What happened at the Sebastopol City Council Meeting on April 20?

By Laura Hagar Rush, Townsy Media, April 21, 2021

city council recap

Recap of the Sebastopol City Council Meeting of April 20, 2021.

The full city council was present for the April 20 meeting, including Mayor Una Glass, Vice Mayor Sarah Gurney, Councilmember Patrick Slayter, Councilmember Neysa Hinton and Councilmember Diana Rich.

See a video of the full meeting HERE.

Public Comment for items not on the agenda

Four speakers opposed the Woodmark Apartments development, complaining of traffic issues, environmental concerns, evacuation safety, lack of bicycle access and other issues. Many of them were probably disturbed to learn later in the evening that changes to state housing laws may make the city helpless to prevent the project from being built. One speaker spoke against the WSCUHSD’s move to consolidate Analy and El Molino High Schools, alleging CEQA violations. (See the full article about this issue on Townsy at https://bit.ly/3dMrqqe.)

Consent Calendar (Council approved items 2 to 5 unanimously)

  • Council approved the minutes of the City Council Meeting of April 6 (Approved 4 to 1)
  • Council approved new and revised job classifications, job specifications and salary ranges for some city sanitation workers. (No fiscal impact.)
  • Council approved the proposed projects list for SB 1 (Road Repair and Accountability Act) funding for 2021- 22. This includes paving and repairs on Hanson Court, Kathleen Court and Cleveland Avenue, as well as resurfacing and shoulder improvements along Bodega Avenue.
  • Council approved completion of the Manhole Cover Replacement project. This project came in slightly over budget. It was contracted at $68,200, but the final price was $74,844.76, due to adding one additional manhole cover and adding locks to keep the covers secure.
  • Council approved reopening applications for the city’s Climate Action Committee and add an alternate youth position. The committee is now seeking applicants to fill the following vacant positions: a Sebastopol business owner, someone with an environmental justice/equity background, and someone to fill the alternate youth position.

Presentation: California Housing Laws

Attorney Alex Mog of the city’s outside legal firm, Meyers Nave, gave a presentation on a slew of state housing laws—some new, some older— that developers have recently started using to get around city  permitting. These include the following:

  • The Housing Accountability Act of 2017, which disallows the use of subjective standards such as neighborhood character, and bars cities from demanding low densities (example: lowering the number of apartments in a development from 100 to 75). The only exception is a demonstrable threat to public safety, which Mog said was a very difficult standard to meet. Cities that attempt to block development face a $10,000 per unit fine.
  • SB 330 – The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 puts a limit on the time cities can take to approve an application (180 days) and allows developers to increase the size of a project by 20% even after approval by the city. It also disallows moratoriums on development and other growth control ordinances, as well as the use of “subjective design standards” in permitting.
  • SB 35 requires that projects larger than 10 units must either make 10% of the units affordable to people making below 80% of the Average Median Income (AMI) or make 20% of the units affordable to those making below 120% of AMI. Sebastopol Director of City Planning Kari Svanstrom said that in Sonoma County, the median income is $102,700 for a family of four. So 80% of AMI in Sonoma County is $81,000, while 120% of AMI is $123,000. This ordinance also sets up a “ministerial approval” process that allows developers to opt out of the city’s permitting process and instead choose the much less rigorous process laid out by SB 35, which also has shorter timelines and only “objective design standards.” The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) does not apply to developments in the streamlined SB35 process. Developers are also given incentives to increase density and the percentage of affordable units.
  • AB 1486 requires that if a city decides to sell surplus city land, it must first offer it for sale to agencies that will develop the land for open space, recreation or affordable housing.

Several council members decried the unfairness of many of these proposals, particularly SB 35.

“We need housing, but we also need to preserve our community, and for the state legislators to take so much out of the realm of anything that local communities have any impact on, it’s a really difficult position for local electeds to be in,” Slayter said.

Mayor Glass said that high density development is better suited to cities and not to semi-rural areas like Sonoma County, where mass transportation infrastructure is lacking.

To see the full report from Meyers Nave, go HERE.

Regular Calendar Agenda

Discussion and consideration of Ned Kahn’s Revised Art Proposal: The council approved the revised art sculpture concept, “Sebastopol Spire,” and the new site for the sculpture, on city-owned property northwest of the Highway 12 bridge and visible from the eastern entryway to Sebastopol.

