Fire season outlook suggests serious challenges ahead

by Marc Albert
Thirty wildfires have been contained or extinguished by CalFire since New Year’s Day. That’s six times the total on this date five years ago. There are signs that California could be in for a very trying summer. To learn what experts foresee, KRCB’s Marc Albert spoke with US Forest Service meteorologist Brent Wachter. Wachter works for Predictive Services, a federal, interagency weather forecasting group. They spoke via Zoom on Tuesday. In their conversation, Wachter was asked for his general perception of the upcoming fire season.
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May 12, 2021

Ominous signs suggest epic fire season on its way

by Marc Albert
On dry land that should be beneath Lake Mendocino, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for Mendocino and Sonoma counties in April. Photo courtesy Calif. Department of Water ResourcesComing off back-to-back miserly rainy seasons, indications are growing that California firefighters and residents are staring down a fire season without equal. Already, CalFire has controlled or extinguished 30 wildfires this year. That’s five more than the previous two years--combined. Reservoirs in Sonoma and Mendocino counties are at levels typical for September, and it’s barely mid-May. Conditions throughout California aren’t much better. Reservoirs are just one sign. Brent Wachter is a US Forest Service meteorologist assigned to Predictive Services, a federal interagency weather forecasting group. He says trees and shrubs are more than thirsty while dropped branches, twigs and other forest floor debris is extremely dry. “All along the coast of California, the readings, the dead fuel moisture readings are what we would typically see in July.” Being more susceptible to ignition this early in the year, is a troubling omen. “It just opens up, it extends that period of what I would term ‘Flame-On.’ It just really increases the probability of those large, devastating wildfires.” Medium and long range models suggest typical coastal fog should mitigate that hazard to some degree through early summer, at least where the marine layer regularly intrudes. HoweDWR engineers prepare to measure…
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May 07, 2021

Santa Rosa residents call for more police accountability

by Tessa Paoli
During this week’s special Santa Rosa city council meeting, spanning almost two full days, the public heard three reports interrogating Santa Rosa officers’ responses to the 2020 protests. They say Santa Rosa police used an unparalleled amount of tear gas and four unauthorized barricade rounds injuring several people. Subsequent reporting by the Press Democrat found that force has cost the city millions of dollars in lawsuits. "The city’s effectively on trial here with the public about how we responded to this situation and we are asking the public to see it from our perspective," Council member Jack Tibbetts said. Tibbetts said he felt good overall with how the police handled the protests. He also suggested releasing the hundreds of hours of body-worn camera footage to the public as evidence. This footage was reviewed by the two city-contracted consulting firms as part of their report of the department’s response during the protests. Both firms concluded that SRPD’s use of force was within policy. But those reports gave several system-wide recommendations, such as better documentation and more supervision. "None of us ever want to go through something like we did last year again," Santa Rosa police chief Rainer Navarro said. "We made mistakes but these deficiencies have been corrected and we are using these reports to improve our organization." Navarro said the department was overwhelmed, especially at the beginning of the protest. And that protesters did get violent,…
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Apr 30, 2021

Context is important when choosing J&J vaccine

by Tessa Paoli
Before the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was paused, Dr. Brian Prystowsky, a pediatrician and vaccine expert at Sutter Health in Santa Rosa, was excited about the one-dose shot. "I think that two weeks ago, I was primarily recommending Johnson and Johnson vaccine to everybody, literally before this news, because I was like one shot, you're totally done," Prystowsky said. But on April 13th, distribution of the single shot J&J vaccine was halted across the nation after 6 women under the age of 50 suffered severe and rare blot clots. County officials lifted the pause last week, following the lead of federal and state health officials. Prystowsky said because the side effect is very rare, two cases per million overall, he still believes the J&J shot is safe and effective. But he also hears more hesitancy among community members, and doesn’t blame them. "For the most part it’s so rare to have these side effects but in many ways you have to qualify with the new information we have and you have to be honest with people and own that," Prystowsky said. "We should say that particular side affect is scary, just own it." And for Prystowsky it’s all about context. If you’re a woman younger than 50 and have the option for Pfizer or Moderna he understands why you would think twice about getting J&J. But for some groups who have a hard time making it back for a second appointment, like unhoused people or those who travel for work, J&J is still a valuable option. Director of West County Health…
Standing on the dried out bed of what should be Lake Mendocino, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for Mendocino and Sonoma counties April 21
Apr 29, 2021

