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Interviews with Planning Commissioners

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Find out more about each of the Sonoma County Planning Commissioners. New interviews will be added periodically.

On this page:

Gregory Carr

Gregory CarrFor our readers who don’t know you, can you provide a bit of background about yourself and what led you to serve on the Planning Commission?

I graduated from Sonoma State with a BS degree in environmental studies and planning. Upon graduation, I was hired by the County Planning Department (Later PRMD) and worked for over 30 years as a planner. A big part of my job found me bringing various permit applications and policy initiatives to the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

After retirement I was appointed by the BOS to the Commission. It is interesting to me the difference between being a staff member and a commissioner at the hearings...but at least I was familiar with both roles at the time.

Is the Planning Commission your first position of service to the community?

No. In addition to serving as a County planner, I have volunteered in several capacities, participating on committees addressing safe routes to schools, solid waste, environmental health, land conservation, groundwater, and mining reclamation. As a commissioner, I also sit as an ex-officio member of the Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission.

Can you name a few highlights of your time on the commission?

Nothing in particular stands out, although debating County policy on issues such as cannabis, vacation rentals, and stream protection have been invigorating.

20 years from now, how do you envision Sonoma County?

Walkable towns, better transit services, affordable housing in urban areas, healthy and diverse agricultural economy, cultural diversity.

What is your favorite spot in Sonoma County?

It's difficult to pick one, but some of the places that we like to visit are just about any part of the Coast and Russian River. However, if I have to pick go-to place, it's the Sonoma Plaza.

Paula Cook

Paula Cook 250For our readers who don’t know you, can you provide a bit of background about yourself and what led you to serve on the Planning Commis­sion?

I grew up in Sonoma County but left for college, only came back to visit, and NEVER thought I would move home. I’m formally trained in historic preservation (I have an M.S. in Historic Preservation from the University of Oregon College of Design). I’ve worked with the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. and the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Louisiana. I moved back to Sonoma County in 2001 and have been engaged in developing supportive housing for people with special needs since 2004 (after dropping out after my first year at McGeorge School of Law!). I was on the board for three years and then became the first full-time Executive Director of Community Housing Sonoma County (CHSC) in 2007. We build housing for veterans, people with mental illness, the homeless, and others in need. I was asked by Supervisor Zane to serve as one of her commissioners because of my background in housing development and my advocacy for those with the greatest needs and the least means. I just celebrated my 10th anniversary as Executive Director for CHSC.

Is the Planning Commission your first position of service to the community?

I have been a board member of various non-profits, and have sat on several committees regarding affordable housing/supportive housing, but this is my first appointee position.

20 years from now, how do you envision Sonoma County?

I anticipate that Sonoma County will be even more of a destination than it is today. Coastal California real estate will continue to appreciate in value, so our greatest challenge will be preserving our precious natural resources. Housing pressures will continue to increase, and we will be forced to develop city-centered mid and high rise housing as a result. Our community separators and parks will be even more precious and essential. Maybe our SMART train will take us farther than San Rafael, as the 101 will be uber gridlocked in 20 years. I expect we will develop beyond our wine grape mono culture. And we will struggle with our unique Bay Area characteristics, balancing our agricultural roots with our suburban development patterns and our need to grow our city centers. Highway 37 will be an elevated toll road and parts of Sonoma will be part of the bay. I hope I live to see the challenges and the solutions we develop!

What is your favorite spot in Sonoma County?

Just one favorite?! I love Coleman Valley, Blind Beach, Bodega Head, the view from Barnett Valley Road out Bohemian Highway, Stewarts Point-Skaggs Springs Road, Bullfrog Pond, Alexander Valley near the Napa County line, and Sonoma Mountain where I grew up.

Dick Fogg

Dick Fogg 250Personal background and what led you to serve on the Planning Commis­sion?

I grew up in Boston and went to school in New England and upstate New York. I worked in the food business and that took me to Cincinnati, San Francisco, Fullerton, Wapakoneta (Ohio), and Minneapolis. I am married to a lovely lady from Marin County and we have three good kids and two really great grandchildren. My wife and I have lived in the City of Sonoma for 20+ years.

I serve on the Planning Commission because 1st District Supervisor Mike Cale called me one afternoon and said "…you are on the Planning Commission." Subsequent Supervisors Brown and Gorin have agreed so here I am.

Is the Planning Commission your first position of service to the community?

No. I originally was on the Sonoma County 2020 General Plan Development Committee working with Greg Carr. In earlier community service not in Sonoma County I have been an elected City Councilman, Planning Commission Chair; Fire Commissioner (my favorite job but they wouldn't let me ride in the fire trucks); and in several finance positions. In business I had lobbying responsibilities in Washington D.C. and one of the highlights was being thrown out of Senator Ted Kennedy's office.

Highlights of working on the Permit Sonoma Planning Commission?

Lots of specific project highlights but overall it's been the caliber of both the PRMD staff and virtually all of the appointed Commission members. It's a lot of work but with Jennifer Barrett's strong leadership it's been fulfilling and sometimes fun.

