What happened at the Sebastopol City Council meeting on May 4?
By Laura Hagar Rush, Townsy Media, May 9, 2021
Townsy has traditionally tackled city council meeting recaps in chronological order, which means often the most important items—the policy issues that actually make a difference in people’s lives and pocketbooks—come last. If you want to skip the bureaucratic folderol and random suggestions from members of the public (though these can be interesting), scroll down to the section entitled, “The Big Issues.”
ROLL CALL: 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.
Proclamations aplenty kicked off the May 4 meeting of the Sebastopol City Council. The council declared May 2021 Building Safety Month, National Water Safety Month and Lyme Disease Awareness month. Sebastopol city clerk Mary Gourley and Public Works Director Dante Del Prete got shout outs as the council recognized Municipal Clerk Week and National Public Works week. Bike to School Day (May 5) and Bike to Wherever Day (May 21), formerly known as Bike to Work Day, got the official nod of approval as well.
The council made quick work of the consent calendar, unanimously approving the following:
- Committee openings: The city council voted to begin accepting applications to fill a vacancy on the Design Review Board. They also voted to begin accepting applications for the City of Sebastopol’s citizen liaison to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority/Regional Climate Protection Agency’s Climate Action Advisory Committee.
- The council approved the extension of the Emergency Proclamation of Local Emergency (COVID-19), issued by the director of emergency services (i.e., the Fire Chief).
- The council approved of all actions associated with the changeover of its Workers Compensation programs to the California Intergovernmental Risk Authority (CIRA).
- The council authorized city staff to issue a Request for Proposals for a consultant to do an update to the housing element of the city’s general plan, as required by state law.
- The council approved the addition of the following names to the Sebastopol Peace Wall: Fred Ptucha, Adrienne Lauby, Mary Moore and Congresswoman Barbara Lee.
- Finally, the council approved the sending of a letter to the Sonoma County Transportation Authority urging its support for the SR 116 and Bodega Avenue Pedestrian Access and Mobility Improvements.
Janis Dolnick stated her objection to the Woodmark Apartments project, noting the issue of traffic and general congestion. She asked that “if this travesty cannot be stopped or mitigated,” the city at least install a stoplight at Bodega and Robinson Road—and she wanted the developers to pay for it.
Sebastopol Area Senior Center Director Katie Davis announced that the center would be reopening soon for senior haircuts and podiatry appointments, with classes soon to follow
Michael Hilber, who challenged Lynda Hopkins in the last supervisorial election, announced that he had ridden his bike from Santa Rosa to Sebastopol and then was disappointed to discover that Burger King didn’t allow bikes at their takeout window. He asked our supposedly bike-friendly city to look into that.
Walt Frazer asked the city council to consider the concept of expanding the Sebastopol Library into the area between the library and city hall.
Linda Collins of the Sebastopol Chamber of Commerce announced two events: a Zoom meeting for local business owners to meet the new Chief of Police Kevin Kilgore (May 25 at 1 pm) and a parade on September 18.
THE BIG ISSUES
The fireworks ban
The council had already signaled their opposition to continuing the sale of “safe and sane” fireworks at the last city council meeting in April, in which they asked staff to put together an ordinance banning fireworks in the city.
The proposed ordinance bans the sale or use of fireworks in the city of Sebastopol, but allowed groups to apply to the city for permits to hold public fireworks displays. During discussions, the council tightened that language, allowing only a single public fireworks event around the July 4 holiday. The council directed staff to make that change and bring the ordinance back for a vote on the consent calendar at the next city council meeting on May 18.
Since several local organizations—the Lions Club, the VFW and the Sebastopol Sea Serpents Swim Club—rely on the sale of fireworks to fund their activities, the council temporarily reopened its Community Grants programs, inviting those organizations affected by the fireworks ban to apply to the city for support this year, while encouraging them to investigate other means of fundraising in the future.
Chief Braga mentioned that Rohnert Park also plans to ban the sale of fireworks, which will leave Cloverdale as the last place to buy safe and sane fireworks in Sonoma County.
