Tuesday January 25, 2022
I've been working on quite a few hot topics over the past week: fires, events, and speeding.

I. Fire Funding

The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to approve a landmark series of agreements intended to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability of fire services in Sonoma County by consolidating fire agencies and revamping the way they are funded. As part of these agreements, the Board of Supervisors is committing $9 million to help unify and improve fire protection and emergency response services provided by independent fire agencies in unincorporated areas of the county.

“This is us putting our money where our mouths are. While we will continue to look at a sales tax and other options to fund fire services in the future, this is a commitment from our existing budget to build on our mandate for increased resilience,” said Supervisor James Gore, chair of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors. “These funds will help defend the northern and eastern flanks against Diablo wind-driven fires, enhance emergency responsiveness from the coast to Highway 101, boost services and coordination in south county, and stabilize delivery in the east. The world demands this action, and we are meeting that challenge.”

At the conclusion of these actions, there will be 23 local fire agencies across Sonoma County, down from 43 that served the county and its cities in 2014, when the county launched its initiative to unify and improve fire services.

While local fire districts are funded independently and are not part of county government, the Board of Supervisors initiated negotiations with these districts and invested money to create an integrated system of fire and emergency response services for the benefit of these communities, visitors, and the county as a whole

A key element of the plan will create the framework for sustainable fire and emergency services along the Sonoma County coast, which draws millions of visitors annually from across the county and around the world. Roughly 29 percent of the land in the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District is dedicated to state and county parks, which do not generate any property tax revenue, creating a funding challenge that threatened the district’s ability to serve coastal visitors and residents.

“The coast is one of the crown jewels of Sonoma County. This plan benefits everyone who lives along our coast and all of the people who visit it, providing crucial support for a fire district that delivers essential services to people from across Sonoma County,” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, a member of the board committee created to lead a restructuring of local fire agencies.

The county’s concerted effort to address the stability of independent fire agencies in unincorporated areas of Sonoma County dates back to 2014, when the Board of Supervisors first launched the Fire Services Project to provide more efficient, effective and sustainable fire services. Today, the Board of Supervisors approved a complex series of tax exchange and revenue sharing agreements to support consolidation of fire services, which are in various stages of review by the county Local Agency Formation Commission:

●   Gold Ridge Fire Protection District: The district may annex seven volunteer fire companies in west and south Sonoma County — Ft. Ross, Camp Meeker, Bodega, Valley Ford, Two Rock, Wilmar and Lakeville — along with one CSA 40 area (Incident Response Plan 81) and the Wilmar Community Facility District. In exchange, the district will receive $4.4 million in annual base funding and the revenue generated by the Wilmar CFD, currently $131,946 a year.

●   Sonoma County Fire District: The district will annex the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District, improving service to heavily visited sections of the coast that do not generate sufficient property tax revenue to sustainably support emergency services. In exchange, it will receive $3 million in annual base funding.

In addition, the district will annex three CSA 40 areas (IRPs 51, 56 and the western portion of IRP 61). In exchange, the district will receive $28,000 in annual base funding.

I've been hearing from quite a few community members with concerns about the King Ridge bike race that runs through communities along the Coast and the River. We've also be receiving worried calls and emails around the latest accident in Bodega and the problems of speeding there and in our small towns.

I. Kings Ridge Bike Race: The Sonoma County Coast Municipal Advisory Council (Coast MAC) reviewed the race permit at January's meeting, full video of the meeting linked here.

The race permit was discussed just after Bradley Dunn, Policy Manager for Permit Sonoma, presented plans for updating the ministerial event permit process. It was good timing to take an actual event and look at it with Bradley on the meeting with the events permit process overview. Council and Community members expressed concerns that, given the impact of 500 bikers along the fragile coast ecosystem, the permit along the Coastal route should be referred to the Coastal Commission process and not simply through the ministerial event process. (A ministerial permit means that it is automatically granted provided the applicant has successfully met the requirements of the application.)

Top among additional concerns expressed were the lack of bathroom facilities and safety issues of 500 bikers on such a narrow route without any road closure. You can hear additional concerns on the full video. After the meeting these concerns were conveyed to Permit Sonoma's Director Tennis Wick and to the Coastal Commission. As a result, a meeting is planned this week between Permit Sonoma and the Coastal Commission to review these concerns. Also this week, Thursday the Land Use Committee for the Lower Russian River Advisory Council is meeting to review open permits and will be discussing the King Ridge event from the river community perspective. Below is the meeting information and agenda link for the River Land Use Committee meeting. Please do join the meeting if you have an interest in this permit, either in support or with concerns. check out the agenda below for additional Land Use permits being discussed at the meeting. For too long the Coast and the River have had little notification or voice in events that impact their neighborhoods. Your MAC representatives are working to ensure that unincorporated community voices are heard in these events. Please take a look at the full agenda below for more information on Thursday's meeting. Our team will let you know the outcome of the Permit Sonoma / Coastal Commission meeting this week as well.

II. Speeding and accidents in Bodega and Beyond. In the last few months there have been 3 accidents in the Town of Bodega. After the second accident I asked California Highway Patrol (CHP) to increase patrols in the area and County Transportation and Public Works (TPW) to review the site area for possible improvements. TPW teams discovered broken or missing signage which was replaced and updated throughout the town, added rumble strips, and sited a flashing electronic speed sign in the area. CHP agreed to step up enforcement of the area. While the full cause of the latest accident is still to be finalized, a driver asleep at the wheel (for whatever reason), is the initial cause of the crash. That being said, we do have a problem with speeding throughout Sonoma County small towns, primarily because there is a reputation of a lack of enforcement. We heard a concern from the Timber Cove MAC representative, Annie Creswell, that an SF luxury rental car company actually made an ad pointing to a popular coast road and saying that this is a great place to open up and use their powerful engines. This perspective puts our constituents and visitors alike at risk. I am holding an on-site meeting with safety and community leaders in Bodega and Freestone to discuss speeding issues and look for solutions specific to this site. In addition, we will carry this conversation to advocating for more funding and enforcement from the State across unincorporated West County.

Thursday Land Use Meeting
Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council (MAC)
Land Use Standing Committee,
Kyra Wink, Chair
January 27, 2022, 5:30 – 6:30pm

In accordance with AB 361, Governor Newsom’s March 4, 2020 State of Emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Resolution 21-0399, the River MAC meeting will be held virtually. The meeting will
be on Zoom, links below. After the meeting, videos are available on Facebook and on the 5th District YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy7u_uF73_2htucfV3Sc7gA
Please click the link to join the webinar:
Passcode: 579860
Or One tap mobile:
US: +16699009128,,99367156460# or

Full agenda and information packet with race maps and details linked here.

Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins | County of Sonoma | 707-565-2241