Saving Water is…

Always a Must.


Even after  very heavy precipitation this winter, which exceeded  our target supply, we should always keep in mind how important it is to conserve.  On April 7th, 2017, Governor Brown lifted the Drought State of Emergency in most of California, which was implemented back in January 2014, while  stating, “Conservation must remain a way of Life.”

Here at Firma Design Group our Landscape Designers can help plan and design a sustainable landscape by introducing smart plants, which adapt to our climate, promote plant health, all the while, drastically reduce their water needs.  Our Designers are well versed in water smart plants.  Having the right plants and planting guidance can save in upwards of 70% – 90% of landscape irrigation water. Here in Sonoma County we are lucky to   have many Water Smart Plant Nurseries, Click Here, for your Water Smart Plant Guide.

Now how about a challenge?  We want to see how many gallons of water you save in a month.  It’s easy, just select a few water-saving tips from Sonoma-Marin’s water-savings calculator to start saving more than 20 gallons per day, both indoors and outdoors. Click Here, for the calculator.  For instance, did you know that just by shortening your daily shower by 2 minutes will save you 5 gallons?  Or, by fixing a leaky toilet will save you 30 gallons? Having a water-efficient drip irrigation system, 20 gallons or more?  Having a smart irrigation controller installed, 40 gallons?  A lot of ways to save a valuable resource. Make sure you comment the amount of water you saved.





Welcome Ryan Connelly

Ryan Connelly 002

Join Firma Design Group in welcoming our newest AutoCAD Designer, Ryan Connelly. Ryan became interested in drafting as a young boy after being shown his Grandfather’s work. We are so glad to have him on our team. Following are his responses to a few questions we asked him.

What drew you into AutoCAD Drafting?
My maternal Grandfather was a drafter for Joseph Esherick and I had been shown his work at a young age, which peaked my interest. I started drafting classes starting in high school, with Bob Lombardi, who taught hand-drafting and architectural design. After completing high school I enrolled in AutoCAD courses offered through Santa Rosa Junior College.

Where did you attend college?
Santa Rosa Junior College with the focus on Architectural Design and Construction Management.

Have you interned or worked in this field prior to joining our team?
While attending classes at the Junior College I was encouraged to apply for a position with Summit Engineering. I worked with Summit until 2008, spending a year and a half with the Electrical Division and 2 years with the Waste Water Division. I started working with G Family Construction/G Design in 2013. While working with G Design I helped to complete architectural projects for Design Review including, ground-up residences in San Rafael and Fairfax, remodels over 4,000 square feet in unincorporated Marin and retaining wall projects within set-backs that required the application of variances.

Why did you choose to work for Firma Design Group?
Being able to return to beautiful Sonoma County and the diverse array of projects Firma Design Group has in their portfolio.  Having worked with a general contractor who had started his own design-build firm, I helped clients to determine the potential development of their property with respect to: lot-coverage, floor area ratio and setbacks; It was these elements that I thought I could contribute to Firma Design.  I enjoyed the unique aspect of each property and think that Firma’s work with developers and municipalities will allow for new challenges and goals to be set for myself.  Also, their pro bono work for Habitat for Humanity, Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) and other non-profit organizations along with their many winery projects and projects in both the public and private sector grabbed my attention.

Outside of work what do you enjoy?
I have a passion for mountain biking and cycling in general. Aside from cycling, I enjoy live music, hiking and hanging with friends and family.

Ryan can be reached at (707) 792-1800 or by email at

Nicole Haggadone Office Manager

Join us in welcoming Nicole Haggadone as our Office Manager.

Firma Design Group’s background and vision were the key attributes that drew Nicole in our direction. Nicole comes to Firma Design Group with many years  of work experience  with firms specializing in  Staffing, Recruiting and Private Security.

She is excited to learn and grow with Firma Design Group while pursuing her online degree in Human Resources.

Nicole enjoys spending time with her family and young daughter, learning photography and enjoying the beautiful Sonoma County outdoors whether on land or on the water.

Nicole can be reached at 707.792.1800, ext. 116 or by email at

Welcome Ric Hendricks

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Join us in welcoming Ric Hendricks as our Director of Landscape Architecture; we are excited to have him on our team.

Ric comes to Firma Design Group with 16 years of experience in Landscape Architecture in a wide variety of projects.

