SAVS proposed downtown Sebastopol ‘safe parking’ camp update 10/14

It is hard to keep up with the rapidly moving developments around this project, here is the latest, with another update later this week as information is revealed in meetings.


Next Sebastopol City Council meeting Tuesday 16th at 6pm via Zoom with public comments,-2021

City of Sebastopol residents please email the council members your thoughts with a public comment for this meeting by emailing Sebastopol’s hard working City Clerk on this email address, mark your message ‘public comment’.

Hopefully this week’s city council meeting will shed light on whether this one year downtown project is credible, given flood plain realities and a budgeting calendar for multiple state funded projects that ends abruptly, with no clarity on any future funding in a major inflationary recession.


Non profit business ‘Sonoma Applied Village Services’ are soliciting for donations on their website to ‘help us organize Morris Street’ and with Mayor Glass and Councillor Rich arranged a meeting on November 3rd at the proposed downtown Sebastopol site they would like to take over for their project.

SAVS meeting at Sebastopol Community Center

The meeting had a strong showing of SAVS personnel and volunteers plus some local building owners.


The Press Democrat’s editorial board wrote a wildly misleading piece on November 7th implying that Sebastopol City Council had already voted to approve the experimental camp, saying

‘Most recently, the Sebastopol City Council unanimously voted to create a safe parking program that will set aside space near the city’s community center for people living in RVs. Currently, RVs with people living in them park on city streets, especially Morris Street, which has more than a dozen’.

Diana Rich then posted the entire editorial on ‘NextDoor’ while also soliciting opinions about the project on that site.

After several emails to the editor they eventually amended the web version of their misinformation article on Wednesday 1oth but have made no effort to print a correction.


Camille Escovedo at SocoNews wrote a rather disjointed piece on the November 2nd Sebastopol City Council meeting where there was much discussion of this project and public comment. Anyone from anywhere can make public comment and there were quite a few people who do not live in the City of Sebastopol at this meeting.

Oliver Marks was quoted as ‘another man’ in Camille’s article and commented below her piece

…What Sebastopol needs is parking restrictions that are in line with many other California cities, and a county CoC & CDC who do their job effectively to triage homeless people to appropriate resources on county land. The county are failing badly in this role while leaking out money on band aid solutions like non profit run parking on flood plains that cynically leverage county city resources.

The county spent over NINETY MILLION on the homeless in the last year yet there are only 53 Sonoma county winter shelter beds available this winter. Why are these people partially funding non profit parking experiments when they should be providing services at scale for substance abuse suffers, the mentally ill and indigents?! The end of the rent moratorium is jeopardizing many more families, where is the organization to help people?


Sonoma County Continuum of Care have a ‘Strategic Planning Committee’ meeting on November 19th at 9am until 10:30

‘Public Comment may be made prior to the meeting via email. To submit an emailed public comment to the CoC Board or the CoC Committees, email Please label the written notice as public comment referencing the CoC Board or the CoC Committee, provide your name, the agenda number(s) on which you wish to speak, and your comment. These comments will be emailed to the referenced CoC Board or CoC Committee detailed in the request. 

Public comment may also take place during the meeting and can be made live by joining the Zoom meeting. Available time for comments is determined by the Board/Committee Chair based on agenda scheduling demands and total number of speakers’.

SonomaCountyHomeless will endeavor to find out what prompted the CoC to partially fund the SAVS downtown Sebastopol project concept instead of doing what this site strongly recommends: proven tiny home community planning and execution on county land and infrastructure.

Community First Village | Loaves and Fishes | Austin Texas

(Following various requests, an upcoming article on this site will endeavor to explain how the county organizes their massive homeless budget and bureaucracy, and also notes on current California legal restrictions and realities)


SAVS are circulating by email their next meeting

Morris St. Safe Parking Lot
Neighborhood Meeting
Monday, Nov. 22, 1 pm,
Sebastopol Community Center Youth Annex

‘We’ve generated a solid To Do list for SAVS, had frank conversations, and begun to set up an ongoing Community Advisory Committee for the project’. 

