The LIME Foundation’s Believe in the Dream Event Announced!

Northern California Public Media Honored as One of the Edward R. Murrow Award Winners

In the radio large market category, the California Newsroom won the award for Continuing Coverage for the story Bankrupt. Marc Albert contributed to this story as part of the Newsroom collaborative. Story here:
Bankrupt – The California Newsroom (in partnership with KQED, Northern California Public Media, The California Newsroom, KUNR, Capital Public Radio)
Statewide/ San Francisco, CA

In the radio small market category, Living Downstream won the award for Best Podcast. Steve Mencher produced and hosted this great project. This is season two of the series. Podcast compilation here:
Living Downstream: The Environmental Justice Podcast – Northern California Public Media

Northern California Public Media’s Announcement of Election of New Officers

April 28, 2022 – The Independent Public Television Station Association announces the election of new officers. Chair: Darren LaShelle, President and CEO of Northern California Public Media – comprised of KRCB PBS in Sonoma County and KPJK TV in San Mateo, CA. Vice Chair: Royal Aills, General Manager of RSU TV, a service of Rogers State University, in Claremore, OK.

LaShelle and Aills will lead the group for the next two years, coordinating efforts of America’s differentiated public television stations and independent CPB supported stations. They will represent IPTSA on the Public Television Affinity Group Coalition.

For more information, contact Dianne Mahanes at 707-584-2032

About IPTSA: IPTSA supports public television licensees who operate public television services either independently of PBS membership, or as PDP stations in their markets. The group meets electronically on a regular basis and works to share best practices and advocate on behalf of its member stations.

About the AGC: The Public Television Affinity Group Coalition (AGC) was founded to serve as a forum for addressing system-wide issues of interest to public television stations. It is a station-led coalition of two representatives each from public television’s major affinity groups – member organizations that represent public television stations based on licensee type, community size and service profile.

Marin Sonoma Impact Ventures Bets on Local Startups

A business venture with a dual goal of helping startups in Marin and Sonoma counties with networking and financing needs has been gaining momentum since launching at the height of the pandemic.

Marin Sonoma Impact Ventures formed in April 2020 and debuted two months later on Zoom. It started by signing up 30 local entrepreneurs, according to Zachary Kushel, founder and managing partner of the Corte Madera-based company.

“We now have 110 local founders — CEOs of young startup companies who are saying, ‘I don’t want to build in a vacuum,’” Kushel said. MSIV also currently has 38 local C-level executives that have signed on to help mentor the local founders, he noted.

MSIV has set up an investment portfolio that so far includes three businesses. The company is set to hold its first large in-person event later this month to bring together company founders, executives, investors and local leaders involved in Kushel’s venture.

Kushel calls MSIV a social enterprise, which he describes as a for-profit business with a social mandate. MSIV has a combined goal of growing the counties’ entrepreneurial community through networking, mentorship, capital investment and job creation.

“I think what’s different about MSIV than other past efforts in the North Bay that have had a focus on local economic development is that none of them have been driven out of the private sector,” Kushel said, adding prior efforts have come from the government, nonprofits or academia. “That’s certainly not a bad thing. It’s just that it becomes very different when you are harnessing the power of the private sector to make public good.”

Kushel said he believes MSIV is growing because of its specific focus on the two counties, whose entrepreneurs have largely been overshadowed by the bigger players in the Greater Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

Kushel, who previously served as head of business development at Glassdoor in Mill Valley, also has held leadership positions at a number of other companies, including Cisco Systems in San Jose; and SmithRx in San Francisco.

He has been steeped in his own research for years, finding that Marin and Sonoma counties’ entrepreneurs ought to be commanding more attention than they’ve been getting, he said.

“Local startups are undercapitalized, and I think starting to fix that is a big deal,” Kushel said.

In October, MSIV launched what Kushel said was the “first-ever regional venture capital fund that’s focused entirely on making investments in Marin and Sonoma counties’ startup companies.” He continues to raise funds but declined to provide details.

