LETTERS from Gazette Readers
— January 2020 —
Jan 3, 2020
Since mid-May of this year, my husband, Bob and I, recommended to our Board of Directors and neighbors to refuse PG&E’s access. As individuals, Bob and I Initially resisted vehemently, then met with and ultimately negotiated with PG&E, its representative and subcontractors regarding PG&E’s intent to cut down125 mature redwoods and the accompanying extreme trimming PG&E planned for this 75-acres of mixed forest in which 200 cabins are nestled. The Board President brilliantly took a firm stance that nothing would be approved without a definitive “plan” being in place.
On a busy Memorial weekend, tree trimming was being performed on a major road through a section of cabins. Bob questioned their authority to do so, tracked down the foreman of this crew only to learn that this subcontractor had not provided legal notice that this was to occur and no permission had been granted. Once this was clarified, the work crew immediately stopped work and left, never to return. We shared our concerns with the cabin owners and management whenever possible. The take-away was to remain vigilant and that notice and permission mattered.
Our next truly productive act was to obtain PG&E’s 1931 easement agreement from the County Recorder’s Office with the much appreciated assistance of the office staff.. It clearly states PG&E cannot trim without “permission of the manager” and removal of trees wasn’t even mentioned! PG&E’s representative tried to minimize the importance of the easement but make no mistake—it is a contract. Bob and I researched and did outreach. We were committed to saving these mature redwoods. Why? Not only are the redwood trees quite fire resistant, they keep temperatures cooler which also helps prevent fires. The amazing root system prevents erosion & landslides while holding up our river bank and our mountain. They clean our air and our water. To cut them down invites erosion and new growth of fire-prone trees, brush and weeds. Redwoods are essential for the stability of the land these cabins are built upon.
During two August walk-throughs with PG&E and subcontractor representatives, along with our Board President and the Manager of our community, Bob basically saved 98 of the 125 at-risk redwoods by convincing PG&E to move the location of power poles & wires instead of removing redwoods with the essential support of the subcontractor in charge of replacing the poles and wires. The 12-foot radius PG&E normally uses was reduced to a 4-foot radius around these redwoods wherever possible. [See Public Resources Code 4293]. On behalf of our community, a written agreement was insisted upon. In mid-September, PG&E’s frustrated representative threatened to shut off all power to our community indefinitely if we didn’t capitulate. This rattled just about everyone here who learned of it. Yet, our easement & legal research led us to the conclusion that PG&E is legally mandated to provide power in a reasonable manner. Others in our region have unwittingly capitulated to these threats. However, we couldn’t simply refuse PG&E entirely since our community needed new power poles & wires as we’re reportedly located in one of the worst sections of Sonoma County for power line failure.
A big surprise followed: The substantial reduction in redwood tree removal and trimming reportedly saved PG&E a significant sum of money. I’ve been told by subcontractor representatives that PG&E is so pleased with the economic feasibility of this approach and the resulting customer satisfaction, that PG&E is seriously considering trying to duplicate these results going forward where practicable.
This is a win-win-win! What a blessing!
Once PG&E provided their proposal in writing, the cabin owners were polled and the Board of Directors approved the plan. Only then was PG&E given permission to begin the work.
With the help of vigilant volunteers who are watching PG&E contractors closely and whether or not they adhere to the written agreement, we are thus far satisfied that the work is actually being performed in accordance with the written agreement. So far, there have been a few nerve-wracking false alarms but PG&E is thus far adhering to the agreement. Plus, the logs are being placed where subcontractors were originally instructed to do so. Perhaps our experience will help other concerned landowners on their own path with PG&E.
NOTE: On July 12, 2001, the CPUC denied PG&E’s request for rehearing and reaffirmed its statutory obligation to serve their customers, stating: ‘’We also affirm that California utilities have an ongoing obligation to provide adequate service to their customers, including the obligation to serve all non-direct-access, or bundled, customers and may not unilaterally act to reduce or curtail service without formal approval by the Commission.’’
— Barbara St Louis
A public speaker I am NOT – this is about getting
Sonoma on the map for more than great wine and pricey real estate. This is about what we ALL should be doing and NOW.
Way too many chats and meetings on how-to be more sustainable. It takes weeks, even months to get these things to actually take place/ often years.
According to many experts, we don’t have the luxury of time. Why not DO what needs to be done NOW and stop chatting – let’s walk the talk instead of talking the talk. Let’s have more car charging stations stop single- use plastic, put solar panels on our roofs and parking lots, walk or bike instead of driving, create more bike racks and lanes, grow a garden in our back, or even front, yards.
Show your children how to build a solar oven and cook “naturally”. Anything we and do to decrease our carbon footprint needs to be done by all of us and NOW!
Let’s put Sonoma on the map as being on the forefront of “green and sustainable” THE TIME IS NOW! Let’s do it for our children and grandchildren – they are the ones who will bear the brunt of our inaction.
Such things as artificial turf on our schools and playgrounds? NO!! It outgases, overheats, develops mold – a whole list of horrors, which not one addresses. Yes, its less costly, but is that the most important issue here? No!
Need I say more on this opportunity we have?
We need to stand up and be counted and do what is good for the planet and us – forget the pocket book aspect and think about how humans will live if we don’t take action NOW.
Please, can we all, NOW, look at the BIG picture/The fragility of this incredible, wonderous planet.
— Joy Bennett, Sonoma
The matter before you, re: the law enforcement review board is not a complicated one. It is in essence very much related to the current impeachment hearings about Trump’s abuse of power and his attempt to cut a deal with a foreign nation for his own political self-interest. In other words it is about oversight. In this case it’s the oversight of the chief law enforcement agencies in the county and the Sheriff’s Office in particular.
As we all know there are substantial and numerous reasons for the need for independent and unbiased oversight and if need be investigations of law enforcement activities. This has been ongoing for many years in our county and it’s common knowledge.
There seems to be a very concerted effort on the part of some in leadership positions on the Community Advisory Council to reduce, water-down and render toothless the vital functions and abilities for this oversight agency to hold accountable law enforcement entities. If the CAC is to function as it is so charged and to do its work so as to be most effective it is paramount that the Council not be in any way connected to or compromised by any connection to any law enforcement agencies, including the District Attorney’s Office or the courts. This is self-evident on its face.
In my opinion this is currently not the case.
If there is no accountability there will be abuse of power, sometimes resulting in fatalities and this will surely increase.
I am requesting that this Board confirm receipt of this email and reply as it sees fit to these remarks. I can assure this Board that this matter will not be dropped.
— Will Shonbrun, Sonoma
Vesta, you will be greatly missed, but of course your fans support what is best for you. You have filled a niche that was very neglected, and created a whole new venue in the process. Congratulations! Inevitably, the Gazette will evolve into something new without you, but I think you have set such a strong precedent that it will remain true to the core values you have established - “Everyone deserves a voice.”
— HolLynn D’Lil, Graton
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