Red Currants
Red Currants

By Sam Polly of Streamline Planning Consultants

Quietly stepping between the deer tracks, a loud buzz drums my ears as an Allen’s hummingbird shoots past me on its way its next feeding location. Careful not to step on the busy ground bees making their nests in the sand, I listen to the yellow breasted chat talking the morning up from his treetop perch. As the morning fog gives way to the intense valley heat, I marvel at the lush, green appearance of the upcoming chestnut trees and fruit tree rootstocks surrounding me during the driest year on record. Thanks to the permaculture practices we’ve employed in this garden, minimal water has been required to produce such succulent growth. Reflecting on the food prices I observed during last week’s grocery store visit, I smile knowing this garden will soon help reduce visitors’ food bills.

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horse_rightofWay

photo source: unknown

Being involved in the community in which we live and work is a priority to Streamline Planning. All of us want to leave a legacy of making a difference, even in small ways. Reaching out by attending meetings of local action groups, talking to people, taking the time to notice and do something, learning and applying what we’ve learned; these are all good ways toward progress.

One such group is called the McKinleyville Organizing Committee, or MOC. They have been meeting at least monthly since March of 2013, and regularly have between 15-25 attendees. Their purpose is to make a difference in McKinleyville. They are a part of a regional organizing network call PICO, whose motto is Unlocking the Power of People. By meeting with the people in power that have the resources and authority to act, MOC can be instrumental in bringing about the changes wanted in their community. Read More →

Basket of Apples

The typical backyard has an apple tree or two. The apples usually all come on at once and are often best for one use, such as baking or eating fresh, but not ideal for multiple uses. Imagine if you could, on one tree, have apples ideally suited for eating, baking, pies, dehydrating, juicing and saucing. Envision red, green, yellow, maroon, gold and multi-colored apples on the same tree. Now stretch the ripening period throughout the apple season from late July into November and you begin to see the possibilities the skill of grafting can provide you. And that’s just apples…

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Part 3: The Home Stretch
By: Bob BrownPrincipal

Okay you have made it this far. What can you expect to happen next? Maybe it has been a while since you have heard from the Planning Department. You got busy managing your business, expecting your application to be almost approved. You call up and find that it is sitting on a desk collecting dust. What now?

  1. Push. Know that the Planner is working on a pile of projects that came in before yours. How important is your project? Can you wait or what happens if your project gets stalled? At some point in the process it is your turn to have a staff planner work on your project. Keep checking in to ask about progress. Know that when problems arise it is easier for the planner to set your project aside to work on other projects. Stay in contact, return emails, phone calls and respond to requests for information as quickly as possible. Don’t lose the momentum that your project is gaining or it may be slow starting again.
  2. It’s Understandable. The Planner’s role is to assist and represent the public, including you. You deserve straight forward answers to your questions. They should be able to answer why and in a manner that you can understand. A planner that gives me an answer I don’t like but does so respectfully I can respect. A planner that lays down the law because of their position (“It’s that way because I say so”) –that is when I make the call to their supervising planner or director. Planners have bad days like the rest of us –give them some grace; but constant bad attitudes shouldn’t be tolerated. They are public servants, whether they like that term or not.
  3. On Guard. There is a set process of taking your project through approval. If you act like a jerk –there are sometimes ‘special processes’ just for you. Remember Part 1 Tips –your involvement in this process is like an investment, look at it as a sales pitch to get your project approved. Keep the goal in mind and don’t let petty attitudes get in the way, especially yours. Know that it can be a stressful process –guard your responses carefully.
  4. Terminology. There is also set terminology. You should be given a clear understanding of the process, some best case/worst case scheduling dates and an understanding of all the jargon that is thrown out during the process. The Planners role is to help you understand this process. Keep asking questions until you understand it.
  5. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?  If your project goes to a public hearing (e.g. Planning Commission hearing) then notices are sent out to the neighborhood surrounding the project. Where you may be working with Planning staff for months the neighborhood may know nothing about your project until a week ahead of the public hearing. People generally are not comfortable with change, no matter how wonderful you think your project is. In order to review your application the neighborhood may need to take a day off work and who really likes to go to night meetings anyway? Most applications go to the Planning Commission with a recommendation of approval because all the known concerns are worked out ahead of time. This makes the neighborhood mad because they think it’s a done deal and they haven’t been able to express their concerns or ask their questions.
    So here is the question. Do you want to engage the neighborhood earlier in the process to see if you can inform them about your project, listen to their concerns and address their issues? Or do you want to risk delay in your project as the Planning Commission continues your project to the next meeting so staff has a chance to address those changes?
  6. What else happens when you deal with a concerned neighborhood? Petition drives, neighborhood organization meetings, pulling in attorneys or environmental advocacy groups, presenting challenges to the process or substance of the staff determinations, etc. The public has been given the right to be involved in this process. Alleviating their concerns with good design and then reaching out to the community to inform and to listen goes a long way to set aside the need for the neighborhood to take these other extreme measures.
  7. Business Advocacy. Where a neighborhood may be concerned with negative impacts there is also a need in the greater community for businesses providing jobs, services, goods; exactly what your business is proposing. Most people who show up at public hearings are people who have concerns about the project. It is sometimes helpful to have those who support your project or are part of the business community to show up and speak. They speak for the greater good of the larger community that goes beyond the neighborhood setting. Request support from your clients and vendors, either by showing up at a meeting or writing a letter of support. Why is your business important to the community?
  8. Project Approval-what then? As you pat yourself on the back know that it isn’t over yet. Talk with your planner to learn about when conditions or fees need to be paid, other reviews or permits are necessary and more important when your project approval becomes final. There usually is an appeal period where people can challenge the decision made on your project.
  9. Dream On. You just went through a long, expensive process. You have become a different person having experienced this process and you will probably never want to go through anything like it again. You question the sanity of anyone who does this for a living, including your consultant.

