Portola council discusses wood stove enforcement, election

By Lauren Westmoreland

With all members in attendance, and no public comment, council members moved directly to approving the consent calendar and sharing some of their activities.


Councilmember Communications

Councilmember Tom Cooley reported on his attendance at several meetings related to the Eastern Plumas County Fire Study Group, and that the group was making continued progress.

Cooley had also assisted supervising a recent green waste disposal event in late November, where community members were able to nearly fill a 20-yard green waste dumpster staged at the North Side fire, sponsored by the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District.

“Overall, the response from the community was favorable, although there were some few unfavorable comments from community members about the burn ban,” Cooley said. “We truly appreciate this opportunity to dispose of the green waste.”

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Powers noted his attendance at Cal LAFCo meetings, focusing on topics such as emergency services preparedness.

Powers also commented briefly on his efforts toward monitoring a new application for an aggregate mine, with details to be made available sometime in January 2021.


Councilmember Stan Peiler reported his attendance at a recent Community Development meeting, as well as continuing to support the ongoing work to abate abandoned vehicles, weeds and rubbish within the City of Portola. “I also want to wish everyone Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas,” Peiler said with a smile.

Councilmember Pat Morton reported that the Beckwourth Fire Department had just hired three duty officers for Portola who will be starting soon.

Morton also noted that she had attended five meetings for the annual Eastern Plumas Angel Program, and also had attended two meetings regarding the upcoming holiday light parade to be held in the City of Portola on Friday, Dec. 18, at 5 p.m.

Mayor Phil Oels closed council communications with a brief report around community development meeting attendance.

Fire Chief Report

Chief Bob Frank of Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District reported the breakdown for the 17 calls responded to in November.


“We responded to 13 medical calls, one propane check, one smoke check, a barbecue check, and provided mutual aid to Sierra Valley for a vegetation fire,” Frank stated. “I have also been attempting to set up a meeting with Chief Russell of Beckwourth Fire Department and he has thus far been unable to do that with me, so I’ll continue to work on that.”

Frank also reported that the South Side Portola Fire station was officially turned over to the City of Portola on Friday, Nov. 20. “Lauren Knox and I did a walkthrough and took inventory, and now the City has control over that,” Frank concluded.

City Manager Report

City Manager Lauren Knox began by acknowledging that the county of Plumas had recently received an application for a special use permit for a mining flash reclamation permit on a property to the west of the landfill off of Meadow Way.


“This is within Portola’s sphere of influence, although not directly in the city, so we were notified by the county,” Knox said. “We will be performing a review on that specific project in the near future, so this is a heads-up for now.”

Knox also announced the upcoming Renegade Light Parade on Friday, Dec. 18.  The event has been cleared by the county public health department. “We’re asking participants to line up in front of the City Park/City Hall area right in front here,” Knox explained. “For those that are participating, the parade staging and lineup will begin at 4:30 p.m. and the parade starts at 5 p.m.” The parade will snake through town so that residents can see it from their homes.

There are new CalOSHA requirements coming to the city in regards to Covid-19, and Knox has been working with City Public Works Director Todd Roberts to address those updates. “Todd and I attended a webinar this morning, and there is quite a bit that we need to put into a formal document, or a control plan if you will,” Knox said.


With Covid, things are still ramped up at City Hall, Knox said, adding that the county is still under a stay-at-home order. “The order applies to us as we are a part of the greater Sacramento region,” Knox noted.

Knox explained that the city is currently working on the fire service provider transition between Eastern Plumas Fire and Beckwourth Fire, saying, “We’re working with Beckwourth Fire to ensure that when February comes, everyone will be up and running smoothly.”

Knox reported on the status of the State Revolving Fund application, saying that the project report that has been ongoing with the assistance of Chico CSU complete, and will now shift to another group to finish out. “Hopefully we will have more information on that soon,” she said.

2020 Election Results

After passing the consent calendar unanimously, council moved on to announce the 2020 local election results.

There were three City Council offices up for election, and there were three qualified nomination forms turned in by three incumbents: Tom Cooley, Pat Morton and Stan Peiler.


According to the California Elections Code, the City was not required to hold an election because there was the same number of candidates and vacant City Council offices.

Under this code, City Council may appoint the three incumbents to the three available City Councilmember Offices each with four-year terms. All councilmembers were motioned to be appointed by Mayor Phil Oels and approved by unanimous roll call vote, and each member will go on to individually take the oath of office before the end of 2020.

Selection of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem

On March 13, 1999, the City of Portola City Council voted to appoint the Mayor and the Mayor Pro Tem to serve one-year terms beginning in December of every year. The motion also approved the process for the Mayor Pro Tem to be appointed as the Mayor, unless a 3/5 vote of the Council was to direct otherwise.


