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August 23-29, 2006

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News Briefs

By Patricia Lynn Henley

Rolling Along (Not)

After decades spent steering his wheelchair along the edge of Highway 12 in Boyes Hot Springs, and more than 23 years trying to get Caltrans to improve the situation, paraplegic Jeff Stuhr is taking legal action to force officials to remove concrete sidewalk stairs barring his safe off-roadway progress. He also wants a ramp added to a curb around a nearby Sonoma Valley bus stop. Stuhr's attorney, Mark Potter of the Center for Disability in Southern California, recently filed a claim for $25,000 against Sonoma County, the first step in pursuing a lawsuit against both the county and Caltrans. Deputy counsel Brian Nussbaum says, "The county can't pay damages on something it doesn't own and doesn't have any control over," noting that the sidewalk is within Caltrans' right-of-way. There are ongoing negotiations with Caltrans about having the county maintain these sidewalks, but no agreement has been reached. Three years ago, the steps were torn out for a single day, but were immediately rebuilt. Stuhr has no idea why the stairs, which do not conform to the American with Disabilities Act, were reconstructed rather than replaced with a ramp. "It's ridiculous," he asserts. He hopes a lawsuit will prompt either Caltrans or Sonoma County to make the sidewalks accessible to people using wheels.

It's Not Grass

The North Marin Water District is looking for six good lawns whose owners are willing to replace them with a high-quality synthetic version. "It's basically for customers who want to have a good-looking yard all year long without any watering or mowing," explains Ryan Grisso, the district's water conservation coordinator. The district budgeted $7,200 for a pilot program giving six homeowners rebates of $3 a square foot (maximum $1,200) for replacing water-hungry grass with the faux stuff. "It's got to be the best looking lawn in a highly visible area," Grisso explains, "and the customer has to agree not to put the lawn back in." The no-real-grass restriction will be added to the property deeds. This pilot is just one facet of the district's conservation efforts that also include a 50-cent-per-square-foot rebate for replacing lawn with drought-resistant native plants.

Houses Everywhere

American Canyon mayor Cecil Shaver was the only dissenter when the city council voted 4-1 recently to go ahead with an environmental impact report and other studies needed for up to 1,400 new housing units in the Oat Hill area. The city is working on a master plan for the 364 acres west of Highway 29. Development could include an elementary school, a fire station, a sports complex and a community building. The area encompasses a hill with a 360-degree view of the surrounding hills and wetlands. Mayor Shaver reportedly disagreed with the need for so many new houses and questioned who would pay for the community facilities.

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