Sonoma County


Nov 13, 2015

Sonoma County, with a much larger area and greater population than Napa, with a more diverse landscape and agriculture, with somewhat fewer agricultural protections, and a more recent and explosive development toward tourism, has also been somewhat quicker than Napa to respond to the threats to the rural areas of the county that tourism poses. I will continue to group here the many posts from the community organization that have sprung up there to meet threat.

Preserve Rural Sonoma County


Community volunteers working to challenge the county policies responsible for the negative cumulative impacts of winery event centers and industrial-sized facilities overtaking our rural and agricultural zones

Wine and Water Watch


WineWaterWatch.org is a community activist group against development happening in Sonoma, particularly watershed protection and projects such as the Dairyman Winery/Distillery and Event Center.

Friends of the Gualala River


FOGR has fought for the preservation of costal woodlands and watersheds against vineyard development.

Transition Sonoma Valley


A local implementation of the grassroots model being supported by Transition US, a self described social experiment in community engagement.

Valley of the Moon Alliance


Promoting the preservation, protection and maintenance of the agricultural character, natural resources and rural beauty of Sonoma Valley.

Articles:
Will Parrish 2/18/16:Sonoma Supes Drunk On Wine Money

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Sonoma County Knights Bridge Winery Appeal


Bill Hocker - Aug 11, 2017 6:08PM  Share #1556

Charlotte Williams send information about the on-going resistance in Sonoma County.

WinerWaterWatch 8/10/17: Appeal of Controversial Knights Valley Winery Back to Sonoma County Supervisors, Aug 22

The Board of Supervisors, now the decision-makers on this project, will hear the appeal by Manama Watershed Alliance and Friends of Spencer Lane in a Public Hearing, Tuesday August 22, 2017 at 2:10 PM

The Appeal and Documents

And this editorial from a member of the Maacama Watershed Alliance
Sonoma County Gazette 6/28/17: PRMD approves Winery Use-Permits that Urbanize Rural Areas

A tale of two roads


Bill Hocker - Jun 19, 2017 10:41AM  Share #1529

Geoff Ellsworth sends a link to the saga of a project in Sonoma County that bears a startling resemblance to the fight we have just gone through on the Mountain Peak winery. After the supervisor's approval of the project, residents sued and the county settled the lawsuit with reductions in tourism and cash for the residents lawyers.


Sonoma Index-Tribune 6/15/17: Sonoma Mountain Road’s Belden Barns settles with its neighbors

Sonoma Mountain Road, though not a dead end, is a very constricted loop off the main road that connects Santa Rosa and Sonoma. For visitors coming from Sonoma or Napa, the most direct route to Belden Barns is 6.4 miles east from Glen Ellen. A video in the article shows the dangers of this access. The settlement decision requires a "No Access to Belden Barns Winery” sign on the road - which contradicts the google map directions - so good luck with that. The owners have stated that most of their customers will come up from SF via 101 entering Sonoma Mountain Rd from the west, with only a 1.3 mile stretch of unstriped road. Unfortunately, from SF google maps also take you via Sonoma and Glen Ellen.

The similarities are remarkable: Belden is 6.4 miles from a highway vs 6.1 for Mountain Peak. Both envisioned 15000 visitors / year. While Belden will only produce 24,000 gallons of wine per year compared to Mountain Peaks 100,000 it will produce 10,000 lbs of cheese. And it is similarly the first tourism facility in its remote location.

One big difference, at Belden Barns, the area's Supervisor supported her residents as the one negative vote in a 4-1 decision by the Board of Supervisors. Our Napa Supervisor made the motions to deny our appeals, thumbing his nose at the concerns of those he represents in favor of absentee owners and vanity developments.

After the Board of Supervisors decision, the neighbors of Belden Barns sued the county, claiming that the EIR required by the county was inadequate. The suit was settled by the Supervisors in closed session. The decision restricted visitation to Saturdays only from Jan - Mar and only 5 days/wk the rest of the year. Only 1 post-sunset event per year. Event guest lists must be provided to neighbors!! And the neighbors get $100,000 to cover legal costs. Though many issures were raised in the suit, the significance of the decision is that, above all else, neighbors were concerned about tourism in their remote area of the county. It is the refrain happening in every wine producing area on the planet.

Mountain Peak has yet to be subjected to an Environmental Impact Report, being approved on the basis of the county's in-house environmental review checklist and a negative declaration indicating that county planners saw no significant environmental impacts. That EIR needs to happen.

Sonoma falls to the developer's ax


Bill Hocker - Nov 9, 2016 12:20PM  Share #1332

Update 11/9/16
SR Press Democrat 11/18/16: Lynda Hopkins wins Sonoma County supervisor race over Noreen Evans

As with the Napa win of Ryan Gregory, Belia Ramos and, earlier this year, Alfredo Pedroza, the Sonoma Board of Supervisors gets another pro-development member. It has unfortunately become the age of the developer and one can only fear that elections have consequences.

10/29/16
SF Chronicle: 10/29/16: Wineries’ impact brings taste of bitterness to Sonoma campaign

Sonoma study session on winery events July 12th


Bill Hocker - Jul 10, 2016 3:48PM  Share #1268

On July 12th, 2016 there will be a study session to discuss the work of Sonoma Permit and Resource Management Dept's Working Group that has been studying the impacts of winery tourism activities on the rural character of the county this past year. The results of the Working Group, and a subsequent community meeting, are summarized by staff in this County Supervisor Agenda Report.

As with Napa's APAC committee, the Sonoma Working Group was convened because of the concerns of residents about the changing nature of their rural communities as the wine industry aggressively turns to tourism as a principal marketing tool. It is the same issue occurring all over the state and no doubt in every wine growing region in the world. The Sonoma Agenda Report is an important document in that it defines as the central issue wine tourism's impact on the rural character of the county and takes as its mandate a solution to that conflict. Unlike the final APAC recommendations and Napa Supervisor's reinterpretation of them, which were heavily influenced by the wine industry, the Sonoma report seems to indicate a serious desire to come to grips with the impacts that tourism is beginning to have on the lives of Sonoma's rural residents.

