Photo: Marc Liyanage
Picture of Teri Shore

Teri Shore

Protecting Green Places Between Sonoma’s Cities

Twenty years ago, voters countywide adopted an initiative to preserve these sorts of green places between Sonoma’s towns and cities, by adopting what are called “community separators.”

As a result, since then we’ve prevented housing tracts and shopping malls from sprawling into these open space buffers, ensuring that significant stretches of natural and working lands between our communities continue to thrive and grow.

Sonoma County’s community separator policy (more info) prevents county leaders from approving major housing, commercial, and industrial development in designated lands between towns and cities. These popular voter-backed protections passed with more than 70% of the vote. But voter approval of the community separator policy will sunset in 2016. This policy needs to be renewed by the voters or we risk opening the door to new development.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

That’s why Greenbelt Alliance is leading the way to renew and strengthen the voter mandate that protects community separators from Petaluma and Sonoma to Windsor and Healdsburg.

The purpose of community separators is three-fold—they serve as green buffers between cities and towns, contain urban development, and preserve the rural charm of Sonoma County’s landscape. The county’s eight community separators cover 17,000 acres of natural and farm lands. These policies complement the cities’ urban growth boundaries, which designate where a city can and cannot develop, by safeguarding adjacent unincorporated lands.

Explore the community separators and urban growth boundaries near you with this interactive map courtesy of the Sonoma County planning department.

In addition to protecting green zones between communities from sprawl, community separators preserve farmlands, waterways, drinking water, groundwater recharge areas, wildlife corridors, water quality, hillsides, woodlands, and much more.

We need to let county leaders know that we need to enhance and strengthen our community separators more than ever. Urgent calls for housing can be met within the footprint of our towns and cities.

If you’d like to get involved in the campaign to renew Sonoma County’s community separator polices, contact Teri Shore at or call her at 707-575-3661.

Sign up for our email to stay up to date on Greenbelt Alliance’s work in maintaining and enhancing Sonoma County’s natural and agricultural lands.

This article was updated on June 11, 2015 to include the Sonoma County planning department’s interactive map.

Photo: Marc Liyanage

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