Gripped by drought, California could face epic fire season

by Marc Albert
Standing on the dried out bed of what should be Lake Mendocino, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency for Mendocino and Sonoma counties April 21More than half of California has slipped into extreme drought, according to the federal drought monitor. And with summer-like heat arriving sooner and lingering longer, California may be facing a dry season for the record books. Two years of below-average rainfall have drained California of the deluges of the 2016-2017 winter. UCLA Climate Scientist Daniel Swain, also associated with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Nature Conservancy, says conditions in Northern California today are nearing where they were at the peak of the drought between 2013 and 2016. And that the state is drying out even faster now. "Water scarcity, in some respects, is already sort of getting to where we were at the peak of the last drought, but there was quite a long build up to that one." All of California is considered in drought, with nearly 98 percent of the state in severe, extreme or exceptional drought. That compares with just a fifth of the state a year ago, according to the drought monitor. While sub-par winters are far from an anomaly in the state, Swain says in recent years summer heat has been arriving earlier, and lingering longer, than historically. That added strain on shrubs and trees could present major challenges to firefighters and those depending on them in the months ahead. "There's essentially a year or more…
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Apr 27, 2021

Sonoma County resumes use of J&J vaccine

by Tessa Paoli
In accordance with recommendations by federal and state health officials, Sonoma County is once again distributing the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine after a two week pause. In a statement Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said the vaccine is safe and the risk of developing blood clots is extremely rare, less than 2 cases per million doses overall and seven cases per million for women between 18 and 49 years old. Mase said she supports an additional warning label so people can make an informed decision. The majority of 3,000 still-good J&J doses being stored in the county will be distributed to Fox Home Health, a private health care agency that is vaccinating homebound seniors and unsheltered residents. Because the J&J vaccine is just one dose, it’s been especially useful in vaccinating vulnerable, hard to reach individuals. But Fox Home Health CEO Cheryl Fox says offering choice is key. "We are in hopes that the people that are unsheltered will accept the Johnson and Johnson. And if they will not then we will be giving them the Moderna and following up with them in four weeks to give them the second dose, and hope for the best," Fox said. Fox said five community vaccine clinics throughout the county closed due to the J&J pause but will resume within a week. The county did not receive any J&J doses this week and will find out Wednesday how many doses it will receive for next week.
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Apr 22, 2021

County holds its first COVID-19 briefing in Spanish

by Tessa Paoli
Instead of offering Spanish translations online during the meeting, like they’ve been doing for the past year, officials switched to Spanish as the primary language this week, with English translations available on Youtube. The change is an effort to reach the county’s Latinx communities, who have been hit hardest by COVID-19, making up 64 percent of the positive cases and just 18 percent of vaccinations county-wide. "I had the same worried as the whole world. First, because this is a new pandemic and a new virus. Second because the vaccine is also new," Remedos Gomez Anau, the head of San Francisco's Mexican Consul, said in Spanish. She went on to dispel myths and urge residents to talk to doctors they trust about the shot. "And everyone definitely has tje right to have these questions answered in full," Sonoma County’s health equity manager Denia Candela said. In addition to access to information, Candela highlighted the importance of having vaccine clinics where Latinx residents live. Like one opening this weekend in La Luz Center serving Sonoma Valley. There was also information about the Emergency Rental Assistance Program where renters and landlords affected by the pandemic can apply for help covering rent and utilities. Supervisor James Gore says starting a Spanish meeting shouldn’t have taken a year and that he is pushing to have them weekly or bi-weekly.
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Apr 22, 2021