It may play out much as Napa's APAC did with little meaningful change in zoning ordinances to curb the continued development of agricultural lands for commercial use and the diminution of the quality of life for rural residents, but thus far at least the right question is being asked.

Press Release

COUNTY OF SONOMA
PERMIT AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT DEPARTMENT
2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403-2829
(707) 565-1900 FAX (707) 565-1103

Sonoma County Holds Study Session on Winery Events

Date: June 28, 2016
CONTACT: Maggie Fleming, Communications Manager, 707.565.6196

maggie.fleming@sonoma-county.org

SANTA ROSA, CA - The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will conduct a Winery Events Study Session at approximately 3:10 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 during their public board meeting. This session will explore the County’s General Plan policies that guide winery promotional and event activities. It will take place in the Board of Supervisors’ Chambers located at 575 Administration Drive, Room 102A, Santa Rosa.

During this study session, Permit and Resource Management Department (PRMD) staff will provide a short overview of General Plan policies related to winery events and key issues that have emerged during the permitting process. According to Board Chair Efren Carrillo, “This study session will provide an overview of policy options to balance wine industry event impacts with the need to protect neighborhood character and address land use compatibility issues.”

In preparation for this study session, the Winery Working Group of stakeholders met for six months to review existing policies and zoning provisions and inform PRMD staff on key issues. Additionally, PRMD staff collected input and comments at winery event public workshops attended by an estimated 500 people. The study session will include a report on outcomes from these events and initial ideas around events, concentration, standards for future wineries, and enforcement.

The Board will not make any decisions regarding winery policies during this study session. Instead, the Board will consider adopting a Resolution of Intention directing PRMD staff to prepare a draft ordinance to amend the Zoning Code to include development criteria and standards for winery events. This ordinance will be considered at a public hearing held on a later date.

Additional information on the County’s work with winery events is available at http://www.sonoma-county.org/wineryevents.




Comments
Charlotte Williams - Jul 13, 2016

Shepherd Blis adds:

Following are some comments by people who were at the July 12 Board of Supervisors meeting on wineries. I am also including copies of the presentations by Marc Bommersbach for the Westside Community Association (though the excellent graphics did not copy), by Padi Selwyn for Preserve Rural Sonoma County, and a letter by Anna Ransome. These last three documents could be used as talking points for future conversations.


Thank you to everyone who sent emails, showed up, spoke before the board, and shared our plea for emails and attendance.It was very heartening to see so many of our supporters present in this overflow crowd! The wine industry was on their knees yesterday. Their presentations were so weak and Karissa left even before her name was called to speak. Wine folk behaved very differently than they did at the November 16 meeting where they were cocky, confident and arrogant!

There is still much work to do and we need to make sure to keep the pressure on as we can be assured wine interests will be working hard behind-the-scenes. Thanks again for all the time, effort, and energy. Together we are making great progress and together we will continue to work hard to preserve rural Sonoma County!

Paid Selwyn, Preserve Rural Sonoma County


It was wonderful to see and hear so many people who support rural preservation. Our statements were very strong and the supervisors heard us. I was really proud to be there.

And there is a lot of work to do. The last 10 minutes at the bitter end were revealing. Susan Gorin was the only one who seemed to want county wide regulations. The rest emphasized to Tennis, as they were trying to direct him, that they wanted flexibility on regs and wanted to look at events on a case by case basis. Gore lifted both arms up and said he didn't want to worry about every little event. Carrillo and Rabbitt were concerned about protecting the wine industry. So we will see what happens!! And send more emails concerning our positions and words of support to Susan.

Does anyone know Shirlee Zane's position?

Eszter Freeman


I heard it a little different in that Board wants Countywide rules. The "Specific Plan" thing came up as an alternative to solving existing problem in troubled areas. So, I suspect we'll see both 1) amendments to Ord and 2) additions to GP a la specific plan for Sonoma and W. Dry Creek in a year or so.

Ernie Carpenter


I feel that Susan Gorin was the star. I was impressed, but just briefly about some of James Gore remarks. They were anti-food and wine pairings unless local food was highlighted. He back pedaled a little afterwards but felt the new thing in wineries should be multiple crops. CAFF was late and did not get a speaker card in, lost opportunity to speak more on that.

I understand that each area of concentration is different but using the same old case by case approval is only setting up more conflict and special interests. We made some progress but time will tell as we will not hear a thing until September due to the case load by PRMD whose staff was just reduced by 25%. This is crucial as the Supes asked for several studies including traffic and NO ONE SPOKE out about conducting these studies in peak traffic times. PRMD let Bella Winery redo their traffic plan in low traffic periods to get an event permit.

Also I was incredibly disturbed at the insistence that most of the wineries are small! PRMD and the wine folks really hammered on that! PRMD and the supervisors kept saying 92% could be in compliance for events. More back dating of permits like Ratna Ling? Char Vale remember had 3 wineries closest to them openly advertising non-permitted events. We need to get on the make up of the corporate people who own all these small wineries now. This is the new corporate thing to buy up small wineries with limited production so they can charge more. Less than 2 weeks ago one big group bought up 4 or 5 small wineries according to the PD. I am slammed for the rest of the day. Thanks for doing this!

Janus Matthes, Wine and Water Watch


Fred Allebach's comment on PD article
What we are seeing in the county is an internal wine industry war between estate-based, bonded wineries and urban/Plaza-based virtual wineries.

These virtual wineries and associated tasting rooms, bottling facilities and shipping facilities, in urban areas, are what is driving actual estate-based,
bonded wineries into a frenzy of event center panic, to not lose market share to the new central Plaza model.

Then we get mixed up in industry marketing obfuscation about who is a "family-owned winery", when most of them are actually big corporate. In the county
70% of production is from 12 wineries.

