In January 2023, two community groups filed a lawsuit against an environment impact report (EIR) that allows large scale redevelopment at the former Sonoma Developmental Center. The lawsuit seeks to protect wildlife from out-of-scale development and humans from a flawed report on wildfire evacuation.
Here is a summary of some key issues.Adjacent to extensive wildland and parks, SDC is a pinch-point in a critical wildlife corridor that supports the movement of mountain lions, bears, bobcats and many other animals within the Sonoma Valley and as far as Marin and Lake Counties. Lions regularly use the area in and around the SDC. Because lions select tree cover and dense vegetation, Sonoma Creek running through the SDC is of utmost importance for movement of lions as well as other mammal species. Sonoma and Mill Creeks both have salmonid and other special species.The SDC plan proposes 420,000 sq. ft. of commercial including hotel, and 1,000 residential units. This means about 2,400 people will overlap with wildlife on the site.
Unfortunately, the EIR failed to do baseline studies on the wildlife and failed to provide long term protections for the wildlife corridor or ecology of the area. The wildfire evacuation report is also flawed. Evacuation to congested Highway 12 is the plan. The report declared that adding 2,400 residents and about 1,000 jobs to the site would have virtually no impact on travel time. That defies logic as well as the real-life experience of thousands of Sonoma Valley residents desperately attempting to evacuate during the 2017 Fires and the 2020 Glass Fire. While efforts have been made to improve the evacuation process, minimizing the possibility of lengthy evacuation times is not safe or acceptable.Find more information about the SCALE lawsuit at SCALE (scaledownsdc.org), and please consider making a tax deductible donation to the lawsuit.
Our program will focus on the lessons learned from the pandemic and how communities have used recovery dollars to invest in a better, more sustainable future for our kids and grandkids. As always, we will honor our environmental champions, and give thanks to those who have fought every day to make Sonoma County the special place it is.
Organizational Champion: $10,000
16 tickets (2 tables) special Gala goodies, and program recognition
Woodland Warrior: $5,000
12 tickets (1.5 tables) special Gala goodies, and program recognition
Toxic-Free Fighter: $2,500
8 tickets (1 table) special Gala goodies, and program recognition
Climate Champion: $1,000
4 tickets and program recognition
Movement Sustainer: $500
2 tickets and program recognition
Individual Tickets: $100
Your generous Sponsorship Donations will be an investment to sustain our organizations mission and advocacy, while also allowing us to launch new educational programs, like our new Monthly Nature Outings Program-getting folks back into nature and exploring our beautiful Sonoma County. We will be able to support environmental candidates who don’t have the big-dollar-donors that we see dominate our political system. It will also allow us to continue to monitor and participate in City Council meetings, advocate for local policies that will help our community adapt to our changing climate. Please join us and sponsor the incredible work of our team
SCCA Endorsements 2022
The most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report tells us what we already know: our climate is changing, and local communities like ours are already feeling the sting. We must continue to elect leaders who won’t just play lip service to environmental concerns, but can push past tired excuses to support the types of substantial change we need. This coming June, voters will be asked to cast their ballots, and we’re urging you to use your vote to elect environmental champions. Today, we will focus on one of the few competitive races in the County.
The incumbent, David Rabbitt, has a long track record for voters to consider, particularly when it comes to transportation. He is the current Chair of SMART, serves on the Golden Gate Transit Board, and is the former Chair of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Regional Climate Protection Authority. And in fairness to the incumbent, after nearly twelve years on the Board of Supervisors, David can rightfully tout some of the progressive accomplishments that have been realized by county government. We question, however, whether he was a leader on important environmental and social equity issues or a passenger along for the ride. David is largely regarded as the most conservative member of the Board, and as such, his voice has been absent from some key conversations, such as 2020’s Measure P, which sought greater transparency and accountability from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office. Our membership has also found him inaccessible.
By Eve Kahn, Gary Margadant and Michael Allen
Last December the California Board of Forestry gutted California’s fire safe road regulations, leaving already vulnerable communities at-risk for future destruction.