Safe Parking Lot Community Advisory Committee Members:
Chris Anderegg, SCCC Bd President
Keith Harman or Dan,  Yellow House
Representative from Wischemann Hall
Rep. from Little League, Ball field

Mayor Una Glass, Chief Kevin Kilgore, Council member Diana Rich and I (Adrienne Lauby, President, Board of Directors SAVS: Sonoma Applied Village Services) will attend the meeting on the 22nd.  (Larry McLaughlin, City Mgr., is out of town this week.)


RIP Jesse Pearce, who Oliver Marks just found out died along with his dog in a terrible head on RV accident on 101 in June this year.

Jesse lived in his RV and did several odd jobs for Oliver in the fall of 2019 and was very informative about life on Morris Street and his lifestyle.

More on this sad story and a memorial in a future post.


Details of the proposed transient ‘safe parking’ ‘village’ concept for downtown Sebastopol

Non Profit Sonoma Applied Villages Services would like to borrow City of Sebastopol land for one year adjacent to various Sebastopol civic amenities and tourist revenue generating sites.

The ‘safe parking’ transient vehicle parking ‘village’ concept is partially grant funded by Sonoma County Continuum of Care (CoC) and they claim to also be looking at other sites if this idea falls through.
Sonoma Applied Village Services hope to raise more money to complete the funding for this idea and have been given a deadline of early December to use the CoC grant or lose it.

  • There are multiple reasons the Sebastopol community center site is not fit for purpose for this SAVS project:
  • Proposed site is a flood plain with recent histories of rapid water level rises (Park Village also flooded in 2019 with some residents  evacuated by boat by the Sebastopol Fire Department.). Typical reaction and actioning of city emergency evacuation plans for this area is approximately five hours. The laguna water levels rise very rapidly. There is currently no plan for where RVs and other parked vehicles would go to evacuate to higher ground, assuming they are operational and moveable. Towing out vehicles as water levels rise to an unknown destination is not practical.
  • Area is a major fire risk in summer months when the laguna undergrowth is tinder dry. An encampment sweep was held in October 2021 to clear laguna transient encampments primarily to prevent these risks and damage to the laguna.

    Year round, packing vehicles closely together in this proposed ‘village’ area invites a major fire event spreading across multiple vehicles, based on recent past fires at Park Village and on Morris Street, which could quickly spread to the adjacent Green Acre school and Wischemann hall structures.

    The ensuing lawsuits could envelop Sebastopol City Council for years, especially if fires and/or drownings involve injuries and deaths on city land.

  • Not an appropriate civic site for substance abuse suffers, mentally ill & transient parking, given existing citizen rights and tax payer use of adjacent local facilities, which are incompatible and could expose children and visitors to additional inappropriate activities, sights and sounds to add to the regular disturbances already being endured in this area.

    (The community center was recently without water for a week after transients cracked open the water main attempting to obtain water supplies, and there are serious vandalism, graffiti, pollution and narcotics use hazardous waste issues in this area).

  • Incomplete funding, no long term funding in place, meaning City of Sebastopol will potentially be saddled with cost overheads and overruns, may have legal difficulties requesting the camp is closed after 12 months dues to current California Martin v. City of Boise case law rights and complications.

  • This concept is only advantageous to Sonoma County, who are failing to provide adequate facilities for transients and the homeless, and to the SAVS non profit business model, but does nothing to ease the burden of transient street parking in Sebastopol.

  • Use of site is not contingent on any sobriety guarantees, or local origins of users.

  • If this project is voted in by Sebastopol City Council, this will mean the entire eastern border of the city will now provide free street living space funded by the city. From Park Village within Tomodachi Park (Laguna de Santa Rosa Wetlands Preserve), every east side parking space on Morris street to the north across highway 12 is occupied by transient caravans, RVs and cars …and now the addition of a new densely packed ‘RV village‘ to the north of that, in the middle of the city’s main citizen recreational facilities.

