Re: Initial request for adding over concentrated areas on PRMD work plan for 2015
Dear Supervisor Gorin,
We are writing on behalf of the Valley of the Moon board of directors and members, whose vision is to sustain the rural character of our beautiful Sonoma Valley and county. We believe there are three particular areas in the county where there is real concern about the cumulative effects from an over concentration of visitor serving facilities in these rural areas. They are relatively small concentrated areas: Kenwood, Hwy 121 in south valley and Westside Rd in the 4th district. (Further descriptions below) The number of events, tasting rooms, and wineries have ballooned in these areas much to the detriment of their rural character and road safety. We request that the PRMD be directed to formulate criteria for the approval of new and modified use permit conditions to address the cumulative impacts in these three areas of over concentration and that this item be placed on the PRMD work plan for 2015. We understand that the work plan will be discussed at the October 7th board of supervisors meeting.
There are two areas in Sonoma Valley that are a matter of concern. The first is the Kenwood area, again a small area that is making a big impact on the community. Within a 1.6 mile stretch of highway 12 through Kenwood there are 19 tasting rooms with their events as well as other visitor serving facilities. This 1.6 miles is measured from Adobe Canyon Rd to Deerfield Winery at 10200 Highway 12. We are pleased for the businesses that succeed but the impacts within this small area are evident.
The highway speed through Kenwood is 45 mph with one signal light at Warm Springs Road. We know there is a lot of commuter traffic as well as visitor traffic on our scenic corridor. The speed, number of cars and businesses trying to get your attention add up to danger with distracted and indecisive drivers on the highway. There are quite a few businesses that are right on the highway where the patrons need to walk along the roadway or back out of a parking space into this traffic. This can be very scary and unsafe.
The over concentration has produced a proliferation of signs, banners and sandwich boards which all compete for the driver’s attention while driving by at 45 mph, creating a safety issue. They are definitely a detriment to our beautiful rural character and clearly not complying with either the PRMD zoning regulations or the Cal Trans regulations governing our awarded Scenic Corridor on Highway 12.
The over concentration has caused several county streets of Kenwood to be unsafe when cars are parked on both sides barely leaving enough room for one vehicle and hopefully it is big enough for an emergency vehicle if needed. It can cause a very unsafe condition. We request that this area be placed on the PRMD work plan for 2015 to help resolve the conditions caused by over concentration and to protect our rural resources from further degradation.
The second area is also a small area in south Sonoma Valley. It is focused on a 2 mile stretch of highway 121 starting at the corner of 116 and 12 to Viansa Winery at 25200 Arnold Drive. This highway is a two lane roadway with no shoulders or painted strips. There are 3 non-signaled left turn lanes within this stretch servicing 7 major winery/event centers. 441 events a year have already been approved for these event centers, all within 2 miles of each other. The traffic can be horrendous trying to get to the bay area.
Groundwater is another concern for this area as it borders the bay. The Sonoma Valley Groundwater Management Plan has included a water level monitoring program with 5 years of data now. There are 5 shallow wells in this area that show water levels getting very close to sea level. When water levels go below sea level it can invite saltwater intrusion, which can greatly degrade the water quality. This is also cause for concern.
The third area, Westside Road, is a rural agricultural neighborhood along a County designated scenic corridor. As an agricultural landscape dotted with historic structures, the Westside Road Area’s rural ambience and scenic beauty showcase Sonoma County’s agricultural heritage. The Area’s rural character is an important component of the peace, well-being and safety of both residents living in and tourists visiting the Area. In addition to being an important County resource for recreational purposes, Westside Road is a designated bikeway under the Sonoma County Transportation Plan and is a favorite route for bicycling events, local and visiting cyclists, and bicycle tours. In the last decade a dramatic increase in the number, intensity, and scale of visitor serving facilities permitted to hold events has resulted in a detrimental concentration of event centers along Westside Road. There are now 27 tasting rooms, wineries and event facilities permitted on the road. The road itself is two lanes with little or no shoulders or painted strip, and is becoming unsafe for residents and cyclists alike.
The Sonoma County General Plan 2020 has criteria for local concentrations in policy AR-5g and policy AR-6f. They have to do with increased traffic, water draw down and uses detrimental to the rural character of the areas. We feel that the three areas described show evidence of over concentration. They need to receive special considerations when new discretionary applications for development are proposed. We hope that PRMD will be able to flag these areas and inform an applicant right away that there are special considerations for the area.
Please include these areas of concern on the PRMD work plan for 2015. Thank you.