Glen Ellen Forum August meeting results
By Casey Wellington
The Aug. 2 meeting of the Glen Ellen Forum was well attended by members and guest speakers. Tracy Salcedo gave updates on the Sonoma Developmental Center (SDC), Captain Gary Johnson spoke about this year’s fire hazard situation, Shannon Lee provided updates about the Glen Ellen Village Fair, and Bob Taylor and James Marshall Barry from the Sonoma Valley KSVY radio station talked about their current project.
Sonoma County is looking for options to accommodate new housing, and the SDC is a focus. The unincorporated area of the county is expected to accommodate a substantial increase in housing units over the next eight years, and a lot of attention has been focused on the SDC as a place to put many of those houses. However, the community has expressed reservations about this idea, because it will inevitably put a strain on the existing infrastructure and traffic. The SDC campus is a wildlife corridor as well, which raises questions about the environmental impact of future development.
Tracy Salcedo urged the community to think about how much housing can actually be accommodated in the SDC, because it will be developed at least to some degree. Since new homes would be added, and thus more people, additional strain would be placed on traffic and roadways due to the influx. Furthermore, with annual fire season evacuations, the question of safety emerges — is there a way to add housing to the area without clogging evacuation routes? Ultimately, Salcedo believes Glen Ellen residents need to think about how many people can fit into the existing space, and advise county decision makers.
The Glen Ellen Village Fair is moving ahead smoothly; Shannon Lee reminded Forum attendees to save the date for Sunday, Oct. 10, from noon to 5 p.m. The fair is almost completely funded now, thanks to those who attended an online fundraiser and the Rotary Club’s donation of $1,000. The Glen Ellen Fair Association is still accepting donations to fully fund the event.
Sonoma County Fire Captain Gary Johnson also presented an explanation of the fire hazard situation in Sonoma County this year. Due to the drought, the area has not received enough precipitation to keep the fire fuels safe. Fuels like grass, twigs, and wood have a measurable level of moisture, and the more they retain, the less danger there is of a fire igniting. Unfortunately, the graphs that Captain Johnson displayed show that those fuels are at an all-time low level of moisture. This means that if they do catch fire, they’ll burn very well, very fast, and very hot. This escalates the danger level of any fire significantly.
Captain Johnson also warned that certain places are much more likely to be the start of a fire than others. Between 1 and 6 p.m., for example, the southern sides of hill slopes are the hottest they will be all day. Most of these are grassy slopes, which ignite much more easily and fire can then spread to other, heavier fuels like trees. If people need to mow their grass, they should be cautious about when they mow certain parts of their property to reduce the chance of starting a wildfire.
On a more uplifting note, the KSVY radio station is undertaking a project to expand its coverage and ensure that they can still broadcast even in emergencies. It is moving it’s antenna to a new location in order to extend the station’s range. This new location has several benefits. It has backup generators to keep the valley in the loop if the power goes out. It’s also a higher location than before, ensuring fewer major “blind spots” — areas where the signal is blocked by the “shadow” of some large structure.
KSVY is a nonprofit organization, and as a result is still working to attain the level of funding it needs to complete this project. As of Aug. 2, the organization is looking for approximately $10,000 to finish the project. However, KSVY is immeasurably grateful for the generosity that has funded the station so far.