    Laguna Parkway to the east off Morris is also heavily occupied by similar vehicles, while Ives Park and other local recreational areas have RVs parked next to children’s playgrounds and other city facilities.

    Additionally, this time last year Sonoma County confiscated the Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station using covid 19 federal economic relief money repurposed by the state of California to buy hotels under ‘project Homekey’. That land is now wholly owned by the county who are currently spending $55,000 a month for armed guards to protect the 27 people currently living in the hotel rooms.
    Significant sums are being spent monthly for DEMA to run the facility.

    Sebastopol City Council had no say in the commandeering of this land and property by the various county bureaucracies.

Solutions to the rapidly increasing county transient vehicle accommodation

What is appropriate and needed for the current transient street parking situation within Sebastopol city limits is the enforcement of existing laws, implementation of RV parking permits and to reinstate the Morris Street bicycle path. 

Pressure on the county and our board of supervisors is urgently needed to get a coherent strategy and action plan in place and actioned. The CoC & CDC need to demonstrate they can actually do their job and organize triaged help at the scale needed for the three main categories of transients: substance abuse, mentally ill and indigent at separate campuses with appropriate services for their needs on county land and infrastructure. 

There is no reason for City of Sebastopol to proceed with yet another informally funded short term band aid fix for the massive California wide transient migration problem. The city has already contributed a disproportionate amount of land, effort and money to a poorly organized state and county problem.

This is not a viable long term solution and ignores the massive – and increasing – problem involving thousands of people with disparate major issues all lumped together under the terms ‘homeless’ and ‘unhoused’.

Sonoma County has plenty of land and infrastructure that could be quickly repurposed to triage the serious societal issues we are experiencing, but sadly the easier solution for our supervisors and bureaucracy is to outsource the hard work to non profits, who then exploit and piggyback onto existing Sonoma incorporated county city resources to achieve their goals instead of the county building out scale resources and services as they should be doing.

We are seeing this across the county, particularly in Santa Rosa and now increasingly in Sebastopol.

Lax past City of Sebastopol policies around street camping have arguably resulted in a magnet effect for transients, and is having a very negative impact on tourism and quality of life on the eastern side of Sebastopol as we emerge from the pandemic and start to rebuild our local economy.

Focus is therefore needed to pressure City of Sebastopol county supervisor Hopkins to find sites where SAVS can experiment with their safe parking idea on existing unused county acreage and infrastructure.

There are many examples nationwide of the tiny homes concept working very well. Sonoma Applied Villages are doing a great job as a non profit promoting this idea but it is not appropriate for a small city like Sebastopol when there are many better locations within the county at scale.

The SAVS request to borrow Sebastopol downtown land and infrastructure for 12 months should not be voted in by the 5 council members due to the both legal and practical realities outlined above, which could jeopardize city funding, legal risks and the safety and well being of the city’s citizens and job providers.

In 2019 Sonoma County was on the right track, now they are just outsourcing to non profits as the problems increase


Create a Problem Only You Can Solve – How Adrienne Lauby’s SAVS is Running the Show

Contributed by a concerned downtownSebastopol citizen

I’d like to circulate some basic information.