The reason the bonded wineries are pushing for so many more events, weddings, food pairings, concerts etc., is because the virtuals are stealing market share. The bonded wineries cry they can’t make a profit, but this is not because of excessive regulation by the government but because of good old-fashioned free market competition and an evolving economic playing field.

And then it comes on the backs of the urban and rural public to endure a bonanza of intensified competition between two conflicting models of making and
selling wine. The old model offers aristocratic countryside mystique; the new model offers a one-stop wine/ food pairing shop in cutesy pie boutique
Plazas which the virtuals have taken completely over.

This internecine wine industry competition threatens to gobble up all county public space with wine, wine, wine and more wine. Maybe the job of government is to protect citizens from this marketing cancer, rather than it feed it more.



Dear Supervisors:

Please act to preserve the rural character of Sonoma County, a characteristic that drew many people to settle here and that still attracts visitors from all over the world. The trend towards placing wineries and event centers on agricultural land, instead of along the major transportation arteries, will pave over our ag land and cause the commercialization of our rural areas, destroying the unique qualities of our county and clogging our country roads with traffic from events and processing.

A June 26 article in the Press Democrat pointed out the growing trend of eco-tourism in Sonoma County. Many of these tourists are bike riders and there is a conflict between this trend and the increase of wineries, winery events, tasting traffic and tanker trucks on roads that are too narrow and winding to accommodate them.

Our General Plan 2020 supports agriculture but does not encourage the commercialization of ag land, including processing, restaurant-type food service and lodging accommodations. PRMD should establish a percentage criteria for processing grapes at wineries, something which has never been done in our county but which is standard in many other locations. Allowing the processing of grapes from other counties and states does nothing to encourage our local agriculture but contributes to more and more truck traffic and road damage.

A strict and standardized policy for winery events needs to be established. Right now, many wineries are holding multiple events, which are freely advertised in local papers, but which are not allowed in their use permits. This creates an unfair advantage for those who have applied and paid for permits that allow events. The PRMD devoted a large amount of resources to getting a handle on the unpermitted vacation rentals, and yet the lack of oversight on winery events, a much greater problem, continues. PRMD should have a weekend phone number for event complaints and a way to enforce use permit violations, no matter when or where.

Action now will avoid a very big problem down the road. There are already huge impacts from the lack of policy and action on the part of our local government to control the profusion of wineries and events on ag land in Sonoma County.

Anna Ransome, Graton CA 95444


July 12, 2016
We thank the BOS for directing the PRMD to develop county-wide standards and regulations that balance the needs of the industry yet protect neighborhoods and the quality of life for residents.

We all want a healthy economy and a beautiful place to live. It is in everyone’s interest -- to preserve rural character --we can have a healthy, vibrant wine and hospitality industry without degrading our primary tourist draw. If we want to have it all – we need to develop a plan for the long term, based on solid land use and economic principles.

We are very concerned about the case by case permitting that’s led to an over concentration of event centers and tasting rooms in Sonoma Valley, Dry Creek Valley and Westside Road. We trust that through balanced planning and your leadership, we will avoid creating new areas of over concentration in the rest of the county.

• PRMD staff has developed a list of options for the Board to consider. We have studied these carefully and advocate for the following:

Event Definition and Coordination must be County-led, not voluntary, through a data based-calendaring system already developed and paid for by the county but never implemented. This would analyze and allocate events to avoid concentration on any one weekend and in any one area to avoid road safety issues and other negative impacts.

• We support the county definition that sales and promotional events are any activity other than drop-in or by appointment tasting, and criteria that can be observed and monitored – ie: are non-employees on site after 5 pm? Is there amplified sound?

Monitoring and Enforcement: Clear criteria are absolutely essential given the County policy that enforcement is complaint –driven. Neighbors and the proposed Compliance Manager need criteria to determine non-compliance. The public cannot be expected to check attendees’ business cards or determine who sponsored the disputed promotional activity. More enforcement staff is needed and should be in the next fiscal budget. Enforcement must have meaningful fines and penalties.

Minimum Site Area and Setbacks: Siting criteria are important to guide development to appropriate locations to avoid cumulative impacts. We oppose reducing the minimum standards and we support siting criteria that includes separation criteria and min. parcel size for wineries holding events, with larger min. for areas of over concentration or projects with outdoor events.

Access Roads: Public safety is of utmost importance – Event activities must have access roads with minimum pavement width to allow safe passing and emergency vehicle access. Owners must have legal easements for access to property and must have safe site distances for turning onto public roads.

Noise Setbacks: We support min. setback standards for daytime outdoor event areas and parking. (sidenote: There is an inherent conflict of interest when an applicant hires and pays a consultant to do noise and traffic studies with specific results required for their permit approval.)

Number of Facilities on any one parcel: Again we are working to address cumulative impacts and degradation of rural character. Limit one tasting room per parcel on ag land and only allow tasting rooms on parcels with at least 6 acres in vineyards and that are accessory to a winery – to ensure Agriculture is primary on the parcel.

Food service runs the risk of event centers morphing into restaurants. Like Napa, if the County permits limited pre-packaged food-wine pairing by appointment only, during tasting room hours – we recommend it be in EXCHANGE for new permits having only a few Ag promotional events with food/ meal service after 5 pm.

In other words, the vast majority of newly permitted events must end at 5 pm. Evening events have the greatest impacts, the wineries become defacto supper clubs on Ag lands - and greatly jeopardize road safety.

• We support requiring a limited number of annual event permits for Private and Cultural events –via a zoning permit.

• Outdoor amplified sound should be limited to venues on large parcels that don’t create neighborhood conflicts. Kendall Jackson is the perfect example of a great venue whose amplified music bothers no-one.

Sonoma County is at a tipping point: Now is the time to address the dis-economies of destructive competition before the impacts from over-development erode the rural charm that tourists crave - causing them to take their business to more charming and less commercial places.

