The Rural Alliance
Newsletter ‚ Fall 2000

This year we are celebrating the 21st anniversary of The Rural Alliance. Our group formed in response to the proposed sub division of the Quail Hill ranch into thirty five ranchettes. Residents saw this as the beginning of the end, the transformation of the sylvan West County into faceless suburbia. Hence The Rural Alliance, an alliance of local people to keep Western Sonoma County rural. Since that time twenty years ago the RA has been involved in numerous West County environmental issues. We have won on many, lost on some, but on the whole we can be proud of our accomplishments. Therefore, come join us this year for our yearly dinner and auction, November 10th, in the Bocce-Ballroom of The Union Hotel Once again our MC will be our fearless, if at times, ragged around the edges, West County Supervisor Mike Reilly. There will be the historic and perfectly safe for adults without heart problems, live Auction. Once again this is the opportunity of a lifetime, until next year at least, to bid on The Artist¼s painted hat, fine Art that missed the Hat helped create amazing works, a bucket of magic worms, and the ever popular fifty feet of hose. The auction keeps the Rural Alliance vital and able to help community groups get their feet on the ground, and adds to The Bob Sharp Environmental Studies Scholarships through Sonoma State University and The Santa Rosa Junior College.

Again this year we are actively engaged in the elections. Foremost is Measure I, The Rural Heritage Initiative. VOTE YES on Measure I. Please vote for the preservation of farmlands and reject the politics of confusion and negative misrepresentation. Please take an active role in your local community elections. There are exciting races and good candidates all around us.
We welcome your membership, active participation and fine company at The Dinner.

Grove of The Old Trees
In a spectacular display of cooperation, organization and just plain doggedness, the Van Alstyn old growth redwood grove has been spared the woodsman¼s (commercial real estate accountant¼s) ax. Slowly, the rude blue marks on the bases of these grandparent trees will fade. Our children and their descendents will never have to worry about our past being taken from them. Credit for this tremendous victory is shared by hundreds of people who labored for years against fearsome odds to save the Grove. The list is much too long to mention, but briefly those who helped in the end, The Coastal Conservancy, The Save The Redwood League, the Greene Family Foundation, the Open Space District, Land Paths, private donors including Raspberry Hummingbird, and finally Caryl Hart who put it all together and made it happen. This is something we can really be proud of.
Thanks Caryl for all your work.
For those interested in visiting the Grove or participating in its stewardship should contact Landpathsä 524-9218 or

Fanci Gallegos
When Franci Gallegos passed away, we lost a strong will and voice for community involvement and action.
Franci¼s archives of so many important issues for so many years has been donated to The Rural Alliance.
We hope this will be the initial step, the catalyst for others to donate documents, action plans and perhaps strategies to form an Environmental Activist Library. Why re-invent the activist wheel!.
Thanks for everything, Franci...
For archival information please contact: 876-3552 or

The Rural Heritage Initiative - Measure I - Vote YES!
Given today¼s pressure to grow, are you afraid that Sonoma County may turn into „San Jose North¾? Will the potential for sprawl overtake Sonoma County¼s rural environment. Maybe it¼s time to „push the pause button on sprawl¾ and preserve the rural beauty of 80% of the land in Sonoma County. The Telecom business that finds billion dollar babies springing up like winter mushrooms wasn¼t imaginable not long ago. Who can foresee the political pressure exerted, the housing price from technology millionaires and the land use ethics threatened as „Network U¾ campus¼ need more space.
The Rural Heritage Initiative, Measure I, will address these very serious issues. Vote YES on The Rural Heritage Initiative, Measure I.

Town Hall Coalition
Are You Concerned About Intensive Vineyard Development?
The Town Hall Coalition Meetings in September came out of last summer¼s The Rural Alliance Environmental caucus of many, many Western Sonoma County environmental groups. This is one way The Rural Alliance nurtures neighborhood groups that gather to address threatening land use issues.

The Town Hall topics have included: Water Rights on shared water tables, Soil Erosion/Sedimentation, Forest Conversions, Pesticides, Loss of Habitat, Quality of life issues...

The economic and social changes we¼ve seen in agriculture must be no more than the land and greater community can sustain.