Perhaps most problematic is the significant reduction in the minimum width of roads. Existing standards require twenty-foot width, while the newly adopted regulations require only fourteen (and no shoulder). This significant reduction means that new homes will be built on roads that have insufficient room for fire trucks to respond to an emergency – especially while residents are evacuating. Most fire trucks are nine feet wide, while the average car is nearly six. Fourteen-foot roads create logistical challenges and potential bottle necks should two fire vehicles need to maneuver around one another (eighteen feet) and leaves insufficient room for cars to squeeze past a fire truck (fifteen feet).
Despite objections from California’s fire fighters and environmental advocates, the Board chose unmitigated sprawl over smart growth. This decision will not only put future residents in very high fire severity zones, but would additionally over-burden existing infrastructure, making it more difficult for current homeowners to evacuate in an emergency.
The elimination of minimum dead-end-road requirements, reduction in bridge weight requirements, and significant weakening of ridgeline protections will likewise have a disastrous impact on vulnerable communities.
Approving these regulations without common sense fire-safe measures or heeding the wisdom of our subject matter experts will further increase wildfire risk to lives and property, tie the hands of our first responders, strain firefighting budgets, and make it more difficult to obtain property insurance.
Exacerbating an already bad decision, the Board chose to apply these rules only to newly constructed roads while allowing continued development to occur on substandard infrastructure. The Board failed to understand the cumulative impact that would occur “downstream” as residents move out of harm’s way. As we have seen in numerous conflagrations, the ability of emergency personnel to move evacuees seamlessly and without pinch points is paramount to saving lives. The regulations also allow local jurisdictions to seek exemptions and reduce these requirements further.
California can build housing where it’s appropriate to build – in city centers with adequate infrastructure, and without increasing the risk to our vulnerable communities. The Board of Forestry must reconsider their regulations and, at a minimum, conduct a CEQA analysis to quantify the dangers of intensifying land use in high fire severity zones.
Eve Kahn and Gary Margadant are co-presidents of Napa Vision 2050. Michael Allen is the Chairman of the Board for Sonoma County Conservation Action.
SCCA is pleased to honor the outstanding record of recent SCCA Board member Dr. Jane Nielson
Ph.D geologist, Jane impressively served on the SCCA Board for seven years. She still loves Sonoma County, but is relocating to Portland to be near family
Jane brings scientific integrity and logical consistency to all her projects. She has three degrees in geology, including MS in Geochemistry from The University of Michigan and Ph.D. in Geology from Stanford University, and is a California Licensed Professional Geologist (PG). She worked 18 years for the U.S. Geological Survey as a field and research geologist, and taught undergraduate geology courses at Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff AZ; California State University, Hayward; and Pomona College, Claremont CA. After retiring from USGS, she moved to Sonoma County in 1999. Here, Jane applied her skills to launch multiple projects involving public policy, environment, and – most especially – water use and resources. At SCCA, she excelled at rigorous policy discussions and evaluating candidates for elective office.
Geologist and Water Activist
Jane Nielson on the San Andreas Fault at Fort Ross.
Jane lectures on geology and environment because activism begins with education. Her popular lectures include “Sonoma County Has Its Faults: A Rock and Roll History.” She speaks and writes with beauty and passion:
“[P]reserving lands has a central role for protecting air and water quality, and water supplies – and all support a healthy living environment. The idea that all life on earth is connected in a great chain of being, and that all life is connected to the physical earth in many obvious and subtle ways.”
Family and Friends
SCCA is pleased to award Marylee Guinon the Leadership & Sustainability Award for her tireless work on fire safe roads.
A Local Victory!
Standing Up for Fire Safe Roads
Can We Afford to Sacrifice Community Safety to More WUI Development? Please help SCCA advocate for fire safe roads and fire safe development.
Please join us at the November 4th Planning Commission Meeting to demand stronger protection against Oak and Forest Land conversion in the county.
Scientists agree, protecting existing forests is the best low-cost approach for immediately sequestering large amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, ultimately reducing our adverse impacts on the climate.
In Sonoma County, thousands of acres of woodlands and forests – broadly speaking trees – lack legal protections to prevent them from being cut down in large numbers.
Given the severity of the climate crisis and the power of trees to soften its impact on our community, it is critical that the County take immediate steps to protect our working woodlands from being cut down.