20 years from now, how do you how do you envision Sonoma County?

Great question and critical issues that I worry about. My comments apply primarily to the 1st District, and in general to the full County. Our growth is inevitable but needs to be anticipated and planned for. I worry about housing, both the social impact of the new multi-million dollar homes in the community and, more importantly, the lack of housing for the "average Joe" and the family. The feeling of "Marinization" of the Sonoma Valley is palpable.

There will be increasing pressure to relax urban growth boundaries and develop into open space as the population grows and this pressure has already started. We need to closely work with the very important ag interests (including cannabis) to ensure their continued viability. Ag, open space, and preserving our natural and scenic resources are the critical test to determining the genuineness and living quality of our County.

We need local governments, a Board of Supervisors and a PRMD with determination, foresight and guts to plan now for the next 20 years. It won't be easy but with strong leadership we can do it. Leadership is the critical variable.

What is your favorite spot in Sonoma County?

Bodega Head. It reminds me of the Northern New England coast.

Ariel Kelley

Ariel KelleyFor our readers who don’t know you, can you provide a bit of background about yourself and what led you to serve on the Planning Commission?

An attorney by training, Ariel has spent her career as a community organizer and government relations professional. She received both her MBA and Doctor of Jurisprudence degrees from Golden Gate University in San Francisco and after law school, Ariel worked in government relations for the America's Cup in San Francisco. Her passion for land use led her to become immersed in the world of community and urban planning from a very young age. Originally from Eugene, Oregon, Ariel is an alumna of the University of Oregon where she studied business. Growing up on the McKenzie River, Ariel has early memories of observing her parents form a river alliance network to prevent pollution and fight to preserve water quality in for their rural neighbors. Ariel resides in Healdsburg with her husband and two young children ages 5 and 3.

Is the Planning Commission your first position of service to the community?

Ariel spent over a decade as an active community leader in San Francisco. She served as the president of her neighborhood association, often appearing before the City’s planning commission fighting both for and against development projects. Ariel was an active director of the Golden Gate University Alumni Association, Rooms that Rock 4 Chemo Ambassador Board member, and a member of the board of Collective Impact, a non-profit aimed at reducing cycles of poverty for African American youth and families in San Francisco. Today, Ariel serves as the board president of Corazón Healdsburg, a non-profit dedicated to bridging the racial and economic divide in northern Sonoma County.

Can you name a few highlights of your time on the commission?

It has been an interesting time to sit as a planning commissioner. Ariel was appointed by Supervisor Gore after the 2017 Sonoma Complex Fires. While many of her first hearings were regarding winery use permits and events, she has had the opportunity to discuss resiliency, the post-fire rebuild, and our housing crisis. The commission is currently turning its focus on cannabis and Ariel is looking forward to learning more about the intersection of land use planning and cannabis in the coming months.

20 years from now, how do you envision Sonoma County?

In 20 years I envision Sonoma County as a safe and prosperous community that has achieved a balance between agriculture, industry, and thoughtful resilient development. This won’t happen overnight and it won’t be easy but we have the will of our community and the knowledge to get there.

What is your favorite spot in Sonoma County?

It’s so hard to pick just one place. But one of my favorite spots in Sonoma County is the Healdsburg Ridge hiking trail overlooking the Russian River.

Larry Reed

Larry Reed 250Can you provide a bit of background about yourself and what led you to serve on the Planning Com­mission?

I grew up in the Central Valley and attended high school and college in Southern California. My maternal family lived in Petaluma, so every year we would migrate there for the holidays. Petaluma was very different in the 1960s, but has always seemed to maintain its character and sense of community. I attended Cal Poly Pomona, earning a degree in Landscape Architecture in 1978, and worked in the profession for several years while attending college. I saw, first hand, how communities are impacted from unchecked development. After graduate school on the east coast, I returned to Petaluma to start a family and become part of the community.

Is the Planning Commission your first position of service to the community?

Moving to Petaluma in 1984, I returned to the home that my great grandfather built in 1912. My great-great grandfather came to Petaluma in 1852, and served on the Board of Trustees for the City of Petaluma and, at times, its President. My family participated in the public debate and I always felt that it was important for me to participate in building and supporting the local community. I first served on the Central Petaluma Specific Plan Committee, and eventually, joined the Site Plan and Architectural Review Committee (SPARC), overseeing the implementation of the Theater Square and Warehouse District.

Can you name a few highlights of your time on the Commission?

As a commissioner, you are just a one member, of five, representing your community. It has been wonderful to serve with others members of the Commission, each representing the nuance of their respective part of Sonoma County. Each District is unique and I have enjoyed debating, discussing and learning more about the County. As a landscape architect, I am interested in the ways that the environment and agriculture coexist. We have seen a lot of impacts from the shift to wine grapes and I have enjoyed discussing the impacts of a changing landscape. The new cannabis ordinance will also have an impact on agriculture and I look forward to creative ways to keep our County competitive, while maintaining that sense of who we are.

20 years from now, how do you envision Sonoma County?