Mr. Hendrick’s diversity in his landscape architectural career has been a key component in becoming a well-balanced and rounded professional. He has a hands-on approach to directing a project from its beginning through the conceptual and design development process to construction documents and field observation. His project and office management skills incorporate project coordination, quality control, mentoring, client interface, sub-consultant oversight and governmental agency coordination. Ric’s wide range of design experiences includes the public and private sector with an in-depth understanding in the international design world. His work on award winning domestic and international projects encompasses sustainable designs, master planned communities, recreation facilities, streetscapes, commercial/retail, school/institutional, riparian ecosystem restoration, and storm water management.

Mr. Hendricks is a registered landscape architect and a member of the Northern California Chapter of ASLA. In addition, Ric is well versed in the LEED process and is a member and actively involved with the California Park and Recreation Society, and Bay Area Building Industry Association.

School & Community Projects:

• Creekside Elementary School & Sports Field, SRVUSD, Town of Danville, California
• Twin Creeks Elementary School, SRVUSD, City of San Ramon, California
• Frog Community Park – 10.6 Acres, City of Dublin, California
• The Brickyard at Eastshore State Park, City of Berkeley, California
• Fire Station 36, City of San Ramon, California
• Cytomax Fields (Mustang Soccer Complex) Town of Danville, California

We asked Ric a few questions:

Was there anything specific that led you into Landscape Architecture?

I have always been interested in the outdoors, even from a very young age, but was introduced to the profession of Landscape Architecture by my horticulture teacher in high school. We had a couple of weeks to design a front yard of a residence and she was impressed with my design skills. I had no idea at the time what Landscape Architecture was, but she explained it to me and she felt I would be good at it. I also inherited the analytical and drafting skills from my grandfather; he was an engineer and very disciplined. Although, I never was very good at lettering; this is before CAD when we actually hand lettered.

How Long have you been a professional Landscape Designer?

I actually started in high school; my friend’s father owned some residential properties and I would design and install the landscape. However professionally, I have been practicing for 16 years.

Where did you attend college?

I attended Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and received a Bachelors in Landscape Architect with a Minor in Geography and Anthropology.

Where did you begin your career?

I started my career with NUVIS Landscape Architecture and Planning in San Ramon, CA. I started as a designer and eventually become a principal and ran the San Ramon office. I spent 12 years with NUVIS and worked both on private and public projects. They included sustainable design, master planned communities, recreation/sports facilities, schools, commercial centers, streetscapes and riparian ecosystem restoration. For the last 6 years with NUVIS, I also had the great experience of working on international projects throughout China.

I not only enjoyed the diversity of the country and people, but also the scope and scale of the projects. I look forward to bringing my experiences to Firma Design Group.

Why did you choose to work for Firma Design Group?

FDG has a great track record of quality projects and I’m very thrilled to be working with our Landscape Architecture and Civil Engineering teams to develop and create more exciting projects.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy?

Besides spending time with my wife, I enjoy photography and hiking/camping. I’m also looking forward to getting back into fly fishing.

Tips for Healthy Waterways


With the rain comes water, polluted water, which flows into our rivers, creeks and streams. As a community we must be proactive in preventing the pollution of our waterways.

Here are 5 tips to help prevent this pollution and maintain our waterways health.

1. Check your car for leaks. Fluids that leak from vehicles can be carried by storm water runoff all the way to our creeks! Look at your pavement and driveway after you move your car. If you see a dark patch or see a colorful sheen on the surface, you may have a leak. It is important to clean up all leaks promptly because they could be toxic to pets and wildlife. Do not hose leaked fluids into the street! Use oil absorbent or cat litter to clean up the spill. If possible, take your vehicle to a mechanic to have the leak repaired.

2. Keep leaves out of the street. Most jurisdictions in the Russian River watershed prohibit raking leaves and other debris onto the street. Why? Anything on our streets can be carried by storm water runoff directly into our creeks, and too many leaves can obstruct the habitat and natural flow of a creek. Since storm water is not cleaned or treated before it reaches the creek, please help keep our waterways clean by either placing your leaves into the yard waste bin or consider mulching the ground with them, which will help feed the soil for a healthier yard. If you see leaves next to your curb, sweep them out of the street to prevent them from washing to the creek.

