Sebastopol City Council to consider prohibiting fireworks and reviving city life

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, May 2, 2021

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The Sebastopol City Council will discuss reviving public life again at its upcoming meeting Tuesday, May 4 at 6 p.m. The meeting, held over Zoom, will also include a public hearing on an ordinance to prohibit fireworks and a resolution on water conservation measures.

The meeting’s agenda and Zoom link information is available HERE.

‘Safe and sane’ fireworks

First on its Tuesday night agenda, the city council will host a public hearing and first reading on the proposed ordinance to ban the sale and use of both state-approved “safe and sane” fireworks and illegal fireworks in Sebastopol.

Sebastopol has been one of three cities in the county to continue to allow for the personal use of safe and sane fireworks between June 28 and June 4, including allowing local nonprofit organizations to sell state-approved fireworks during the same time period.

“During the April 6, 2021 city council meeting, several individuals representing nonprofit organizations made comments during public comment regarding the positive impact their fireworks sales booth has on their organization,” the council agenda item states. “Many spoke about the fact that the majority of the organizations yearly income is generated through the sales of state-approved fireworks and supported the continued use and sale of fireworks. In opposition, the city also received communications from the community requesting a ban on fireworks. Concerns included fireworks set off in residential neighborhoods can trigger persons experiencing PTSD and the noise also creates panic for many animals.”

Following the April 6 discussion, the council directed city staff not to accept applications for temporary use permits and to return with an ordinance that rescinds resolutions that may conflict with the ban of firework use in Sebastopol.

Licensed pyrotechnic displays would still be allowed in city limits if they have the city fire official’s approval and meet certain state fire code requirements, but the ordinance would repeal and replace part of the city’s municipal code, blocking the sale and use of fireworks, as well as canceling out resolutions to the contrary, the agenda report said.

If the council were to approve the new ordinance, another chapter of the Sebastopol Municipal Code would drop the section that says people can possess and discharge “safe and sane” fireworks in the city between noon on June 28 and midnight on July 4 if they adhere to state and local regulations.

The agenda report lists alternatives for celebrating, like a barbeque, a beach day or a dance party with glow sticks.

‘Relaunching’ Sebastopol

The discussion of “relaunching” Sebastopol may be a main event of the evening, pivoting the city toward reopening public life and promoting its local economy at this stage of the pandemic. This item is listed as the last discussion and/or action item of the regular calendar agenda.

The agenda report calls for the city council to discuss possible responses put forward in the report, offer more recommendations and give staff direction, considering also how prioritized actions can be pulled off and with what staff, resources and city funding.

The document outlined areas of potential action like community engagement, business promotion, cross-promotion and sponsorship of events, marketing and tourism and expanding parklets and utilizing spaces differently.

For example, the report suggests community engagement actions like more mental health support for community well-being, such as tackling homelessness issues, creating race and equity policies, neighborhood block parties tapping local businesses or a downtown painting project.

Some ideas for business promotion are having weeks highlighting certain types of businesses, like inviting people to buy from local restaurants to eat outside on a closed off street and starting a campaign to buy local online.

A next step would be requesting that the city attorney examine whether the strategies advanced in the discussion are legal in terms of city funding assisting certain events and other considerations, according to the agenda report.

Development impact fees

Next, the Sebastopol City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing for an ordinance regarding development impact fees. The public hearing is to deliberate on updating the fees, adopting a “Development Impact Fee Update Study” and upgrading related ordinances, according to the notice.

The notice of public hearing said, “These fees are charged to new development and support upgrades to the city’s infrastructure necessitated by such development, and are generally paid as a requirement to obtain a building permit.”

The Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend approving the study and updated fees, the notice said.

Water conservation

After, the city council will consider adopting a resolution to enact voluntary water conservation as the first stage of putting water waste prohibitions and other courses of action in light of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent emergency proclamation, the agenda said.

Per the agenda report, Newsom issued a regional drought emergency on April 21 for the Russian River watershed with “record lows following two critically dry years” in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, without commanding any particular stages yet.

Sebastopol has a series of water conservation stages laid out in a 2014 water shortage contingency plan and city staff proposed that the council start the first stage for a “system-wide” 10% decrease in water use, according to the agenda report.

The first stage for voluntary water conservation calls on all of the city’s potable water customers to take actions that include lowering evaporation losses by only irrigating in the evening and early morning, fixing leaks and assessing irrigation systems so there isn’t overspray, go for “water conservation rebate and giveaway programs to replace water guzzling plumbing fixtures,” getting informed on reading water meters and landscaping to conserve water, the report said.

Other items

At the start of the May 4 meeting will be proclamations of May 2021 as Building Safety Month 2021, National Water Safety Month in Sebastopol and Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

The agenda also lists proclamations recognizing May 2 to May 8 as the 52nd anniversary of Municipal Clerk Week and May 5 as Bike to School Day 2021. Last of the proclamations will declare May 16 to May 22 as National Public Works Week and May 21 as Bike to Wherever Day.

Before the city council takes on the main menu of discussion and action, the council members will take on the consent calendar that includes approving the extension of a local emergency proclamation regarding COVID-19 and allowing staff to issue a Request for Proposals for a consultant about the Housing Element Update, the agenda said.

In addition, the consent calendar lists approving and receiving the notice of a future vacancy of a city citizen liaison for the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Regional Climate Protection Authority Climate Action Advisory Committee, whose term will expire at the end of June.

Furthermore, the council will be presented with a notice of a Design Review Board vacancy because of a resignation, open for a term that will expire in December of this year. The consent calendar contains approval for yearly Peace Wall honorees and approval for a city engineering consultant contract and resolution.

The consent calendar also includes approving the April 20 city council meeting minutes and “all actions associated with participation in Employment Risk Management Authority (ERMA); California Intergovernmental Risk Authority (CIRA’s) Joint Employment Practices Liability; and Workers Compensation Programs.”

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