Under the Category “Elections Have Consequences”

Those favoring an empowered public sector in planning -or- to put it another way – government doing it’s job – lost another strong pro-public-policy planner on the Planning Commission – Sue Matsen.   I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happened after the election btw.

If I may compare apples and oranges – I don’t expect another Souter here in this appointment.  I don’t know Mr. Paine, but I also don’t expect Supervisor Sundberg to appoint a Planning Commissioner who believes that the professionals we pay for should be allowed to do their job.  Only time will tell.

Congratulations to Mr, Paine.  See you at the Planning Commission meetings.  I’ll be the one in the corner pondering if I should try to overcome my glossophobia.


Dispatches from the Housing Element of the General Plan Update

By: Mary Ella Anderson

Eureka, California.


Just getting back to the thread. Regarding the Housing Element (HE), now that it’s back to the Board of Supervisors some of the more damaging inserts have been dropped. The thing that struck me about the Planning commission (not including Levy and Masten in this generalization, is that they have a deep distrust of their staff and they are intent on righting what they believe are wrongs that were visited on them by county government in the past.

One of the funniest things that happened at the Board of Supervisors was Humboldt Association of Realtors reaction to the mapping of tsunami zones. Tina Christensen complained that if properties are declared to be in the tsunami zone realtors won’t be able to sell them. Labels are bad for business, I guess.

Several of the Supervisors, Chair Bohn in particular, argued to keep a provision the Planning Commissioners had insisted on adding that would make the country responsible not just for tenant’s rights (something defined in California law) but also for landlord’s rights. It took two County Counsels and both the Planning Department head and his assistant to persuade them that in law landlords have responsibilities rather rights. There was some disgruntlement that the county wouldn’t take on the responsibility of identifying what landlord rights were and how the county could protect them.

Basically, the state of California is trying to move ahead into the 21st Century and the Gang of Four and their buddies on the PC are intent on moving backwards to a mythical 1950s, a time before integration and all that environmental hippie tree hugging crap.

It’s a toss up as to whether the HE will emerge in good enough condition to pass muster as the state level. It’s a shame because funded housing projects are probably the only ones that are going to be built for some time, given the prevailing economic doldrums, and if the HE doesn’t get approved they won’t get funded or built.

The show continues on May 5.

Note:  This was a comment inspired by green anon but written so wonderfully by Mary Ella in the previous comment thread.  If any one wants to comment about their observations on any Planning Commission or Board of Supervisors meeting on the GPU – to include the Housing Element, let me know either by email or in the comment section.  I will post it here with minimal editing.  I invite all perspectives, my only request (and it is a request, not a requirement at this point) is please use your name or a consistant email so we can follow your thought process over time.  ie, no blue gravitar anons please.

The Wow! Thread Part II: You Did It! BR-S5 Not “Brick and Mortar” Voted

40 people crowded the often sparsely populated Board of Supervisor’s chambers again last night for the Planning Commission.  Notably the Commissioners were able to make it too.

The presence of the public standing up for critical, essential, etc. river habitat worked.  The Commission could not “brick and mortar vote” (thanks Gordon Leppig) a previous straw vote that stuck or reduced (sorry, late for work) the set back for streams, rivers, etc.  (BR-S5)

The Open Spaces Element is still getting re-written by a narrow-agenda-focused majority on this Planning Commission, but this was one section that was critical to keep.  To amend as suggested would have been despite the strong protestations of an increasing number of wildlife biologists who know of what they speak.

It’s a start, and it proves so clearly that showing up can make a difference.  We can’t change the balance of power over night, but we can stand up for basic principles and make the argument and/or rational to change what shouldn’t be changed much more difficult.  Sometimes so difficult that a vote or two can be swayed.

I’m not sure where that leaves us on BR-S5, it will be a little bit of Robert’s Rules drama to find out where we go from here, but stay vigilant and thanks to all you who took the time to show up last night.  You made a real, measurable difference.

(The vote on BR-S5 was 3-3 and failed.  It was (Ulansey, Morris, and Bongio) for and (Levy, Edmonds, and Matsen) against.  McKenny abstained.  I fairly certain the difference was Commissioner Edmonds, but don’t have time to double check this now.)

Late Notice: Tonight’s Planning Commission Meeting Cancelled

From Norma Lorenzo at the PaBD…


The special Planning Commission meeting schedule for tonight has been cancelled, due to a lack of quorum.  The next scheduled special meeting will be Thursday, February 27, 2014 and an agenda will be posted tomorrow.

Thank you.


Norma S Lorenzo

Business Manager

Planning and Building Department

3015 H Street, Eureka CA 95501


Thanks to Mary Ella Anderson who posted this in the comments and others who took the time to email me.  See you Thursday.