Please heed the advice from wine industry expert and Silicon Valley Banker, Ron McMillan, who challenges us to come together to address the very real problems: “ I believe tourists come to wine country because it is beautiful. Once they come to the wine country, the winery itself benefits from direct sales. If the wine country gets crowded and loses its charm — whether from locals or tourists — we will be killing the goose that lays the golden egg, so the focus for these issues should be on studies to get at the root of the problem.”

Thank you to our Board and PRMD for all the effort to get this right!

Paid Selwyn


Study Session On Winery Events
Presentation by Marc Bommersbach for
Westside Community Association July 12, 2016
Westside Community Associations 1
Everyone Knows Rural Character When They See It
Rural Character Rural Character – NOT!
Viewscapes encompassing open space and agrarian landscapes, low density, low intensity development, with low traffic volumes

Objective:
Clear and measurable standards in the zoning code that the public and industry can rely on for visitor serving and promotional uses that:
 Manage the growth of visitor serving and promotional uses and facilities  Protect the rural character of Sonoma County especially in areas of concentration
like Westside Road.
 Minimize the impacts to adjacent property owners
 Reduce loss of ag lands to commercial type development (parking lots, hospitality entertainment and dining facilities, lodgings)
 Support General Plan policies and objectives for city-centered growth.

Explosive Growth in Promotional Facilities and Uses
 Over 300 % increase since 2000 - continued growth at this rate could result in 1200 wineries in 15 years.
 Exceeds the assumptions in the General Plan by double --assumed 239 wineries by 2020
 Over 60 applications in pipeline for tasting rooms, wineries and promotional uses and facilities
 Another 88 are existing facilities unspecified for events that will apply in order to hold events
Current Growth Rate of Use Permits for Promotional Uses and Facilities is NOT Sustainable

Westside Road – Becoming a Commercial Byway
 29 permitted facilities accessing Westside Road – one of the highest in the County, and
 10 percent of all of the new proposed projects
Proposed problem projects:
 Multiple wineries on single parcel
 Conversion of existing homes on small parcels to tasting rooms
 Events on parcels with no tasting room or winery  High intensity projects:
  
multiple tasting areas and kitchens Large scale parking lots lounges and overnight accommodations.
Westside Road has become a magnet for promotional/ hospitality centers because of existing concentration of events and visitors.

Planners Must Consider All Visitor Serving and Promotional Uses in Permit Review
 County considers an event any sales and promotional activity other than drop-in tasting or more restrictive by appointment tasting
 Current County and industry practice spell out and analyze the full scope of promotional uses -- type, number, size, time of day, and intensity.
 Eliminating broad categories of promotional uses from the definition of an event would:
   
thwart County’s obligation to assess impacts restrict public’s right to review such uses undermine County’s ability to monitor and enforce use permit conditions unleash explosion of unstudied high impact uses
Sales and Promotional uses have the same impacts regardless of what they are called or who is in attendance

Where Does It End – Is Yoga Agriculture?
 Is any commercial activity now agriculture if it involves serving a glass of wine?
 Spa treatment? Oil changes?
 Competitionfor“experiences”creates pressure for more commercial-type activities.
 Tasting rooms morphing into restaurants and music venues
 Long duration drinking through the cocktail hour and into evening

Goals
 Strike a balance for sustainable growth in promotional facilities and uses, while preserving: rural character, and peace, safety, and well-being of our neighborhoods.
 Enact “best in class” zoning standards –Sonoma County has: more wineries than virtually all of the other counties combined (apart from Napa), far more at stake -- visitation is attributed its scenic beauty and rural character.
Sonoma County residents value rural character, and expect County officials to enact zoning code standards to protect it.

Recommendation
1. Pass the resolution proposed by the PRMD to amend the zoning code
2. Direct PRMD to develop measurable standards in the zoning code for:
   parcel size, noise and scenic setbacks, minimum road width, and densities or separation criteria
3. Retain County’s definition of events and specify all visitor serving and promotional uses in permit review
4. Include standards in the zoning code, or planning area policies in the General Plan, for areas of concentration



April 27th KQED event center Forum


Bill Hocker - Apr 27, 2016 11:24AM  Share #1234

For those of us in Napa, the KQED forum on Apr 27th with Michael Krasny on Winery and development in Sonoma County was not about Sonoma county. It was a crystalized recapture of all of the issues that Napa county been dealing with over the last couple of years (as well as other Ca wine regions).

Sonomans have always looked toward Napa as cautionary tale, and Michael Krasny brought up the term "Napavisation" (more often referred to as "Napafication") in defining our neighbor's fear of the spreading desease. I was a bit pleased when Judith Olney, representing Preserve Rural Sonoma County, noted that the Sonoma tourism industry had no doubt gained from the loss of rural character and authenticity in Napa (as has Oregon). She did a great job of defending a right to farm that doesn't include a right to party.

So what was learned from the forum? Well, first that the wine industry doesn't care a fig about the impacts of tourism on residents. Corey Beck of Coppola Winery pimped the tourism indusdustry's DTC dogma about tourism's necessity for the survival of the wine industry. This is Coppola Wines with bottles in every supermarket and Costco on earth! Tourism isn't necessary to support their wine business, but it is of course the essence of their entertainment business.

And Debra Dommen of Constellation Brands made the corporate attitude clear in a tweet during the forum: "the problem is not the increase of agricultural facilities on ag lands, problem is the increase in rural residents on ag lands." If we could just eliminate those pesky residents. (see Gary Margadant's comment below)

And then Napa planning commissioner Jeri Gill adds a tweet: 'When neighbors say "too much growth" it usually means "whoever comes after me. But not me." ' A bit rich given her APAC stance exempting existing wineries from new winery regulations. When developers or their spokespersons say "too much NIMBY self-interest" it always means "get out of the way of our self-interest." So much for a balanced weighing of the issues before her on the planning commission.

The program, airing issues to the greater Bay Area that have been the focus of much community debate and news over the last two years, seems to have drawn little attention from the local press. The Press Democrat had a pre-program notice but no post-program article. The Register has had no mention of it either before or after. Interesting.