  1. Martin v. Boise, the 9th district court ruling around transients and shelter, only requires that transients be offered alternative shelter. If Council says they are supporting  this transient parking proposal because it’s required by law, that is not true. They are supporting it because they want to and they want to bring in more transients into Sebastopol.
  2. Transients can and do refuse shelter. We saw this during the Laguna encampment sweep and it’s well documented in countless other examples across Sonoma County. There is absolutely zero guarantee that Sebastopol’s illegal RV campers will move where there are rules  if Council pushes through the SAVS proposal.
  3. Sebastopol already has RV parking and Safe Parking at Park Village and the Community Church on Gravenstein Highway. Last December Sebastopol gave up it’s only downtown hotel, the Sebastopol Inn, and all of the revenue it brought to the City because the County converted it to a 31 room hotel for homeless housing. Sebastopol has more transient housing than Rohnert Park. If Council says we need more transient housing, it’s because they want more transients. We actually have more transient housing and programs than cities that are 6 times our size.
  4. Sebastopol is a town of 7500 with a budget less than $10,000,000 with failing roads and sidewalks and severely underfunded infrastructure. Public works can’t keep up with the transient population we currently have. Recently transients cut the main water line at the Community Cultural Center. The repairs for that will come out of the City budget. Since the Sebastopol Inn conversion, we not only lost revenue but increased costs for transients including a $72K per year outreach coordinator, an encampment sweep of the Laguna, services on Morris Street and increased public works time.
  5. The most cost effective way to clean up Morris Street and prevent future RV encampments around Ives’ Park, Palm Avenue, 116, and in neighborhoods is to institute RV permit parking. An effective and smart Council would have implemented RV permit parking after conversion of the Sebastopol Inn. 
  6. Sonoma Applied Villages Services (SAVS) is a transient advocacy group and non-profit. Their mission and purpose is to advocate for and get resources for transients. They lobby government for money, space and resources for their constituents. And look they are doing a great job, they got a contract for $300,000 plus. They’re in talks with the City of Sebastopol’s City Council and are poised to have free access to a prime piece of land next to a Laguna trail heads, a cultural center, a Youth Park, bike lanes, park trails, right in downtown Sebastopol. What great digs for their transient clients. And they might even be able to get the City of Sebastopol to fill in their funding gap. All that is great work on behalf of SAVS transient constituents.  
  7. It’s not great work on behalf of Sebastopol’s small businesses, Sebastopl’s children, Sebastopol’s non-profits. Adrienne Lauby, SAVS director, is not responsible for balancing our budget or making sure there is enough money for new equipment for our fire department or making sure our public works department has enough staff. Council is responsible for that. Council is supposed to advocate for small businesses, for our children,for our non-profits. Council is responsible for balancing the budget, supporting local businesses who have been through fire, flood and pandemic, encouraging new businesses by making our town appealing in this increasingly and incredibly competitive market place. If this proposal passes, Council is working FOR SAVS, not for Sebastopol. 
  8. In an August 24 Instagram post, Adrienne Lauby praised Council as they have “done so much to help the residents (meaning transients) of Morris Street”. Of course, Council must have loved this, getting an instragram shout out from their hero, Adrienne Lauby who they awarded a coveted 2021 spot on the Sebastopol peace wall. With Council’s clear preference for Lauby, one wonders if this would be considered an “arms length” transaction or if Lauby has undue influence over Council.
  9. Adrienne Lauby has played Council like a fine tuned fiddle – providing resources for transients on Morris Street, giving Council praise shoutouts on Instagram, increasing transient numbers, making it so bad that this SAVS proposal looks like a godsend. It’s a classic tactic, making something so bad that any solution looks like a good solution. And guess what, SAVS just so happens to have the solution.
  10. If Council supports this project, it shows how good Adrienne Lauby is at her job and how bad Council is at their jobs. There is no reason – legal – or otherwise that Sebastopol should support this project. The only reason why it would be here is because Adrienee Lauby wants it here.
Sebastopol Inn Uncategorized

360k investment proposed for each hotel room homeless conversion, ready in three years

A spoof postcard of Shirlee Zane advertising the pleasures of Sonoma County to our sadly rapidly growing homeless population

In early 2016 Sonoma supervisor Shirlee Zane was exploring housing the ‘homeless’ – meaning indigents, the mentally ill and/or people trapped by substance abuse – in tiny homes on county and private land.

The structures would ideally be 150 square feet or greater and include cooking and bathroom facilities on site, according to the county. The tiny home communities would be connected to city water and would be required to be equipped with wastewater disposal.