I think we did expect an uptick in the public participation, but last night’s Planning Commission (PC) meeting was extraordinary.  There have been only 3 of the Board of Supervisor (BOS) or PC meetings addressing the GPU that have garnered so much attention – three of the Guiding Principle meetings including the June 3rd, 2013 when I personally became involved in this process (10 years or more after many others began theirs) and I think the September 23rd, 2013 meeting.

So what happened?  Lee Ulansey will say it was the hype garnered online because of Supervisor Mark Lovelace’s and Planning Commissioner Noah Levy’s online comments.  I cherish Supervisor Lovelace’s passion if I disagree with the use of any violent imagery (I have not read the article or posts or the interview).  Commissioner Levy was incredibly articulate as always in defending himself against Commissioner Ulansey’s comments and took the opportunity to read his online comments urging people who care about “open space” to come out.

I counted 44 people in the audience around the time of it’s apex about a half hour into the meeting.   I know 40 may not sound like a great deal, but it fills about 1/3 of the room and compared to most nights or BOS discussions with a few esteemed “environmental” stalwarts and the 5 to 10 professionally interested others, 44 is huge!

Most of the public speakers, I’ll guestimate about 90% spoke specifically about trials (late edit – trails), or generally about the process with special mention of trails.  I really am so thankful to all that showed up.  We have so many caring and well spoken citizens in our County.  Thank you.

In my opinion, the speaker of the night was Robert Morris Ayers.

Here is the link to last night’s online video.  I tried but failed to manage to grab and post links as a friend taught be to try.  Thanks for the effort Lydia!

Robert is at 1 hr 37 min.  His comments are particularly significant because he basically said he never has spoken out at a meeting before but what brought him out was the striking out of the final sentence in CO-G5.  And I think he nailed the question of why people were there last night.

Commissioner Levy’s at 2 hr 13 min.

Commissioner Susan Matsen at 2:13 hr…

“I will continue to encourage the public to be here.  Because you need to be here.”


CO-G4. Parks and Recreation.

Consider well maintained and accessible parks and trails offering a range of popular recreation opportunities. and a county wide trail system that meets future recreational and non-motorized transportation demands.

passes 4-2. (Levy, Matsen voting no, Edmonds not present) 2/18/14

Bold language = added, striked language = removed.

The Thin Green Line(s)

There were two metaphorical thin green lines last night at Humboldt County’s Planning Commission.  The first was represented by Gordon Leppig and Mike Van Hatten, two California Fish and Wildlife employees and the second was the increasingly decreasing border between wetlands and rivers and the land developers, property owners, foresters, realtors, weed growers, land speculators etc. crave.

What happened to the green line of people defending and protecting the environment?  That deserves more virtual ink than I have time for.

For the time being below is a highly controversial element from last night that was tabled as Commissioner (and thanks to Google I just found out, realtor, what a surprise) Linda Disiere was starting to pay attention to caution coming from both Planning Department staff and county council on the absurdity of cutting back firm setbacks as Commissioner Ulansey was quite insistent must be removed.  (note – I did the best I could to transcribe this from the “smart board”  I’m working on a time and fund budget of no time and $0 – any corrections would be appreciated) (like what the heck did I type with “chigiting”, ugh.)

This was tabled as Commissioner Linda wanted to hear from more on the ground people, by which she seemed to mean developers.  Given the rhetoric of interest in public comments, I don’t think Linda would mind if you weren’t a developer and still had a strong feeling on this.  Please, check out the archived video of this and previous PC meetings if you have the time.  Again, this is a planning disaster happening in real time*.  We could use some activism right about now.

* Specifically as Gordon Leppig noted last night, paraphrasing, … we are headed to having 1984 protections in 2035. (at approximately 18:30 if you are watching the video)

Planning Commision Version
BR-S10 – Development Standards for wetlands and other wet areas.  Development standards for wetlands and other wet areas: including natural ponds, springs, vernal pools, marshes, wet meadows (ehigiting standing water all year long or riparian vegetation) and wetlands as defined in the California Fish and Game Code Section 2785(g) shall be consistent with the standards for streamside management areas as applical including required buffer setbacks.  required buffer setbacks for these areas are as follows:
seasonal wetlands – 100 ft
perennial wetlands – 200ft
Buffer may be reduced based on site specific information and consultation with DFG.
Lee Ulansey motion  Linda second for discussion.
Tabled for next Tuesday.

Planning Commission’s GPU Meetings Update

Last week was a very eventful week on all things GPU.  Not that you would know that from the local media unfortunately.