Comments
Gary Margadant - Apr 28, 2016

I had a conversation with Sean Scully about population changes in Napa County after I read the following tweet:

Debra Dommen just tweeted this at the KQDE Sonoma State Forum program on winery tourism.

#kqedssu the problem is not the increase of agricultural facilities on ag lands, problem is the increase in rural residents on ag lands.

Sean was really interested, and having census data at hand, ran the numbers.
His analysis is here

Results: 1980-2010
Unincorp -13.55% Decrease
Upvalley towns 22.57% Increase

How very interesting. The problem ain't the people, its the facilities.

A google search on Dommen then led me to this article, from some time ago.

Deborah has since complained about Ag 4 Youth (currently using 2 acres on NVHA land) when a rumour went around that they might raise chickens on Ag Land and Sell the Eggs - She immediately complained to John McDowell, to whom she has complained endlessly about NVHA and Ag4Youth.

Sadly she forgot to mention that she tried to help her children raise chickens in her back yard, Napa City, and was unable to tell the difference between a rooster and a hen. She had one of each, one in violation of city ordinance.

Those pesky residents!

Coastal Commission under developer pressure


Shepherd Bliss - Feb 9, 2016 9:57PM  Share #1189

Ken Sund, who initiated the second Wine & Water Watch meeting in the coastal town of Jenner, has the following letter in the PD today. I have included the link, in case people want to comment online. Daniel Mufson of Napa Vision 2050 and W&WW sent the link below from today's NY Times. 14,000 letters have been received by the Commission in support of Dr. Lester.

SRPressDemocrat 2/9/16:
    Coastal coup

    EDITOR: Your Saturday editorial was right on target (“End the coup at the Calififornia Coastal Commission”). Newspapers across our state have been spotlighting the showdown in Morro Bay as some Coastal Commission members seek to oust its executive director, Charles Lester. The commission has received more than 17,000 letters in support of Lester vs. three against, according to the Los Angeles Times.

    Can it be that pro-development forces are attempting to make the coastal commission more accommodating to private interests? Many think so. And many organizations and individuals are planning to attend the Morro Bay hearing to speak in support of Lester.

    Sonoma County is experiencing weak coastal protections already as there seems to be an understaffed code enforcement department and a Board of Supervisors uncommitted to developing a strong coastal plan with real teeth. We need to support the leadership of Executive Director Charles Lester.

    KEN SUND
    Jenner

Articles
Wilderutopia 3/11/16: Power, Influence, and Obfuscation: A Plan to Game the California Coastal Act
NY Times 2/9/16: Californians Fight Over Whether Coast Should Be Rugged or Refined

Sonoma Supes waffle on tourist rentals


Bill Hocker - Jan 27, 2016 12:32PM  Share #1180

PressDemocrat 1/27/17: Sonoma County supervisors reject ban on vacation rentals
The supervisors want to establish short-term-rental free zones in the county, a step in the right direction as long as you happen to live in one of the zones.

Meeting on Sonoma event centers Nov 16th


Charlotte Williams - Nov 12, 2015 9:48PM  Share #1078

Reminder:  Public Meeting on winery/event center issues on Monday, November 16, 6:30 PM at the Glaser Center, 527 Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa

It's critical that we get a large turnout at this meeting. Please consider bringing friends! Parking is available in the 7th Street lot behind the Glaser Center. Plan to arrive before 6:00 PM for seats. Attached are talking/writing points to help you prepare your remarks and emails.

Important info for attendees.....

1. This meeting will be an open-mic. A large crowd is expected and therefore, not everyone will have the chance to speak. 

We ask that everyone attending bring a note, typed or handwritten, addressed to the PRMD, Tennis Wick, Director, with your concerns, so that this becomes part of the meeting record. Attached is background information and talking points as a guide, but please put them and any other of your concerns about these issues into your own words. These can be handed in at the start of the meeting. Your letter should include your name, address and any group you are affiliated with - such as PRSC.

2. Public process:  Let's show our solidarity after a comment is made that we agree with, by raising our arms and waving our hands in "silent applause".  PLEASE no yelling or cheering.  And if you don't agree with the speaker, silence is golden!  Let's be cordial, polite and respectable. Abrasive behavior or abrasive comments, verbally or in writing, will only serve to alienate the officials who are making the regs. As Mother used to say, kill 'em with kindness. 

If you can't attend, please write or email Tennis Wick , Director of the Permit and Resource Management Department:  tennis.wick@sonoma-county.org    PRMD, 2550 Ventura Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. The attached talking points are guidelines. If you do write, please BCC  preserveruralsonomacounty@gmail.com

Thank you for your help!
--
Neighbors to Preserve Rural Sonoma County  (PRSC)

We are a 100% volunteer organization. Please consider making a donation to help us advance our mission. Donations can be made by sending your tax deductible checks made out to Sonoma County Tomorrow (our fiscal sponsor), c/o PRSC, P. O. Box 983, Sebastopol, Ca. 95473. Or donating online via Paypal  here.

Transition Sonoma Valley


Bill Hocker - Nov 11, 2015 3:22PM  Share #1074

One begins to lose track of the efforts going on to counter the monetization of the North Bay landscape. While looking for the Wine and Water Watch website I came upon this article from a sister organization, Transition Sonoma Valley, now in its 5th year:
Peak Wine? Let them eat cake.

Sonoma does seem to be doing a better job of journalistically framing their grievances than has been done in Napa.

Rural Napa/Sonoma impact awareness evening


Geoff Ellsworth - Nov 9, 2015 9:19AM  Share #1070

Dear Friends of the Wine Country

Rural Napa and Sonoma wine country, including the Russian River and Sonoma Coast areas, and their residents are facing serious challenges and impacts from an accelerated surge in high intensity commercial wine tourism.

This tourism surge is creating overwhelming impacts to the environment and our residents, including threats to water supply, breakdown of infrastructure and zoning protections as well as encroachment on schools from pesticide use and wine tasting proximity.

