Sonoma County, and west county in particular, is faced with several proposals for new gasoline stations. Some have been in the works for a long time but are now moving forward in the permitting process. Time for an update.
Many people may be aware of the battle over the past year about the station proposed in Petaluma, as that one garnered some media attention and is now in the courts. But not many are aware that at least two other stations are proposed to be built near Sebastopol and Cotati, in unincorporated Sonoma County. Let’s take a look at each.
Llano Road & Highway 12 (5300 Sebastopol Road, Santa Rosa)
One of the stations is proposed at Llano Road and Highway 12, just east of Sebastopol, and will include a carwash and mini-mart. In this case there is a Chevron station across the street less than a mile away, and there are about seven other stations within a five-mile radius. The location is in the Laguna de Santa Rosa within California Tiger Salamander Critical Habitat and within a priority groundwater basin. With underground fuel storage tanks, there is always a risk of leakage.
Here are a few other points to consider:
• Existing local businesses would be evicted.
• It is immediately adjacent to Joe Rodota Trail.
• We are in the midst of a climate crisis. New gas stations make no sense in that context.
The project cleared the Design Review Committee in May and will next go to the Board of Zoning Adjustments. Send comments to:
• Daniel Hoffman (email@example.com)
• Copy County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins (Lynda.Hopkins@sonoma-county.org) of District 5, where the project is located.
• The Board of Zoning Adjustments meets on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 1 p.m. To receive notices, sign up here: sonomacounty.ca.gov/Board-of-Zoning-Adjustments/.
Highway 116 & Stony Point Road (7180 Highway 116)
This one is a massive ARCO AM/PM 16-pump 24/7 mega-station also with carwash and mini-mart on the corner of Gravenstein Highway (116) and Stony Point Road just west of Cotati. This project, from an out-of-town corporate developer, would wipe out the current small businesses, including Cali-Kind Tie-Dye and the Pond & Garden Nursery.
In this case, there are no less than five gas stations within a two-mile radius, so again there is no need case to be made.
This proposal is currently before the county’s Design Review Committee and will probably be on the agenda in late July or early August. This committee has limited ability to consider factors other than, as the name implies, design. Many factors, including impacts to water, wildlife, traffic, noise, quality of life for nearby residents, light pollution and climate are not part of the DRC’s mission. This proposal should rightly go before the full Board of Supervisors for consideration.
This is the time to weigh in and express your concerns. Submit comments to:
• Daniel Hoffman (firstname.lastname@example.org), planner for the project, and to Kyreen Gonzalez (Kyreen.Gonzalez@sonoma-county.org), planning project review secretary.
• This project is in Supervisor David Rabbitt’s District 2, so comments should be sent to west county west county supervisor (Lynda.Hopkins@sonoma-county.org) and also copied to Supervisor Rabbitt (David.Rabbitt@sonoma-county.org).
• Design Review Committee meetings are held on first and third Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m., and this issue could come up at any one of them. For more info and to sign up for alerts, visit sonomacounty.ca.gov/Design-Review-Committee/.
The supervisors must decide
There is something wrong with the permitting process if proposals such as these can be approved without ever coming before the full Board of Supervisors. That is the situation in both of these cases. The Board of Zoning Adjustments could be the final stop unless the community demands that the Board of Supervisors themselves weigh in.
For nearly two decades, Sonoma County has been a leader in responding to the climate crisis. The approval in Sonoma County for new gas stations, even small ones, without some kind of clear case being made for an unmitigable need, makes a mockery of the two decades of declarations, proclamations, plans and commitments to address the crisis seriously.
Woody Hastings lives in Sebastopol. He can be reached at woodyhastings[at]gmail.com.