MSIV’s dual mandate of building a startup community and creating an investment portfolio so far has resulted in its making investments in three local businesses, Kushel said. Those business are Novi, a Larkspur-based technology platform for the consumer packaged goods sector; Finalis, an investment banking firm headquartered in San Francisco; and New Retirement, a financial planning technology solution in Mill Valley.

Marin Sonoma Impact Ventures has partnerships with the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce; Sonoma State University’s School of Business and Economics; the Barowsky School of Business at Dominican University of California in San Rafael; and Marin Economic Forum. Kushel sits on the board of advisers at Dominican University and the board of directors at Marin Economic Forum.

“Marin Sonoma Impact Ventures works with us as a collaborator in terms of sharing data, sharing strategies and inputs into initiatives that the county might be pursuing that meet the objectives of strengthening the economy,” said Mike Blakeley, CEO of Marin Economic Forum, a 501(c)3 public benefit organization.

Blakeley and Kushel first connected shortly after MSIV launched, and in August 2020, during the height of the pandemic, co-wrote a commentary that stressed the need to leverage the North Bay community’s resources and expertise to help support promising new local ventures. Their piece appeared in the Aug. 17, 2020 edition of the Business Journal.

Other partnerships Kushel has formed are still gaining steam. Those collaborations are directly focused on supporting the startup founders.

“We’ve been acquainted (with MSIV) for a couple of years, but haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to work closely yet,” Ethan Brown, interim executive director of Sonoma County Economic Development Board said, noting he plans to learn more at North Bay NEXT, MSIV’s inaugural conference set for May 17 at Dominican University. “We’re looking at how to better increase awareness of what they’re doing up here in Sonoma County at this point.”

Jean-Francois Coget, dean of the School of Business and Economics at SSU, said in an email statement that the school and MSIV have “vowed to collaborate and cooperate in helping create a supportive environment for entrepreneurship to thrive in the North Bay region. We haven’t yet implemented any specific project.”

The San Rafael Chamber of Commerce joined MSIV as a community partner last year, said Joanne Webster, president. And Cynthia Murray, president and CEO of North Bay Leadership Council, said the capital investment portion of MSIV’s business is particularly important.

“When we look at how to make the North Bay economically competitive and foster economic vitality, having MSIV giving these companies the financial assistance and coaching they need to start up brings great opportunity to our region,” Murray said in an email statement. “MSIV is filling a big void and couldn’t have come at a better time as we look at strengthening our economic recovery from the pandemic and the other cris(es) we are experiencing.”

Pedro Moura, cofounder and CEO of Flourish Fi, a technology company whose financial wellness app uses fun and entertainment to encourage people to save money, joined MSIV earlier this year purely for the networking component.

“Finding like-minded individuals is very important to me,” said Moura, whose company licenses its proprietary platform to banks, which in turn offer the app to customers.

Moura and co-founder Jessica Eting, who serves as chief operating officer, launched Flourish Fi in 2018 in Silicon Valley. The company has since gone 100% remote, with most workers distributed across the U.S., Brazil and Latin America; and Mexico, he said.

Moura, however, is based in Petaluma, which affords him the opportunity for in-person meetings.

“I’ve been able to be introduced with folks that have built technology companies around the financial services industry, and that have scaled those organizations,” Moura said. “As founders in the early journey of the company, it’s important to have access to people who have done it.”

Sonoma County Winegrowers’ Karissa Kruse is Farming for the Future

Have you ever wondered how the farm of the future will look? Karissa Kruse, President of Sonoma County Winegrowers, will be sharing her insights on improving climate adaptation best practices by leveraging the latest innovation and technology at the Future Drinks Expo 2022, which is happening on May 17, 2022.

Join the Revolution

Technology is changing the drinks industry’s landscape at a phenomenal pace. Will you move ahead with the times or will you let your competitors race ahead of you? Join the Future Drinks Expo.

The farm of the future is starting in Sonoma County, the nation’s most sustainable wine-growing region. Sonoma County winegrowers have used the past two years to rethink everything they do to ensure their further sustainability goals. This includes creating the resources, programs, and collaborations to accelerate their efforts to successfully farm in the future. The intent is for Sonoma County to be an active case study and living lab for the world, and their recent collaboration with Ford Pro is a big step to achieving that mission. Learn about their mission and the path ahead for farming in the future from Karissa Kruse at The Future Drinks Expo.

