The Kenwood Press
Letters to the Editor: 08/15/2019

Letters to the Editor August 15, 2019

Sonoma County Regional Parks working on Shaw Park grass issue

Dear Editor,

In response to the Aug. 1 “Shaw Park drying out” letter to the editor, I offer the following:

Our [Sonoma County Regional Parks] parks maintenance crews at Shaw Park have been diligently working on the issue of the grass for several months. This is a recurring issue and it stems from sediment in the well pipes. This is not a result of the sprinkler timing or dog urine. The parks crews have been on this since early June when the grass started to dry out, and have been working alongside their contracted well drilling company to remedy this. The grass is coming back now as a result of their efforts. Parks maintenance has also been working through several tasks including removal of debris, tree trimming and other maintenance issues as well. Through the Sonoma County Parks Foundation, funding is coming to all of our local parks from the Funky Fridays summer concert series. Our local Rotary Club of Glen Ellen-Kenwood has also been funding improvements such as the new path, upgraded fencing, and hopefully shade coverage in the next year. Owl boxes are also on the agenda to remedy the intense gopher problem. We're open to suggestions, as well for your thoughts on improvements.

For all those who support and value our local parks, please consider a donation to, or add on a few extra bucks when you buy your county parks yearly pass to help further these improvements.

Nicki Artieres

Don't pave paradise to make it safe

Dear Editor,

“Vegetation Management.” That is what it is being called these days. And it has, despite what the fire guys say, created a hysteria in our community. The county and the “fire brigade” are not hearing the anger, the hysteria, or the cries of adults when they are threatened and intimidated into having to drastically alter their homes. The front page of the Kenwood Press quotes the fire guy stating, “Everyone has been very nice and cooperative so far - no push back.” It seems no one is listening! And then on page 18, “We are getting very positive feedback...” No one is listening!

I feel our neighborhood has shown, in the past, already superior performance compared to most areas of our little Warm Springs valley, Glen Ellen, Kenwood and even Sonoma Valley. In fact, our small neighborhood was actually recognized for our alert system and efficient evacuations. And now, instead of accolades, the county and fire people are punishing us by using us in order to demonstrate how the fire brigade would like all homes to be; clear and non-combustible and barren. As homeowners, we all know we need to keep our property maintained and safe, as we live our lives and enjoy our environment. However, just look around the valley and see who else is being threatened with fines if they don't cut down trees, eliminate shrubbery, tear down wooden fences, etc. And if they don't, the county will come and do it and then bill us. I do not see many, if any, areas being subjected to such intimidation and scrutiny as we are. Further, I feel this effort and compliance will all be a temporary measure. Plants grow, trees grow, new people move into the valley who like trees and greenery, and we live here for that very reason.

This valley is so beautiful and a major reason is the trees, greenery, nature, etc. I hope our future is not to “pave paradise” in order to live safely by some county and fire brigade edict. And, what will we do to prepare for the next disaster? The obvious one is earthquake. Is the county going to tell us to retrofit all of our houses to new extreme codes? How about extreme rains and floods? Will we be forced to elevate houses, grade down slopes? What's next?

Life is a risk. Living in this beautiful area has its risks. Forty-two years ago, when we built our home in this neighborhood, we didn't even have fire hydrants and we were aware of our situation and the risks. Can we decide to accept the risks of living in a naturally beautiful area? Do we need the county or the “fire brigade” to tell us whether we are, ourselves, allowed to accept some risks?

Terry Larson
Glen Ellen

Oakmont: Once you have your go bag, then what?

Dear Editor,

This is in response to the article in the Aug. 9 Oakmont E-Blast from the Oakmont Emergency Committee (OEPC):

You asked the good question, “If a policeman knocked on your door and said you have five minutes to evacuate, are you ready?”

This could be a reality in a firestorm, as we've seen recently in Sonoma County and in Paradise.

Your detailed instructions about the critical need for all Oakmont residents to have a Go-Bag packed, and suggestions for what we should put in them, was important and appreciated.

However, you did not address part two of the question:

“I have my Go-Bag packed - now how am I supposed to get out of here?”

There are only two roads out of Oakmont (Oakmont Drive and Pythian) for over 3,000 cars to negotiate an evacuation, and both of these roads exit onto Highway 12, which, as most of us have seen, can be backed up with traffic moving very slowly even during regular commute hours.

(There is apparently a third exit on the far west side of Oakmont, but it is padlocked most of the time and I have never seen any information about who is in charge of opening it, and who would notify residents that it is open. Even so, it also exits onto Highway 12.)

When people in Sonoma Valley are fleeing a rapidly-advancing wildfire, Highway 12 will be clogged and, I expect, at a standstill, making it extremely difficult for cars trying to exit Oakmont. Highway 12 has only one lane in each direction as it passes by Oakmont; this is not sufficient. Plans need to be made for two lanes of cars to be able to move down Highway 12 in the direction needed to evacuate this section of the Valley efficiently.

Even if a uniformed police officer were stationed at both Oakmont exits to direct traffic and to ensure the cars on Highway 12 allowed a reasonable flow of cars out of the community, has anyone calculated how long it would take for approximately 1,500 cars per exit to actually get out of here, let alone how much additional time it would take to crawl down Highway 12 before it widens and traffic can flow more quickly?

Hundreds of cars will be backed onto Oakmont streets, with people trying to back out of garages, trying to make it to Pythian or Oakmont Drive. If a wildfire is approaching quickly, many of us will have no chance to escape in our cars.

What attention has the OEPC, or the Oakmont Board, given to this?

I've seen at least four thoughtful letters posted since our 2017 fire, in the Oakmont paper and on Nextdoor, asking for some information about an evacuation plan. I've seen one vague response about an evacuation plan being prepared; the other comment made in reply was “everyone needs to make their own plans.”

This is unacceptable. I understand that the OVA may not be legally responsible for developing an evacuation plan for its residents, and perhaps it may incur some liability should it try to do so. But someone is responsible. And Oakmont needs to take a proactive position with the officials in Santa Rosa to advocate for the 3,000 older adults who may be trapped here in an emergency. We are not a typical neighborhood with several possible escape routes where people can be left on their own to figure the best way out.

When Oakmont was built, it may not have needed to consider the type of emergencies we're seeing today. But now we've witnessed people running for their lives in Fountaingrove and in Coffey Park, and we've seen people burned to death in their cars trying to get out of Paradise. And we're heading into the second year after our last evacuation from Oakmont with no information beyond “Get your Go-Bag ready!”

A Go-Bag implies you have somewhere to go - and a way to get there.

The people who live closest to Highway 12 may be safe; but for the rest of us, who may be trapped in a long line of cars at a standstill along Oakmont streets, what should we do?

Should we all head to the polo field and hope firefighters can protect us there? Should we try to get into the pools; or stand in the parking lots? Should we try to walk out along Channel Drive?

Or should we just sit in our cars, waiting for hours, hoping that we'll be able to evacuate before the fire comes?

Please help us with this.

D.J. White