The Sonoma County Water Coalition
The Sonoma County Water Coalition (est. March 2004) is an alliance of 27 organizations. These organizations represent approximately 25,000 concerned citizens, most of whom live in Sonoma County. The Coalition is addressing the proposed Water Supply, Transmission and Reliability Project (WSTRP), which should be split into two projects. The “transmission and reliability” components are urgently needed to avoid supply interruptions during times of peak demand and may proceed with minimal controversy. However, the “supply” component, which envisages removing 35% more water from the Russian River, is contentious and may even be unnecessary. To combine these two components into a single project invites coercive approval of the entire project by the inevitable emergency occasioned by the inherent inadequacy of peak demand infrastructure.
There is no justification for increasing withdrawals from the Russian River by 35% from 75,000 acre feet per year to 101,000 acre feet per year. Since the time this increase was originally proposed, over twelve years ago, the projected increase in the population of Sonoma County has been lowered to just 27% over the next twenty years. In light of this lowered County General Plan projection, there is no rationale for increasing water supply by 35%; this remains true despite inflated increases suggested by contractors and other clients of the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA).
Water supply for the projected population increase of 27% can be achieved by rigorous demand restriction and increased re-use of water. Los Angeles and many other communities have grown significantly over the last twenty years with no net increase in water consumption. Per capita water consumption in Sonoma County remains unacceptably high.
The WSTRP mentions the possibility of drilling new SCWA wells to supplement the transmission system with more groundwater. The three so-called SCWA ’emergency wells’ in the Laguna de Santa Rosa are already causing groundwater overdraft and are implicated as the cause of dry wells to the east and south of Sebastopol. There are no groundwater management plans in Sonoma County and we lack a water budget. It is irresponsible to add additional wells without a groundwater management plan, and precipitous to do so several years before USGS studies of the County’s major groundwater basins are complete.
Contact Veronica Jacobi or Stephen Fuller-Rowell, Co-Founders The Sonoma County Water Coalition at: SCWaterCoalition@aol.com
Coalition for a Better Sonoma County
The Coalition for a Better Sonoma County is a group of individuals and organizations who have joined together to ensure our local government acts for the benefit of all people, not just for the benefit of big money interests.
We are environmentalists, union members, neighborhood activists, and concerned citizens, who believe that by working together we can make Sonoma County a better place.
Our Key Policies:
- Affordable Housing for all Income Levels
- Smart, Responsible and Sustainable Growth
- Local Jobs for Local Workers
Our Core Principles:
- Conserving our Natural Resources
- Reducing the Influence of Money in Politics
- Living Wages for Working Families
Accountable Development Coalition
Accountable Development Efforts Gain Momentum
North Bay Progressive
By Sabrina Ross
In April, more than 30 Sonoma County leaders convened in Santa Rosa’s SEIU Local 707 for an accountable development workshop led by the California Partnership for Working Families and hosted by New Economy, Working Solutions. The workshop brought labor, environmental and community-based organizations together to prepare for upcoming efforts to achieve accountable development within Sonoma County. Accountable development allows communities to achieve smart growth, rather than the haphazard expansion that frequently occurs.
Led by facilitators who have negotiated accountable development agreements in Los Angeles, Emeryville, San Jose, and Oakland, among many other California cities, the workshop focused on the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), a tool which has recently enabled many communities to secure environmental building standards, living wages, affordable housing agreements, childcare center space and funding, and a host of other community benefits from developers. Workshop facilitators explained the workings of CBAs to the assembled community leaders: these project-specific contracts between developers and community organizations allow community groups to have a voice in shaping a project, and ensure that major developments benefit a community and meet its particular needs.
Communities in California have been increasingly successful in recent years in arguing that developers of large projects have a particular social responsibility, not only because they’re entering existing communities, but because taxpayer dollars subsidize their projects. According to the nonprofit California Budget Project, California alone devoted more than $8 billion last year to state economic development incentives, and local governments spends billions more. Cities and states have long offered free land, tax breaks, grants, and other incentives to entice new development. Increasingly, however, community advocates, local governments and even the developers themselves are acknowledging that projects receiving public dollars should be asked to deliver improved wages, health benefits, parks, and other community benefits that fit the local circumstances and needs. “We’re looking forward to bringing more accountable development to Sonoma County,” said Living Wage Coalition coordinator Ben Boyce, “Making clear what the community expects from its developers early in the process should make the process of development easier and more positive for all involved.”
CBAs usually occur through negotiation between leaders of community groups and developers, and sometimes involve local governments. Groups behind the accountable development process often include environmentalists, ethnic chambers of commerce, faith leaders, neighborhood associations, academics, and advocates for labor, housing, and childcare. In the negotiation process, the developer agrees to shape the development in a certain way or to provide specified community benefits. In exchange, the community groups support the proposed project before government bodies that provide the needed permits and subsidies. Cities, in turn, can get guarantees of timely construction and funds for city-provided services.
