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Letters to the Editor: June 27, 2018

'It is a sad fact that in our county greed rules, money talks and the biggest money has the strongest voice.'

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Plan on It

Planning is politics, especially in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is sometimes a "shield" here in Sonoma County to try and protect us, and nature, from bad political decisions ("The Sword and the Shield," June 20). Poor planning, such as building houses on ridges in Fountain Grove, can lead to tragic consequences, as recently witnessed with last year's fires. It is a sad fact that in our county greed rules, money talks and the biggest money has the strongest voice.

Now the "big money" wants to claim it is CEQA causing the "housing crisis." Respectful disagreement can show the biggest problem is actually money; rather, the lack of financing for affordable housing, which is, and has been, the problem since at least 2008. According to a recent Business Insider article by Akin Oyedele on June 20, 2018, "Housing in the U.S. has not been this unaffordable since property values were in free fall 10 years ago." The article cites Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions reporting, "Mortgage rates hit their highest level in seven years last month, and the national average 30-year fixed rate is now above 4.4 percent, according to Bankrate.com." This slows lending.

The financial aspect of funding housing is more onerous than environmental constraints for many California building projects. "Big money voices" in Santa Rosa are now out flogging CEQA and the Endangered Species Act for protecting the California tiger salamander as reasons for the shortage of housing construction in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. This is a cynical canard. There are numerous examples of projects being delayed by lack of funding, even when there are no CEQA or Endangered Species Act protection requirements. Many projects in Santa Rosa have been given incentives such as density bonuses and variances from local land-use controls, but still aren't going forward. Others proceed slowly due to financing delays.

Take the example of housing development near Railroad Square in Santa Rosa. No tiger salamanders there, but approved projects are still stalled. By planners or money?

Duane De Witt Santa Rosa

Political Grandstanding

Is bringing on Erin Brockovich another tactic to divert additional responsibilities away from those like the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors? Besides local attorney Roy Miller casting total blame on PG&E, we now have attorney Noreen Evans saying Ms. Brockovich "understands PG&E's pattern of corporate behavior" and "pattern of malfeasance." This from a member of a large law firm.

Does this malfeasance include making sure you have electricity and gas to your home and office 24/7, Ms. Evans? I want justice to prevail and to allow the facts to be presented and the responsibility spread around to all respective parties. It is not just PG&E.

Evans and Brockovich's rock-star media tour announcing "her high-profile participation in the lawsuit against PG&E" is nothing short of grandstanding and vaudeville-type showmanship. It is no secret who really will financially benefit from all of this.

It seems now the biggest concern for those anti-PG&E activists and our so-called elected leaders is, what movie star will play them in the next upcoming disaster flick.

S. R. Finnegan

Sebastopol

Write to us at letters@bohemian.com.

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