Please come and/or invite others who might have an interest to a special gathering in San Francisco November 20 at 6 pm to learn more about how citizens from these counties (including many in the wine business) are working together to preserve the rural nature and environment of these areas and the health and safety of everyone who lives or visits here.

Friday November 20 at 1390 McAllister Street, San Francisco, the private residence of Richard Ervais, at 6 pm for good food, wine, dialogue and more information about action to preserve these precious and unique areas of the Bay Area.

Please RSVP to
Geoff Ellsworth - geoffellsworth@yahoo.com

Sonoma wine and water in the LA Times & KPIX


Geoff Ellsworth - Aug 31, 2015 4:48PM  Share #980

Here is link to article in LA Times this morning. Some of those in the article are part of our regional Wine Water Watch (4 County Network). I hope that the author follows up with a Napa County angle

LA Times: Sonoma County residents' battle with wineries is about more than water
KPIX Report on Wine and Water Watch: Wine and Water

Unsustainable sustainablilty


Kimberly Burr - Jul 14, 2015 8:09PM  Share #899



COUNTER POINT

The innocent, and others that seek to travel and drink responsibly, might consider the below.

Because the local wine industry lays claim to our countryside literally calling it "Wine Country", and because they have launched a campaign to brand the minds of locals and prospective travelers, we must insist that the health of our regions watersheds and groundwater resources be included in any definition of sustainability. The Sonoma County wine industry's recent use of an important environmental concept -sustainability, does not do that. The attempted manipulation of the consumer to believe that something currently unsustainable is sustainable is, in my opinion, dishonorable. A branding campaign like the one the industry has launched cannot hide the fact that local watersheds are suffering negative impacts on wildlife, water supply, and old time residents.

True sustainability is a community wide process that takes into account all impacts in order that they can be analyzed and avoided, or fixed some how. As the impoverished conditions of our regions streams, forests, wildlife, and wells demonstrate, the major land users in our watersheds are acting in an UNsustainable manner. Until the public's interest in healthy watersheds are protected in perpetuity, the Sonoma County wine industry, a major developer in local watersheds, is UNsustainable.

Until stream flows are reliable, fish run naturally, forests and woodlands are properly protected, groundwater is managed like one manages their check book, and until the industry embraces transparency and cooperation, the Sonoma County wine industry is UNsustainable.

True sustainability means that there are, and will continue be, living streams with water, fish, and salamanders, and that there are protection policies that place a proper value on trees. In this respect too, the Sonoma County wine industry in UNsustainable.

True sustainability is transparent and verifiable. Independent certification by reputable parties is a basic tenet of programs that can stand up to the light of day. The Sonoma County wine industry is not there yet. A program based upon self certification and with a narrow focus that is used as much as a marketing ploy as anything else does not equal true sustainability.

True sustainability is something the industry could be proud of. The industry, should welcome independent and comprehensive certifications. Our region, despite proclamations to the contrary, is home to an UNsustainable wine industry. The industry as a whole is producing wine next to rivers and streams devoid of salmon. It has ripped up ground that once supported cooling trees whose root systems created pathways for rainwater that refilled groundwater aquifers. Groundwater is now a finite resource. The current intensive agriculture is unsustainable insofar as much of it occupies grounds where once tall redwoods touched the sky and cooled and wetted our watersheds.

And finally, the development of groundwater pumping systems, wine grape installations, and construction of processing facilities continues a pace in the absence of adequate controls and proper monitoring, and despite the severely degraded conditions in our watersheds. Coastal grass lands and ancient soils are being ripped 6-feet down and the complex soils tossed up into the daylight in order to wipe out older root systems. Vast amounts of chemicals continue to be used, and removal of woodlands and forests continues.

The wine industry has the power, funds, and truly green economic incentives to change all this. The smart and honorable thing to do would be for local growers and tasting rooms to adopt a watershed and fix it - ensure adequate flows, caretake their own healthy runs of salmon, increase riparian buffers, phase out chemicals and irrigation, and honor the limits of extraction embodied in the concept of sustainability. Until then, I eagerly look forward to the day when the Sonoma County wine industry in coordination with the community is run in a sustainable manner. It will be a proud day.

Sonoma enforces its permits


Shepherd Bliss - Jun 15, 2015 7:07AM  Share #859

Today's PD has the following article about PRMD finally cracking down on a Wilson Winery. After many years of permit violations there and at wineries all over Sonoma County, we are finally getting some limitations. Appreciations to the activists around Healdsburg, who deserve credit for this victory.

Wilson Winery events under scrutiny


Sonoma showdown over drawdown


Carl Bunch - Jun 5, 2015 2:54PM  Share #845

Interesting and important article in the Sonoma Index Tribune dated June 2 regarding watershed depletion issues at a mega winery in Sonoma County.

Sonoma Index-Tribune: No water for mega-wine warehouse?

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Eve Kahn adds:
Very interesting article. I especially like the part about these wineries all using Napa County fruit! And we want to know where our grapes are going - here's one place we can quote. Wonder why they didn't put this facility in the airport industrial area?

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Bill Hocker adds:
I've forgotten now: if Napa grapes are cellared and bottled in Sonoma is that Napa wine or Sonoma wine? The issue of Napa grapes moving to Sonoma County to be processed may be the inevitable consequence of ever stricter regulation of wineries in Napa county. No doubt Napa grapes are going to head to the new Caymus facility in Fairfield. While we preservationists may see this as a good thing, others in the County may not. And it raises the possibility that the only economic reason that any winery will have to remain in Napa County is to be as a tourist venue.

The Sonoma furor continues to grow.


Bill Hocker - Apr 29, 2015 3:56PM  Share #781

SR PressDemocrat: Two controversial winery development decisions appealed
Sonoma is definitely setting the pace in the fight against tourist event center development in rural communities. The Hop Kiln winery was restricted to visitation only during daylight hours, an important step that should be incorporated into any changes to our WDO, and to enclose all winery production operations.

