WatchSonoma Watch

Judge to decide fate of Dutra asphalt plant

Aerial photo shows the area (lower right) across the Petaluma River from Shollenberger Park where the Dutra asphalt plant would be located.


Opponents and supporters of the proposed Dutra Materials asphalt plant south of Petaluma are set to have their date in court Friday.

A lawsuit challenging approval of the project, one of the most controversial land-use issues in Sonoma County, is scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. hearing before county Judge Rene Chouteau.

The civil court procedure, which does not feature a jury or witness testimony, is expected to include oral arguments by attorneys from both sides. Afterward, Chouteau will rely on written arguments and about 50,000 pages of public records, including environmental studies and public comment on the project, to make his decision. A ruling could follow in two to three weeks.

Sonoma County, Dutra Materials and its business partners are being sued by the City of Petaluma, five environmental and community groups and several individuals opposed to the asphalt plant.

The plaintiffs contend the county failed to adequately study and address the plant’s impacts on public health, air and water quality, and nearby public park land. In approving the project, opponents claim, the county failed to follow both state environmental and open meeting laws.

The lawsuit seeks a new environmental review and asks for the plant’s approval to be set aside and any pending or current work halted.

The asphalt plant, first proposed six years ago, would be located on 38 acres on the Petaluma River across from Shollenberger Park. It was given final approval last December on 3-2 vote of the Board of Supervisors.

Project supporters say the project, which was previously turned down by supervisors because of environmental and public health concerns, was revised to include safeguards and other changes that minimize its impacts. They tout the plant as a source for local jobs and construction material.

Groups joining the City of Petaluma and the Petaluma River Council as plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Friends of Shollenberger Park, Moms for Clean Air, the Madrone Audubon Society and Petaluma Tomorrow.

In addition to Sonoma County and Dutra Materials, defendants in the lawsuit are Shamrock Materials, a neighboring business included in the project’s barge off-loading plans, Corto Meno Sand and Gravel and Peach Tree Terrace, which the lawsuit described as a California-based general partnership.

17 Responses to “Judge to decide fate of Dutra asphalt plant”

  1. @ Adams Fan says:

    Sorry, for eight years residents suffered in San Rafael because of Dutra’s transgressions. That Susan may have helped forge a compromise after the fact is fine, but to then write a letter to the Board of Supervisor’s praising Dutra (despite their record of transgressions in San Rafael and elsewhere) hours before the final hearing, is beyond the pale. Had it not been for costly legal efforts by impacted residents – several of whom had great damage to their housing foundations due to Dutra’s illegal quarry expansion – Dutra never would have compromised. Residents ran out of money and Dutra ran out the clock….just as they are trying to do in Petaluma. And now Aimi is funding Susan Adams. Well, those of us who are working hard to prevent having to go what residents in San Rafael went through (we already had to shut down their old plant in Petaluma because it was operating without a permit and was belching blue smoke and foul asphalt odors). And we certainly don’t need a Supervisor who Aimi Dutra supports. As for Solomon, it’s simply untrue that he hadn’t expressed previous concerns about the project – years ago he spoke about it and also attended a public forum on the issue (long before he declared himself as a candidate). He’s spent his years fighting for the public interest – it’s entirely consistent for him to oppose the project and the real question is why other politicians seem to be afraid to do so as well. Of those running for Congress in District 2, only Norman Solomon and Tiffany Renee have issued public statements on the issue. Do you understand that the City of Petaluma is actually a plaintiff in the lawsuit? So what’s keeping the other candidates from at least issuing a public statement opposing the project? So what if it’s not in their jurisdiction. The question is simple – do you support the City of Petaluma, a majority of residents, businesses, and community groups in their opposition to the project at the proposed location? It’s not even about being anti-Dutra (though their history should give pause to anyone who is familiar with it). It’s about having the willingness to state a public position. It’s politics. People running may be afraid of alienating support from certain groups. But that’s a choice we get to make in terms of the type of leader we want. Do we want someone who compromises to the point that the public interest suffers, or do we want leaders who lead. So what is it Susan? Are you opposed to the Dutra plant at Haystack landing or not?

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  2. how to lose credibility says:

    When you take every opportunity to blame everything from global warming to spending on roundabouts on government pension costs you lose credibility. When you claim that pension costs have bankrupted cities and counties that are not bankrupt you lose credibility. When you support un-checked discretionary government spending on unnecessary roundabouts you lose credibility.

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  3. The Oracle says:

    Money Gruber reminds me of a docter who blames a fever for the flu. It’s the type of vodoo economics that got us into the 2008 crash.

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  4. Adams Fan says:

    The reason Aimi Dutra is supporting Susan Adams is because Afams waged an 8 year effort to bring Dutra into compliance with the rock quarry in San Rafael by working collaboratively instead of in black and white. It was a long battle that Adams did not shrink from and, ultimately, through a lot if hard and difficult work, they arrived at a final mitigation that satisfied both the quarry operators and the neighborhood residents.

    That is government at its finest: collaborative solutions that benefit both parties.

