The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors decided to approve the community separator ballot measure and proposed additions of lands with the changes below, which will be finalized at the August 2 2016 supervisors meeting on the Consent Calendar (public hearing closed, no more public comment unless more changes are made).
Five of the “community separators” set to expire at the end of 2016 surround Sonoma Mountain. Some of them are linked directly to wildlife corridors that allow travel from the Mayacamas to the mountain and beyond.
Twenty years ago, voters countywide adopted an initiative to preserve these sorts of green places between Sonoma’s towns and cities. The County Board of Supervisors is now developing a ballot measure to renew voter protections.
The community separators have prevented housing tracts and shopping malls from sprawling into these open space buffers, ensuring that significant stretches of natural and working lands between our communities continue to thrive and grow. See Maps of Sonoma County Community Separators.
Sonoma County’s community separator policy prevents county leaders from approving major housing, commercial, and industrial development in designated lands between towns and cities. These popular voter-backed protections passed with more than 70% of the vote. Greenbelt Alliance is leading the way to renew and strengthen the voter mandate that protects community separators from Petaluma and Sonoma to Windsor and Healdsburg.
The purpose of community separators is three-fold—they serve as green buffers between cities and towns, contain urban development, and preserve the rural charm of Sonoma County’s landscape. The county’s eight community separators cover 17,000 acres of natural and farm lands. These policies complement the cities’ urban growth boundaries, which designate where a city can and cannot develop, by safeguarding adjacent unincorporated lands.
In addition to protecting green zones between communities from sprawl, community separators preserve farmlands, waterways, drinking water, groundwater recharge areas, wildlife corridors, water quality, hillsides, woodlands, and much more.
Greenbelt Alliance and other conservation organizations are advocating for enhancement and strengthening of our community separators, reminding us that. urgent needs for housing can be met within the footprint of our towns and cities.
Thanks to Greenbelt Alliance’s blog for sharing this article! If you’d like to get involved in the campaign, contact Teri Shore at firstname.lastname@example.org
For over 100 years the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC) near Glen Ellen has provided a safe and secure place for the developmentally disabled. Now SDC faces certain closure by the State. The only question is how long the institution will remain open.
An impressive coalition of stakeholders is working proactively to preserve the 800 acres of undeveloped land and find creative ways to serve the remaining population. The coalition grew out of ongoing efforts by environmental groups to save the only remaining wildlife corridor left in the Valley, and by the parent group to ensure care for their family members.
What Is the Status of SDC?
A moratorium on admissions has reduced the population served at SDC approximately 500 people who are the most fragile or have multiple impairments. SDC is the largest employer in the Valley, including many workers with skills found nowhere else in the state.
SDC’s lands connect Sonoma Mountain and the Mayacamas Mountain Range on the eastern slopes. SDC is the linchpin. Its valley floor lands are largely undeveloped. SDC covers 1000 acres, including the 200-acre footprint of buildings and 800-acre wildlands.
Some of the several hundred buildings in the footprint of SDC are architectural gems. Some are medical clinics and labs, Some are the resident’s homes. Some serve as schools, sheltered workshops, and recreational centers. SDC also includes a farm run for the clients, and two community-used fields for soccer and baseball. The area is laced with trails that have been used for a century by generations of Valley residents. Two lakes store water for irrigation and client use.
Future use of these buildings is a concern of the coalition. Numerous options for an expanded health facility for people with special needs are being discussed, and will be proposed to the State.
Who Is the Coalition?
Coalition members include the Sonoma Land Trust, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District, the Sonoma Ecology Center, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sonoma Mountain Preservation, the Parent Hospital Association, the County Economic Development Board, the Sonoma County Water Agency, Labor Representatives from the Center, a former Director at the Center, Medical personnel, Jack London Park representatives, Sonoma County Health Services, and District Representatives from the Offices of Senator Noreen Evans, Assembly member Yamada, and Representative Mike Thompson. First District Supervisor Susan Gorin leads the effort. The group meets monthly.
Coalition members have been working closely with Department Directors in Sacramento, attending meetings, and keeping a close watch on developments. Senator Evans has introduced SB 1428, a bill to protect the wild lands. More bills are in the hopper. Sonoma County Supervisors will soon receive a briefing on the ongoing developments.
Past Citizen Efforts Saved Open Space
In 2000, State plans to surplus some acres of old SDC orchard for a vineyard lease or certain sale to developers prompted a general meeting of citizens in Sonoma Valley. Led by SMP and other local groups, several hundred people with strong commitment to preserving SDC upper lands convinced then State Senator Mike Thompson to introduce a bill to ensure that the upper lands would be saved for open space. Over 600 acres of undeveloped lands at SDC were deeded between 2000 and 2002 to State Department of Parks and Recreation, which then added these acres to Jack London State Historic Park.
In the coming months there will be a community meeting to engage support for the efforts of the coalition. We invite you to join in the effort we know is to come!
