WWW meeting notes on Land Use policies in Sonoma County

WWW meeting notes on Land Use policies in Sonoma County.

Thank you Judith for some great notes. When scoping meetings for the General Plan and Local Coastal Plan start we will notify everyone and have a follow up meeting/forum on with information and actions by topics. In great appreciation for all the wonderful community minded people who showed up on a drizzly day.  


Wine and Water Watch – February 16, 2019 Forum


MAC – Municipal Advisory Committee for Coast (March 7th @ Bodega Bay Grange)


Laura Waldbaum: Cannabis Update – from Env Rep to Cannabis Advisory Group

Requires two licenses 1) State and 2) Sonoma County.  Sonoma claimed categorial exemption from CEQA – just do case by case for each project – no cumulative impact. 

Resources and status of activities are available at  SonomaCounty.ca.gov/Cannabis  (or contact the Cannabis Hotline 707.565.2420 or Cannabis@Sonoma-County.org . This is intended to be a “one-stop shop” where people can get up to date information and to check whether there is a permit for a specific property by Parcel number or street address. 

Water Use:  Up to 6- 15 gal/day at maturity … at 6 gal/day a 1 acre grow with 1 plant per 8 sq ft = 32,670 gallons/day or over 5 M gallons in 5 months (.05 cfs) Hydrology reports are standardized – and provide very little sight specific information – do not look at contained aquifer…

See County Website for regulations – Ordinance and what is allowed

  • NOW a 10-acre min – 600-foot setback from schools – trail system added to Park Setback, now exceptions allowed
  • Zoning/ Admin permit (smaller grows) and Use Permit
  • Is not agriculture – no right to farm: Federally illegal and additional impacts
  • Setbacks 1000 feet
  • Hydrology report and water use self-monitored – (if they do not increase water use in water scarce area)
  • SWRCB Waste Discharge General Order or Waiver – must maintain instream flows and “may” impose groundwater restrictions under certain circumstances


Cannabis Advisory Group: Two residents and one environmentalist – the rest are industry members with significant influence on the Ordinance and lack of enforcement


Sonoma County: by 2019: 39 Use Permits issued – with most being Zoning/Administrative Permit: Only 5% approaching Hearing stage and 20 % are in process. Still many illegal grows – neighbor complaints only lead to land use fines, and continue to allow the growing

700-900 Cannabis complaints filed at the County – Phase I – September 2018 revisions /
Phase II plan to amend Ordinance (on hold)

     Penalty Relief Program – Start 2017: 332 growers continued growing: June 2018 144 had not even applied for permit vs. have had completed permit.  DID NOT work out well only about 60-70 in Penalty Relief:  Allows illegal growers to continue growing until they get their Use Permit.

     Healdsburg grow:  Taking out 2 acres of grapes and putting in 1 acre cannabis: Will need to go through the Conditional Use Permit process


Other Bay Area Counties:  Statewide only 14 Counties allow cannabis/ 11 with outdoor grows – Sonoma County is “Permissive County” – only Bay Area County that allows outdoor grows (NMFS working to protect certain watersheds, like Mark West Spring


Robert Guthrie – Save our Sonoma Neighborhoods.com (SOS): Sebastopol area – organized to help neighborhoods work through permit issues/Ordinance

  • Any AG or Resource land use category (LIA,LEA, DA, plus Industrial Commercial zones – can be right across your fence line under an Admin Permit (10,000 sq foot max) for 1 acre need 10 acre min
  • Setbacks: Outdoor 100 feet to property line – 300 feet to the house/ Indoor cannabis can be 10 feet from property line or house/ with parking, break area where smoking allowed and bathrooms right on the fence line
  • No well setbacks – fertilizer and pesticides etc can migrate into confined aquifers
  • Setbacks for creeks and park lands: Indoor can be right up to property lines – still have water and wastewater contamination issues


Ernie Carpenter:  General Plan County 2020 (Update to 1989 and 2008 plan) Subscribe to General Plan Update on County website (10 elements)