According to Karissa, this ground-breaking climate and sustainability program, The Climate Adaptation Certification program, created by the California Land Stewardship Institute (CLSI), will assist Sonoma County farmers in maximizing best practices for climate adaptation, using the latest in innovation and technology, and realizing that farms must adapt to Mother Nature each year.

While adapting to the current climate, regulatory, marketplace, community, culture, and business situations, best management practices increase their potential to store carbon and cut emissions. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to these problems, but there is a means to enhance processes year after year.

Learn all about the ground-breaking climate and sustainability program, The Climate Adaptation Certification program. This program draws on the local wine-growing community’s commitment to sustainability and the lessons learned during the previous two years as a climate adaptation pilot. The Farm of the Future provides a unique perspective on farming, best practices, present conditions, and how to continue to encourage innovation, thought leadership, and collaborations to sustain the grape growing in Sonoma County.

Karissa Kruse is the President of the Sonoma County Winegrowers, a marketing and educational group dedicated to promoting and preserving Sonoma County as one of the world’s best grape-growing regions. Karissa joined Sonoma County Winegrowers in September 2012 as Director of Marketing and was announced President on May 1, 2013. Kruse has directed the strategy and implementation of Sonoma County’s promise to become America’s first 100 percent certified sustainable wine area since taking over the senior leadership post at the Sonoma County Winegrowers.

Her innovative approach has earned Sonoma County Winegrowers international recognition, and she’s been invited to speak at major conferences throughout the world. In January 2016, Kruse relaunched the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation to continue to lead in the social responsibility aspect of sustainability. In healthcare, affordable housing, childcare, and education, the Foundation works to help local agricultural employees and their families. She is currently the Foundation’s executive director.

She has over 20 years of marketing, brand management, strategic planning, and business development experience. Karissa has worked for General Mills, Universal Studios, Mattel, and Dairy Management. She owns a 25-acre tract on Sonoma Mountain with five acres planted to winegrapes and is a partner in a small winery called Argot Wines. She is a Wharton Women in Leadership member and serves on the Alumni Advisory Board for Wharton’s Initiative on Global Environmental Leadership. Karissa is a FIVS Environmental Sustainability Working Group and the German Marshall Fund Alumni Leadership Council member.

It is a great opportunity for you to meet and collaborate with Karissa Kruse at the Future Drinks Expo on May 17, 2022, at South San Francisco Conference Center, San Francisco. The conference timings are 9 am to 5 pm, and Ms. Kruse will be seen sharing her insights in an allocated time slot of 9 am to 9.20 am. Grab your tickets here.

Cornerstone Properties Working on Housing and Child Care in New Downtown Santa Rosa Development

Cornerstone Properties, a North Bay property owner, is developing a landmark housing project in Santa Rosa’s downtown core at 566 Ross Street and has announced a significant community benefit as a component of the development. “We are thrilled to include the first significant quality child care facility in the heart of downtown Santa Rosa as part of our project,” said Pauline Block, who is overseeing the project for Cornerstone. “The facility will provide a unique amenity to residents of the building as well as provide a tremendous resource for our community members who live and work near downtown.”

A total of 52 children will be able to receive care at the new facility operated by Storybook Village Preschool. The facility will have space for toddler and preschool-aged children, serving young children from 18 months until entering kindergarten. While the facility will be part of the new housing development, families will not have to be residents for their children to attend.

Cornerstone selected Storybook Village with the assistance of local child care experts and saw a natural fit during that process. “We selected Storybook Village because of the quality of their services and their vision for what this should be,” said Ms. Block. “Everyone at Cornerstone believes in something more than just constructing a building. We are in this to help make Downtown Santa Rosa a healthier, more vibrant and activated space for children, families, and our community to enjoy.”

Storybook Village’s proposal emphasized giving families access to affordable care by accepting vouchers and partnering with agencies that support families with low-income qualifications; providing nutritious meals to all children so they are guaranteed to have their basic needs met for a majority of the day if their family dynamic is at-risk; including a community garden to promote healthy children and menus while implementing a Garden Curriculum and fostering a love for nature; investing in the early childhood education workforce through community resources, connections, and professional development; and encouraging family engagement and parent participation to promote parent education and family support through understanding the value of quality child care and accessing community resources.

