Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Congressman Jared Huffman
At The Barlow
When: Wednesday, October 29, 2014
12:30 to 1:00 p.m.
Zazu Kitchen + Farm
6770 McKinley Street #150
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Congressman Huffman will be dropping by the Barlow to learn more about the unique community of food producers, wine makers, brewers, distillers, and artists who have helped to make the Barlow a resounding success. While at the Barlow, Congressman Huffman would like to meet you too.
Contact Matt Olhausen at matt.olhausen@mail.house.gov or 415-308-8678 for details.
This event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Shepherd Bliss

Why I Endorse

Gurney, Glass, and Slayter

For Sebastopol City Council

I endorse and contribute to incumbents Sarah Gurney, Una Glass, and Patrick Slayter’s campaigns to continue their effective service to our larger community as members of the Sebastopol City Council. At this unpredictable time in history, we need the continuity they offer, as well as the diversity of their experiences and perspectives. They have served Sebastopol and the West County well.

During my 24 years living and farming here and attending many City Council meetings, this has been the most effective and progressive City Council. They deserve the chance to continue their good work on behalf of our larger community and the opportunity to implement programs on which they have been working. Change usually takes time. Gurney, Glass, and Slayter work well as a team, which is what we need at this time of economic and political uncertainty.

As an activist opposed to CVS’s proposed downtown store, which Slayter supported, I disagree with him on this matter. However, I have come to respect him. Slayter has proven himself to be a collegial collaborator seeking consensus. He effectively represents an important constituency in Sebastopol and West County. Slayter has proven himself able to represent Sebastopol as a whole. Once elected by a democratic process, one needs to represent the entire town and its surroundings, not just those who voted for the candidate. Slayter cares for Sebastopol. As vice-mayor, he deserves to be our next mayor. I hope that the politically experienced Glass may be given the opportunity to bring her substantial experiences and credentials as an environmentalist to the vice-mayor role.

Patrick Slayter
Slayter was the most visible Council member at the ten-day Village Building Convergence (VBC), which I helped organize. He and his wife Teresa were at the opening and at the last evening of presentations. Architect Mark Landman of Portland’s City Repair, on which the VBC was based, spoke that evening. Slayter is an architect, which is one of the many skills he brings to the Council.
Also, my puppy has learned things from the Slayters' more mature dog, as I have learned things from Patrick.

I have also worked with their challenger, my friend Jonathan Greenberg. I support many of his good ideas, for example on expanding library hours and working to keep the hospital open. This excellent writer describes himself as an “effective whistleblower.” I think Greenberg can be more effective by questioning the City Council than by stepping into a governing position.

Jonathan Greenberg
I wish that Jonathan had run for the Palm Drive Healthcare District Board, which could have provided him experience inside a governing body about both their possibilities and limitations. A common way of getting such experience is to apply to serve on the Planning Commission or the Design Review Board, where one can “learn the ropes.” Perhaps after living here for a while longer and making more of a transition from a big city to a small town and serving in some public role, Greenberg might make a better candidate for an elected position.

There is a big difference between criticizing ideas, which I support doing, and attacking people. I teach my college students not to attack individuals, which is described as the ad hominen fallacy. It would be helpful to elevate political discourse, especially in small towns where we need to build community among people who have political and other differences in order to deal with crises that may come our way.

Jordan Burns
I also support Jordan Burns to be on the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees. Burns, 30,  impresses me as someone to replace the man closer to my 70 years, who has been on that Board for 29 years. We need some new blood closer to the age of the majority of the JC students. He frequents West County gatherings, at the Grange, for example, and could be a rising figure in Sonoma County politics.

(Shepherd Bliss {3sb@comcast.net} teaches college part-time, owns Kokopelli Farm, and has contributed to 24 books.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014


All I can say is...

...gotta get me one of those Ultra-Lites.  THANKS, BIM!

Photo by Bim

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Here's a link to pics from that great day.  If you haven't seen this artwork, get down to the Barlow...


Monday, October 13, 2014


Here are three videos proposing bike trails throughout Sebastopol.  Take a look.  As always, if you think it's a good idea, contact the City Council and let them know at the addresses below...


Sebastopol City Council:

Sarah Glade Gurney, City Councilmember

(707) 823-6500 

Una Glass, City Councilmember


John Eder, City Councilmember

(707) 696-4309 

Patrick Slayter, Vice Mayor

(707) 829-9090 

Robert Jacob, Mayor

(707) 537-5800 

Mary Gourley, CMC,, City Clerk

(707) 823-1153 
(707) 823-1135 


Please note:
There is a correction below provided by Councilmember John Eder.