 Various prefab home builders bid for this great opportunity, which emulates similar developments around the country and which have been previously discussed here. 

At that time Zane defended spending taxpayer money and occupying public land for ‘homeless projects’.

It costs more taxpayer dollars for somebody to remain homeless than it does to put them in a safe, secure place,” Zane said to the Press Democrat. “Those costs add up in terms of health care and criminal justice spending when people are out on the streets.

More recently in 2019 pallet shelter erected 60 personal shelters in 10 days at the Los Guillicos site for the emergency rehousing of the large Joe Rodota Trail encampment of itinerants and substance abusers. Supervisor Lynda Hopkins seemed delighted with the results.

Courtesy of Pallet Homes

2020 has seen a huge change of thinking from supervisors  Zane and Hopkins as a result of California State governor Newsom’s ‘project Homekey’ concept of permanently housing people in purchased hotel complexes. Newsom, who spends a surprising amount of time on Twitter sharing TV moments he has found emotionally touching and promoting concepts he is in favor of seems to have an endless supply of money to pour into expensive hotel purchases and conversions.

Sadly, Sonoma County citizens find out what our tax money spending decision makers are doing retrospectively, often via their colleagues at the Press Democrat who politely  ‘report’ on decisions made, contracts signed and money spent after the fact. Freedom of Information requests for contracts and information made by citizens are typically met by a wall of bureaucratic omertà, but there is plenty of self congratulation by our supervisor as decisions are announced.

The latest chapter in our saga, announced by the County mouthpiece Press Democrat, is that the sale of the Hotel Azura in Santa Rosa is being enabled by Homekey Money, and that the Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station is on a ‘wait list’ – presumably waiting for Newsom to magic more money from somewhere in a major economic depression.

‘County officials’ say the cost the county provided to the state Aug. 13, more than a month after signing an agreement to buy the Hotel Azure for $7.9 million, was ‘simply a placeholder’ and that it will cost ‘at least’ an additional $3 million more. An official appraisal will supposedly precede ‘ongoing negotiations with the state’.

Sonoma County contains an average of 3000 homeless currently, assuming no influxes of itinerants attracted by resources on offer, and the Hotel Azura and Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station (the station is a small shopping complex) would house approximately 75 people in approximately three years time, after an additional three million is spent on kitchens and sprinklers to comply with local and state regulations. 

The Hotel Azure has 42 kitchen less bedrooms. Supervisor Linda Hopkins, who has clearly never visited the Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station, has been hoodwinked by someone that the hotel has ‘kitchenettes’ in each room. It does not. The rooms have microwave ovens except for two small entertainment areas suites which do have sinks as well as microwaves.

Quoting Tyler Silvie of the Press Democrat 
All told, county officials expect to spend $16.4 million to buy, renovate and operate Hotel Azura for the next two years as homeless housing.
The county would spend less — about $10.3 million — on the 31-room Sebastopol Inn, which Supervisor Lynda Hopkins said could be ready to serve residents more quickly, citing existing, in-room kitchenettes. But both hotels will carry substantial ongoing operations costs — $4.6 million combined annually, money the county has requested from the state. Additional money to run the hotels beyond two years is up in the air.

So essentially we have a spend of approximately $360,000 per converted single bedroom to prepare ‘homes’ for 75 people that will be ready in three years, totaling approximately 27 million dollars to buy the Hotel Azure & Sebastopol Inn as the foundations of this project.

This website suggests revisiting some of the many pre fab home building companies doing amazing work to house indigents and substance abuse casualties on existing county land and infrastructure,  and to thoroughly vet itinerant people who have arrived in Sonoma County before providing precious resources to attempt rehabilitation. 

We also suggest that anyone reading this at a state level carefully examine the Homekey application paperwork, which is full of irregularities, and to reconsider the logic of this fantastically expensive adventure, which may well run out of funding in 2022.


Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station, Santa Rosa Hotel Azure Project ‘Homekey’ latest

Sonoma County have been awarded just under eleven million from Governor Newsom’s Homekey funding to now attempt to buy Santa Rosa’s Hotel Azure. The Board of Supervisors had recently awarded Homekey two million of tax payer and PGE settlement funds to pour into the ever expanding  homeless black hole as part of their annual budgeting, and this will be contributed to this lavish project to expand the mentally ill, substance abuse and economically ‘homeless’ rooming house hub in the St. Rose Historic District neighborhood of Santa Rosa. 

The Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station is apparently on a Homekey bureaucratic future funding ‘wait list’ for conversion to a permanent ‘homeless’ rooming house according to the County’s media friends at the Press Democrat. It has been extremely hard to stay ahead of any of these developments before they are formally announced, despite multiple freedom of information requests (which are typically refused). 

It’s hard to know what can be effective in opposing the totally autocratic decision making coming from Governor Newsom’s bureaucrats given a complete lack of transparency and their magical abilities to make available vast sums of money for project funding. There are pockets of resistance all over California, with plenty of proof of the failures of project RoomKey, the room rental predecessor to the current HomeKey bonanza for low budget hotel owners. 

As previously discussed here, the term ‘homeless’ is hopelessly vague. We have genuinely economically homeless people (some of whom need to stay in hotels as their houses burnt down), people with substance abuse issues, people with mental health issues and blends of all these elements and issues. The current policies and lavish decision making continue to be disastrous and are making a bad situation worse. 

As San Francisco Mayor, Gavin Newsom grandly proclaimed in 2004 that within ten years he would ‘end homelessness’. Ten years later the streets were awash with encampments, human waste and drug paraphernalia, and today six years later are in an even worse state, with our economic depression set to make things worse. Los Angeles has increasingly major problems, with vast encampments and inbound transients. We are now seeing Newsom’s vision to ‘end homelessness’ rolled out across California at scale for the coming decade with no apparent mea culpas or admissions that his leadership approach is not only ineffective but actually making a bad situation worse. Given that California is politically one dimensional and entirely controlled by the Democrat party, there are only costly legal challenges as options to oppose this autocratic rule. 

There are far better solutions to resolving the multiple issues ‘homeless’ people are grappling with, but they are being willfully ignored by the burgeoning ‘non profit’ homeless services industry.  

Sonoma County Supervisor Shirlee Zane Third District (Santa Rosa) & interim director Barbie Robinson promoting IBM enterprise software on the Sonoma county website

Meanwhile we’ve already heard of one person who has sold up in Santa Rosa and is moving out of state, tired of fighting the giant bureaucracy that is steadily expanding to reward indigents from far and wide with voucher funding, housing and ‘wrap around services’.

It appears then that the next stages of promoting positive ‘homeless’ solutions and services and contesting the Homekey funded county services  will be legal objections, given that attempts at discussion with the county or their media friends falls on deaf ears.


Park Village fire

Park Village is a joint venture with the City of Sebastopol, WCCS, and the ‘Group of Advocates‘ (a voluntary organization concerned about the homeless). In this unique program, WCCS placed eight mobile living units in Tomodachi Park to provide homes for chronically homeless families and individuals.

On September 20th 2020 there was a major fire which sadly destroyed at least one caravan home.

The entire ‘Village Park’ property was purchased by the City primarily as a public laguna park for Sebastopol citizens and visitors. The City prepared a conceptual plan for park-related improvements of the entire property; Tomodachi Park represents implementation of one portion of this plan. However, the previous owner’s ‘Village Park’ mobile home pads have been maintained, and the City has not made a determination as to the long term status of this mobile home use.

The ‘Park Village’ Group of Advocates/ city/WCCS joint venture project is supported by the City of Sebastopol and private donors. In addition to the new living units, WCCS ‘is providing case management and supportive services to the 65 current extremely low and very low income residents of the Park: connections to employment, health, education, and will use its broad range of human services and partnerships to increasingly integrate the park and its residents into the broader community’.

