I got some positive feedback from folks about last week’s Soapbox where I detailed the various conversations from the multiple Zoom meetings I have been participating in. There is so much information that affects us all directly that I feel compelled to do the same this week. My apologies to those who would prefer the old-fashioned edgy, angry, provocative Soapbox. Perhaps next week—–
From the City of Santa Rosa Building, Planning and Economic Development Department:
*All planning and permitting, plan review, and inspection services are open for business – VIRTUALLY. The biggest news to come from Jesse Oswald in today’s Zoom meeting, was that there are a lot of inspections that can take place virtually. Soon to be gone are the days where you have to wait around the jobsite with your foreman or manager for 4 hours waiting for a window for the inspector to show up. They are unveiling a virtual inspection program, for many (not all) inspections that would work like this: You call in for an appointment for your inspection, get the City to agree via email, then your foreman/other calls in with smart phone/tablet and videos the area to be inspected. If it is a water line pressure test, you show the video of the area and line that you have pressurized, you show the pressure gauge, and the inspector can note the time and the pressure gauge reading. After the hour or 24-hour test, you do it again, and voila’, you have passed the test!!
Again, not all items that need to be inspected can be done so virtually. They are still working out some of the procedures. However, I asked if Public Works will be adopting some of these methods, and was told “not only Public Works, but the Fire inspections as well”. Needless to say, we will be discussing this more at our next ECA Spec Meeting scheduled for Thursday, May 28, from 4: oo pm to 5:30 pm. If you would like the Zoom info to participate in the Spec Meeting, email email@example.com and she will send you the info.
*Jesse also talked about what construction is allowed and what is not. In simple terms, if a structure or site is unoccupied, there is no restriction. Practice social distancing and PPE and go for it. If it is occupied, the work either has to be exterior (no restrictions) or if inside, the work must be 100% sealed off from traffic, air exchange, etc. from the occupied office/residence to the area the work is being performed.
As to extension of permits due to the malaise of issues we have faced in the last three years, Tennis Wick has stated he is issuing County blanket extensions to permits for 24 months. Although the City of Santa Rosa was not willing to go that far, they should have no problem issuing 6-month extensions as needed for almost any reason.
Transportation-Measure M Tax Extension News:
There have been literally hours and hours of meetings to try and reach consensus between the ECA and other “pro-business” groups, and the multiple groups I will call the “Climate Change Advocates”. The meetings were requested by the SCTA Board of Directors two months or so ago, in an attempt to find consensus on the language of the “Go Sonoma Act” and its expenditure plan. Those are the fancy names for the proposed Measure M tax extension being considered to put on the ballot for November in Sonoma County. It is worth an estimated $650-850 million over 20 years to our industry as regards a 65% split to our industry, and a 35% split to transit/bike and pedestrian path areas. The ECA had to finally “put our foot down” yesterday as to our willingness to support the proposed tax measure over language being requested that would make the primary criteria for consideration for funding future projects be “reduction of GHG’s”. We are opposed to that because some of our roads need work that might not reduce GHG’s but would enhance safety and traffic flow, and those projects that did not score well on GHG reduction would then potentially not get considered to be funded. Reduction of GHG’s as one of several criteria is totally ok with the ECA’s position, but not to make it the “end all be all” criteria. So, with the failure of reaching consensus between the two groups in mind, the SCTA Ad Hoc Committee met behind closed doors and made their recommendation to the SCTA Board of Directors. I do not know what that recommendation was. I will find out at the next SCTA Board Meeting which is next week.
The timeline-should the SCTA Board decide to adopt the language staff has recommended, they will vote to move forward with polling in late June to see how the public feels about it. As a note-some polling has already been done within the County of Sonoma and it was done quite recently (within the last 3 weeks). The recent polling, surprising to me, showed support substantially in excess of the 2/3 needed to pass the sales tax extension. So, there is a willingness, despite the Pandemic, for the public to support a sales tax measure that not only helps fix our roads but also supports increased public bus ridership and more bicycle and pedestrian paths. That is very good news for our segment of the industry!
As we read about the new “tent city” being opened at the Finley Center in Santa Rosa, homelessness has become perhaps the #1 issue in Santa Rosa and throughout the County of Sonoma. Maybe as big an issue as the Pandemic to many folks. The “little huts” at Los Guillicos are still full, the Gold Coin Motel renovation is housing homeless, and many homeless have been housed at the Sandman and Astro Motels to try and control the spread of Covid 19 amongst those without shelter. While all this is going on, many of you have seen the underpass of Highway 101 that looks more like Oakland than Santa Rosa, and many of us know of or have experienced vandalism and confrontations with having to step over homeless debris and waste to get into our offices. I know Cheryl and Mary certainly have. Compounding the problem, are laws in place that limit the police arresting the homeless for vagrancy, minor crimes, and even drug use in public. Vandalism? No way are the police responding to those calls while they are operating under a reduced police force due to Covid 19 hitting their own workforce hard.
To try to help the problem, the ECA is combining with North Bay Leadership, Sonoma County Alliance, The Farm Bureau, Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, AGC, NCBE, and NORBAR to host a 90 minute Webinar with the Santa Rosa Police Chief, the Sonoma County Sheriff, the Sonoma County District Attorney, and two well known representatives of businesses that have seen the impact first hand of homelessness and drug use on their businesses and tenants-Hugh Futrell and Keith Woods. This Webinar is in the “Save the Date” mode for June 18, from 9am-10:30. We should have enough time for Q & A and this is shaping up to be a very lively “Town Hall” gathering to let residents and businesses know exactly what they can do, and what their police and district attorney can do to mitigate this mess.
This is just a brief and partial news list for you. I hope you can use some of the information!
That’s All Folks
In last week’s Newsletter, I made a comment about Public Employees currently not considering the Covid – 19 crisis in upcoming and ongoing negotiations. That was thoughtless and offensive to some of our good friends working hard to keep us all working. I sincerely apologize.