Residents react to the Chauvin verdict

by Tessa Paoli
Photo of a Black Lives Matter Protest in 2020. (Photo by Adia White)Santa Rosa Jr. College student and activist Caitie Ferro cried when she first heard the news that Derek Chauvin was guilty of murder, and thought the dozens of marches she went to over the past year might have led to change. "All of the nights that I spent marching until my feet were sore and I was chanting and screaming, were worth it," Ferro said. Hours after she heard the guilty verdict, she went to a gathering on campus with other activists. A day later, she said she sees how much more progress still needs to be made. "It’s something but it’s not everything and there’s still a lot of work to be done. The chants stay the same but the names change," Ferro said. Tina Rogers, a Sonoma county native, multicultural arts educator and community activist, said decades after the Civil Rights Movement it’s time for accountability. Rogers facilitated a chat with the Rohnert Park police chief this month to built transparency and trust - the city bordering Santa Rosa, where a former police chief testified in defense of Chauvin during the trial. "The bottom line is what has been tolerated and what has been tolerated can no longer happen," Rogers said. And that it’s too early to celebrate. Chauvin still needs to be sentenced. "Each and every one of us has to be held accountable or at least understand that we have to make changes immediately," Rogers said. Rohnert Park Vice Mayor Jackie Elward, the first Black woman…
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Apr 22, 2021

Healdsburg ponders 'granny-flat' red tape, incentives

by Marc Albert
Ordered by Sacramento to encourage more so-called granny flats, Healdsburg has gone a step further in hopes of encouraging a mini building boom. Officials predict new, less onerous rules will spur more homeowners into becoming small-scale landlords. The Healdsburg city council is revising rules around the construction of small rentals added to a property where a home already sits. They're officially known as Accessory Dwelling Units or A-D-Us. Written to comply with a mandate from Sacramento, the proposed regulations eliminate development fees for such units---potentially trimming somewhere around 25,000 dollars off the overall cost to build. Units could be built wherever single family homes are allowed. The concept is one of several strategies aimed at reducing California's chronic housing shortage and astronomical home prices. Healdsburg's interim community development director Luke Sims says the push should allow some to find housing closer to their jobs or school, "and do so without altering the character of the community." Sims says he expects about two dozen new projects by the end of next year. He says that's up from an average of about 15 a year. Real kitchens and bathrooms, though not elaborate, would be required---a hotplate and microwave won't cut it, Sims says. And owners will be banned from using them as vacation rentals. A final vote is expected next month, with the new regulations potentially taking effect in June.
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Apr 16, 2021

Santa Rosa parents ask district to fully reopen

by Tessa Paoli
At least 250 parents in Santa Rosa city schools this week signed a letter asking the district to open full time, in accordance with the state’s updated reopening plan. On April 1st, the district began in-person instruction two shortened days a week for elementary aged children. Next will be secondary students. "It’s hard, it’s hard it has a huge impact on the entire family, these schedules and uncertainty. There is no barriers to us being back full time and we just need the leaders to make it happen and get us back to where our kids need to be," Stacia Okura said. Okura is the mother of a child in TK in the district and one of the parents who signed the joint letter. For Okura, working and dropping her son off twice a week for three and a half hours is a challenge. Madonna Feather-Cruz, parent of a high schooler and the president of the Indian Education Committee for the district, also signed the letter. She said she’s seen how kids are struggling while they wait for schools to fully reopen.al "They’ve gained weight, they have been suicidal, they have depression and anxiety. We need to help them. We need to open the schools back up for them," Cruz said. The parents organized a GoFundMe to hire legal counsel to get schools to fully reopen this month. The GoFund me has already raised over $3,000 since it was created less than a week ago. Tessa Paoli, KRCB News.
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Apr 15, 2021