Nicole Monachello, Director & Owner of Storybook Village notes how meaningful this opportunity is. “Since the need to do more for Sonoma County children and their families is how Storybook Village Preschool came to be, I am honored and delighted to be on this journey with Cornerstone to design a high-quality preschool learning environment. I hope our partnership with Cornerstone will become a model for surrounding communities since all early childhood programs can thrive with community support in developing future buildings and renovating current ones. Providing quality child care is more than caring for children; it’s caring about our future. Cornerstone’s commitment and enthusiasm to build a facility we can be proud of provides enormous long-term benefits to our community, making this a remarkable opportunity for today’s children and families, the child care workforce, and tomorrow’s society.”

The project represents a collaborative effort to increase access to quality early care and education. Cornerstone Properties, the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber, the City of Santa Rosa, and First 5 Sonoma County came together in support of this opportunity to meet the child care needs of the project’s future residents, to support our local economy, and as part of a larger goal to help ensure that all children have access to quality early learning opportunities that will increase their chances of success in life.

“In Sonoma County, we know that as much as 70% of a family’s income can be taken up just by housing and child care alone,” says Peter Rumble, CEO of the Santa Rosa Metro Chamber. “That makes the day-to-day lives of many in our community extremely difficult, and frankly it isn’t good for the economic health of the community in total. The Chamber has devoted a tremendous amount of work to address these two challenges, and having a partner like Cornerstone make such an important investment is incredible.”

First 5 Sonoma County Executive Director Angie Dillon-Shore says, “What we have experienced over the last several years, through natural disasters and the pandemic, have shown just how important quality child care is for the health and vitality of our community. It has also shown how out of reach quality care is right now, and that if we are going to change that fact, it will take bold and courageous steps from people like the folks at the Cornerstone team.”

“This is exactly the kind of project the City Council wanted to encourage through its policy changes over the last several years,” says Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Rogers. “A project that will provide the kind of housing our families need in our downtown core and provide resource that our entire community is so desperate for right now. I couldn’t be happier to support this project.”

The project will break ground this year, with a 24-month construction timeline.

About Cornerstone

Cornerstone is one of the largest commercial property owner and developers in the North Bay. Locally owned and managed, Cornerstone prides itself on caring for its clients by providing unmatched administrative and facilities-based service. In addition to leasing their building spaces, Cornerstone is committed to transforming the North Bay and being a community leader in finding solutions to address issues such as housing, child care, public transportation and workforce training. Their mission is to support local, sustainable activities and bring more business to the North Bay. As a forward-thinking and innovative company, Cornerstone continues to identify opportunities in the community where they can make a difference. More information is available at

PG&E Expands Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings Following Significant Wildfire Prevention Success During 2021 Pilot

With California’s growing wildfire risk, PG&E will expand its use of an advanced technology that quickly and automatically shuts off power within one-tenth of a second if a potential threat to the electric system, such as a tree branch falling into a powerline, is detected. Launched as a pilot in July 2021, Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings (EPSS) will be expanded to all distribution powerlines in high fire-threat areas this year.

“As we strive for our goal of zero utility-caused wildfires, we recognize a critical need to deploy these enhanced safety settings on our powerlines in the areas that face the greatest threat,” said Mark Quinlan, PG&E’s vice president of Transmission and Distribution System Operations. “In tandem with the company’s other wildfire prevention efforts for 2022, including beginning to underground 10,000 miles of electric distribution powerlines and installing more weather stations, high-definition cameras and microgrids, the expansion of these advanced safety settings will help make our system safer for our customers.”As of Dec. 31, 2021, these enhanced safety settings reduced California Public Utilities Commission-reportable ignitions by 80% on EPSS-enabled circuits in High Fire-Threat Districts (HFTDs) last year. This is compared to the prior three-year average across more than 11,500 HFTD miles.