Planning Commissioner Lee Ulansey and his 3 and probably 4 friends (when Commissioner Linda Disiere is able to make it to a meeting) are doing the bidding of their benefactors.  So much so that after 2 hours of debate on Thursday night, after quite an effort was made by 3 professional biologists, including Gordon Leppig and another California Fish and Wildlife biologist and Jennifer Kalt from Humboldt Baykeeper toward fairly simple and effective language in BR-S4 – a section of 10 .3*, the Planning Commission basicly said, “Public, schmublic the Working Lands Resource language is just fine for our purposes”.

In a move that seemed to shock everyone in the room, including his fellow Commissioners, Commissioner David Edmonds, in what seemed to be frustration in a public comment that had just occured, made a motion to accept, without changes, language by the Working Lands Resource Group**.  The motion was quickly voted on and straw voted in 4-0 with soon-to-be-voting Commissioner Noah Levy not able to vote thanks to concerned citizen Bill Bertain who is a stickler for process when it comes to our County government. (sarcasm!)

This moment was another in a series of mind-boggling events that have become part and parcel of the HumCPR led changes to the GPU.  This moment is one of the clearest of who is driving the show.

Please think about recovering from our collective despondency and come out to future meetings to be another witness to the catastrophe that is happening in slow-motion before our eyes.  I’ve heard this from Harbor Commissioner Richard Marks (a past and probable future Supervisor Bass supporter) and Planning Commissioner Alan Bongio, one of the reasons they feel empowered to vote the way they do is that they think no one in this county cares about the GPU.  Seriously.  If you care, please show up or at the very least write comments to the Planning Commission GPU site.  They are recording these and as of now the majority they are receiving are from those with vested interests.

What has happened since 2010, as a fairly balanced GPU had been developed, is the Chamber of Commerce, HumCPR and property rights advocates rode a wave of anti-government Tea Party animus largely fueled by opposition to a completely unrelated national health-care debate into the majority.  Their main argument was that they believed in democracy and process and their voice wasn’t getting heard.  They may have been a quarter true.  They were getting heard, they may not have gotten everything they wanted.  But it’s beyond a reasonable doubt now that they had no interest whatsoever in a public process.  All they wanted was what they wanted, and they finally have it now with our county’s top property rights lobbyist leading the changes in your General Plan Update from the head of the PC dais.

I understand Commissioner Ulansey is not the Chair, but one visit to a PC meeting will demonstrate who is the force behind these changes.  This man knows what he is doing and he is a very effective proponent for his and his constituent’s goals.

This week’s meetings:  (both 6pm at the Supervisor’s Chambers at the Courthouse (5th and I, Eureka)

Tuesday, February 4th

Thursday, February 6th (probable)

*  For those new to this or busy with things such as … life… 10.3 refers to Chapter 10 subchapter? 3 of the GPU.  Chapter 10 is the Conservation and Open Space Chapter.  One that has many protections for rare and endangered species for one and it is apparently very important for those in the know to get this language just right.  The Chapter or “Element” was sent back to the Planning Commission in large part due to a couple of very forceful  letters to the BOS care of Humboldt Building Exchange’s and Mercer Fraser’s environmental lawyers.  Subsection (is that the word?) 3 (ie in 10.3) is the Biological Resources subchapter and it has many of the definitions that industry, realtors, property owners, contractors, are trying to whittle down into ineffectiveness.  Of course they would say they are simply trying to make these definitions black and white.

You can find much of what was discussed Tuesday and Thursday nights in the very long staff report to the Commissioners here.  The section  BR-S4 is on page 91.  I encourage everyone who can’t make it to check out the videos of the proceedings.  They contain all the drama of prime time with the extra significance that these proceedings are real and will affect our county’s planning process for the next 20 to 30 years.

** Working Lands Resource Group = (According to their letterhead) Large Timberland Owner’s Group, Forest Landowners of California (Humboldt County Representatives), Humboldt/DelNorte Cattlemen Association, Humboldt County Farm Bureau, The Buckeye.  BTW, I would hope that I would probably share a bunch of common ground with the Farm Bureau and The Buckeye.  It would be very interesting to know more about how much say they had in these updates, but this document is of course from a private group and we will sadly not be privy to those meetings.

Note:  RIP Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  One of the top actors of my generation is shockingly gone.  He will be missed.

DHF! Administrative Notes:  I’m adding the Planning Commission meeting notices to the “milestone” widget instead of the registration deadline that is still 3 months off.  For those who care right now, the deadline for the June primary is May 19th 2014 at 5 pm.

Also, thank you to  Senior Planner Michael Richardson for his help with navigating the BOS, PC, GPU web sites!