The meetings opened a microphone to the community for shared experiences, concerns and ideas about what people can do to protect family, property and community from threats to public health, safety and the environment. These grassroot concerns must percolate up. The opportunity to be heard, one¼s viewpoint respected, is one of the most powerful gifts the Coalition has offered. The Coalition must continue to trust the strength of participatory democracy and reject the singular interest control of the community and lands. We welcome the vigorous and direct changes that are being realized.

Quail Hill... Our old friend, the little sweet valley branching off to the north-west from the larger Freestone Valley, will be changed forever quite soon. The Quail Hill property in Freestone was split into estates. Many have filed Vineyard applications. To preserve and protect the ecological heritage, a number members of the community are attempting neighborly persuasion for thoughtful land management with the various new owners. The Rural Alliance did it¼s best to preserve this land but economic forces became overwhelming. This too appears to be heading toward grapes, horse estates and more grapes...

The old Sequoia Dairy property on Freestone Flat Road was sold. The scion of Jos. Phelps Winery is moving quickly to plant his grapes along the golden hills north of Freestone... Site preparation along Salmon Creek is already moving very close to completion. Some very disturbing water pipelines have been found... Is this Freestone¼s future... Estate Homes, loaded to the gills with grapes, a Napa-attack of the ever encroaching Vineyards? Most of the estates have already been bought, from $600k to nearly $2 million per parcel. We will stay in contact with friendly landowners and offer direction to thoughtful, sustainable land use consultants.

The community of Bodega recently was informed that instead of being customers of The Bodega Water Company, they were in fact the owners of a non-profit corporation. News to them! The entire Board was resigning, and so here you are, it¼s your company! There had been scant information revealed about such a membership/ownership. Non-profit status had been applied in an original fashion. Now with a variety of attorneys reviewing wells, easements and agreements, Bodega will try to move forward as a community. The point to keep in mind is that water is the trail of breadcrumbs for inappropriate development. So many small communities currently face serious issues of water supply and wastewater use. We must keep these questions in open review.

The Occidental Community Services District has wastewater opportunities and decisions ahead. They can work with Camp Meeker and improve the old treated wastewater system that discharges into Dutch Bill Creek, or use a Redwood Tree evapo-transpiration design. Quietly, all along, the Sonoma County Water Agency has continued to make noises supporting a pipeline to the Guerneville treatment center. While a Redwood Tree/leechfield system would insure zero possibility of a hazardous discharge into the creek, it comes with a price-tag of more housing parcels becoming available for development. Again, there are no easy answers. The important point in this issue is that Occidental has taken the reins to be the lead agency. They have stepped up to be in control of their community. No matter what, the fees will rise. With appreciation for the District Board, a long look to the future is needed here.

Russian River Re-Development
The Rural Alliance helped the Russian River Forum further the Re-development discussion. The huge amount of money available to developers doesn¼t address the environmental concerns, low income housing or community control of The River¼s character. The funding is primarily directed toward tourist infrastructure development. Transportation and roads, Water, fire and other public services and the environmental concerns take a back seat. Legal action has begun. For a small community group it¼s often like trying to move the mammoth issue upstream in the flood of money, but we hope they can find an way to help a wonderful region without overwhelming the special Russian River feeling.

Sebastopol Goes Pesticide FreeãVoluntarily
Also presented at the Summer ¼99 Environmental Caucus was Michael Black¼s hope for a Voluntary Pesticide-Free Sebastopol. Through the Council leadership of Larry Robinson, Sebastopol has accepted volunteer gardening help, a scruffier look if need be, and the pride of showing the way to a healthy environment.

Petaluma takes courageous stand on Water Rights for The Eel and Conservation for all The City of Petaluma has faced off with The Sonoma County Water Agency over infrastructure expansion contracts.
As well as not signing a blank check for the open-ended project, Council members say the Water Agency¼s eight contractors should discuss environmental issues, including gravel mining and continued diversion of Eel River water to the Russian River, before accepting the agreement. The Water Agency has attempted to isolate or Balkanize the contractors into separate agreements. We agree with The Petaluma City Council that the customers need to band together. Our long time friend Marty Griffen has called for an elected Water Agency, as in a number of California counties. This is an important discussion that won¼t go away.