Also Norma sends a new trend in winery experiences:
Unique Wine and Yoga Experience in Sonoma County
This follows on an informal inquiry from someone potentially wishing to buy a property and develop a yoga retreat on Soda Canyon Road.

Sonoma opposition builds on the Dairyman


Shepherd Bliss - Apr 12, 2015 4:50AM  Share #746

The following link to the front page story in today's Press Democrat, which mentions in passing our presentation in Jenner this evening, indicates that there might be more people than we expected. For those of you planning to come tonight, please come as early as you can. Spread this link to others, so that they might send online comments to the PD, as well as letters to the editor.

Press Democrat: Large winery proposal on Highway 12 to undergo full environmental review

The intention of this email is to provide some information about the Jenner gathering tomorrow. I was invited by Ken Sund to come to Jenner to speak about the growing number of large wineries as event centers proliferating in Sonoma County, which I have been writing about. I have not met Ken yet, but I have been impressed by the hard work he has done to organize this gathering, which has grown as it has developed.

I invited Will Parrish to join me there. He is an investigative reporter for the AVA (Anderson Valley Advertiser) in Mendocino. Years ago he did some important research about the wine industry and its power, including here in Sonoma County. He agreed to come and speak for up to 10 minutes. I have not met Will yet, though I have followed his work. He is featured in the recent, acclaimed film "Russian River: All Rivers." That film has a lot to do with the wine industry and how its excesses can damage watersheds. I am including its director, Bill Sorenson, who works with our group here in SoCo, in this email loop. He can let you know when and where showings are in your area or how to arrange them.

When I heard about the good work that Geoff Ellsworth does in Napa with respect to St. Helena, where he lives, and drawing together the Napa Vision 2050 group, I invited him to visit a few of us in SoCo in the early stages of developing what became the Preserve Rural Sonoma County (PRSC) group. We now have both a website and Facebook page under that name, which I would encourage you to visit. He agreed to come to Jenner and also speak for up to 10 minutes.

Judith works with the Westside neighbors in the Healdsburg countryside, who were instrumental in organizing 150 people to get Sonoma County to turn down the winery of celebrity chef Guy Fieri. They also recently were instrumental in down-sizing the Hop Kiln Winery's aspiration to grow and have additional events. I have asked her to speak for up to five minutes. The reason I asked the first two speakers to speak for 10 minutes and the other three for only 5 minutes is that as our team grew I realized that it would be important to allow enough time for Q&A with the audience, which I hope we can recruit to our common work. I hope that all of you will join Ken and I to welcome people when the arrive and introduce yourselves.

Rue Furch works with PRSC here in SoCo, as well as with numerous other groups, such as the Sonoma County Water Coalition. She is a former SoCo Planning Commissioner who understands how government works, from the inside. She has been involved in many struggles over the years and is a real asset to our common work.

Last month we had a meeting in Middletown, Lake County, which Elizabeth Montgomery of the Hidden Valley Lake Watershed group organized. There were about half a dozen of us there, including Geoff from Napa. She will probably not be able to attend the Jenner gathering. She has put me in touch with various Lake people, including Karl, who is apparently able to make it to Jenner. I would ask him to speak for up to 5 minutes. Though they have similarities, each of our local struggles differ. For example, while most of us seem to be working to contain wineries, a primary issue in Lake is the application of the Wild Diamond vineyard to border a sub-division of 6000 people.

I am also including Greg in this email loop, since he is from Lake, though he cannot make it to the Jenner meeting. We had our first exchange of emails yesterday. At the end of this email, I am including my email communication with Greg. He brings in the welcome participation of a small winery owner. This includes a link to my recent article on Waccobb.net, which you can respond to by registering and describing what is happening in your area, if you would like. I began sending this article out yesterday morning to the national publications that I write for regularly and it already been posted by four of them.

The idea for what could happen in Jenner includes the following 4 related gatherings:

4 p.m. Geoff from Napa and Judith and Marc from Westside arrive at the Jenner Community Center, 10444 Highway 1, across the creek and behind the gas station, where Ken has put out a sign to help people find it. I have asked Geoff to facilitate that gathering, to which you are all invited, as are other activists whom you may know.

5 p.m. A potluck (please bring food and drink) to which all activists have been invited and you can invite more. Since I have a group of students from Sonoma State coming to Kokopelli Farm to learn about sustainable farming that day, I cannot arrive until about 5 p.m. I suggest that we start with a go-around with each person identifying who they are, where they live, and what their concerns are. I do not know how many people will come, but a conjecture would be perhaps up to a dozen.

One of our agendas will be to discuss a possible name for our regional group. Elizabeth in Lake suggested North Bay Wine Watch and Greg below extended that to NorCal Wine Watch. At least one person in PRSC does not like either of those. I would welcome responses from you to those two names and any others that you might discuss. This would probably be our first important decision. The Napa activists have named their group Napa Vision 2050. Some people feel that is not specific enough, since the intention of this new regional group would be to focus on wineries. However, we are not against the wine industry as a whole. There are many grapegrowers and vintners who make helpful contributions to their communities.

My idea is that promptly, if possible, at 6:30 Ken would introduce me and why he invited me. I would then give a brief history of SoCo's struggle that prevented the wine industry in 2001 from spraying our homes and farms, without our permission, in fear that the glassy winger sharpshooter pest would damage their mono-crop. I would mention our ongoing struggle against "bad apple" Paul Hobbs for putting in a conventional winery bordering on 5 schools with around 700 students on Watertrough Rd. in the Sebastopol countryside. I would then introduce Will, who would speak. After he speaks I would introduce each of you, in turn, to speak. I will be keeping time, so we can all speak and then get the the Q&A.

After the public part of our time together, if anyone else is available, we could have a post-meeting. Geoff plans to stay over, as I might be able to. Ken has a friend who may have rooms to rent. During this time, we could consider what next steps might be. I am available to go to Lake and elsewhere to meet with people on these issues. For one of the first times in the last 40 years, I am not teaching this semester. I am in the process of trying to retire, again.

