In an uncharacteristically short meeting on Tuesday, the Sebastopol City Council tackled weed abatement, streetlight property fee assessments and proclaimed June LGBTQ+ Pride Month.
The brevity of the meeting was due to the continuance of two major items originally scheduled for Tuesday. Initial public hearings for the city’s overall budget and its capital investment program budget will be held at the June 15 meeting instead. Council members urged members of the public to attend and participate in budget hearings.
At the start of the meeting, Mayor Una Glass read a proclamation to the effect of celebrating Pride Month in Sebastopol this month. The proclamation begins with an assertion of the right of every citizen to experience equality and freedom from discrimination based on age, gender identity, race, color, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, and physical challenges, continuing to assert that every individual has intrinsic value as a human being.
Sebastopol is committed to providing a safe and inclusive community for LGBTQ+ community members, and to raise awareness of the existence of discrimination, acknowledging that despite great strides in LGBTQ+ rights, full equality and societal acceptance has not been achieved.
“While we as a society are slowly embracing new definitions of sexuality and gender, we must also acknowledge that the need for education and awareness remains vital to end discrimination and prejudice,” Glass read. “I encourage our residents to reflect on the ongoing struggle for equality members of the LGBTQ+ community face and celebrate the contributions made by the LGBTQ+ community to enhance our community.”
Two actions with direct impact on Sebastopol residents were also taken at the meeting.
The first regards streetlights. Maintenance of the Sebastopol streetlight system is funded through assessment fees on properties that benefit from the streetlights. The council voted to approve an Engineer’s Report including a diagram of properties included on the assessment.
Because there are no current projects, the total fee per parcel actually dropped this year, going from $32 to $25. The action taken by the council June 1 was the third and final action required to finalize this year’s assessment of the Special Lighting District, initially created in 1981, according to the staff report. No one from the public spoke for or against the issue.
The second item affecting city residents directly was the finalization and approval of a weed abatement program initially introduced April 6. The weed abatement program is not new, but it was in April of that properties were identified by Fire Chief Bill Braga for non-compliance with city ordinance regarding weeds this year.
Owners of the properties in question received a letter informing them they needed to abate the weeds on their properties, as they increase fire risk and have been declared a public nuisance. The public hearing on June 1 was an opportunity for identified properties owners to contest Braga’s designations.
Per city ordinance, if a property owner fails to abate their weeds following notification of non-compliance, the city has the authority to send a work crew onto the property to remove the weeds. The property owner would then be charged for the actual cost of the work in addition to an administrative fee. Failure to pay the fee would result in a lien on the property.
“After ten years of managing this program for the city, I have not had to one time use this ordinance that we have and basically force myself onto someone else’s private property to abate their weeds. I think pretty much everybody gets it. They understand, especially with the earlier fire seasons we’ve been getting,” Braga said.
A single member of the public made comment on the weed abatement program. Kyle Falbo, mathematics lecturer and frequent participant at city council meetings, urged the city to consider the effect weed abatement has on bees, suggesting a “patchwork” program that allowed weeds that sustained bees and other beneficial insects to remain.