Posted on Categories Land Use, Sustainable LivingTags , , ,

Sonoma County welcomes granny units and thousands of other new homes after devastating fires

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors signed off Tuesday on a wide-ranging suite of policy changes intended to encourage construction of more new homes, loosening restrictions on granny units and lowering other development hurdles seven months after nearly 5,300 residences were lost here in last year’s devastating wildfires.

Under the revised rules, homeowners in unincorporated areas could build a larger granny unit or fit one on a smaller property than the county allowed before, depending on the size of the site as well as its water and sanitation systems. County permitting officials will be able to sanction second units on even smaller lots through a separate process.

And homeowners looking to build more compact granny units will have to pay less in fees, part of an effort from the Board of Supervisors to promote what the county sees as one of its best options to expand housing in rural areas.

The new policy alone isn’t likely to trigger a large influx of housing in unincorporated neighborhoods, county leaders admitted. But it was the first in a series of housing initiatives expected to be brought forward in the coming months by county planning staff.

“How do we put the pedal to the metal and not just allow this, but encourage it?” said Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, referring to the overall housing package. “It seems like passing this sort of code and saying you can do it is one thing, but actually getting those projects built out is another.”

Read more at http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8294123-181/sonoma-county-welcomes-granny-units

Posted on Categories Local OrganizationsTags ,

Sonoma County moves to give rural residents greater voice in local government

J.D. Morris, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma County supervisors Tuesday paved the way for creation of more regional citizens groups designed to give certain unincorporated areas a greater voice in local government and decision making.

The panels are meant to allow more neighborhood-level input and advice on such issues as roads and land-use planning, and result in recommendations to county supervisors, who are the only elected local representatives for many rural areas.

“This is really participatory democracy at its base level,” said Supervisor James Gore, pointing to his experience last year establishing a council for the Mark West area north of Santa Rosa.

While the community does not wish to incorporate, residents there do want to play a larger role in decisions shaping their community, Gore said.

Advisory councils will also help the county better manage small unincorporated communities, where supervisors become “the de facto mayor,” he said.

Supervisors Susan Gorin and Lynda Hopkins indicated they want to establish new councils along the Russian River, the Sonoma Coast and in The Springs area of Sonoma Valley. Some of the same areas — along the river and in Sonoma Valley — were once represented by appointed redevelopment committees, but those entities were dissolved in 2012 when the state eliminated redevelopment agencies.

Read more at: Sonoma County moves to give rural residents greater voice in local government | The Press Democrat