In keeping with tradition, Phil Oels passed on the virtual gavel and title of Mayor to Bill Powers. Mayor Bill Powers then ultimately nominated Councilmember Pat Morton as the incoming Mayor Pro Tem, who accepted, and the new order was confirmed by roll call vote, with changes taking effect immediately and Powers stepping into the role of Mayor.

Draft General Plan 2045

Karen Downs, Contract Planner with Manhard Consulting, joined the meeting to review and discuss the City of Portola General Plan.

Every city in California is required to have a General Plan, which is a blueprint for growth and development that lays out specific strategies for land use, mobility, housing, open space, conservation, noise and safety.

The General Plan reflects the values of the community and directs the city’s day-to-day decisions, plans and priorities.

“About every 20 years the General Plan is revised to become more meaningful and relevant based on the current state of the city, with an eye toward the future,” Downs said.


The State of California has updated the General Plan Guidelines (GPG) recently, and the GPG sets out each statutory requirement in detail and provides recommended policy language.

The GPG is a resource to help the City accomplish its priorities and vision while meeting larger state goals, increasing community collaboration, and potentially improving competitiveness for funding opportunities.

The City Council gave previous direction to staff to prepare a draft General Plan (General Plan 2045) that would incorporate and meet the State of California 2017 General Plan Guidelines (GPG).

At that time, staff initiated a public review process and started reviewing the GPG. Looking back, a public community meeting was held on April 10, 2019 to discuss the City’s strengths, challenges, and goals, looking towards the future.

After a discussion of housing, safety, and general growth in the City, it was agreed that the themes of the General Plan (technology, recreation, and tourism) remain critical issues in Portola.


The importance of community activities, façade improvement, improved alleyways, emphasis on the Western Pacific Railroad Museum (WPRM) and downtown activities, improved signage to downtown attractions, increased tourism, and improved businesses have been the proposed focus of the draft General Plan up to this time.

Downs explained some of the elements involved in the General Plan, and that each element would require new analysis and mapping, in areas such as land use, conservation, housing, safety, open space, air quality and noise.

After some discussion, Downs noted that the next steps would include environmental review, and asked that the council provide direction on how best to review the draft documents as they become available, especially in the current absence of a planning commission.

Council determined that the best way to move forward would be to break down and review each portion of the final draft of the general plan individually so as to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks, and to give the community ample opportunity to comment on each element.


“It’s a lot to bite off and I really want to be able to tap in to both Karen and Lauren Knox’s strong backgrounds and experience in planning,” Powers said. All councilmembers agreed and determined that the next step would be to determine a schedule for consideration of the final draft.

Wood Burning Device Enforcement

Julie Ruiz of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) discussed details about a proposed wood burning device enforcement.

For some background on the topic, we return to a council meeting held on Nov.12, 2020.

During this meeting, staff discussed the background and enforcement of Ordinance 359. The focus of the conversation was surrounding Portola Municipal Code (PMC) section 15.10.060, which describes mandatory curtailment of solid fuel combustion in the city.

Following this Council meeting, City of Portola staff and staff of the Northern Sierra Air Quality Management District (NSAQMD) met to establish a plan for enforcement.


Through conversation with the neighboring districts, NSAQMD learned that many other districts also focus on education about best burning practices as opposed to citations.

During the conversation between NSAQMD and City staff, it was determined that an appropriate course of action was to have NSAQMD staff handle the enforcement for the remainder of this winter season (January and February) to get a better understanding of how enforcement might work best, and other facets of the issue, including the effect of air pollution that may be occurring outside of City limits.

“The means of soft enforcement and outreach for this season would be through more targeted education and attempts to replace wood burning devices that are not EPA compliant,” Ruiz explained.

“We have created outreach materials that would be sent through targeted outreach to properties who are in violation of the ordinance, whether it is due to excess smoke, or from an unregistered burning device.”


Ruiz went on to express that the result of the enforcement and education work that will be done through the winter is hoped to be positive.

“From the enforcement work this season, NSAQMD staff will come back with lessons learned and again work with City Staff to further develop and refine the enforcement plan for the next season, which is November 2021 through February 2022, and which may include more City involvement,” Ruiz noted.

Councilmembers suggested some minor clarifications to the sample outreach materials such as letters, and with that, the meeting was adjourned.

The City of Portola City Council welcomes attendance and participation at all regularly held meetings, which are held on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. via Zoom call or phone call. For more information on how to attend or any other questions, call 832-6801 or email Deputy City Clerk Tara Kindall at [email protected]. All other information made available at www.cityofportola.com.