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Gina Cuclis
Springs Eternal
Gina Cuclis

Sheriff’s Office heading for hiring crisis; Proposed vacation rental rules for Springs

A recent announcement from Sonoma County Sheriff Steve Freitas is cause for concern for Springs residents. The sheriff announced on Facebook he is reducing services because his office is unable to fill positions, and is losing experienced deputies and staff to other counties and cities.

Sheriff Freitas stated: “Historically, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office has been an agency that could easily recruit employees. Now, unfortunately, the County does not offer competitive take home pay that attracts qualified applicants.”

He also said: “Senior deputies are leaving my office for better take home pay and benefits at neighboring agencies.”

In an interview with Sheriff Freitas prior to his announcement, he said he had more than 30 positions that he couldn’t fill. He showed me a list of employees, who had contingent offers to go to neighboring law enforcement agencies, saying he expected to lose another 20 deputies by the end of the year.

Online he described the situation as creating “the unwelcome task of taking steps to ensure that personnel are allocated in a manner that is simultaneously fiscally sound, ethically responsible and maintains public safety.”

These reductions include cutting-back detectives in the gang, domestic violence, sexual assault, crime-scene investigation and narcotics investigation units, removing one deputy from the marine unit, and temporarily eliminating the community oriented policing unit. The Sheriff has reassigned these deputies to patrol.

Lieutenant Brett Sackett, who is the head of the Sheriff’s Sonoma Valley substation and the Chief of Police for the City of Sonoma, said in a phone interview that there would be no reductions in the number of staff in Sonoma Valley. He said there would be a change in the number of shifts and the number of hours in a shift deputies work. This will result in having three deputies on patrol between the hours of 8 p.m. and Midnight, instead of the current four. During the other hours of the day two deputies are on patrol in Sonoma Valley.

Lieutenant Sackett also said: “The sheriff is committed to ensuring staffing in Sonoma Valley remains level so we can provide quality service.”

Sheriff Freitas emphasized in our interview that when you call 9-1-1, a deputy would respond appropriately.

Proposed code changes would limit new vacation rentals in the Springs

On the date this column is published, the Sonoma County Planning Commission is holding a public hearing on the proposed changes to the county’s vacation rental ordinance. A change that would have significant impact in the Springs, and one I believe many of us would say is positive, would put a stop to allowing new vacation rentals in most of the Springs. The proposed change would no longer permit new vacation rentals in the R1 zone and would eventually faze them out. The R1 zone is what we think of as our traditional single family neighborhoods, where houses are closer together, about four to an acre, and people share side and back fences.

Vacation rental owners who already have permits would be allowed to continue to operate. But when their houses are sold to new owners, the new owners wouldn’t be allowed to operate the units as vacation rentals.

The North Bay Association of Realtors has issued a position paper on vacation rentals indicating it would be opposed to this change. If you support it, it’s important that every member of the Board of Supervisor hear from you. Two of the supervisors live in districts that aren’t impacted by vacation rentals. They are unlikely to hear from their own constituents on this issue, so they need to hear from Sonoma County residents who are affected.

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