No one came forward to give public comment on this issue, all the interested parties having had their say at the last council meeting.
Development impact fees
Sebastopol, like all cities in California, levies development impact fees on new development in order to support upgrades to the city’s infrastructure required to support those developments. The current development fees include fees for affordable housing, wastewater retrofit, water connection, fire sprinkler connection, water meter installation, sewer connection, traffic impact, parks and annexation. These fees are generally paid as a requirement to obtain a building permit.
The state requires the city to file a report and have a public hearing on its development impact fees every five years. This section of the meeting was devoted to that report.
The report was prepared by an outside consultant, Harris & Associates, and one of their representatives, Nick Kral, gave a detailed summary.
Following his analysis and the recommendation of city staff and the planning commission, the council voted unanimously to update (i.e., increase) development fees.
The total impact fees for a full-size single family residence in Sebastopol is currently $32,395. Under the new fee schedule, that will rise to $45,787.
The total impact fees for multi-family units are currently $31,356. These will increase to $34,081.
Although the staff report called the increased fees “in line with other cities, which range from approximately $28,700 for Healdsburg to $48,700 for Cotati,” councilmember Diane Rich mentioned that the increase will make Sebastopol the second most expensive city to build in after Cotati, and she worried that that would have a chilling effect on developers seeking to build here.
Read the full report HERE.
Voluntary Water Conservation
The council voted unanimously to implement voluntary water conservation measures in Sebastopol and approved funding, not to exceed $2,000, for the Sebasto-Pail program—a program to give away buckets to help people capture water that would otherwise be lost.
“I think it’s pretty simple. We’re in a drought and we need to save water,” Councilmember Sarah Glade Gurney said.
As a part of voluntary conservation, the city will residents to do the following:
- Apply irrigation water only during the evening and early morning hours to reduce evaporation losses.
- Inspect all irrigation systems, repair leaks and adjust spray heads to provide optimum coverage and eliminate avoidable overspray.
- For irrigation valves controlling water applied to lawns, vary the minutes of run time consistent with fluctuations in weather.
- Reduce minutes of run time for each irrigation cycle if water begins to run off to gutters and ditches before the irrigation cycle is completed.
- Become conversant with and strictly adhere to this chapter (i.e, City of Sebastopol Stage 1 Voluntary Conservation of the Water Conservation Stages as found in Municipal Code 13.06.070.)
- Utilize water conservation rebate and giveaway programs to replace water guzzling plumbing fixtures and appliances with water efficient models.
- Utilize city information regarding using water efficiently, reading water meters, repairing ordinary leaks, and how to make your landscape a water efficient landscape.
The staff report other suggested several other actions, which while not a part of the ordinance, can also help with water conservation:
- Fix leaks, including leaky toilets.
- Install high-efficiency toilets, aerators on bathroom faucets, and water-efficient shower heads.
- Take shorter (5 minute) showers.
- Track your water bill and meter to curtail water use.
- Turn off water when brushing teeth or shaving.
- Use dishwashers and washing machines with full loads only.
- Filling up your bathtub halfway or less can save 12 gallons of water per bath.
- Use a broom to clean driveways, sidewalks and steps not the hose.
- Plant drought-resistant trees and plants.
In addition, Chris Cone of the Regional Climate Protection Authority mentioned that her organization is offering a free home water assessment program called Water Upgrades Saves. The free home assessments begins May 24. Find more information HERE. https://rcpa.ca.gov/projects/water-upgrades-save/
Mayor Una Glass put the question of “relaunching Sebastopol” on the agenda because she was looking for more guidance on that topic for her work with the budget committee—but it quickly became apparent that relaunching Sebastopol was just one of many city goals (fire protection, hiring social workers with part of the police budget) that needed to be clarified before the budgeting process could begin in earnest. So the talk turned instead to creating a Goals and Objectives meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for May 19, 9:30 a.m. to noon.
See a video of the full meeting HERE.
The next Sebastopol City Council Meeting is on Tuesday, May 18.