Sebastopol City Council Recap
What happened at the May 3 City Council meeting?
The city council faced a jam-packed agenda at its May 3 city council meeting, with several items pushed forward from the previous meeting.
(Note: The consent calendar consists of items that are routine in nature or don’t require additional discussion, often because they’ve been discussed extensively at a previous council meeting.)
Except for one item (a small amendment to the ban on RV parking on city streets), the council unanimously approved everything on the consent calendar, including the following:
An extension of a city proclamation of the existence of a local homeless emergency.
Authorization for city staff to apply for a grant to help fund phase 2 of the Bodega Avenue Pavement Rehabilitation Project.
Approval of the Annual Peace Wall nominees.
Declaration that are weeds public nuisance, what with fire season at hand.
Council member Glass asked for a separate vote on the amendment to the ban on RV parking on city streets so that she could vote against it again, which she did.
The council then heard a presentation from Andy Rodgers of the Santa Rosa Groundwater Sustainability Agency regarding a plan to, among other things, charge rural residents who have wells and use groundwater $17.50 to $25 a year. The money would go to fund the work of the Santa Rosa Groundwater Sustainability Agency, which was created as part of a state plan to begin to protect groundwater resources in California, particularly in light of the drought. Fees for groundwater use were discussed when this local agency was first formed a few years ago, but until now, the cost of running the program has been born by the Groundwater Sustainability Agency and Sonoma Water.
Regular Agenda Items
The Local Road Safety Plan. The City Council voted to approve the Local Road Safety Plan that its consultant, Kathryn Kleinschmidt of GSD, has been working on for the last year. Approval of this plan will mean the city can apply to Caltrans to remedy the many dangers and shortcomings identified in the plan.
Standard Conditions of Approval for Development Projects. In an attempt to increase the amount of affordable housing in California, the state government has adopted several laws (SB35 being the most important) that limit cities’ ability to block or even amend planned housing developments in their city. According to these new state laws, cities can only regulate housing developments via published standards and objective guidelines. By adopting a standard set of “Conditions of Approval,” Sebastopol can ensure that the city’s standard conditions can be applied to these projects. This document (with a bit of last minute word-smithing) was unanimously approved by the council. (See the Standard Conditions of Approval for Development Projects here: https://bit.ly/3FDhDiH)
Merger of the Zero Waste and Climate Action committees. Overlapping areas of interest and some difficulty finding people to serve on the committees led to a plan to combine the two groups. Zero Waste would become a working group within the Climate Action Committee. Everyone on the council agreed this was a good idea and voted unanimously to make it so.
City Sponsorship of the Gravenstein Apple Fair. The city agreed to give $2,000 in cash and $3,000 in police services to the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair.
Planning Commission to drop to five members. The city council agreed to allow the planning commission to change from a seven-member commission to a five-member commission, basically because there was some difficulty filling seats on the commission and because having fewer members on the board made for shorter, more efficient meetings.
When will in-person City Council meetings return? COVID-19 caused city councils across the country to move their meetings online. Now that the epidemic seems to be waning – or at least growing less deadly – councils are now considering when to go back to in-person meetings. The Sebastopol City Council voted to continue teleconference meetings for now, but in discussions suggested a plan to move to hybrid meetings (both in-person and online) by fall.
Surveillance Technology. A growing number of local governments have adopted laws that prohibit the use of biometric surveillance technology and predictive policing. More than half a dozen U.S. cities, including Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco have passed bans on the government use of such technologies. The Sonoma County branch of the ACLU has created a model ordinance banning such technologies and is attempting to get city councils around the county to adopt ordinances based on this model. Police Chief Kevin Kilgore opposed the idea of adopting the model ban, arguing that action on this topic was in the works at the state level. He argued that the city should wait and see what the state produced. While the Sebastopol city council did not direct staff to draft such an ordinance, it did ask staff to look into the topic and produce a report to educate the council and the public on the issues involved.