  • Large lot zoning with Acreage Min (Parcel specific) is key to keeping ag viable in County (done in 1989): 9 sub-areas developed (Coast – Sebastopol – etc: allows for more specific plans)
  • City centered growth – City and County need to work together – and village sewer capacity and water capacity must be updated
  • Some GP elements are OPTIONAL: Ag Resources (Ag promotion events allows commercial use in ag zones): Air, Transportation, Public Infrastructure: NEED to protect wooded areas and ensure fire safety and ability
  • MANDATORY elements: Housing (important City/County meetings related to housing – cannot build to accommodate all needs) and Zoning, Open Space (community separators), Public Safety, Transit,
  • Glossary – definitions that are specific enough to allow enforcement. Devil is in the details on definitions. 

Zoning Ordinance must be brought up to date to match new GP:  Only covers discretionary projects


Rue Furch: Water Resources Element (process 2002-2008 was last update) Federal, State, County and City levels all regulate water use


(Urban Growth Boundaries, Statewide Conference on Responsible Water Use)

  • Water Element is not Mandatory: Had a CAC in In 2002 – the County did not know if it had enough water to support the amount of housing and growth projected – important for economic and agricultural stability, address groundwater
  • Got definitions of watershed boundaries/ groundwater and surface water interactions/ increased protection for Riparian areas (Riparian Ordinance)
  • Santa Rosa Basin has fees for Well Owners – Agriculture and Rural Residential and Municipal groups to pay fees ($12-26 per Residential Well)
  • County is “streamlining” this 2020 update – limit what can be addressed

o   Goals, Objectives and Policies:  After each element, there is a list of Programs that are meant to be done to implement the GP

o   Scoping Session – identifies new information that must go into GP

o   Update Water Availability Zones – where and supply of groundwater and contained aquifers – identifies Class I,II,III – type of hydrology studies


CA Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA): 3 Basins for Med Risk: Santa Rosa Plain, Petaluma Valley and Sonoma Valley

  • Each Basin has a governing board- geologically and culturally the basins are different
  • 2019-2021 Write the Sustainability Plan


Local Coastal Plan:  5-year Plan: County is planning to issue a DRAFT in April 2019: Then hold public meetings in Coastal Area

First “MAC/LCP” meeting on March 7th, Bodega Bay Grange at 530pm

  • Cannot be inconsistent with GP, yet is not a part of GP – needs to be stand alone document as it is unique to Coastal Area (Required under Coastal Act) – most of elements are the same as the General Plan
  • Sonoma has the longest coastline of all coastal areas in CA: Seal level rise, public access, Ag resources (risk the County will open up the coast to wineries, tasting rooms and event centers) , water quality and Resource Management


Tom Conlin:  Greenhouse Gas and Climate Change: Climate denial is something that we are all doing – even in CA’s unique form of Climate denial

  • PG&E is bankrupt – 1st major corporation to be put out of biz by climate change
  • Spread of wildfires in US: States and local land use must look at where we can build

o   Wealthy can self-insure and 3rd party wildfire defense services

  • Sonoma County – 50K homes in fire hazard severity zone / 11K in moderate zone: Yet still are approving the rebuilding of houses in the fire hazard areas (Wild-Urban Interface)
  • Climate Change goals set at international and national levels: Plans are there – why are we not implementing these plans: Sonoma County is doing better than most: 53% are private cars/truck transportation, then GHG from buildings: 40% fewer cows and outsourcing our garbage dump to outside county created a small dip
  • Climate Action Plan 2020: was not implemented: could have been used as checklist to comply with GHG analysis:  Production of wine and tourism trips were the areas where we weren’t addressing GHG – lawsuit: Raise issue of tourism travel and long term GHG issues


Annie Dobbs Kramer: North Bay Organizing Project – Environmental and Social Justice:  Shared values around housing (place for shelter), immigration/deportation and environmental justice

  • Rights of Nature Framework: right of the ecosystems to grow and thrive
  • Climate Change is a result of our extractive economic system – need a new economic paradigm and address cultural strategy of working with youth

  • Want Initiative on ballot in 2020 (water, pesticides, forest health)