The Process From the Beginning
On June 14, 2011, Sebastopol's Planning Commission voted 4-2 to reject the proposed CVS Project. No findings were submitted to the City Council to explain the bases for this lopsided vote.

In a digital recording of that meeting, the vote's aftermath was chaotic. A Planning Commissioner can be heard pleading for the PC Chair to recognize the need for the Commission to provide "comments" for transmission to the City Council.  Neither the PC chair Colin Doyle nor Planning Director Kenyon Webster responded to that Commissioner's series of requests. (Note: the Vice Chair of the Commission, who co-chaired that meeting, is married to Kathleen Shaffer, one of the Council members who supported the project),

Kathleen Shaffer
At the City Council meeting of July 5, 2011, that continued to early the next morning three Council members (Guy Wilson, Kathleen Shaffer, and Patrick Slayter) rejected pleas to send the issue back to the Planning Commission with a request for findings to explain the vote. During a break in that meeting, I approached the traffic study consultant and challenged the fact that The Barlow’s impacts were not properly factored into the study. He told me that the Planning Director set the geographic parameters of the study, and since The Barlow had not yet applied for a permit, it did not have to be considered. 

The highlighted statement above is incorrect in Helen's article.
Please note:  During this election, people have been suggesting that if Patrick had not voted "yes", and therefore being the third vote in favor, then the MND would not have been approved (and, therefore, he is "at fault"). His vote that evening was inconsequential as to whether it was approved or not- there were already three affirmative votes. I have been more than happy to correct this historical inaccuracy for people.
Patrick Slayter's vote on July 5, 2011 was inconsequential - there were already three affirmative votes- Wilson, Shaffer and Kyes.  Sarah Gurney was the sole "NO" vote.

The Barlow

“CEQA Guidelines for Cumulative and Indirect Impacts” state: Section 15355 "Cumulative impacts" refers to two or more individual effects which, when considered together, are considerable or which compound or increase other environmental impacts.
(a) The individual effects may be changes resulting from a single project or a number of separate projects.
(b) The cumulative impact from several projects is the change in the environment which results from the incremental impact of the project when added to other closely related past, present, and reasonably foreseeable probable future projects. Cumulative impacts can result from individually minor but collectively significant projects taking place over a period of time (emphasis added).
The CC instead overturned the PC recommendations and approved a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) on a 3-2 vote. Gurney and Kyes dissented and requested modifications to the design and retained jurisdiction over final design details. The MND was based on the false premise that the project's environmental impacts were not sufficient to warrant a full-blown environmental impact report.

Michael Kyes, Sarah Glade Gurney
John Kramer and I felt that the CEQA Guidelines were clear and unambiguous and that a bona fide EIR would result in a finding of “no project”. On August, 2011, we formed the group “Committee for Small Town Sebastopol” and sued the CVS proponents, charging that the Mitigated Negative Declaration was invalid because it had been based on a flawed traffic impact study that did not consider impacts of The Barlow or the traffic beyond High St. to the west, and Fanning to the south on Hwy 116.

Also during August the project was rejected by the City's Design Review Board, largely due to problems with the parking lot entrance and exit safety, with the inclusion of a drive-through window at both the pharmacy and bank. At that meeting, Design Review Board members brought up the subject of findings. The Planning Director quickly intervened, saying that the Planning Department staff would prepare findings from their notes of the vote debate, which would be presented to the DRB for modifications. Small Town Sebastopol provided material to DRB members to assist them in that effort.
Later in 2011, during a City Council debate about the Design Review Board's finding that the proposed CVS project did not meet the Board's guidelines, City Councilmember Shaffer stated that the General Plan is only an aspirational document. The City Council must follow the zoning code, which is the actual law, she said. She asked Planning Director Kenyon Webster to back up that statement.

Kathleen Shaffer listening
Mr. Webster calmly affirmed Shaffer's statement, saying that the Zoning Code is the document that states and implements City policies. This assertion dodged the fact that the State of California established General Plans as the controlling documents for development of its cities and counties. Guidelines on State websites confirm that “Whatever form of zoning a community adopts, its zoning ordinance must be consistent with the General Plan, and if the Zoning Code is inconsistent with the General Plan, the Zoning Code is invalid.”(emphasis added).
In the 2012 Council election, Wilson declined to run and  Shaffer was defeated. In 2013 the new Council imposed a temporary moratorium on drive-thrus. On Christmas Eve, December 24, the City was served the CVS suit in California Superior Court; they subsequently withdrew that suit and filed again in Federal District Court claiming the ban discriminated against the project proponents and violated their civil rights. (Citizens’ United – July 18, 2008- Supreme Court ruled “corporations are people”).

