Sonoma County commits $50000 for study of third SMART station in Santa Rosa – Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Sonoma County commits $50000 for study of third SMART station in Santa Rosa - Santa Rosa Press Democrat
PG&E power shutoffs cause long lines at Sonoma gas stations
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At an afternoon news conference Tuesday, Oakland Unified School District spokesman John Sasaki said 12 schools were located in the area designated by PG&E for a power shutdown. But PG&E informed the district that all schools except Skyline High School will hold classes on Wednesday.

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School officials said the schools could be closed beyond Wednesday because power may not be back on Thursday or later in the week. Other schools may be closed later in the week if PG&E expands the power shutoff area, according to school officials.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday capped a month of speculation about behind-the-scenes jockeying over a third Santa Rosa-area SMART station, voting 4-1 to fund a study of a new stop in north Santa Rosa.

Sonoma County Activates Emergency Operations Centers in Advance of Power Shutoffs

The discussion had initially pit supervisors Lynda Hopkins and James Gore against Supervisor Shirlee Zane and board Chairman David Rabbitt, as Hopkins and Gore favored a Fulton Road location in north Santa Rosa and Zane favored a station in southwest Santa Rosa, near Roseland or Moorland Avenue. Rabbitt wanted to know where the $11 million to build such a station would ever come from before agreeing to study it.

Sonoma County and the city of Santa Rosa have declared proclamations of local emergency and activated their Emergency Operation Centers in anticipation of PG&Es plan to shut off electric power to prevent power lines from sparking wildfires during dangerous wind conditions Wednesday and Thursday.

In the end, Supervisor Susan Gorin, who represents parts of eastern Santa Rosa and the entire Sonoma Valley, was the lone board member to vote against the $50,000 study of the Fulton site.

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved the proclamation of a local emergency shortly after it observed 44 seconds of silence in memory of the 44 people who died in the Sonoma Complex fires that started two years ago.

Supervisors began the discussion with an attempt to dispel reports they had been squabbling about the location. But they ended with a threat from Gorin that Sonoma Valley likely wouldnt support tax renewal for SMART because it doesnt directly serve her constituents. Hopkins chimed in that deliberations reflected the boards need for a therapy dog.

PG&E said the power could be cut off by before or around 4 a.m. Wednesday through Thursday afternoon to an estimated 250,000 customers in the Bay Area and may not be fully restored for five days.

Video: Bay Area Counties Brace For Potential PG&E Power Shutoffs

The driving question was, in parts, philosophical: Which comes first for the station, the study or the funding?

The ceremony is at 5 p.m. at Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa. There will be a moment of silence and a ceremony with firefighters to remember the 44 people who lost their lives in Sonoma County.

For Gore, Hopkins and Zane, and allies who spoke during the public comment period, the study comes first.

The fires in east and northwest Sonoma County and in Santa Rosa broke out on Oct. 8. The five fires merged into three, the Tubbs, Nuns and Pocket fires, which comprised the Sonoma Complex Fires.

Video: PG&E Power Shutoffs Happening As Survivors Mark Anniversary Of Wine Country Firestorm

I understand the concern about where do we get $11 million, Gore said. To me, if we dont take Step 1, we have nothing.

People across the North Bay are preparing for possible PG&E power shutoffs two years after devastating wildfires ravaged the region. Pete Suratos reports.

Video: Bay Area Readies For Widespread Fire Safety Power Outages

Former county supervisor Efren Carrillo, speaking in his capacity as board president for the Center for Climate Protection, said more stops, and more accessibility, would ultimately help achieve climate goals, including fewer vehicle miles traveled.

The company owners lost their own home in 2017, and wonder if PG&E is being overly-cautious."Being a fire survivor, I think they have to be," said Ramsay. "But by the same token, I'm a little nervous because the fire happened so quickly, it's over with before you even know it."  

From getting gas to buying ice, heres how to prepare for a PG&E outage

Rabbitt ultimately aligned himself with Gore, Zane and Hopkins despite seeing no clear path to securing $11 million for the station. SMART, the North Bays commuter rail agency, has a long list of projects for its build-out, and most if not all are higher priorities than a third Santa Rosa station.

"Our business is up 200 percent," said Liesl Ramsay, CEO at Leete Generators in Santa Rosa. Ramsay stood before a warehouse full of boxed generators, ordered and paid for by customers who are waiting for installation. 

Theres a better than two-thirds chance that the station will never be built in the next 10-20 years, Rabbitt said.

Ill bet on one third, said Gore, signaling that he thought the station was more of a likelihood.

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My focus has always been to complete the line all the way up, Gore said. This is a request for feasibility, not a political move.

PG&E on Tuesday announced a massive power shut-off set to begin early Wednesday, possibly to last for days, for as many as 800,000 customers in Northern and Central California. The company is hoping not to spark fires when the winds kick up and power lines break or get hit by trees and branches, which is what started the majority of 2017s major fires.

Gorin had her own concerns, which surfaced after she expressed interest in a study of east-west connections to SMART services. She even seemed intent on a study that would look at extending rail service to Sonoma Valley.

Rabbitt, signaling the towering obstacles in the way of that move, said such a study would likely point to the need for more buses bringing riders to and from more distant parts of the SMART corridor.

Vulnerable areas will see additional firefighters, including the hilly Mark West Springs corridor connecting Santa Rosa to Calistoga, and rural Knights Valley, also abutting Napa County. While all neighboring counties were adding firefighters and equipment, Andreis didnt believe any were adding as many as Sonoma County.

Gorin then said any vote to reauthorize SMARTs sales tax measure wouldnt succeed in Sonoma Valley, citing its lack of service in the eastern parts of her district. Gorin said she worried, too, that a study of a Fulton-area station could be misused as another promise to voters that SMART wont fulfill.

Rabbitt said he thought any promises would come from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, instead.

I dont think that promise is going to come from SMART, but this board, which is part of my reluctance, Rabbitt said.

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