Synopsis of the April 6 Sebastopol Council Meeting 

By Laura Hagar Rush, Townsy Media , April 16, 2021

(Editors Note: Townsy apologizes for the lateness of this city council summary. We are really missing John Necker, and we vow to get the recap out sooner in the future.)

Council members present included Mayor Una Glass, Vice Mayor Sarah Gurney, Councilmember Patrick Slayter and Councilmember Diana Rich. Councilmember Neysa Hinton was absent.

Proclamations and general shout outs:

  • The council recognized April 4-10 as National Library Week.
  • The council recognized April 11-17 as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. If you you’re scratching your head over what that means, Councilmember Slayter translated: “That’s a fancy way of saying a dispatcher,” he said, referring to police, fire and other emergency services dispatchers. Sebastopol’s new police chief thanked the city for recognizing the city’s dispatchers whom he called “the unsung heroes” of the emergency services world. “They are the folks who are on the other end of the phone or the radio. They are our lifeline and they help us get home at night. And they don’t often get the recognition they deserve,” he said.
  • The council also recognized April 2021 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month and gave a shout out to Verity, the local sexual assault and rape crisis line and support organization. Glass encouraged everyone in Sebastopol “to engage in public and private efforts to end sexual violence,” including having conversations about the issue. Little did she know that sexual violence was all people would be talking about over the next few days, as first Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli was accused of sexual assault and then former Sebastopol Mayor Robert Jacob would be arrested for sexual assault on a minor.
  • The city council proclaimed its newest “Locals Who Make a Difference,” high school student Hunter Valencia, who also happens to be the son of the outgoing Local Who Makes a Difference Elizabeth Smith. (Read the full story about Hunter at https://townsyapp.com/news/hunter-valencia-is-sebastopols-next-local-who-makes-a-difference-honoree/)

Public Comment for items not on the agenda

  • Linda Collins announced that the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce would be sponsoring a virtual Apple Blossom Festival within the next few months, featuring old time photos and interviews with people who’ve been involved in putting the fair together over the years. “This is the best we can do this year as a festival due to COVID, but we wanted to do something,” she said. She also announced the Chamber was looking at hosting a parade sometime in September, though they plan to skip the traditional festival afterwards.
  • Catherine Murray objected to the Woodmark apartments, a low-income housing project aimed at agricultural workers. She noted that less than 7% of all the agricultural workers in the county work in Sebastopol, Graton or the surrounding area. She argued that the resulting long commute times for agricultural workers living in Sebastopol would be both expensive and environmentally damaging.
  • Evert Fernandez, head of the Sebastopol Planning Commission, objected to the city council’s decision at the last council meeting to do away with the position of alternate for the planning commission, effectively passing over a longtime planning commission alternate in their search for someone to fill an empty seat on the commission.

Consent Calendar: (Passed 4-0)

  • The council approved the meeting minutes for the March 10 and March 16 meetings.
  • The council approved the adoption of the Resolution of Local Support and a Letter of Support for an OBAG grant for Bodega Avenue Pedestrian Access and Mobility Improvements. If Sebastopol wins the grant, which will be decided by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in June, it could reduce the cost of the $928,320 project by roughly $421,000.
  • The City Council authorized the city manager to enter into an agreement with Wood Rogers for the Bodega Avenue Bike Lanes and Pavement Rehabilitation Design for $250,805. They also approved a budget amendment to the adopted 2020-21 budget to increase that item from $196,500 to $270,000 to account for the design and additional management tasks.
  • The council approved the completion of a project to add RV pads at Park Village. The project came in under budget. This project was originally budgeted at $143,700, but only cost $123,853, thus realizing a savings of $19,847. The saved funds will be reallocated to the Park Village Apartments Remodel project.
  • The council approved the charge per parcel for the city’s lighting district. The City of Sebastopol uses a Street Lighting Special Assessment District to fund the operation and maintenance of the citywide street light system. Each year it decides how much to assess each parcel in that district. This year they set the maximum at $25 per single family dwelling, a $6 decrease compared to last year. The council will make a decision on the final price at its next meeting. For obscure bureaucratic reasons, this decision must be made in three steps, over three council meetings. This is the second step.
  • The council approved a letter of opposition to SB238, which further chips away at local municipalities’ ability to have any say over telecommunications infrastructure.

There were no presentations or public hearings on the agenda.

Regular agenda items:

  • Stopping anti-Asian violence. In response to reports of increasing violence against Asian Americans, the council adopted a lengthy a resolution “condemning and combating racism and intolerance against Asian Americans and pacific islanders and all people, regardless of their race, color of skin, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, disability, or age, and commitment to inclusion and advancing equity and justice for people of all races, national origins, and ethnicities and commitment to no tolerance of any actions and or comments of hate of any kind to any person.” Three members of the public expressed their support for this resolution and, to the surprise of no one, all councilmembers present voted in favor of the resolution.
  • A discussion of the city’s fireworks ordinance. Sebastopol is one of only three cities in the county that still allows the sale of fireworks for charitable purposes. Many on the council are unhappy with this state of affairs for environmental reasons (toxic smoke and toxic litter) and concerns about fire safety and animal suffering (Fido’s ears and nerves). Mayor Glass suggested replacing 4th of July fireworks with a lighted drone show or having fireworks for New Years instead, when the risk of fire was considerably lower. In the end, despite pleas from service clubs dependent on fireworks sales, the council decided to direct staff not to accept any temporary use permits to sell fireworks this year. They also asked city staff to prepare a resolution to ban the sale and prohibit the use of fireworks in Sebastopol, though the council expressed a willingness to still allow a single public fireworks event in honor of the 4th of July.
  • CoMission requested an additional $20,000 to continue its work until June 30. The council voted to amend the city budget to devote an additional $20,000 to the work of CoMission, the city’s community vitality contractor. CoMission is currently organizing a summit of service organizations and non-profits. The $20,000 will fund their work until June 30. City Manager Larry McLaughlin said the city pays CoMission between $7,500 and $10,000 a month.
  • The council created an ad hoc subcommittee to examine city policy on grants and sponsorships. Frustrated by random, ongoing requests for financial support from organizations hither and yon, the council voted to create a subcommittee to study and develop a draft policy on sponsorships. That same group will also take a look at the city’s Community Benefit grants program. This subcommittee will include Councilmember Patrick Slater and Vice Mayor Sarah Gurney, as well as the city manager, the assistant city manager and the administrative services director.

You can view this meeting and others at: http://bit.ly/sebcctv.

The next Sebastopol City Council meeting will be April 20 at 6 pm.