Park Village is adjacent to the east of Sebastopol Inn at Gravenstein Station, which Sonoma County has applied for state funds to buy and convert into a homeless shelter.


Sonoma County Board of Supervisors budget decision session video

Allow a few seconds for the videos to load, there are almost the entire two days of deliberations captured here plus the final day one hour conclusion, thanking our county staff for their hard work and self congratulation by our elected representatives.

Where your taxpayer money went

The budget has a current $20 million deficit which was balanced in part with $26.8 million taken from the $149 million PG&E settlement stemming from the 2017 wildfires, which was intended to help ensure our future fire safety.

The money will instead be used to greatly increase funding for mental health, substance abuse, homeless services and associated expensive ongoing ‘Watson’ IBM software licensing costs for “ACCESS” bureaucratic systems (an unexpected additional budget cost last week), $920,000 for ‘clearing brush’ and a potential future tax measure to bolster fire services (using PGE fire compensation money to tax citizens further for fire services…), and expansion of bureaucracy by the council for ‘oversight’ of the county’s law enforcement, and also to ‘restore county reserves’ depleted during past fires.
Among items included in Sonoma County’s $2 billion budget:

$2 million: To chip in support for the application for $26 million from the State via ‘project Homekey’ to purchase of Hotel Azura in Santa Rosa and the Sebastopol Inn in Sebastopol for ‘permanent housing for homeless residents’

$355,000: Strengthen support for homeless services

$5.5 million: To expand the mobile support team that responds with law enforcement in cases involving mental health crises

$1.4 million: To boost support for the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Oversight over the next two or three years, including the addition of two attorneys

$20 million: COVID-19 response next year, including expanded testing

$384,000: Food distribution and other senior services

Source: Sonoma County Administrator’s Office

This is early stage information, we will get into the details once we have had a chance to analyze and explore further.

Day Two

(only 50 seconds)

Day Three single closing session

Above are almost the entire public sessions of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors discussing the annual budget for the coming fiscal year for analysis.

Sonoma Homeless

An Open Letter to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

Dear Supervisors,

We have sat through two days of your rushed deliberations this week in a tightly packed but poorly organized or communicated schedule as you attempt to very quickly create an annual budget to run services on behalf of Sonoma County tax payers and residents.

September 9 2020 Sonoma County Board of Supervisors homeless service budget discussion

The long hours you have spent talking are visible for viewing via Zoom but there has been little opportunity for citizen interaction, except for ninety second sound bites which don’t appear to be taken very seriously, with no follow up or answers to speaker questions.

During Thursday you are presumably meeting off the record before reconvening on Friday to celebrate closing the books on a budget the supervisors think will work for the county and its employees, partners and contractors.

There is virtually no time to react to your conversations and small group consensus agreements, but here are some thoughts on the ‘ending homelessness’ budget expansions and utopian plans you agreed on Wednesday September 9, parts of which are embedded here.

The first law of holes
As noted elsewhere on this site there has been zero success in ‘ending homelessness’ in Sonoma County over the last few years. 3,000 people are homeless and it is clear there is no coherent plan in place, although the increased funds you are helping yourselves to by slashing budgets elsewhere will partially be used to try and figure out what you are doing for the future.

The first law of holes, or the law of holes, is an adage which states: “if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”. Digging a hole makes it deeper and therefore harder to get out of, which is used as a metaphor that when in an untenable position, it is best to stop carrying on and exacerbating the situation.

It’s not possible to have a ‘no confidence’ vote as you are making bureaucratic decisions as a clique with no oversight or community discussion. This has been going on for years, and now that we are in the jaws of a major economic depression sadly both the homeless situation is getting more serious and so is the lack of any sort of coherent planning or consideration of other approaches .

The planned lavish spending on these vague plans fly in the face of logical ways to actually address the three main causes of homelessness: economic hardship, mental illness and substance abuse.

