All Posts: Urban Growth Boundaries

Time to Renew Urban Growth Boundaries in Sonoma, Rohnert Park

Teri Shore, Sonoma Group Executive Committee

The best way to protect surrounding natural lands and build climate-smart, diverse communities for the next generation is to renew existing voter-approved Urban Growth Boundaries (UGB) before they expire.

All nine cities in Sonoma County adopted UGBs approved by an overwhelming majority of voters more than 20 years ago. Most cities have renewed those same boundaries by wide margins and without controversy for another 20 to 30 years. Next in line are Sonoma and Rohnert Park.

The UGB is simply a line around the city beyond which urban development is not allowed without approval of the voters. The UGBs protect open space and farm lands from sprawl and direct development into the city centers near jobs, schools, shops and public transit. The UGBs are the main reason that Sonoma County has kept its rural landscape and is now the gem of the Bay Area.

Rohnert Park UGB Back on Track
As a result of outreach by environmentalists and community activists, the Rohnert Park City Council recently voted unanimously to renew the city’s UGB with a vote of the people for another 20 years. It was set to expire in June 2020. The boundary and policies will remain the same, except for shrinking the UGB by 80 acres in the southeast corner south of Valley House Drive that overlapped with Penngrove. Those 80 acres then need to be added to the county community separators that surround the city.

The voters of Rohnert Park will vote on renewing the UGB with a ballot measure in a special election on Nov. 5. If you live in Rohnert Park or know someone who does, ask them to vote “yes” to renew the UGB. Also let us know if you have a group or neighborhood who’d like a presentation.

City of Sonoma UGB Under Threat
The Sonoma City Council has not yet decided how or when it will renew the city’s Urban Growth Boundary. Sierra Club is joining with other environmental groups and the community to urge the council to renew the existing UGB with a vote of the people before it expires in December 2020.

Sonoma has a new city council, city manager and planning director who are getting up to speed on the importance of the UGB as a key to maintaining the town’s rural character, preventing sprawl, and building a more climate-smart community. Unfortunately, a few housing advocates and developers are saying that we should expand into the greenbelt. They use are the same stale arguments from two decades ago that sprawling out is the answer to housing needs.

Most of us realize that the UGBs determine where we build, not what we build. That is decided by each city’s policies and decisions. UGBs have not caused the housing crunch. The rest of the Bay Area demonstrates that sprawl does not provide affordability.
The Sierra Club’s recent housing report documents all the reasons to focus on creating diverse, climate-smart neighborhoods where people of all incomes can live together while reducing single-auto travel.

We’ll need your help to convince city council members, including those endorsed by Sierra Club (Rachel Hundley, Logan Harvey and Amy Harrington), to take the lead in placing a renewal measure on the ballot next year. So far, Mayor Harrington and Councilmember David Cook have spoken in public meetings in support of the UGB renewal with a ballot measure and made sure that $100,000 was allocated in the budget to make it happen.

If the city council decides not to act, or proposes expansion or weakening of the policies, a group of Sonomans has formed the Citizens to Renew the City of Sonoma’s Urban Growth Boundary campaign committee to gather signatures if needed. Watch for updates!

For more info on the Urban Growth Boundaries, contact Teri Shore, Sierra Club Ex-Com, or contact the UGB Committee at