Page 40 - Sonoma County Gazette June 2019
P. 40

  Let’s Go Warriors! Five straight trips to the NBA Finals, pretty phenomenal. Hopefully we can close it out and complete the three-peat. I have been a life-long W’s fan, enduring many years of futility and now getting to relish an amazingly sustained run of excellence. I’ve appreciated the teams “Strength in Numbers” motto, and that has really been on display in recent games. Earlier this postseason they were relying a bit too heavily on their core of superstars, easy to do when they’re some of the best players on the planet. Injuries forced them to go much deeper into their bench during this last series and everyone who’s been called upon has contributed. Even though many of these players hadn’t gotten much (or any) playing time in weeks, they are all ready to pitch in when their number is called, and help the team win, anyway they can. I like to watch because it’s exciting, you never know what spectacular display you might see on any given night. I also tune in because I really enjoy getting to see people work together as a team. Sure some players carry more
of the load than others, but no one player can carry the entire team. It takes everyone playing their part and the Warriors are the best example out there of this, a “Strength in Numbers” that can’t be beat.
Planning Commission Approves ADUs on Agricultural Parcels
By Will Carruthers
At a May 2 meeting, the Sonoma County Planning Commission narrowly
passed a policy allowing nearly 2,000 property owners to build second homes on parcels in the unincorporated county.
The change was brought to the commission as part of the county’s effort to speed housing production in hopes of reducing home prices.
Critics of the proposal argued that new Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which can be as large as 1,200 square feet, will not serve low-income residents and will increase population density in rural areas rather than within city limits.
A staff report states that the proposal is part of the county’s effort to “eliminate unneeded regulatory constraints to the production of affordable housing” and to “increase opportunities for the production of affordable housing,” two of the housing goals recommended in the county’s latest General Plan.
The motion would remove a restriction on the construction of ADUs on certain parcels zoned for agricultural use in the unincorporated county. Under current rules, property owners can ask for an exemption from zoning rules
in order to build an ADU, however the process tends to be costly and time consuming.
The commission ultimately approved a motion that allowing ADUs on 1,924 parcels. An initial proposal from county staff would have included only 1,377 parcels each smaller than 10 acres.
The policy would exclude parcels within high fire hazard severity zones or in an area where new buildings would affect groundwater levels, according to a staff report. Owners would not be allowed to rent the units on short-term rental websites.
According to a recent online survey of 116 ADU inhabitants cited by planning staff, the average rent for one of the units is $1,100 per month, a rate that falls in the county’s Moderate Income housing bracket.
Moderate Income housing serves households making up to 120 percent of the area median income, approximately $100,900 for a family of four in 2018, according to figures from the Sonoma County Community Development Commission.
Proponents said that the motion would help increase housing production in the county while allowing small farmers to augment their income by renting an ADU on their property.
“The benefit of this is preserving what I think is the fabric of the community here. Trying to keep young families and grandmothers from changing hands,” Commissioner Cameron Mauritson said.
John Lowry, the chair of the commission, voted against the proposal, saying that the policy would encourage the wrong kind of housing in the wrong places.
“Low income housing – as well as moderate income housing - really should be produced in higher density areas. We should be building at higher density and making those places better to live,” Lowry said.
On the other hand, the current rules governing where ADUs are permitted can seem arbitrary under the current rules, Lowry added.
Teri Shore, the North Bay regional director of the Green Belt Alliance, urged the commission to add the proposal, along with other recent housing streamlining proposals, to the General Plan update process, so that the impact of the policies can be studied together.
“This would significantly add development to rural communities. If we really want to add ADUs around the countryside, then I think we need
to do a bit more of an analysis of the impacts including additional vehicle miles traveled, additional people, and the cumulative impacts with the other (housing) initiatives,” Shore told the commission.
Commissioners Todd Tamura and John Lowry voted against the motion.
The plan will next be considered at a meeting of the Board of Supervisors. A county spokesperson estimated the meeting would take place in August, but no date has been set.
Can you guess where I’m going with this? Yes dear readers, we residents of Occidental are a team and our strength is gathered from our numbers. There are so many folks doing good around our community and such a need for more members of the team so step up on a regular basis. I want to see us not just stay in the game but hopefully continue to improve our team & town every season into the future.
By the time you read this a big improvement for town and team will have been completed in the form of the new gym floor at the Community Center. Kudos to all who made this project a reality. Come by and check it out, join one of the many groups already using the gym, or perhaps come up with a new group use for it—there’s plenty of open time in the gym schedule. Now that we’ve got this spiffy new floor it would be great to see the gym get even more use and attention. At some point in the near future there will be an open house type event to show off the gym to everyone, I will keep ya’ll posted.
A way to keep the County abreast of our needs out here is the SoCo-Report- It feature through the County. You can submit requests directly through the website or download the app to use. It is currently focused on issues with roads, anything from potholes to litter or vegetation issues. I just used it for the first time to report the road collapse issue with Coleman Valley. Obviously the County is already aware of this issue but I was recently advised that Supervisor Hopkins encourages all of us to report issues that haven’t been taken care of yet. The more times a particular issue is submitted will allow it to climb higher up the list of priorities with the County.
So it looks like the Farmers Market is definitely going to happen this year! If all goes according to plan the market will open on June 7th at its normal time of 4pm in the same general location. The new board is currently raising funds to put on the market, requiring seed money for things like hiring a market manager, paying for bathrooms, and various other needs. Go to the website for a link to the GoFundMe campaign. The site also has a cool video about the importance of helping make this new market flourish, as well as general information and places to sign up to be a vendor, musician, etc. I am so happy to know that we will continue to have the market here in Occidental!
As I hear it this year’s market will maintain the continuity of past location & timing, while continuing the conversation as to the future structure of it. The new board has been interviewing every business in town to get their input
and ideas. This could include changing the day of the market, or moving the market within town—the Community Center area is a potential logical choice. I think it makes great sense to re-birth the market this year with minor changes while opening up the ongoing conversation to see if there’s any new ideas that could actually make for a better market going forward.
Ciao for now Occidental folks, see you out in the community!
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