The idea of grabbing grants to warehouse people in hotel rooms is extremely naive and will have serious long term tax base and community ramifications in both Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, while homeless industry ‘providers’ will welcome more homeless with open arms …because that is their reason for existing.

Build it and they will come

It is well known that services provided for substance abuse itinerants act like a magnet, with the ‘RV armadas’ Supervisor Rabbit mentioned heading to Sonoma County from all over. Chico is now heading in the right direction as a community having realized this harsh reality. Supervisor Zane appears to be particularly naive on this topic despite having lived near homeless issues in Sonoma County for some time, and having presumably noticed the increase in needles, human excrement, drug dealing and criminal damage on city streets as she passes through.

The police are overwhelmed and have mostly given up on everything but serious crimes by these substance abuse altered people, who have little empathy or community spirit.

There are solutions being successfully rolled out in other states, with Houston and Austin in Texas notable examples discussed on this site.

We urge you to make public the materials requested by the chair (at 3:20 in this video) from Barbie Robinson, which will presumably form the basis for the backbone of your latest short and medium terms plans, paid for out of contingency funds, and any other plans for public discussion and comment.

Sonoma County residents deserve to be consulted on your proposed plans. Even Sebastopol City Council has no say in your acquisition of city properties with state grant money to repurpose them into homeless room houses. Even local homeless people have predicted this warehousing approach will result in the conversion of a hotel in to a ‘tweaker den’ backing on to the Joe Rodota Trail within six months

We urge you to have some humility and consider the entire community in your planning, and to study what actually works in ‘ending homelessness’, because what you have been executing so far has had little success.

Please feel free to respond in the comments section and we look forward to future dialog as a community.



Morris Street RV Fire

“RV Fire Morris Street Friday night. We tried to get it out before it got into the power lines but we’re unable to.” – Sebastopol Fire department.

Fortunately no propane tank explosions but power was knocked out for surrounding businesses.


Email to Project Homekey: ‘Status of Sonoma County Project HomeKey application? ‘ 


Could you please let us know the status of Sonoma County’s application to purchase the Sebastopol Inn for permanent  conversion into homeless beds. This whole process is shrouded in secrecy and it is very hard for citizens to know what is being imposed on them by our county’s politicians!

You can find details of the challenges faced in Sebastopol and also Santa Rosa, which has the fourth largest ‘homeless’ population in Californian on our 

website and on the Citizens for Action Now!  Santa Rosa website. 

Which is a separate and now partner venture. 

We strongly believe that Sonoma County should be using one of the many pre existing sites and campuses they own to immediately get to grips with the homeless situation. 

The Santa Rosa fairgrounds could be immediately repurposed to help provide the many vehicle based homeless with sanitation and other basic facilities, and temporary housing erected before the winter. Longer term large campuses owned by the county such as the former hospital on Chanate Road in Santa Rosa could be developed as low cost housing/tiny homes. There is sanitation, power and water on site and the model that has been so successful in Austin Texas could be easily replicated there. 

We feel very strongly that removing the only functioning downtown hotel in Sebastopol, (which was recently used for fire evacuations) to use as homeless accommodation is a non starter. We talk to a lot of the local homeless people in Sebastopol and even they think it is a bad idea. It is located on the trail where a huge 250+ person homeless encampment sprang up last year and an RV living local commented to me this week that it would ‘become a tweaker den within six months’.

We are keen to see the county pursue well thought out strategies to help the homeless, and those with substance abuse and mental health problems, but damaging a small town like Sebastopol by removing the only hotel that is a vital part of local hospitality and associated jobs is a terrible idea. 

Buying 30 hotel bedrooms to convert to ‘homes’ doesn’t begin to solve the scale of homelessness issues, hurts the small downtown on multiple levels and is yet more evidence of Sonoma County’s complete lack of credible strategies or budgeting for homeless services as evidenced by last year’s civil grand jury report

Thank you for your time and we look forward to receiving details of the status of Barbie Robinson’s Sonoma County application for Project Homekey funding as soon as possible!