By Diane (Mickey) Cooke
One night in 2009, a black bear was spotted by five different people near Adobe Creek in Petaluma. After being chased by a helicopter, the bear followed that creek back up and over Sonoma Mountain to return to Napa County from whence he or she had probably started.
It is likely that this adventurous ursine was using the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor to travel from Napa County through the Sonoma Valley and up and over Sonoma Mountain.
This bear didn’t just drop into Petaluma — he or she had been able to travel a long distance, safely and mostly unseen, through existing land and creek corridors. Such corridors are essential for wildlife passage — not just for large carnivores, like bear and mountain lion, but for the many smaller critters as well, like raccoon, fox and bobcat.
Sonoma Land Trust has embarked on a multi-year project to keep open a narrow pinch point in the high-priority Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor that is at serious risk of closing up. Five miles long and only three-quarters of a mile wide at its narrowest point—the “pinch point”—the Sonoma Valley Wildlife Corridor stretches from Sonoma Mountain, across Sonoma Creek and the valley floor, and east to the top of the Mayacamas range. It is located within the “Marin Coast to Blue Ridge Critical Linkage” identified in the Bay Area Critical Linkages Project and Conservation Lands Network, both projects of the Bay Area Open Space Council.
Because of the work of SLT, SMP, and others over the years, more than 8,000 acres of the corridor are already protected as natural land. It is the unprotected land at the heart of the wildlife corridor on which efforts are now focused.
Ensuring that wildlife can move safely through the landscape so their populations can persist in the face of development and climate change projections is the goal of this large-scale project. Acquiring new properties is only one way of accomplishing this.
“We can’t afford to buy the entire corridor, nor would we want to because collaborating with private landowners is a very effective conservation strategy,” says Wendy Eliot, Sonoma Land Trust’s conservation director. “So we are using a variety of land protection tools to protect and enhance the corridor’s permeability, such as deed restrictions and new types of conservation easements and neighbor agreements — along with purchasing at-risk parcels.” SLT staff is developing model conservation easement language, focused on “wildlife freedom of movement” that will be used by many conservation groups working to secure wildlife corridors.
To validate the theory that this area is operating as a functional wildlife corridor, SLT has placed wildlife cameras on Sonoma Mountain and up and down the valley to collect data on the animals who live there. Cameras have captured mountain lion, fox, dueling bucks, opossum, bobcat, skunk, coyote, turkey vultures, jackrabbits, squirrels, and more.
The role of SDC wildlands is crucial to preservation of the wildlife corridor. The SDC Coalition, of which SMP and SLT are a part, aims to create a scenario in which the clients’ needs are served while providing urgent environmental protections — for the wildlife corridor, watershed preservation and public access. Successful protection of the undeveloped portions of the SDC would directly link more than 9,000 acres of protected land and help ensure the continued movement of wildlife across the Sonoma Valley and beyond. There are no do-overs once land is developed.
Simple things landowners can do to improve wildlife movement:
• Remove unnecessary fencing
• Modify fencing for wildlife passage
• Turn off lights at night
• Don’t leave pets (or pet food) outside at night
• Reduce nighttime noise
• Eliminate or minimize pesticide and herbicide use
• Modify vegetation management: Protect your home from wildfire, but leave enough cover for wildlife.
Map, infrared camera photo, and information courtesy of Sonoma Land Trust
For over a decade the slopes of Sonoma and Taylor mountains have been covered, not only in homes and fields and woods, but by a set of development guidelines that restrict the visual impact of new residences. IN 2011 the county Board of Supervisors unanimously approved revisions to the design guidelines and extended them to include the southern slopes of the Mayacamas.
The guidelines apply to single family dwellings, appurtenant structures such as garages, guest houses, storage buildings, etc. and to related roadways, grading sites and utilities. They do not apply to agricultural structures or uses nor to structures that do not require a building permit.
They are intended to reduce the visual impact of development. Guidelines include site planning, architectural and landscaping elements. Site planning constraints include, for example, locating structures so they are screened by existing vegetation or topographic features when viewed from a public road. Architectural guidelines address exterior color, glazing (non-reflective) and night lighting, while landscaping guidelines cover plant species, re-vegetation scale and density.
SMP had a major role in getting county approval and implementation of the initial guidelines and, this time with the assistance of land planning consultant Nancy Dakin, again pushed for approval of the revised and expanded requirements.
This coming year SMP will produce and distribute the guidelines in an easy-to-understand pamphlet which will be available through real estate offices as well as the PRMD office.
For more information, in the meantime, contact
22550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa, 95403,
We’ve all experienced a shock as we drive along one of the main roads – Highway 12 or Arnold Drive or Adobe Road, for example – running along the base of Sonoma Mountain and suddenly come upon a large new building under construction or newly completed where we used to see trees. We also know development happens and people have a right to build on their property. But, in Sonoma County, as in all locations with responsible public oversight, all property development plans get reviewed by county officials and must be approved before anything can be built.
There are many ways to protect a mountain, as there is reason to love it. One overriding goal for member of Sonoma Mountain Preservation’s steering committee is to preserve the mountain’s beauty – as simple as that. Excessively obtrusive development will destroy the very features of the landscape most of us enjoy.