    Of course it is easier for the leaders of the anti-asphalt plant crowd — specifically David Keller — to try and paint Adams as some pro-Dutra candidate. I’m sure Norman Solomon — who has absolutely zero understanding or credibility on the issue — is happy to suck up to this crowd and parrot their talking points. Talk about political expedience.

    Perhaps the folks in Petaluma could learn a thing or two about good governance from their neighbors to the south. It is always preferable to work together to resolve issues instead of always casting people as the enemy.

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  5. Money Grubber says:

    Why Is Petaluma Broke:

    The answer is public pensions.

    Its public pensions that have bankrupted every city and county in CA as well as bankrupted the state.

    As for the plant being location outside of the city limits of Petaluma, that has zero to do with it.

    If your neighbor was doing something that negatively affected your well being, you would seek some sort of legal action as well even though your neighbor owns his own property outside of your own property line.

    Want your city, Petaluma or otherwise, to have more revenue ? Tell your council people and supervisors to keep their nose out of private employer business. All you have to do to see waste in government is to look at how Obama handed out over a billion dollars to solar companies that then went bankrupt.

    Government has no clue. They ruin everything they get into.

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  6. Money Grubber says:

    Bill Me:

    I seriously doubt that fewer bike paths will be constructed due to this issue.

    The primary cost of a bike path is mostly the development and planning followed by the cost of the real estate involved.

    I support bike path development. But the primary reason we do not have more bike trails is because of the political parasites who attach themselves to the process always insist on building TRAINS and other things in connection with the simple bike path concept.

    We do not need TRAINS and HIGH DENSITY HOUSING close to those TRAINS in order to build a viable bike path network for everyone to enjoy and to exercise safely away from vehicle traffic.

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  7. BS says:

    Wow, I’ haven’t seen so much BS since I went to a rodeo. You posters are funny. Parrot Dutra’s talking points all you want. It doesn’t negate the fact that:

    1. Their own EIR states clearly that there is no demonstrated need for another asphalt plant in our county. The existing plants are all UNDER capacity and NONE of the looming projects change that.

    2. The narrows project will likely already be completed by the time the plant is built – should it not be rejected. It’s a complete crock that the narrows can’t be widened without a new Dutra plant.

    3. Save us the BS on reducing emissions. Another crock. It will INCREASE truck traffic incredibly to and from Petaluma. Do you really think the plant is just for projects in our city? They will be producing far more asphalt that Petaluma projects require – and having a plant here won’t suddenly improve our finances for fixing roads. Another farce. The reality is that Dutra simply wants to grab market share from the existing plants (again, which their own EIR states are under capacity).

    4. Jobs. There would be some short term construction jobs, but at what cost? The resulting project will cost jobs – decreasing tourism, making local businesses and office spaces less viable, reducing local home values, and reducing the attractiveness of Petaluma. As for operating the plant, it’s only a few jobs that will most likely be brought in from another Dutra facility – it’s an automated plant that only requires a few people to run.

    5. Revenue. It’s outside the City limits – Petaluma will receive no fees for the project. No impact fees and zero tax revenue after it’s up and running. Meanwhile, we will suffer the impacts of as many as 100 more truck trips a day (damaging our roads, polluting our air, adding to our traffic).

    6. Visual. 70 foot high smoke stacks obscuring views and welcoming visitors to Petaluma. Lovely way to attract tourist at a time when our businesses need them.

    7. No resources for ensuring compliance. The Supervisors only intend occasional inspections and our own former Supervisor even suggested that we can count on Petaluma to report any issues. Really. So no impact fees, no tax revenue, no real jobs….and Petaluma is expected to help monitor the project to ensure Dutra lives up to their commitments? Please, we all know Dutra has a history of transgressions – being sued by the EPA for illegal dumping in Florida and locally off the Farallones, illegally expansing their quarry in San Rafael, and even having their previous plant in Petaluma shut down because they refused to comply with air quality standards. Smells and smoke were reported – complaints were made. Ultimately, Dutra chose not to comply.

    Our entire City Council and the majority of Petaluma’s residents are opposed to this project. The Sonoma County General plan was even against it until the Supervisors voted to amend it and change the zoning – without legal basis BTW (which is why it is now in court). For those posting here from the Local 3 Operating Engineers Union, you should complain to Dutra for costing you any construction jobs associated with this project. It is they who chose an inappropriate location and stubbornly refuse to consider a less sensitive location. They are the ones delaying your employment, not the City of Petaluma. Note also that until Efren Carillo changed his mind, there were three Supervisors opposed to this. Effren needs to go, but I suspect we would have a very different outcome with McGuire on board….not so sure on Rabbitt.