There are a lot of mixed emotions you might be experiencing. But setting aside the hurt feelings, the attacks, the expenses –remember your initial goal. You have approval of your project and it is now up to you to make the most of it. But you can do it because this is your business. This is what you are good at doing. This is your dream, your vision.

Part 1: Stomaching the Permitting Process

Part 2: Getting Your Permit Processed

Streamline Planning Consultants is a local permitting / business advocacy firm and has obtained permits for many local business expansions and relocations. They offer free consultations if you are considering a business move.

Visit our website www.streamlineplanning.net
Contact Bob Brown bob@streamlineplanning.net 

Bird On A Wire | House Sparrow (English Sparrow)

House Sparrow on a Wire

As I opened the bird house, my brain tried to catch up with the gray blur that I’d seen one thousandth of a second earlier. My head recoiled as the impact of the feathered body, sharp beak and claws left a strange sensation on my eye socket and cheek. I didn’t realize the hazard of checking a bird box containing a setting hen that refused to leave upon my tapping of the mounting pole. Regaining my composure, I peeked inside the feather-lined grass cup to find four tiny, pinkish white eggs.

 

House Sparrow Hen

House Sparrow Hen

The adventure began two years ago when Streamline Planning staff decided to do our part to bolster the local cavity nesting bird population. These populations have declined dramatically over the past century. Dead trees that contained the holes used by native cavity nesting birds have been largely removed by home-builders, developers and agriculture operators. Wooden fence posts that provided cavities have been replaced by metal posts. Equally devastating to native cavity nesters has been the introduction of European starlings, English sparrows, unrestrained house cats and feral cats.

Tree Swallow Tail Fan

Tree Swallow Tail Fan

Having prior experience with building species-specific nest boxes, we built and ordered several styles of nest boxes using the tried and true North American Bluebird Society (NABS) specifications. Mounted on custom predator-proof poles, these boxes exclude all predators except English sparrows. The three main birds that use these houses are western bluebirds, violet green swallows and tree swallows. All of these birds eat pesky insects; up to 60 insects per hour for peak consumption of 850 insects per day! Watching a nearby cavity-nesting bird family grow up brings joy to adults and children alike.

Over the past two seasons, Streamline staff has enjoyed the privilege of installing 12 nest boxes from McKinleyville and Fieldbrook to Eureka. Several locations include both the Cypress Grove Chevre dairy and creamery, MCSD’s Hiller Park, Fieldbrook Community Church, and the Eureka Municipal Golf Course. We look forward to expanding the program around the county and encompassing small cavity nesters such as wrens and chickadees in the coming season.