Groundwater Studies
Last Fall the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to begin a groundwater study of Sonoma County. In the beginning of October, this year, they funded a pilot study in the Joy Road area, among two others. Concerns had been raised by people who had felt their wells had been affected by deep draw agricultural pumps, and the continued influx of housing in the RRD neighborhoods. Under current protocol, a developer who is applying for a sub-division map needs to certify the project¼s pumping won¼t have a deleterious effect on adjoining properties¼ water supply. A General Plan amendment is being studied to apply the same review procedures for Ag and residential use over a certain pumping amount. A Groundwater Ordinance is one response the county may take after digesting the Groundwater study. This is an important study that must be done, but may be abused. It could be a Water Agency listing of potential pipeline customers and a map of product. Water is our lifeline. It has also kept many rural lands and communities free from the degradation of intensive development .

Telecom Pressures
In Cotati, The Monaghan Development Company has presented an application to use the headwaters of The Laguna as a site housing as principal tenant, Nokia, a telecom company from Finland. The environmental concerns are many. The social considerations of once again developing a city on two sides of highway 101 have been lost. The effect of the massive input of high-tech workers and salaries on local real estate prices and the already strained housing market have been ignored. This is a issue that needs a greater review than the quiet burg of Cotati can offer. Sonoma County is facing a challenge of success. Everyone wants to have a part of this land. For business, homes or agriculture. In the even recent past, wineries make headlines for selling out to out of county companies for 14 million dollars. A Telecom sale of a business barely five years old brought 6.3 billion dollars. If we¼ve seen modern industrial agriculture sway the land use politics of Sonoma County, what hope do we have that so-called the „clean¾ industries won¼t act as they have in Santa Clara county, right now taking over a square mile of Ag land. The County must initiate some manner of forum on Growth. Picking off stragglers as the herd walks by will take place if each city or neighborhood must fend for itself. We¼re all in this together.

We Salute our Good Friends
So many groups work hard for our community. In the past year we¼ve seen Watershed Groups come together and dig in on the health of our lands and critters from the ridgetops to the middle of the streambeds.
Salmon Creek Watershed Council, which The Rural Alliance initially helped will once again hold a Watershed Day next May. The other Watershed groups in the West County will be involved. These groups have been meeting to coordinate, communicate with agencies and share resources. The Bodega Land Trust has worked hard on The Fay Creek restoration project. They serve as a great alternative for smaller, more personal Land Conservation easement applications, complementing the role of The Sonoma Land Trust. Forest Unlimited has been working so hard, they are at leading edge of forestland monitoring, protection and preservation.
There are so many more community efforts, more than can be acknowledged here. Please support their programs with your action and donations.

Open Space District
The Rural Alliance cannot claim to be the sole instigator of the quarter cent sales tax which funds the purchase of development rights, conservation easements, from willing landowners, but we worked hard for its adoption and it has been wildly successful, saving thousands of acres each year from development. The latest acquisition has been the Colliss Ranch at the end of Coleman Valley Road, one of the most spectacular viewsheds in Sonoma County. This will be permanently spared being despoiled by trophy homes, the mushrooming „starter Castles¾ we¼re finding all to often on our precious hillsides and ridges.
The district is now in negotiation with the Carrington family to save the majestic sweep of land going up from the coastal State Park lands to Irish Hill overlooking The Pacific. This is another critical patchwork of land, which will create a preservation handshake with Point Reyes, within the view. Also part of this is the Red Hill Ranch, south of Goat Rock, bordering on the Pomo Campground parkland, at the mouth of Willow Creek. Near the crest of Red Hill is an inspiring grove of redwoods, fir, some old growth, which now, will never be cut.

The Bob Sharp Environmental Studies Scholarships
The Rural Alliance is very proud to have fully endowed the scholarships to Sonoma State University and Santa Rosa Junior College. Thanks to everyone for coming to The Annual Dinner and bidding on Auction items.
This years recipients are Gilberto Palavios, born and raised in small town in Oaxaca, Mexico and attending SRJC and Jessica Wright, a biology major and whose career objective is teaching and also surfs, from Sonoma State. We wish you the very best in your studies and the most productive work possible to share your enthusiasm for the natural world.

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