My hope is that each community can adapt to the changes and grow, without losing sight of who we are. We live in a very desirable place. We have productive land, we have great access to the Coast and some of the most diverse landscape in the world. With careful planning, each community of Sonoma County will evolve its unique character to meet the demands of a growing population, without losing its individual character and community.

What is your favorite spot in Sonoma County?

It’s hard to beat the Sonoma Coast. As an avid swimmer and lover of the ocean, I enjoy the unique rugged character from Bodega Bay to Sea Ranch. Our daughter was married at Schoolhouse Beach and we have enjoyed vacation get-a-ways to Doran Beach and Salmon Creek.

Todd Tamura

Todd Tamura 250For our readers who don’t know you, can you provide a bit of background about yourself and what led you to serve on the Planning Commission?

I am a professional air pollution consultant, and my work incorporates both science/technical aspects and legal/regulatory aspects. I've developed an appreciation for both the need for specific rules and the burdens associated with the overwhelming number, complexity, and ambiguities of them, and a lot of my work has been associated with dealing with the latter, largely for industrial facilities (e.g., refineries, manufacturing facilities, electric power generating stations, etc.). My work is also constantly subject to critical review by highly qualified people, and I appreciate the validating aspect of that. I live and work in Petaluma, am married and have a 10-year-old son. I grew up in Oregon to a couple of great supportive parents who always set good examples; and through a combination of both hard effort and good fortune had the opportunity to get a great education (B.S. in Chemistry from Harvey Mudd College, M.S. in Chemistry from UCLA, M.S. in Technology and Policy from MIT). In my free time I enjoy swimming, playing the piano, and playing obscure strategy board games.

I think that like most (if not all) Commissioners, what led me to serve on the Planning Commission in the first place is that my Supervisor (David Rabbitt) asked me to. I didn't really know much about what the position entailed at the time and I talked to a few Commissioners about the position to make sure that I could make that commitment.

Is the Planning Commission your first position of service to the community?

No. As a kid I was an Eagle Scout, and we did a variety of community projects; that may have set the stage for me volunteering for things later in life. As an adult, I have been a volunteer tutor, and a Big Brother; I was also a high school teacher for a short period of time (it was a paid position rather than a volunteer one, but I'll still count that as a "position of service to the community"). I served as the educational outreach chair of the Air & Waste Management Association's New England Section for many years, have served as a peer reviewer for scientific journals, was president of Petaluma's Toastmasters club, and am also a member of the Government Affairs Committee of the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce (and was previously a Board member). I've given math and science presentations at my son's schools, am co-chair of the education committee for the Unitarian Universalists of Petaluma, and deliver Meals on Wheels with my family. I've probably missed a few things from that history...but I can see that as I look back at the things that I've mentioned here, they reflect my overall bent towards education and communication. (I know some people who have a somewhat pessimistic outlook on human nature, and typically they have done little to no volunteer work. My advice to them has been to go do some.)

Can you name a few highlights of your time on the commission?

That's tough to say; almost everything we decide is probably going to affect someone positively and someone negatively. I appreciate hearing from all the various perspectives. I should say more specifically that I particularly appreciate the fact that although we are dealing with contentious issues, the overwhelming majority of people who participate at the County's hearings (including Permit Sonoma staff) communicate sincerely, make valid points, and communicate in a mature manner. (It surprised me a little, since I've been to public hearings in numerous other jurisdictions where exaggerations, misleading statements, hysteria, invective, and posturing/grandstanding can take over; and while that can sometimes seem effective from one party's short-term view, it is often unfortunate and counterproductive on multiple other levels.) So maybe one of the highlights for me was after one of the more heated public comment periods, Commissioner Carr saying something like "I think that first of all everybody needs to CALM DOWN" and seeing the people on both sides seem to actually do that.

20 years from now, how do you envision Sonoma County?

In college, one of my professors once told me that "predicting the future based on the past is a bit like trying to stay on the road while looking only in your rearview mirror. You can do it successfully, as long as the road doesn't change." I expect that there will continue to be strong support for maintaining the urban growth boundaries and beautiful hillsides, so I expect the more densely populated parts to grow upwards rather than outwards. I see it continuing to be a beautiful and desirable place to live, which also means that I am concerned that the county will continue to be unaffordable for too many people. I imagine the average age of people in the county may increase, as younger people move to more affordable areas to buy homes.

What is your favorite spot in Sonoma County?

I haven't been everywhere in the county yet. I drove all over District 2 shortly after I became a Commissioner, and of course I've traveled to parts of the other Districts, but there are still a lot of parts I haven't been to yet. My favorite scenic tour to take visitors on is going out on Bodega Avenue towards the Sonoma Coast, up the coast towards Jenner, and then back in through Guerneville (sometimes visiting Armstrong Woods) and then visiting some of the Dry Creek wineries. Just this year I've taken some relatives (from Germany) and my college roommate's family (from Costa Rica) on that circuit. It's a beautiful county; when my wife and I went on our honeymoon in Tuscany, she remarked on the train how beautiful the landscape was with its rolling hills and vineyards and I had to say "yes…it reminds me of Sonoma County." We are all very fortunate to live here.