WatchSonoma Watch

Jenkel loses another chunk of his ranch

John Jenkel stands on a portion of his Sebastopol ranch that was seized by the county to satisfy a civil judgment. BETH SCHLANKER/PD


A Sebastopol-area winery owner was the lone bidder again Thursday on another hunk of activist John Jenkel’s horse ranch, walking away with the nearly three acres of flat, Gravenstein Highway land for a mere $1,000.

It was the third auction conducted by the Sonoma County sheriff to satisfy a $350,000 civil judgment against the offbeat protester stemming from a dispute with his neighbor, winemaker Paul Hobbs.

Since 2009, Hobbs has acquired more than half of Jenkel’s 16 acres through the forced sales for $61,000, according to county records.

“I don’t want to come across as a greedy SOB,” said Hobbs, who just returned from his winery in Argentina. “But some of the things John did … he’s been an irascible neighbor. We’ve really suffered a lot at his hands.”

Hobbs conceded the exceptional nature of the deal but said there have been liens and other expenses in acquiring the earlier properties that total more than $200,000.

“It’s not as sweet a deal as it seems,” Hobbs said. “It’s not a bad deal but it’s not as simple as it looks.”

Jenkel, 72, who erected anti-war signs on his property and shares his belief that the government was behind the 9/11 attacks at meetings across the North Coast, called the sale “a taking.”

He said he tried to block the auction by filing legal papers but was rejected by Superior Court Judge Gary Nadler. He said the seizures were part of a government plot to silence him.

“I’ve done everything I can possibly do to try to stop this,” an emotional Jenkel said outside the county administration building in Santa Rosa.

The auctions stemmed from a 2006 dispute between Hobbs and Jenkel. Hobbs claimed Jenkel destroyed a stand of century-old fir trees on Hobbs’ property by allowing his well to drain onto the property. A judge agreed and ordered Jenkel to pay Hobbs $350,000.

When Jenkel refused, the county began seizing his land and selling it at auction at Hobbs’ request.

Despite the three transactions, Jenkel still owes Hobbs an estimated $300,000. Hobbs said he was considering whether to take part of Jenkel’s remaining seven acres, but said he would not take his house.

“I won’t put the man out of his home,” he said. “I might put a lien on his property, though.”

Jenkel said he would call for investigations by the district attorney and state attorney general. He didn’t attend the auction or try to get someone to bid on his property because he doesn’t recognize the seizure as legal, he said.

Meanwhile, Hobbs said he would plant pinot noir grapes on his newly acquired land.

The three purchases bring his winery property to the edge of busy Highway 116. Before the dispute, he had only limited access and had obtained an easement from Jenkel.

Since opening the winery in 2006, Hobbs said Jenkel created a nuisance with an accumulation of junk cars, dilapidated outbuildings and protest signs.

He said he was happy for the chance to clean it up.

“Let’s be honest — those are nice parcels along the road,” Hobbs said. “We really feel we were justified in taking them and that what we’ve done is fair.”

Hobbs said he was surprised at the lack of competition for an auction that was advertised in The Press Democrat legal notices section. Joan Maxwell, the winery’s chief financial officer, said the company was prepared to bid up to $300,000 for the last piece.

But the auction opened with no minimum and the winery snapped it up for $1,000 cash.

Area real estate agents expressed surprise Thursday at what it went for.

“Oh my gosh,” said Roger Strawbridge of Frank Howard Allen Realtors-Graton. “It’s an absurd price. I should have been there.”

31 Responses to “Jenkel loses another chunk of his ranch”

  1. MandT says:

    The first thing Hobbs did after taking John’s land was to cut down the redwood line that extended into the seized property next to the vineyard. Yet another example of our local robber barons at work.

  2. TheObserver says:

    @ Dave Smith:

    and what position do you hold at the winery?

  3. jbmurray says:

    This outrageous land grab by Mr. Hobbs is a crime against Mr. Jenkel and the entire community. All citizens should boycott any Hobbs wine products, hold protests, carry signs that show what money and greed can do.
    Whatever the personality quirks of Mr. Jenkel, this in an outrageous theft of his land.
    Does anyone have a line to attorney Tony Serra?

  4. Dave Smith says:

    Wow it’s amazing how many people complain about the process in which the property was auctioned.

    Where were all of you when the auction was advertised and then completed as ordered by a Superior Court Judge? (Crickets) I didn’t think so. If you want to buy a piece of land next to a wacky guy who continually refuses to recognize legal judgements… then I encourage all of you complainers to go to the next two auctions.

    There will be two more within the next two years… and then Jenkel will be left with one parcel with his home on it. (Unless Hobbs comes after that and I personally hope he does so Jenkel can move back to San Francisco and cost them a ton of money for all of the county services which Jenkel continually uses). Jenkel hires parolees and other criminals who are more than willing to hold a sign or hand out the nonsence he prints for $15-20 and hour.

    And for all of the bleeding hearts out there who want the county to place Jenkel under a conservatorship… The county has already tried that route. Jenkel is living in an altered version of reality but he does not meet the critera for a forced conservatorship.