To keep it beautiful SMP leaders wrote a set of development guidelines more than a decade ago. The county adopted the guidelines in 1998 and uses them to inform property owners who want to develop on the mountain.
Anyone planning to build on the mountain must submit an Administrative Design Review application to the county Permit and Resource Management (PRMD) project review staff at 2550 Ventura Avenue in Santa Rosa (707-565-1900).
Here’s how the design guidelines work and why we all benefit from observing them:
Following the design guidelines reduces the visual impact of buildings as seen from designated scenic corridors (most main roads bordering the mountain).
Guidelines apply to single-family homes and outbuildings, related roadways, grading sites and utilities.
Proposed structures need to be substantially screened by existing vegetation or topographic features when view from a scenic corridor.
Exterior colors need to be earth tones that don’t reflect glaringly and blend in with their surroundings.
Night lights must have minimal visibility from scenic corridors.
Plants used fro screening vegetation need to be indigenous or of similar character and large enough to screen structures within ten years of installation.
The complete guidelines are available online: http://www.sonomacounty.org/prmd/docs/zoning/articless90.htm#226-90-050
These friendly guidelines are intended to keep the mountain beautiful in perpetuity, especially from a distance, which is how most of us see it, but they also benefit neighbors of new development.
We count on all who love the mountain to know these guidelines, follow them, educate others about them and to help us monitor for compliance with them. And, that’s just one way we work to preserve out mountain.
The Triangle G (Galvin) Ranch consisted of six parcels which stretched about six miles along the southern ridge of Sonoma Mountain from south of the Route 116 at an elevation of less than 400ft to the northern highest point of 1946 feet about one mile south of the top of Sonoma Mountain. John Galvin bought the Circle W Ranch from George and Mildred Webb in 1954. That Ranch, plus additional parcels later purchased, was known as the Triangle G Ranch. John Galvin, an Australian, worked in Asia for many years as a newspaper reporter. After World War II he got involved in commercial ventures in Asia and ended up making an estimated $375 million. Galvin brought his wife and five children to Woodside, California in 1952 according to San Francisco Chronicle articles. John Galvin is deceased and his five children now own the ranch.
In December, 1996, Redwood California LTD, a Galvin property managed by Bill Brittain, applied to Sonoma County to subdivide five parcels and place 34 building lots in the northern area clustered along the ridge line from 1200 feet of elevation to 1900 feet of elevation where they would be visible from both sides of the mountain. The applicant requested: amendment of the County General Plan, change in zoning, exemption from the regulations governing clustering, and transferring housing destiny into a scenic landscape area. These were among the many problems with the proposed subdivision, which they called the White Oak Estates.
In 1997 a committee of volunteer residents of Sonoma Mountain was formed with Ray Barron, Chairman, Stephen Pavy, Treasurer, and John Barinaga, Secretary, to lead opposition to the ridge-top development. There was widespread opposition to the subdivision. The committee met periodically with Supervisor Mike Cale who was clear in his opinion that the proposed projects should not be allowed because it would set a very bad precedent. On February 2, 1997, the Petaluma City Council voted unanimously to ask the County Board of Supervisors not to approve the project as proposed. On February 19, 1997 the Sonoma City Council voted unanimously to go on record with the County Board of Supervisors not to amend the General Plan or zoning to allow such a development.
On April 29, 1997, the Sonoma County Planning Commission held a public hearing on the Galvin application. About a dozen people from the public spoke on the issue. All speakers, except Mr. Morrison, the developer, spoke in opposition to the project for specific reasons. The committee, the George Ranch representative and Sonoma Mountain Preservation, all presented written analysis of the non-compliance aspects of the application
REVISION WITH PARK PROPOSAL
A revision to the White Oak Estates project was submitted to Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department in March 2000. The revised proposal offered to dedicate 394 acres of the Galvin Ranch for a park and offered to sell an additional 266 acres at a price to be negotiated on exchange for the County’s granting of permission for the 34 home subdivision on the ridge of Sonoma Mountain (in violation of the County General Plan) and the County’s provision of the access road by extending Manor Lane. The Environmental Impact Report revision was never completed because the applicant failed to provide funding.
THE OSD OFFER TO PURCHASE
With the spring of 2001 came the good news that the Galvin family would consider selling the bulk of Triangle G Ranch rather than developing it. The Sonoma County Open Space District and the California Coastal Conservancy confirmed in April that they were in negotiations to acquire most of the 1746-acre ranch. Since the original application for subdivision was submitted to the county, the parcel south of State Gulch Road was sold and another 96 acres were leased to the UCC Vineyards Group and planted in grapes.
In January 2002 the Open Space District offer to buy 1626 acres to the Galvin family with the right to build two homes. This ended our hopes, and the hopes of the county supervisors, that the threat of ridge top development would end with the purchase. We do not know what the Galvin family will do with the ranch in the future. Presently the ranch is used for cattle grazing and for grape growing.
~John Barinaga, Sonoma Mountain Preservation