3. Rethink holiday cooking cleanup. After cooking, when fats, oils, and grease cool, they solidify. If you pour them down your sink drain, they will harden in your pipes and may block the flow of sewage away your home! The best way to deal with fats, oils, and grease from cooking waste is to let them cool then scrape or them into the trash. Or, if you have a large amount of cooking oil, consider recycling it with the Mendocino County HazMobile Program. Sonoma County residents can view recycling drop-off locations at

4. Correctly dispose of batteries. In California, all electronics and batteries have been banned from landfill disposal. In Mendocino County, household batteries and other household hazardous waste can be disposed through the Hazmobile Program. In Sonoma County, electronics can be donated to the Computer Recycling Center,, for repair and reuse. For a complete list of drop-off recycling options, visit

5. Dispose of Christmas trees responsibly. If you get a Christmas tree this year, consider what you will do with it after the holidays. Plastic trees and trees with flocking must be disposed of in a landfill, but plain natural Christmas trees can be mulched and recycled. Whole trees can be dropped off at Holiday Tree Drop Off Locations, or, in some areas, picked up with your curbside recycling. You can also cut up your tree so it fits in your yard waste container – just make sure the tree is cut up so that the lid on the green bin closes completely.

For any questions about recycling and year‐round disposal options:

In Sonoma County, visit, call the Sonoma County Eco‐Desk at 565‐DESK (3375).

Here at Firma Design Group our Civil Engineers are committed to doing their part in preventing this pollution by integrating treatment and management of storm water run off in our built up environment. Contact one of our Civil Engineers at (707) 792-1800.

Making Memories!


WOW! Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County held their Making Memories Breakfast November 15, 2016.

Their mission to bring people together to build homes, communities and hope was well received by all who attended. Beginning with Tamara Stanley, CEO welcoming a full room to State Senator Mike McGuire’s enthusiasm and stories from a couple homeowners made possible through Habitat for Humanity, a lot of money was raised to continue making terrific memories.

Firma Design Group has had the pleasure of attending as a company and we all left with many memories. “Habitat for Humanity is my favorite non-profit”, said Marty Goldsbrough, President/CEO of Firma Design Group.

And that is why our team at Firma Design Group donates our planning, civil engineering and landscape architecture services to the organization.  To make memories for future homeowners.

To learn more about this great organization click here,

The Civil Engineer’s Contribution to LEED Certification


Liane Ware, Firma Design Group, November 15, 2016

How does a civil engineering LEED AP (with or without a specialty credential) benefit a project?

While their knowledge and input pertains to a handful of Sustainable Sites prerequisites and credits, civil engineers’ usual involvement in project certification is focused on storm water management. The new Sustainable Sites Credit for Rainwater Management allots different levels of development mitigation, but the credit requirements are no more unique than learning and applying local and regional requirements (such as those in California). Design teams rely on civil engineering professionals to keep up to date with the evolving storm water management and mitigation measures required for project permitting. Now that it’s less common for civil engineers to work only locally, much of their due diligence effort is in determining storm water regulations for each project and how they will apply in the design. Understanding the nuances of each different agency encompasses LEED as well, which is why a civil engineering LEED AP is more than qualified to efficiently address the different degrees of the Rainwater Management credit. The language of almost all agencies having jurisdiction is comparable with varying levels and applications, and LEED is keeping pace:

“’Rainwater’ is now seen as a resource that provides many environmental and economic benefits. Managing rainwater on site restores natural hydrologic conditions, reduces the possibility of flooding, and creates opportunities for onsite water reuse in applications like irrigation and landscape features.”

The right civil engineer on a design team can therefore bring his or her expertise to the table in arriving at a creative, integrated storm water management solution for both project permitting and LEED certification.


Welcoming Liane Ware

Welcoming Liane Ware:

Was there anything specific that led you into engineering?
• I always really enjoyed physics, algebra, and geometry in grade school, and I loved building things (woodworking projects) with my family. There was also a big push to involve more girls and women in the field, and I fit right in line with that effort. After evolving from a structural focus to one in civil and land development, I’ve come to appreciate how fulfilling designing the built environment is while protecting the natural environment with sustainable, low-impact development.

How long have you been in engineering?
• Technically, since my sophomore year in college, but professionally since 2005.

Where did you start off?
• My first civil engineering position was at a company in Tampa, FL, where I had my introduction to roadway and drainage design. I worked part-time while finishing my degree, and stayed on after graduation until relocating to the SF Bay area in 2006. Now I’ve worked from South Bay through the Peninsula and City to North Bay and on a wide variety of public and private re/development projects from SoCal to the state capital to wine county and in between.