As vaccine eligibility opens, hesitation is the next hurdle

by Tessa Paoli
As of today, all adults in Sonoma County are eligible to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine, but there’s still a lot of hesitancy about whether to get the shot. Sonoma County has successfully vaccinated 36 percent of the adult population, and is surpassing other counties of similar size. But vaccine hesitancy is the next hurdle. According to one tally, the North Bay, including Sonoma County, has the highest vaccine hesitancy rate in the Bay Area. A Bay Area Council Survey in March found about a quarter of those surveyed say they don’t plan on getting the shot. Yessenia Zepeda was skeptical before she changed her mind a few weeks ago and got her first shot at the Cesar Chavez Health Fair in Santa Rosa. She lost a family member to the virus. "With being a mother, I want to definitely take whatever measures or precautions that are out there to keep my little one healthy and myself healthy so I can care after her," Zepeda said. After the J&J vaccine was paused this week because of a few rare cases of side effects, people have even more questions. For Dr. Jenny Fish, who specializes in family medicine at Sutter Santa Rosa, tackling vaccine hesitancy is all about building trust in communities and listening. Especially in Latinx communities hit hardest by COVID-19. "It doesn’t really work with us as doctors to just show up in the community and say here, believe us...you know especially in communities of color that have experienced institutionalized racism for years and decades and…
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Apr 14, 2021

J&J pause slows down vaccinations of vulnerable residents

by Tessa Paoli
Because the new J&J vaccine didn’t arrive in the county until March, so far it only makes up about three percent of those administered. But the single-dose vaccine has been important in getting shots to unsheltered and homebound folks. Now, a few hundreds of doses intended for those hard-to-reach individuals are on hold until there’s more guidance from the state. "In the homeless population giving the j&j was perfect because it's a one and done. So there's no no question as to whether someone would be able to come back to or make an appointment for getting a second dose," Cheryl Fox, President of Fox home Health, said. Fox Home Health is a Santa Rosa-based private healthcare provider and is helping administer vaccines. Fox says she hopes the county will be able to resume J&J doses in the next couple of days to make vaccinating *everyone* easier. State health officials say the pause will not change the opening up of eligibility to all adults Thursday.
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Apr 13, 2021

Businesses have more options in orange tier

by Tessa Paoli
After spending six months stuck in the state's most restrictive purple tier, Sonoma joined the majority of the Bay Area in the second least restrictive orange tier last week because of low COVID numbers in the county. Being in the orange tier means COVID spread is moderate and businesses can operate indoors more…gyms and yoga studios can increase capacity to 25 percent, restaurants can fill up inside at 50 percent capacity. And businesses are adjusting to the more relaxed rules. Stéphane Saint-Louis is the executive chef and owner and Table Culture Provisions, a Petaluma restaurant that started as a popup last August and now is a fully operational. Although Saint-Louis is happy to have the option of ramping up indoor service, his team decided to stay within the restrictions of the red tier and maintain 25 percent capacity inside. "We just want to be cautious and prioritize the health of our customers and the health of our staff and just by maintaining that 25 percent and operating along those lines," Saint-Louis said. While the county saw a slight increase in COVID cases last week, officials are hoping to make it into the least restrictive yellow tier in the next couple of weeks, months before Governor Gavin Newsom hopes to fully open back up the economy on June 15, according to State officials
Apr 12, 2021

Windsor mayor under sex-crimes cloud

by Marc Albert
Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli is refusing to step down despite sex-crime allegations from half a dozen women, including a fellow city council member. An increasingly isolated Foppoli is rejecting calls to resign from just about every North Bay political leader after accusations emerged late last week detailing a pattern of sexual abuse stretching back nearly two decades. The accusations were first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. A local entrepreneur, Foppoli is Co-owner of Christopher Creek Winery near Healdsburg. The League of California Cities, where Foppoli held a leadership position expelled him unanimously Thursday after the Chronicle published its first story. The league, in a statement said it was "sickened" by the "shocking allegations." A sixth woman stepped forward with further allegations detailed in the Press Democrat Monday. Councilwoman Esther Lemus, who also serves as a county prosecutor, accused Foppoli of raping and sodomizing her and performing other acts in two encounters last year. Lemus told the Press Democrat that she believes Foppoli incapacitated her with date-rape drugs. Foppoli, according to the paper, dismissed the allegations as "fabulist tales." The town council has scheduled a special meeting Wednesday to consider demanding Foppoli step down. The Sheriff's office has opened an investigation.
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