This decision has been a long time in the making—primarily because of Caltrans objection to Kahn’s original design—and everyone on the council seemed happy to move it forward. Marghe Mills Thysen of the Public Arts Committee summed up the committee’s feeling this way: “Let’s move forward. Let’s get this done. Five years is a good amount of time to ripen. Let’s plant it, and let’s enjoy it, and let’s let Ned go forward with it.”

There were some questions about flooding, since that area was under 10 feet of water as recently as the winter of 2019. The sculpture itself, which is 35-feet tall, is made out of metal and thus water-resistant, though it could potentially be damaged or destroyed by large branches moving in the flood water. The council decided to discount that danger and move forward any way.

The budget for the project ($45,000 for Ned Kahn’s work, and $5,000 for any site modifications) comes from Sebastopol’s ‘percent for art’ fee, where developers either provide on-site public art or pay an in-lieu fee which the city uses for public art projects in the community. (These monies cannot be used for other purposes.)

In addition, Thysen brought up the intriguing idea of having public art at all four entries to the city, an idea that Mayor Glass seemed particularly intrigued by.

To see the city report on the sculpture and its new site, go HERE.

Annual Level of Service Report

Svanstrom gave the yearly Level of Service Report, required by city’s General Plan, which looks at the status of city services, including water, wastewater, drainage, parks, fire, police, schools and housing. Here are the high points:

  • Sebastopol’s population has declined slightly to 7,745 residents.
  • Water use is up 8% from the previous year, though it’s still much lower than 2004 due to conservation efforts.
  • Wastewater numbers stayed flat. Sebastopol is only using 53% of its wastewater entitlement at the Santa Rosa wastewater plant.
  • Storm water conveyance. Svanstrom said that the public works department will need additional funding to meet new state mandates and to upgrade components of the storm water system.
  • In terms of parks, Svanstrom said that Sebastopol exceeds its standard of 5 acres of parks per 1,000 residents . (The state standard is 3 acres per 1,000 people.) Recent park improvements include new paths for the community sculpture garden, resurfacing of the Brookhaven tennis courts, a new super playground for Libby Park, and repaving of the youth annex parking lot, which improved access to the surrounding parkland. She also noted that the city is slowly moving forward with improvements at Ives Park and that money coming from Measure M, which was passed last year, should help with that.
  • The Sebastopol Fire Department is meeting their goal of seven-minute response time to calls; in fact, for 80% of calls, the response time is six minutes or less. They had 150 fewer calls in 2020 than in 2019, primarily from a drop in auto accidents, due to fewer drivers on the road thanks to COVID stay-at-home rules. To increase recruiting of volunteers, they’ve dropped the minimum volunteer age to 18 from 21 and have begun recruiting for areas outside of Sebastopol.
  • The Sebastopol Police have a response time target of 3 minutes, which they meet for all priority 1 calls and for 70% of priority 2 calls. In terms of the numbers, according to the report, “SPD officers documented 1,034 cases that required either a crime report, arrest report or information report (an average of 2.8 investigative reports each day of the year.) In addition to those reports, officers issued 514 traffic citations, 198 criminal citations (for non-bookable misdemeanors or municipal Code violations), and 775 parking citations. Officers made 95 felony arrests (25 were property crimes, 33 were crimes against persons, 37 were warrant/probation violation/parole violation/felony evading); 349 misdemeanor arrests; and 39 arrests for people driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs in 2020.”
  • The city has no authority over schools, but Svanstrom mentioned that city has reached out to the West Sonoma County Union High School District to deal with the traffic that may result from the district’s decision to consolidate Analy and El Molino high schools, as more than 500 students from El Molino find their way from west county through Sebastopol to Analy.
  • Between 2015-2023, Sebastopol is required by the state to build (or, really, to permit to be built) 120 units of housing, which it is on track to meet, thanks to the Barlow Crossing Townhomes development and the Permanent Supportive Housing at the Sebastopol Inn, which will count as 31 units.

To read the full report, go HERE.

Statement to request the recall of Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli

In the aftermath of allegations of sexual misconduct and assault by Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli, the Sebastopol City Council unanimously approved a letter, signed by the whole city council, in support of the Windsor City Council’s request that Windsor Mayor Dominic Foppoli resign from his position.