This year, PG&E plans to expand the program across 25,500 HFTD distribution line miles  within the company’s service area and in select adjacent areas. Compared to Public Safety Power Shutoffs, which are a last resort when severe weather conditions such as high winds are forecast, EPSS is effective any time when extremely dry fuels make powerline faults more likely to spark a fire.

Enhanced customer support

Although these new safety settings make the electric system safer, having the power turn off quickly and automatically results in customer outages. PG&E is working hard to reduce the outages and increase the resources available to affected customers. During the 2021 pilot, after optimizing the equipment and improving the efficiency of restoration processes, the average customer outage length on EPSS-enabled circuits decreased by 40%.

PG&E also has resources to help customers prepare for outages and stay safe. In 2022, changes to our programs include:Additional improvements to the program in 2022 will enable a more surgical approach to minimize the frequency and duration of outages and reduce the number of customers impacted. That includes being operationally flexible during wildfire season when it comes to enabling the enhanced safety settings circuits. PG&E is also bolstering communication and engagement efforts with potentially affected customers and communities in HFTDs and nearby areas during and after service interruptions. This will include automated outage alerts with improved estimated time of restoration information. Additional communications include newsletters, webinars, letters and emails; updating the EPSS page on our website; and providing information via social media sites such as Nextdoor and Facebook.

  • Increased funding and expansion of eligibility for the Generator Rebate Program, which is for customers who rely on well water, as well as for customers in our Medical Baseline Program and certain small businesses.
  • Removal of the low-income requirements for the Portable Battery Program, available for eligible customers in our Medical Baseline Program who live in high fire-threat areas.
  • The expansion of the Backup Power Transfer Meter, now being offered to all customers on EPSS-enabled circuits.

Additional actions include:

Before wildfire season: Engineering settings on devices on powerlines to ensure wildfire mitigation benefit and improved coordination amongst devices. Conducting preseason engagement with customers, media, agencies and additional stakeholders to proactively communicate the 2022 Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings expansion and available support. Performing system maintenance and vegetation management to make the electric system safer and improve reliability.

During wildfire season: Engaging customers and communities by sharing information, resources and support through multiple channels; pre-staging critical customer solutions, such as temporary generation and auto-transfer switches at schools and hospitals; informing customers when circuits return to normal settings with the onset of saturating rain. Staffing up and preparing helicopters to respond quickly to outages when they occur and establishing a robust outage review process to address outage causes and mitigate future outages.

After wildfire season: Sharing key program takeaways from the year via progress reports, emails, website updates and social media; and incorporating lessons learned into future program plans.

For more information, please visit

SOMO Village: A Model for Mindful Living

After years on the drawing board, construction is set to begin for a sustainable community at SOMO Village in Rohnert Park.

A brand-new neighborhood is on the rise in Rohnert Park. After 17 years, construction is about to begin on housing at SOMO Village, in the city’s southeastern corner, and the vision of a planned community with sustainability at its core is becoming a reality. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s a dream come true for SOMO Village’s CEO Brad Baker, and it’s a welcome addition to the City of Rohnert Park as well.


The concept for SOMO Village began to take shape in 2005, when Codding Enterprises, a Santa Rosa firm headed by Lois and Lisa Codding, was in the running to purchase the 175.14-acre site from Agilent, a spin-off of Hewlett Packard, which had previously owned and occupied the site. When it decided to sell, Agilent sent a Request for Proposal to several real estate companies, and Codding Enterprises decided to pursue the opportunity. Agilent narrowed the field to three groups, of which Codding Enterprises was one, and asked each of the final bidders to submit a short essay describing what they would do with the property.

Codding Enterprises was involved principally in malls, but Brad Baker, who had become CEO several months earlier, suspected that with competition from companies like Amazon, the shopping center business could be facing rough times ahead. He believed diversification was a wise strategy, and so he wrote a business plan describing a mixed-use development that included businesses, restaurants, recreational activities and a residential component. The idea was that kids could go to school close to home, and residents would have easy access to amenities such as a coworking facility, a coffee shop, entertainment, food-and-wine events and a farmers market. “They could have somewhat of an urban lifestyle, but in a suburban setting,” he explains. And, equally important, the entire community would be sustainable. The proposal was convincing, and Codding Enterprises succeeded in acquiring the property, which consisted of several parcels and was then known as Sonoma Mountain Village.