Sebastopol City Council

In May, 2012 CVS began the process of applying to CalTrans for an encroachment permit to allow access to and from the project site at the two State Highway, 12 and 116, via left turns that would allow traffic to cross oncoming traffic at that corner. Small Town Sebastopol contacted CalTrans and, in addition, urged people to contact them as well and oppose the encroachment, citing that traffic impacts would be further exacerbated by such left turns. The people wrote and called CalTrans; subsequently CalTrans assigned a Community Outreach officer to respond to everyone who had complained. 

CalTrans.  Where's the donuts?

CalTrans sent a team to evaluate the situation. They queried CVS and asked for more details.  Evidently CVS could not satisfy CalTrans. To date, such permits had not been issued.
In May, 2013, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring solar photovoltaic energy systems on new or substantially remodeled commercial projects. Notified of the ordinance and the requirement that they must comply, CVS claimed an exemption.

Yay, solar

During 2013-2014 more than 13 different hearing dates for the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol lawsuit were scheduled, but each was postponed at the request of CVS/Long's Drugs.
In May of this year CVS requested settlement talks to encompass both their suit against the City, and the STS suit against CVS.  There never was a formal hearing on the merits of either case.

Isn't red the devil's favorite color?

Eventually a legal settlement was hammered out between the City of Sebastopol, CVS/Long's Drugs, Armstrong Development Properties Inc. and the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol.
On October 6, 2014, the Sebastopol City Council voted unanimously to accept the framework for a settlement to end the two lawsuits — the one filed in 2011 by the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol over the flawed CEQA process, and the other filed by CVS/Longs Drugs in 2012 against the city for adopting a temporary moratorium on drive-thru windows. Chase Bank had pulled out of the project during the interval of lawsuits and settlement negotiations.
At the regular City Council meeting on October 7, 2014, the City Manager/Attorney and Planning Director Kenyon Webster, and I, for Small Town Sebastopol, urged approval of the settlement, considering the improvements supposedly promised by the project proponents. The Council put off the vote on a formal resolution accepting the settlement until October 9, when the Community would have a final chance to comment.

San Jose?

Concessions supposedly agreed to by CVS included abandoning the drive-thru and drive up; adopting more refined building designs with larger, more numerous windows and variable roof heights; a second story and increased setbacks for the CVS building itself; extensive landscaping and site design improvements; prohibitions on left turns into and out of the project site; installation of rooftop solar panels and installation of five electric vehicle charging stations.
On October 9, 2014 the Council voted 3-2 for the resolution accepting the settlement. Mayor Robert Jacob and Councilmember John Eder voted against the settlement, acknowledging that the City could not afford to prolong the lawsuit; both expressed beliefs that CVS/Longs Drugs had not negotiated in good faith. Drawings that the City had requested repeatedly from CVS earlier arrived minutes prior to the October 7 meeting, the first public hearing on the settlement. They did not show a two-story building, but a single-story retail store with high exterior walls and false windows that only suggest the presence of a second floor. CVS technical representatives did not attend either the October 7 or 9 meetings. Their attorney was present at both meetings.

CVS had not negotiated in good faith

Given the concessions in the settlement, primarily the withdrawal by CVS of the drive-ins/drive-thrus, the prohibition of all left turns and the increased setbacks, I feel this is the best deal that could be made without piling up more legal bills and relying on a jury or jurist to decide in our favor.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead.


And, Ben Franklin advises: ”It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”

My personal thanks to all who hung in there all these years, and the late John Kramer, with me from the start, whose intellect and humor were at the core of the process.

Helen Shane
Data for this report was compiled by Jane Nielson from reports, minutes, newspaper stories and other documents. Thank you, Jane.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014


Mayor Robert Jacob
I am pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement with both CVS and Committee for Small Town Sebastopol. The City Council voted 5:0 in closed session to support the settlement, which will not be official until we have a chance to hear from community members who wish to speak on the issue at a public hearing.  The public hearing is tonight, 10/7, at the normal city council meeting beginning at 6pm at the Sebastopol Community Center Youth Annex, 425 Morris Street.

The Youth Annex
Terms of the settlement include the prohibition on left-hand turns across the highway, full solar panel coverage for the development, and CVS paying $150,000 to cover a traffic signal synchronization study, mitigation of traffic impacts, and legal fees.
Proposed CVS site
Closing the battle begun prior to my tenure on the council, I am proud of the hard work of our city staff and council to find resolution. Now, I need hear from you, too!
Come out tonight to express your opinions.  Further, I am calling a special meeting for this Thursday to ensure we give everyone a chance to weigh in on this most important decision. Please join us for the special meeting on Thursday, 10/9, at 6pm at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts at 282 S. High Street.
Sebastopol Center for the Arts