This is probably more details than you want. Pardon me for any errors I made in trying to quickly describe this fast moving train; I welcome your corrections and additions. Please confirm your intention to join us in Jenner. I offer this email so that you can get a sense of what might happen and how you can contribute to it. I would welcome any responses and would encourage you to Reply All to this email, so that we are all on the same page. I can also be reached on my landline at 707-829-8185. I get up before dawn most mornings. I will be here today until about 8:45 a.m. and after about 1 p.m. I go to sleep around 9 p.m.
I welcome your responses,

Preserve Rural Sonoma County


Bill Hocker - Mar 13, 2015 9:54AM  Share #697

A community group has begun the Preserve Rural Sonoma County Facebook page to log the activism against development happening in Sonoma, particularly the Dairyman Winery/Distillery and Event Center. A website will eventually be here.

Sheppherd Smith, featured in the Dairyman article above has also penned this editorial on our battle here: Napa activists challenge winery over-expansion

Event center plan scrapped in Sonoma


Jim Wilson - Feb 25, 2015 3:17PM  Share #644

Some good news from rural Sonoma. I like the planners talk of neighborhood compatability, too intense, we don't rubber stamp everything.

Guy Fieri drops plans for winery outside of Santa Rosa

"Napafication" of Sonoma County


Norma Tofanelli - Feb 20, 2015 10:22PM  Share #636

Sonoma County Gazette article:
Sonoma and Napa County Residents Oppose Winery Over-Expansion

--------------

Bill Hocker adds:

And this editorial in the Press Democrat in support:
Close to Home: New winery backlash rising

Sonoma again in the vanguard on wineries


Bill Hocker - Feb 4, 2015 3:54PM  Share #597

Following the decision last month of the Sonoma County Planning Commission to deny a winery event center because of neighborhood opposition, the City of Sebastopol is also recognizing the damage the winery boom poses to our rural counties.

Sebastopol City Council urges denial of large proposed winery off Highway 12

Sonoma gets the money, Napa gets the impacts


Bill Hocker - Feb 3, 2015 12:43PM  Share #595

Sandy Ericson of the St Helena Window just sent over this article on the development of a resort on Spring Mountain Road in Sanoma County that has its principal access from St. Helena. My question is not about the development, although we are all beginning to choke on the impacts of oceans of disposable income pouring into wine country as the result of an afternoon's wine tasting, but about the right of one county to grant the approvals and reap the taxes from the project (including the TOT on $2400/night) while the other county bears all of the tourism impacts. No doubt guests will be so enchanted they will want a resort of their own, perhaps next door since Sonoma residents seem so hospitable to tourism development, and St. Helena, wine capital of the world, is sooo close.

Winery turned down in Sonoma County


Bill Hocker - Jan 23, 2015 10:09AM  Share #566

Geoff Ellsworth has just sent over this article on a, perhaps landmark, unanimous decision by the county zoning board to deny a winery project on the basis of neighborhood opposition.

Zoning board turns down Guy Fieri’s proposed winery

The applicant's attorney ' told the zoning board members during the hearing that their decision carried “ramifications for the entire wine industry and for county projects.”'
Let's hope so.

Sonoma Co gets sued for lack of EIR


Bill Hocker - Dec 1, 2014 9:47AM  Share #485


Preservation Ranch vineyard conversion stopped in Sonoma


Annette Krammer - Nov 17, 2014 11:02AM  Share #455

A year ago, this massive vineyard development project was stopped dead in Sonoma. It was planned by Premier Pacific, in which the Halls are invested. PPV also planned Circle S. It went under, but the same people have scattered into other developer groups.

http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Preservation-Ranch-saved-in-record-deal-4599951.php#photo-4781467

Preserving the horribly named 'Preservation Ranch' land was a massive victory. Do our fighters know how it was done and do we have any overlap in personnel? The regional Sierra Club put out an educational video on YouTube about conversion of woodland to vineyard and its impact. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIrJRc4P94Q

What lessons learned here can be put to use on our county fight?

-----------------------------

Jim Wislon wrote:

I do know Tom Adams was attorney and helped cobble together the deal to purchase for conservation. He's Hall's attorney on WALT so he's might be the guy to assist w a Napa conservation effort. Chris was directly involved in the effort with the Friends of Gualala River and the Sierra Club had a great write-up in their Needles publication.

Here's the FOGR website. Note their petition directly to Artesa Vineyards and Winery. I think it's pretty good.

http://gualalariver.org/vineyards/dont-destroy-redwood-forest/

Sonoma pols respond to resident outrage


Bill Hocker - Oct 27, 2014 1:40PM  Share #415

Geoff Ellsworth's sends a link to this article in the Sonoma Press Democrat about the winery-heavy 4th district race between pro-development James Gore and preservationist Deb Fudge

Winery events a hot-button issue in 4th District race

Sonoma takes the lead in curbing winery abuse.


Bill Hocker - Oct 20, 2014 9:29AM  Share #397

As she has previously, Sandy Ericson of the St. Helena WIndow brings to our attention the clearest examples of the issues facing Napa in containing the development trends that threaten our rural economy. This article from the Sonoma Press Democrat has direct comparisons to the tourism winery development in Napa:

Sonoma County cracks down on Bella Vineyards

From the article and directly related to our project on Soda Canyon Road :
    "With increasing demand for events in bucolic vineyard settings, neighborhood groups and others are pushing officials to crack down on wineries operating outside what their permits allow. Critics also want the county to reassess winery permits, placing a heavier weight on characteristics like size and conditions of roads, as well as environmental factors such as water availability and noise. Wine industry groups, too, have been asking for clearer definitions for types of events currently permitted."
Amen.

I have to admit, after reading the online comments to the article, the citizenry of Sonoma County seems pretty hostile toward the preservation of an agrarian economy, making the Planning Department action all the more commendable .




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