Local Coastal Plan: Devoid of protections, full of loopholes
By Reuben Weinzveg, Neighbors to Preserve Rural Sonoma County
It’s a challenging time for Sonoma County coastal lovers when local officials draft plans for the future of our coast that prioritize corporate and development profits over public safety and environmental preservation. That seems to be what is taking place with the creation of the Local Coastal Plan (LCP) update.
At the recent meeting in Sea Ranch, Permit Sonoma’s planner acknowledged that a number of important coastal and non-profit stakeholders were not consulted about the plan. That means that the Permit department missed the opportunity for input and expertise from State Parks, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, Surfrider, Sonoma Land Trust, Bodega Land Trust, the Coastal Resiliency Program developed by the Marine Sanctuary and other important stakeholders. Without input from these important stakeholders, the new LCP will only reflect the revisions of planning staff and connected commercial interests that have already been treated with the language they need to make provisions for tourist facilities and tasting rooms on Highway 1.
In addition, there is no mention of carbon sequestration, not enough on fuel reduction plans for fire prevention, and no current discussion of hemp cultivation. The ambiguous phrase “principally permitted use” which allows for ultimate discretion of the planner about what permits might be issued and what level of review would be required, appears frighteningly frequently in the document. This type of language embeds a permanent loophole for the planning department to do whatever they want or are pressured to do by development interests. This is unacceptable!
Included also is a new concept of “workforce housing combining zones” as part of coastal housing development, without any details; just more ambiguity that the planners will clarify for us, without our ability for appeal. All of us should be alarmed that the current concept of “principally permitted use” specified on the Permit Sonoma’s website states that zoning designations will not be appealable to the California Coastal Commission once approved at the county level. So the planners will designate and we will have no appeal to higher authorities.
In the past, when coastal counties drafted their coastal plans, they were stand alone, unique documents, independent of the General Plan. When asked why the revisions to the LCP were drafted as they were (using the General Plan as a template and language guide), the planner stated, “That’s how everybody does these nowadays.” The preamble to the current LCP describes the Sonoma Coastal region as “ a distinct and valuable natural resource of vital and enduring interest …a delicately balanced ecosystem…that the permanent protection of the natural and scenic resources is a paramount concern to the present and future residents. “How everybody does it nowadays” is not how a unique and precious place should be treated.
I would ask the Board of Supervisors to send this flawed draft back to the Permit Sonoma to start again using the lens of “protection” rather than that of “development”, and engaging the more knowledgeable stakeholders in our community. The current draft revision is an insult to our coast and an insult to those who cherish it.
The County is hosting public workshops and your voice is needed to protect our coast. Visit LocalCoastalPlan.org for dates and locations. A small group of concerned residents are working hard to suggest protective language but wider public support matters.
Reuben Weinzveg, retired CPA, is the Treasurer of Neighbors to Preserve Rural Sonoma County and past president of the Sonoma Land Trust, formerly Treasurer of the Community Foundation of Sonoma County and a long-time resident of the County.