Codding Enterprises submitted initial plans for redevelopment to the city in 2010, but the real estate industry was still experiencing challenges due to the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the subsequent recession, and it took several years to recover. Consequently, the project languished until 2016, when SOMO Village became an independent development company. “My partners didn’t really have the appetite for it,” explains Baker, but he was committed, and he bought out Codding Enterprises and an equity partner and took ownership of the 175-acre development. The purchase required substantial capital. “As a result, we didn’t have a lot of money,” he says, and to raise the funds to go ahead with redevelopment, the new company needed to earn revenue by filling the existing six commercial buildings. By the beginning of 2022, five of them were 100% occupied, and one was two-thirds full. “By having the buildings full and making money, that’s enabled us to be in the financial position to finally move on the residential component,” he says. The tenants include food-related companies such as Morton & Bassett Spices, Traditional Medicinals and World Centric. “Most of our tenants have done relatively well during the pandemic,” he says, pointing out that because people weren’t going out, many of them spent more on quality products to use at home.

Building a community

When Hewlett Packard occupied the property, it erected a large fence and guard shacks to deter unwanted visitors. “It was a bit of a fortress out there,” says Baker. SOMO Village removed them and welcomed people to use the property’s trails and open space. Thus, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced parks and many outdoor spaces to close, they had a place where they could walk, enjoy the fresh air and exercise their dogs. “We built up a lot of good will,” he says.

Meanwhile, the vision for a sustainable community advanced. In January 2021, the Rohnert Park City Council approved final plans for 1,750 residential units, 38.54 acres of parks and open space to be built around the approx. 600,000 square feet of repurposed commercial buildings, which will have office space, coworking, a gym, coffee shop, a brewery, restaurants and bars. Next, work to ready the site for development began, setting the stage for the new community to grow. Crews broke ground in September 2021 and graded the area designated for construction, put in a sewer system, installed storm drains and provided access to domestic water. Dry utilities come next, and all power is electric from renewable sources—with no natural gas—in keeping with sustainable practices and a goal of zero-carbon energy. Baker expects the preparatory work to be completed by June, and a national homebuilder will start constructing homes in the summer. Completion of first phase of residential development is projected to be mid-2024, and the entire development will take 10 to 12 years.

Residences will consist of a mixture of apartments, townhouses and single-family homes with a variety of designs and color schemes. “We have such a large project, we’ll have all kinds of houses,” says Baker. Garages will be placed behind the homes rather than facing the street, with a system of alleys to provide access. “It’s not the traditional cookie-cutter way of doing things,” says Baker, explaining when garages are in the front, walking on the sidewalk is difficult. Starting in the 1950s, he adds, the focus was on the automobile, and it was a factor in design that made garages prominent. Baker wanted to take the emphasis away from cars, however, and create a better experience for pedestrians. “We think it’s a better aesthetic, and it makes for a better neighborhood,” he says.

As Baker and his team started filling the current buildings and planning for new commercial development, they recognized the need to set aside space for the type of businesses that would be desirable amenities for residents of a mixed-use community. Sally Tomatoes has been a popular fixture in the commercial complex on Valley House Drive since 2007 and consists of a catering service, Heritage Café and a large center for private and philanthropic events, and SOMO Village’s event center, which is also well established, features a 1-acre courtyard and 40-by-30-foot stage for professional entertainment. Stephen Marley will perform there in his Babylon by Bus Tour in June, and SOMO Village hosted Transcendence Theatre Company’s Broadway Holiday at the Drive-In in December 2020, when the local theater company was unable to use its usual venues as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. New businesses in various stages of development include a brewery, gym, coworking space and coffee shop. The coworking facility is under construction and will open first, and the coffee shop and brewery will begin operations this spring or summer. The intention is to make the commercial center a place that will be attractive to residents and meet their needs. “It’s really what we’re calling the hub of the community,” he says. “Kind of our downtown if you will.” He’d also like to have a market with good produce, meat and prepared food, and although a developer is interested in building one at the corner of Camino Colegio and Bodway Parkway, which Baker considers a good location, SOMO Village isn’t ready for a market yet.