    For those who are opposed to this project, please continue to express your position to your our political leaders – current and aspiring ones. Congressional candidates should be asked for their position to be stated publicly (regardless of their jurisdiction). Same with Assembly. And especially avoid support for Susan Adams who has been endorsed by Dutra – see letter below:

    —–Forwarded Message—–
    From: Aimi Dutra
    Sent: Aug 11, 2011 2:45 PM
    Subject: Susan Adams for Congress

    August 11, 2011

    Dear X..,

    Next year, we will have the opportunity to choose a new leader to represent us in the United States Congress. It’s been quite a while since we had a competitive race for this seat, which explains why some highly qualified candidates are vying for the opening. Among all the candidates, the one person who stands out from the rest is our very own Supervisor Susan Adams. I am convinced that she is the best choice for Marin County and I hope you’ll join me in supporting Susan as she builds the foundation of a strong, well-built campaign operation. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with Susan on some very complicated and spirited issues. I have always found her to be extremely hardworking, dedicated and forthright in our dealings together. Though we don’t agree all the time, she listens and respects my positions. In fact, Susan always takes into account other people’s viewpoints, yet when it’s time to make a final decision, she follows her principles. In my opinion, that is what makes an effective public servant. Susan Adams will be a tremendous advocate for Marin County. Her tireless work ethic and passion for our community will greatly benefit us in the halls of Congress. If her performance on the Board of Supervisors is any indication, Susan will immediately be a powerful force in the House of Representatives. To make it happen, Susan Adams will need our financial support. Running for Congress takes a significant amount of resources, so please make a donation to the Susan Adams for Congress campaign today. To make a contribution, you can visit http://www.susanadamsforcongress.com or send a check to: Susan Adams for Congress – PO Box 4429, San Rafael, CA 94913-4429. You can also “Like” her on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/SusanAdamsForCongress . We could use real leadership in Washington, D.C. That’s why I hope you will join me in supporting Susan Adams for Congress. Thank you.

    Warm regards,

    Aimi Dutra

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  8. The Oracle says:

    If these NIMBYs have the audacity to base their case on precedent and evidence, I hope the judge and the Press Democrat have the good sense to ignore it.

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  9. JB says:

    May the opponents of this asphalt plant win mightily. May the judge find this environmentally unfriendly plant is in the wrong place. May the proponents of this plant have it moved in the gateway of their city, in their neighborhood, across from their favorite park and in their backyard.

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  10. Bill me says:

    @money grubber-higher prices will come from higher costs for delivered asphalt to the many Petaluma area projects that are close to breaking ground. More carbon emissions will come from older plants producing the asphalt as well as longer trucking routes to deliver the asphalt and more idling time for autos as they share the road with increased truck traffic. More traffic because of the aforementioned and the fact prices for bike paths will also likely go up over time which will result in less of them. Less jobs locally due to no plant, (admittedly, not a big number but jobs nonetheless) and less dollars available due to higher prices for asphalt. Winning-that was my venting.

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  11. Billy C says:

    Do you know where the other asphalt plant is? It is in the middle of Santa Rosa right off the West Collage exit. I work close to it and you would never know it is there.
    The SMART planners have rezoned it for a high density transit village along with all the other commercial operations in that area.
    So there are your progressive priority’s.
    Less businesses,Less jobs, no more local asphalt but Low income hi density housing along the tracks.
    This is what “ONE BAY AREA” has in mind for us . So you are cool with that ?

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  12. Why is Petaluma broke? says:

    Why is the City of Petaluma spending city money to sue the County? The plant is not within city limits. For a city that is perpetually broke they sure have money to spend when they want to.

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  13. Kim says:

    If one judge overturns the Supervisor’s decision on this, then why do we need a County Board of Supervisors? Why not just take each and every thing to court? The County could save a million dollars or more a year by doing away with the Supervisors!

    Where were these NIMBYs years ago when there was an asphalt plant AND a recycle facility atop the hill at what is now called Quarry Heights? There were no complaints of that vintage asphalt plant. I guess they just love the smell of diesel exhaust from all those trucks importing material from Vallejo, Napa, Forestville, Mark West and all when just one barge to Petaluma would be the equivilent of 55 truck loads of material.

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  14. Money Grubber says:

    Bill Me:

    Care to explain your evaluation?

    Or, are you just venting?

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  15. Money Grubber says:

    I would love to be the one who sat the Judge down and tested him on his knowledge and understanding of the 50,000 documents that he supposedly will be basing his decision on.


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  16. bill me says:

    Our Nimbys are winning, yet with the winning comes the reality of higher prices, more carbon emissions, more traffic, and less jobs. Oh well-winning to Charlie Sheen was different too—

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  17. Steveguy says:

    Lemme think…. An asphalt plant there with historical industrial permits should not be in Petaluma, widely acknowledged as the worst pot-hole City in the County.

    Local and greener than shipping it in from Richmond, but some in Sonoma County can’t stand reality with a NIMBY attitude, yet are vocal about local and sustainable. Hmmm.

    Same with the rock quarry mired in the courts by a ‘select few’. Why are they allowed standing in the courts anyway ?

    Just adding to the cost, while SMART will need thousands of tons of asphalt and gravel for the line. How greener can you be with raw materials close to projects ?

    Ohh, the want rock to be trucked from Yuba County, maybe they made larger campaign contributions.

    Besides that ONE judge can decide the fates of many people. Just open it already, and start fixing potholes and the roads !

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