The training leaders also explained measures that effective CBAs include for monitoring and enforcement of developers’ agreements. CBAs are not the only tools for achieving accountable development however. Presenters also described how communities can participate even earlier in the development process– in crafting the Request for Proposals (RFP) document that cities write when commencing the process of scouting for developers of areas where some public funds will be used. Indeed, the RFP itself can include some of the criteria so that developers will understand from the outset the parameters of their role. In a recent Los Angeles RFP, the city included affordable housing, funds for public art, active energy conservation measures, and a living wage standard in the development requirements.
While Sonoma County has yet to see any accountable development CBAs, there are precedents which prefigure a community benefit agreement: In 2000 the Petaluma City Council, the Living Wage Coalition and the North Bay Labor Council negotiated an agreement that mandates in return for receiving 2.75 million in public subsidies, the developers of the Petaluma Sheraton Hotel agreed to provide a living wage to all workers and to remain neutral if the workers requested an election for union representation. Moreover, the County Board of Supervisors, on a 4 to 1 vote, with Kelley voting no, recently passed a Workforce Housing Ordinance, a progressive policy-level development measure that requires new commercial developers to participate in the county’s affordable housing program.
The timing of the Accountable Development training is apt: key redevelopment areas in Santa Rosa and Petaluma are poised for development. The second part of the day’s training focused on clarifying the community’s direction for seeking accountable development of two major developments in downtown Santa Rosa and Petaluma. In Santa Rosa, the RFP for 5.5 critical redevelopment acres in Railroad Square is scheduled to be crafted in June and July. This is a pivotal property in the County not only because it lies at the heart of downtown Santa Rosa, but because its planned to house the primary Sonoma County station for the Sonoma Marin Train. The Basin Street area of Petaluma is also undergoing significant development for which community leaders hope to accomplish accountability.
“This is an opportunity for communities to shape the development process early on, so that we can participate in a positive process that working families, environmentalists, housing advocates, cities and developers alike can support,” said Martin Bennett, chair of New Economy, Working Solutions.
A living wage requirement for workers employed in the development;
A “first source” hiring system, to target job opportunities in the development to residents of nearby or low-income neighborhoods;
Construction of affordable housing;
Space for a neighborhood-serving child-care center;
Developer funding for community park and recreation needs;
Standards for responsible contracting and leasing decisions by the developer
Sustainable building standards, including energy conservation systems and LEEDS certified construction
Transportation and Land Use Coalition (TALC)
TALC is a partnership of over 90 groups working for a sustainable and socially just Bay Area. We envision a region with healthy, vibrant, walkable communities that provide all residents with transportation choices and affordable housing. TALC analyzes county and regional policies, works with community groups to develop alternatives, and coordinates grassroots campaigns.
The Members and Affiliates of the Transportation and Land Use Coalition believe that current development patterns and projections for the future do not have to be our destiny. The Bay Area can preserve our environment and quality of life and ensure that all residents have access to economic opportunities by:
- refocusing public investment to serve and revitalize existing developed areas;
- designing livable communities with housing near jobs, recreation, transit and services;
- providing real transportation choices;
- reforming pricing incentives which promote unsustainable development; and
- addressing important equity concerns.
Members and Affiliates of TALC are working to promote these principles (outlined in our Platform) through a broad range of activities: policy analysis and recommendations, public education, research, grassroots action and more. We are campaigning together for smart growth, affordable housing, a better regional transportation plan, transportation justice, and bicycle and pedestrian access.
Since 1997 TALC has won important campaigns and achieved recognition throughout California and the nation, grown to include over 90 organizations, and built an unprecedented level of trust among environmental, community and social justice advocates.
Planning and Conservation League
The Planning and Conservation League (PCL) is a statewide alliance of individuals and conservation organizations. For more than thirty years, PCL has fought to develop a body of environmental laws in California that is the best in the United States.
Under PCL, a nonprofit lobbying organization, individuals and organizations become a united voice in the protection of California’s environment. We galvanize support for the environment through legislative and administrative action. For example, PCL staff review virtually every environmental bill that comes before the California Legislature each year. We have testified in support or opposition of thousands of bills, working to strengthen California’s environmental laws and fight off rollbacks of environmental protections.
PCL is the only organization solely devoted to making California a better place to live by lobbying the California State Legislature on a full range of environmental issues and by sponsoring environmental initiatives. An official resolution of the Legislature stated that “participation on every key environmental issue before the State Legislature has demonstrated PCL’s effectiveness in preserving the quality of life for all Californians.”
PCL is California’s only statewide environmental coalition. Founded in 1965 by a group of citizens who were concerned about the uncontrolled development taking place throughout the state and the destruction that accompanied it, PCL has fought for more than thirty years to develop a body of environmental laws that is the best in the United States.
Sonoma County Housing Coalition
- Greenbelt Alliance
- Sonoma County Conservation Action
- Sonoma County Group of the Sierra Club
- Sonoma County Housing Advocacy Group
- Sonoma County Faith Based Coalition
- Service Employees International Union, Local 707 AFL-CIO
- Steer public and private investment toward existing developed areas.
- Provide for increased economic and housing opportunities and social justice.
- Conserve the County’s valuable agricultural and natural lands, and minimize the environmental impacts of new development.