SOMO Village is also home to Credo High School, a tuition-free, college-prep public charter school that offers a curriculum based on Waldorf principles. “It’s a great school. I’m a big fan of what they do over there,” says Baker, who would like to see a K-8 Waldorf school in SOMO Village as well. Discussions are ongoing, he says, but it would take several years to make an elementary school a reality, and it’s a goal for the future. Meanwhile, children could attend nearby Monte Vista Elementary School, which is within walking distance.


Sustainability is integral to SOMO Village, and much of the infrastructure was already in place when the company acquired the property. Baker explains that it was developed but not densely, and excess parking and some landscaping was suitable for turning into sites for housing in locations where residents can live a sustainable lifestyle by walking or cycling to access the services they need, instead of getting into a car. Building materials will come from sustainable sources, and all energy will be clean and renewable, provided by more than 3MW of on-site rooftop solar installations. Storm water is usually untreated and goes directly into rivers and streams, but retention ponds and bioswales with special soils and gravel will filter the water to remove substances like oil residue from cars to purify the water before releasing it into local waterways. In addition, a buffer zone will protect the California Tiger Salamander, which has a decreasing population and is considered vulnerable.

The design of the project is based on the principles of One Planet Living, and the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership for Energy and Environmental Design (LEED-ND) has recognized the project’s sustainable elements by certifying it as Platinum, its highest level.

In addition, “Food is a really big deal,” says Baker, noting that Sonoma County is synonymous with good food and wine. He’s enthusiastic about organic gardens that will provide food for the community and explains that SOMO Village replaced a lawn with a food forest that boasts orange, apple and nectarine trees and 600 blueberry bushes that he got from a farmer in Sebastopol, who had to remove them. Blueberry bushes need a lot of water, and to provide enough, the company will install a system to capture rainwater from the event center’s roof, which it collects in big storage tanks and uses to water the blueberries and other food plants. Credo High School has a 5,000-square-foot garden, and SOMO Village also has a small raised-bed vegetable garden as well. In addition, it owns a 25-acre parcel nearby in an unincorporated part of the county, and he would like to see a major sustainable farm there, with vegetables, an orchard, livestock and an educational component as well as facilities such as a barn. “That’s where I envision our major farm going,” he says. “That’s where you could make a big dent in feeding the community.”

Along with nutritious food, SOMO Village encourages walking and biking as part of a healthy lifestyle. The Cotati SMART station and Sonoma State University are a short walk away, and Baker is looking forward to the construction of SMART’S bicycle-pedestrian pathway, which will allow SOMO Village residents to go to Santa Rosa and Petaluma without getting into a car.

Health and happiness are a priority, and in addition to activities such as outdoor yoga classes, concerts and a wellness fair that took place in October 2021, art is prominent. It’s a passion for Baker, and he believes that experiencing public art is gratifying. “If you live in SOMO Village, you’ll have a lot of beautiful art,” he says, adding that a lot of wonderful pieces are behind locked gates where few people can enjoy them. A 10,000-square-foot contemporary art gallery is in the village center, and outdoor installations are scattered throughout the property and accessible to the public. Burning Man artists were short of work because of cancellations during the pandemic, and SOMO Village commissioned several projects from them. Some are in the process of being fabricated, and others have already been placed. One is a mammoth she-wolf, and kids’ eyes light up when they see it. Children can play on an installation of giant tomatoes and crawl on big rocks, which are natural art, and they have a great time. “Artists are talented people, and they love to have people enjoy their art,” says Baker, who is pleased to support them and offer art to the community.

Meeting needs

The Rohnert Park community is excited that the project is finally moving forward, and planning manager Jeffrey Beiswenger reports that the city expects to bring the design of the first 150 homes to the SOMO Village Design Review Board for consideration this spring. “A really nice thing about SOMO village is that it provides a brand-new neighborhood for Rohnert Park,” he says, observing that it’s urban in terms of density and housing type, making it different to the rest of the city with a compact walkable block pattern, and small parks sprinkled throughout. The project also features a significant amount of preserved natural open space areas. In addition, its commercial space is appealing. “It has a built-in town center with an existing commercial area,” he says, describing it as having a village-center atmosphere that will bring some additional commercial activity to that part of Rohnert Park.