Where did you go to school?
• In 2003, I graduated with my AS in Civil Engineering Technology from Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. I then transferred to and graduated in 2005 with my BS in Civil Engineering from the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Outside of work, what do you enjoy?
• Camping is my favorite activity when not working, both over-packed with the car in Big Basin and backpacking Yosemite’s high country. I’m also one of those cyclists out on the road in my own imaginary race, though fully obeying traffic laws while dodging close-encounters of the motorized kind. I’m a lover of all wines and animals, of which I have many, but I also enjoy whiskey tastings and catch-and-release fishing. Plus, you’ll find a smile on my face while I’m doing just about anything outdoors…hiking, chopping firewood, floating down the river, gardening and yardwork, walking the dog, playing on the beach, reading, cross-country skiing, and inadvertently scaring away the wildlife with my attempts at playing guitar (and worse, singing along)…

Liane can be reached at:

Winery Use Permits


Here’s an article on the latest developments on Winery Use, Permits and Visitor Restrictions written by Kim Corcoran at CMPR the Firm.

October 14, 2016

Latest Developments on Winery Use

Permits and Visitor Restrictions

Kim Corcoran, Associate

Sonoma County wineries have been under attack in the last few years by groups in opposition to winery events, new wineries, and even the direct-to-consumer business model itself. The vast majority of Sonoma County wineries are good neighbors and work to ensure that their impacts on nearby residents are lessened. Most of the neighbors understand that they are living on land zoned for agriculture (which includes wineries), but opposition groups are advocating for more residential-oriented rights on ag land. The wineries have pushed back, stating that without a high value crop such as wine, the land is worth more for housing tracts than it is for agriculture. To help bring the parties to some resolution, the Board of Supervisors convened a Winery Working Group panel. After many months of meetings, however the animosity seemed to grow stronger. The issues were placed back in the hands of the Board of Supervisors.

Meeting 10/11/16, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors agreed this week to move forward with zoning code amendments to facilitate clarity for the wine business in the County.
The Board adopted a limited resolution asking County staff to develop specific code amendments as well as standards and siting criteria for areas of local concentration to be adopted either as guidelines or code amendments.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this week’s action is that it was on the Board’s “consent” calendar. This means that there was none of the public comment (read “rancor and discord”) that has attended other public hearings on this subject. Of course, it takes a lot of work on everyone’s part to get an “easy” result – hats off to all for getting to this point.

Indeed, it is a sign of the times that direction from the Board simply to craft some code amendments is seen as a major milestone. Opposition groups have pushed hard for an immediate moratorium on any new winery use permits and for an immediate determination of (and prohibitions within) “areas of over-concentration.” Leaving aside the redundancy of their term, anyone with knowledge of the areas in issue knows that it will not be easy to define areas of the County that may fall into such a category. Moreover, opposition groups appear to seek County regulation for the express purpose of interfering with the direct-to-consumer marketing model that has made Sonoma County wineries vibrant and prosperous.

Each of the Supervisors expressed their appreciation for a more deliberative process, one Supervisor referring to the process as “deliberative by design.” Another Supervisor, with nods of approval from others, reminded the audience that direct-to-consumer sales is an old business model from the time before grapes were even a major crop. Such a sales model can greatly assist in keeping much of the County’s current land in agriculture.

The winery supporters have been advocating for the adoption of clear definitions and this week the Supervisors instructed County staff to develop such definitions. Under the current ordinances, the County is asked to regulate winery “special events” when there is no definition for the term. The wineries are seeking definitions for “events” and “activities.” An activity is a normal business activity within the winery’s usual, site-specific capacity (such as a special tasting, a distributor meeting or a winemaker lunch) that would not be counted as a “special event.” Under the wineries’ proposed set of definitions, new wineries would be limited in the number and scope of special events, but not activities.

Several of the Supervisors discussed the need for additional enforcement mechanisms with one of them specifically complimenting the wine industry for their proposals in this regard. The wineries have proposed outside funding for a position that would be available on nights and weekends to assist neighbors and wineries alike, and to coordinate larger winery events with other neighborhood pressures such as marathons and bicycle races.

While we will need to wait for County’s staff’s recommendation on each of the issues before we’ll know what’s in front of us, the meeting this week was a step forward in that process.

Please do not hesitate to contact Kim Corcoran at or (707) 526-4200 if you have questions or concerns regarding this article.

To visit their website, click here.