Supervisor Kelley Scrambling, Pointing Fingers; David Keller Outlines The Issues

RE: Paul Kelley's letter to all Mayors,”Development Projects within City Urban Growth Boundaries", 4/9/09, on the eve of this month's Mayors and Council Members meeting.

Kelley spends 3 pages, most of the letter, chastising Petaluma for failing to respond and act early in the development approvals process for Dutra Group's Asphalt factory on the Petaluma River. He speaks minimally about the actual UGB issues. It's unclear that this letter was vetted with any other supervisors prior to being sent out. No other supervisors' names are on it, and it is sent on Kelley's own 4th District stationary. It actually sounds like it was written by a combination of Bob Deis, (county administrator) and county counsel.

Re: Kelley's complaint that the city ignored many early opportunities to be more deeply involved. He's unfortunately somewhat correct: the prior pro-growth majority of the city council (and resulting city manager's directions to staff) had almost zero interest in doing anything to oppose Dutra or their allies in heavy construction and development, or to raise awareness of this impending disaster in public. That pro-development council was the same one that moved through the development and annexation of Dutra's former Petaluma Quarry site without due process, and with a series of very dubious agreements. The early city efforts to address problems with Dutra's Asphalt factory in August 2008 were led by the Parks Commissioners, the Parks Director and Councilmember Teresa Barrett.

Kelley neglected to mention that Supervisor Kerns has failed to have any public outreach, hearings or meetings in Petaluma to discuss this project or its impacts and implications for the UGB and Measure D areas, and Kerns (and now all supervisors) is refusing to meet with anyone outside a public meeting to discuss the project, even in his own office, claiming that would be an 'ex parte' communication. Yet Efren Carillo met with Aimi Dutra last month in his office.

The public's efforts to get a strong letter out of the old pro-development industry's City Council led to the frustratingly weak letter to the Supervisors, of Oct. 14, 2008. It wasn't until after the Nov. 2008 elections, when the majority shifted (taking office in January 2009), that the political profile and evaluations of the Dutra project proposal changed gear and became front burner issues. In December, a group of residents lead by the Petaluma River Council provided an in-depth legal critique of the EIR to the Supervisors. In January, the new Council stepped up to the plate, held a full public hearing at city hall with an overflowing audience and speakers (which Kerns again refused to attend), and wrote a much stronger letter to the county about the project. Mayor Torliatt now had a unanimous City Council to support that stance.

Regardless of any complaints that Kelley may have about Petaluma City's participation in the legal process, when the public finally was made aware of the project, when the public was finally invited into the project approvals and evaluation process, and when we had the time and information to study the real impacts and consequences, the battles against Dutra's proposals took off in record pace.

But, more importantly for the mayors and council members throughout the County, Kelley fails to address the Mayors' core concerns.

It's not so much about the merits or problems of Dutra, with which we are painfully familiar. Rather, it's that as voters and cities adopted their respective Urban Growth Boundaries, the County administration and supervisors expressly agreed to respect those decisions. This was critical to the success of voter approvals for the UGB ballot measures throughout our county. That means that even though the county has land use jurisdiction within the UGBs (until lands are annexed to their respective cities if the cities choose to do so), the county agreed to respect each city, and not allow land uses in the UGBs that were incompatible with each city's intentions and General Plan goals and objectives for the adjacent areas. For Petaluma, that means getting the respect from the County for our Shollenberger Park investments, natural resources, development of tourism, and our residents' and businesses' health and well being. This is where the County is steadfastly refusing to recognize the importance and stature of the voter-approved UGBs.

It also means having the County respecting the open space View Corridor adopted by county-wide voters as Measure D, extending from the Marin county line north to Petaluma's UGB boundary, and including the property where Dutra wants to build their asphalt factory and crushing/recycling operations. Kelley conveniently ignores that vote and agreement. In doing so, he is challenging the cities' adoption of UGBs, voter approved open space measures, and what they mean to voters.

Finally - the County spent some 8 years developing the new updated General Plan. The majority of supervisors are now complaining that asphalt factories have to go somewhere, and the old industrial riverfront south of Petaluma looks just fine to them, given Dutra's purchase of that land there. However, the County had 8 years to figure out where in the county that noxious and dangerous, but necessary activities like asphalt manufacturing, or dumps, or other hazardous activities could be located. The County staff and Supervisors could have raised these problems as part of the General Plan considerations, and consult with cities, stakeholders and property owners to determine best where to put them and what the impacts might be. But they didn't do that. The County abjectly failed to figure out in any rational way where to locate these kinds of dangerous activities in the county. So now they want to shove Dutra's proposal down Petaluma's throat, and tell us to shut up and take it.

It's not Petaluma's failure to address this problem early - it's the County's failure.

Locating Dutra's Asphalt Factory and concrete/asphalt Recycling and Crushing plant along the Petaluma River, directly across the River from the beloved and successful Shollenberger Park with 150,000 visitors, and next to a thriving heron and egret rookery, within range of sending toxic air pollution, noise and lights to new homes, businesses and schools, interfering with safe navigation of the River, and within the UGB and Measure D View Corridor entrance to Sonoma County is just wrong. It's time for the Supervisors to turn down Dutra's proposal and EIR, and find an appropriate alternative site.

David Keller
Petaluma River Council

Read Supervisor Kelley's Letter


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