The new housing will enhance the village ambience, and at the same time, with more than 1,700 varied residences, it will go a long way toward helping Rohnert Park meet its housing needs. “SOMO Village is very critical to our meeting the future housing needs of Rohnert Park, including affordable housing,” says Beiswenger. State Housing Law mandates that community provide for homes affordable to all income groups. The city is starting a process to update the housing element in its general plan. The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) identifies the total number of housing units every local government must provide for, separating it into four affordability levels. The most recent plan was approved in 2014, and governments must now plan for the requisite amount of housing for the period from 2023 to 2031. The Association of Bay Area Governments determines the RHNA in the nine Bay Area counties, and Rohnert Park councilmember Susan Adams and Sonoma County supervisor David Rabbitt serve on the executive board.

For the people creating SOMO Village, though, it’s about community and quality of life. “A big part of what we’ve always tried to do is create community,” says Baker. People are looking for a community they can be proud of, with neighbors they like and amenities close by so they can walk to them. He expects the homes will appeal to a variety of people, including older folks, young families and those with diverse income levels. “I think we’ll hit all the major demographics.” He points out that Sonoma County has a big shortage of affordable housing, and so units to meet that need will come first, with larger, more spacious houses following. “We will get a broad swathe of folks interested in those affordable units,” he says, speculating that they might be teachers, firefighters and people who work in Sonoma County, but can’t afford to live locally and must commute long distances. Bus stops are nearby for those who want to use public transit.

“We’re looking forward to the next phase big time, which is getting this housing up and getting these amenities that we’ve been focusing on for the last year or so,” he says. He credits a team of people who like working together, enjoy the work and believe in the mission and making the idea of SOMO Village come to life. “It’s finally happening,” he says. “It’s been a long journey, but it’s been a good one.”


  1. Walkable, bikeable, easy access to transit
  2. Multi-use public spaces
  3. Balance of land use with space for living, work, shopping, recreation, parks, education and culture
  4. Diversity of housing types, density and prices
  5. Art in public spaces
  6. Sustainable design according to the principles of One Planet Living

Source: SOMO Village


SOMO Village consists of 175 acres made up of three parcels at the intersection of Bodway Pkwy. and Camino Colegio in southeastern Rohnert Park.

Large northern parcel: 98.06 acres

Southern parcel: 96.93 acres

Small northern parcel: 0.15 acres

The Final Development Plan shows a site capacity for a variety of housing types with a mixture of rental and housing for sale, totaling 1,750 units.

482 detached single-family units

382 townhomes

830 multifamily and mixed-use units

56 accessory dwelling units

If all 1,694 primary homes are built, 254 will be affordable dwelling units.

Space designated for commercial, office, retail and industrial use totals 823,000 square feet.

700,000 in existing buildings

103,000 newly constructed mixed-use retail

20,000 child care and fitness center space

Congratulations to the NBLC Members Chosen as Bohemian’s Best of the North Bay 2022

Readers Picks 2022

  • Best Home Improvement Store – Sonoma County – Friedman’s Home Improvement
  • Best Outdoor Music Venue – Sonoma County – Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center
  • Best Bank – Business – Sonoma County – Exchange Bank
  • Best Bank – Consumer – Sonoma County – Exchange Bank, Napa County – Bank of Marin – Bank of Napa
  • Best Credit Union – In both Sonoma and Napa County – Redwood Credit Union
  • Best Healthcare Clinic – Napa County – Kaiser Permanente Napa
  • Best Local Hospital – Sonoma County – Kaiser Permanente
  • Best OB/GYN – Sonoma County – Amy Merchant, MD – Kaiser Permanente
  • Best Oncologist – Sonoma County – Zeyad Kanaan, MD – Sutter Health
  • Best Pediatrician – Sonoma County – Elizabeth Culhane, MD – Providence Medical Group
  • Best Urgent Care – Sonoma County – Sutter Health, Napa County – Kaiser Permanente Napa

Congratulations to all of the winners!