Who We Are
We are the under-represented residents of rural, unincorporated Sonoma County who have been negatively impacted by the Sonoma County cannabis ordinance.
We are property owners in rural Sonoma County. Some of us have small ranches and farms and many of us just live on residential properties where we cherish the peaceful, rural lifestyle of Sonoma County. Three of us have ancestors who emigrated here on wagon trains.
Read some of the personal stories of how commercial cannabis businesses have negatively impacted some of the people in our group:
These people are surrounded by cannabis growers and their story is harrowing.
These people have to endure a commercial cannabis grow 20 feet from their home.
These people can no longer use their backyard or have barbecues because of the pungent, skunk odor.
These people lost their life savings.
This family lost $100,000 in property value when a cannabis grow moved next door.
These people are deluged with noxious environmental stench from a grow not even that close.
What we aren’t
We are not against the adult use of cannabis. We are not an anti-pot organization. We are against commercial cannabis in residential areas.
We believe that when Sonoma County residents passed Prop 64 to legalize cannabis, they were doing so to allow adults to use cannabis without fear of prosecution. We do not think the intent was to allow cannabis cultivation in rural Sonoma County.
About the Rural Character of Sonoma County
Our farms and pastures and ranches and our Agriculture and quaint rural communities foster a $2+ Billion dollar per year tourist industry. No tourist, ever, reported they visited Sonoma County to see the new Target, or the new lane added to Route 101, or the new housing blowout in Rohnert Park, or the new 10 foot fence on Petaluma Hill Road. Tourists to Sonoma County when polled have said our rural character is what draws them.
Ask your county Supervisor what they are doing to help this $2 Billion tourist industry and preserve that rural character.
Is asking 5000 illegal pot growers to “come out of the shadows” and set up shop in our rural neighborhoods – next to our schools and parks and homes – helping?
Is allowing commercial cannabis businesses to set up in our pristine, bucolic back country roads helping?
Are 8 foot fences, security lighting, guard dogs, alarms, 24 hour operations helping?
Is having industrial level electricity demand and use of chemicals, intense lighting, generators and other infrastructure safe, especially when these businesses are located on narrow, one lane roads in high fire risk areas?
Our rural roads have often been portrayed in Sunset, Travel and Leisure and other magazines. Now ugly, tall fences surround commercial cannabis businesses, ruining the views for many.
Another critically important factor to consider is the significant water consumption of cannabis plants. Consider also the recent drought and the fact that rural residents have wells and that cannabis cultivation draws a tremendous volume of ground water (3-5 gallons per day per plant). Many cannabis grows are one acre in size. That’s a lot of cannabis plants!
These commercial cannabis businesses belong on large lands or in industrial zones in the county, away from residents and placed in areas of where water is more abundant.
We believe these commercial cannabis / industrial operations are better suited to industrial / commercial zoned areas.
SOS Neighborhoods Policy Positions
Save our Sonoma Neighborhoods urges the electorate and the Board of Supervisors to support the following Sonoma County policy changes:
Halt the process until it’s fixed!
- The BOS must perform a full Program EIR (Environmental Impact Report) and suspend issuing and renewing cannabis permits until the EIR is completed, primary issues with the draft are addressed and setbacks increased in both chapter 26 and 38 ordinances.
Fix the process
- Restore the Health and Safety Clause – residents have the right to the health, safety and peaceful enjoyment of their properties.
- Undertake normal land use planning for cannabis – identify suitable sites – rather than using the permit process to identify problem sites. Outlined in this open letter on land use process, cannabis.
- Eliminate ministerial permits for cannabis, go back and fix the conditional use permit processes (CUP) and ensure project-specific environmental review.
- Sunset PRP immediately (ie, schedule public hearings for all outstanding PRPs).
- Align with California state regulations including:
- Prop 64 – as implemented by the California Department of Food and Agriculture
- Fire safe roads – as implemented by the Board of Forestry
- CEQA – California Environmental Quality Act
- State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Water Resources requirements for water demand and wastewater disposal
- Eliminate the practice of issuing multiple permits to separate growers on the same parcel which amplifies the impacts n times over.
- Impose a minimum residency requirement to stop the influx of non-resident operators. Require that operator must own 51% of the business (Staff rec)
Fix the enforcement fiasco
- County enforcement should stop giving Cannabis growers 24 hours’ notice prior to inspections of their facilities for compliance checks.
- Investigate implementing an enforcement team consisting of sheriffs, fish and game, water resources and perform surprise inspections, similar to Humboldt County.
- Stop the flow of illegal unpermited operations: Any person performing any activity prior to final permit approval, shall be required to stop all activities immediately, dismantle operations and pay a fine. There should be a probationary period ( 5 years) where they can’t apply for another permit.
Protect neighborhoods, sensitive uses and natural resources
- Require 1,000-foot setbacks from the property lines of homes, as well as schools and parks,so children don’t have to live, learn or recreate near commercial cannabis businesses. Treat residences the same as schools in terms of setbacks. In these times people work and school from home and should have the same protections.
- Impose a 20-acre minimum lot size for all zoning categories. Exclude non conforming lots.
- Exclusion zones – A simple and speedy (less than six months) mechanism for state agencies or communities to exclude commercial cannabis production from certain locations based on impaired watersheds, endangered species, or site specific constraints.
- Revise regulations for commercial cannabis permits to include limitations on saturation of an area, and cumulatively consider the impacts.
- Change the term of permits issued to 1 year to allow the county to monitor performance and adjust standards as per staff initial recommendations.
- Make a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) a requirement for any parcel that borders RR or AR or is within 500 feet of a stream, or that uses ground water.
- Require that the applicant submit plans showing how wind will affect the distribution of the odor causing terpenes, and require setbacks longer than 1000 ft to down-wind residences or for outdoor grows larger than 1 acre [Note- this requires the permit be a CUP as discretion is involved by the county in determining appropriate increased setbacks]
- Only issue permits for outdoor grows for 2 years, to determine if odor is really properly controlled from neighboring residences [recall the BZA did that for the Purvine outdoor grow]
- Require posting of a bond upon issuance of a permit, to be used to remove structures if the operator abandons a grow site; otherwise the taxpayers will shoulder these costs.
We believe commercial cannabis cultivation does not belong in neighborhoods, regardless of the zoning. It should be relegated to areas of the county where it does not jeopardize the health, welfare, and safety of residents and where it can be properly monitored, regulated and contained by the County.
Save our Sonoma Neighborhoods
Citizens Advisory Group
Save our Sonoma Neighborhoods
PO Box 314
Valley Ford, CA 94972
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurSonomaNeighborhoods