History of P.L.A.N.

We began as a grassroots community group in 2001. Grassroots means regular people, organizing to express sentiments about something of interest or concern. Our motivator at that time was a residential subdivision proposal that would have replaced the beautiful open space at Paula Lane and Sunset Drive, and destroy wildlife habitat, ruining the calm, historic rural charm of the Paula Lane area. From 2001 through 2005, we vigorously opposed the proposal at public meetings and in the community. In one public meeting, 289 citizens packed the City Council Chambers in support of our effort. Only 1 person that night spoke in public comment to support the developer. The developer's project manager also jumped up and exclaimed during the environmental review at the meeting, "Badgers are NOT going to stop this project!" The Petaluma Planning Commission unanimously voted, after review, to deny the development proposal. The developer appealed to the City Council who, after a public meeting, directed the application be returned to the Planning Commission for more review. We were fortunate to have the legal counsel of the law firm of Susan Brandt-Hawley, Esq. during this time. We also obtained our own experts and filed environmental reports containing factual information. In 2003, mammal biologist Kim Fitts of Bioconsultant LLC conducted an extensive habitat survey, with a report and mapping of the American Badger habitat on West Paula Lane. Focusing on the proposed property for subdivision, biologist Fitts' survey also included the adjacent property with contiguous habitat just south of the eventual open space land. Downed and no fencing, along with quiet, grassland hillsides supported year-round, extensive badger activity, as documented by biologist Fitts. The Paula Lane American Badger habitat and species were then included in the California Natural Diversity Database. Long-time residents of the area, some in their 80s and older, confirmed the presence of badgers on Paula Lane for about 100 years as part of the usual natural environment.

Three years into our more than full-time opposition effort, as we educated ourselves while moving ahead. P.L.A.N. applied for status as a public benefit, not for profit organization. Bodega Land Trust kindly fiscally sponsored P.L.A.N. as we awaited our tax exempt designation, received in 2004. In 2002, we had begun to advocate for open space preservation of the Paula Lane land, following a successful open space effort by the Friends of Paulin Creek in Santa Rosa for an 8-acre property there. The open space acquisition of that land was funded via a program of the County Open Space District, uses our ¼ cent sales tax to acquire and protect agricultural and open space lands. Joan Vilms, a highly respected land use consultant and all-around great human being, with reverence for American Badger and its role in ecosystems, as well as the importance of preserving open space in Sonoma County, joined our effort and assisted us through 2012. The Fitts habitat survey and mapping, along with an avian survey completed by respected Sonoma County biologist Dan Nelson, and the ongoing P.L.A.N. Wildlife Innventory, completed the real-life picture of the exceptional natural resources in the upland area of Paula Lane.

In 2005, after having the appeal of the denied proposal returned by the Petaluma City Council to the Planning Commission for more review, the developer quietly exited, leaving an open development proposal open at the City of Petaluma. In 2006, the property owners became willing sellers for open space acquisition. From 2006 to 2012, we then devoted more time and energy, advocating, moving through obstacles, including the collapse of the real estate market, with the assistance of consultant Joan Vilms. The Citizens Advisory Committee of the Open Space District in 2008 agreed with a need for a slight increase in acquisition funding, based on a new appraisal obtained by the City of Petaluma in 2010 (original open space application had been recommended for approval). In 2012, the acquisition was, at last completed. We credit Assistant City Manager Scott Brodhun for guiding the process, with the support of consultant Joan Vilms, to completion. Mr. Brodhun's kindness, integrity and relationship with the owners and their representatives were key components of, at long last, achieving the goal of open space acquisition and conservation of the Paula Lane land.

We share our history to illustrate that a grassroots effort such as this takes determination, trust, and mutually supportive efforts of many people. The right combination of all helped us reach our goal of open space acquisition after many years of advocacy, following the same for opposition to a proposed development.

Today, Paula Lane Action Network continues as a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization, focused on our mission and addressing new challenges in our area. We have fiscally sponsored Citizens Advocating for Roblar Rural Quality (CARRQ) and Eastside Neighbors Coalition in Petaluma, as both groups address inappropriate development proposals for land in their communities. We have been pleased to receive 3 grants from the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment to support our efforts toward open space preservation, American Badger protection, and upland habitat preservation.

Now, while we implement the open space project on Paula Lane via a 5-year Work Plan, we must address new challenges of habitat destruction that are unbelievable, considering our history.

(See Wildlife News and Conservation Alerts for more info and how you can help).

"At some point in life, the world's beauty becomes enough."

— Toni Morrison