    Bottom line… Jenkel is doing this to himself and most likely will retain the property which has his house on it as well as many other properties he owns in the city and county of San Francisco. Do a title search for yourselves.

    If Jenkel had worked with his neighbor… who happens to be a Winery… when the issues over Jenkel’s continuous discharge of water onto the winery’s property came up, none of this would have happened.

    So instead of bashing the Winery that took the proper legal action why don’t you go out to Jenkel’s property or give him a call (He is listed in the phone book) to fix it yourself!

  5. James Bennett says:


  6. Brian says:

    That is an outright theft of a persons land. Even in emanate domain there has to be FAIR MARKET VALUE. Maybe the judge and the winery owner are golf buddies, just sayin

  7. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    Vowell Movement-Really.

    I used to drive over Grange Road to SSU and back everyday. In the spring, coming over the hill to Bennett Valley Road, on the south side of the road used to be a glorius site with trees, rock formations, vernal pools, and blue lupine. The vines that replace this glory are ugly to me. Not only that, but the road that NEVER flooded, Bennett Valley Road, now floods regularly.

    This is happening all over the county. Are there ANY vernal pools left? What a loss.

    Mr. Jenkel obviously has a few screws loose in his head. It’s sad that he is unable to protect himself from a vineyard owner with the money to hire lawyers.

  8. Jenkel’s status as a “whacko” is irrelevant. Everyone, whacko’s included, have private property rights. Hobbs is taking advantage of this guy who is clearly incapable of defending himself. It’s akin to challenging a sixth grade girl to a fistfight. It’s pathetic and wrong. Several have already said it… he’s had his pound of flesh. Leave the guy alone already!

  9. John Hudson says:

    One reason why the DA might look upon Jenkel with favor after four years of anti-district attorney signs on his property is that the present DA has been in office only for a few months and those signs must have referred to her predecessor who she is not friends with. However, Jenkel’s loss has occurred at least under color of law and due process. It is hard to see how the DA could possibly do anything about it.

    I also think that an award of this amount for what has been described is extreme. I wish that somebody could explain why Judge Nadler allowed this judgment to be entered and how this sum was arrived at. To me, at least superficially, it appears that Jenkel has been the victim of a predatory lawyer who took advantage of his eccentricities and mental infirmities. The only way to know is to go to the courthouse and pull the file.

  10. Great News says:

    Jenkel is a wacko! Finally some justice. And to Mr. Wacko, why would you bother calling the DA’s Office. You have posted horrible signs on your property about the DA for over four years, and now you want her attention? Screw you buddy – you won’t get any attention from them. Time for you to move out of town!

  11. Obsessed and Deluded says:

    It is unfortunate, but John is obsessed by thoughts that the government is out to silence him. He is so focused on this delusion that he is not able to defend himself appropriately by retaining a lawyer, etc. This has to be clear to Mr. Hobbs who is taking full advantage of the situation, robbing John of his property. In a perfect world, someone would get John the help he needs to address his illness and Hobbs would not tak advantage of an ill man.

  12. ol' salty says:

    Someone asked if Hobbs has an attorney. The answer is several and at least one judge.

  13. John Hudson says:

    Does anyone know if Jenkel or Hobbs is represented by an attorney? It doesn’t sound as if Jenkel is. If Jenkel is not, he has not done everything that he can to prevent Hobbs from taking his property.

  14. James Bennett says:

    I found John to be a thoughtful softspoken man.Many have induldged in judgements that are irrespective of his rights.Apply some common sense.Try to imagine the volume of water it would take to undermine and be solely responsible as to cause a huge redwood(s) to fall.Then try to prove it conclusively.Redwoods are often partially submerged for months naturally.If I can associate my wine purchases with Hobb’s Vineyards…I will not.As we will soon see, people that spoke out during these times-should be heros, not villans.If Americans knew what/who/how was behind some of our most significant events, we would realize that our world is wilder than fiction.This story certainly is.

  15. Jon Bixler says:

    NOTUTOOTWOTOTU…. are you kidding me?! Jenkel is clearly mentally unstable. He is being taken advantage of both by the courts and his morally bankrupt neighbor.

    It did not come to this because of Jenkel’s failure to “face what was happening to him” as you claim. It came to this for a far simpler reason. He pissed off his rich neighbor who had the means to tort him into the poor house. Jenkel has the bad luck of owning prime real estate in the wine country. With him out of the way, Hobbs’ winery will have prime Gravenstein Highway access.

  16. NOTUTOO says:

    Jenkle was afforded every opportunity to make good on the judgements . Anybody feeling sorry for Jenkle has it wrong. Instead of defending himself in court he chose to use his court time to protest the 911 commission. He tried to sue the Sonoma County judges and court officers for being co-conspiritors in what he called the “911 cover up.” It came to this because Jenkel wouldn’t or couldn’t face what was taking place in the courts. Jenkle fought every effort to provide him his own day in court and didn’t even bother to resond or appear in court when summoned, because he wouldn’t recognise the courts authority. I would agree with GAJ that “The pound of flesh has been taken out of Jenkel’s hide.” Hobbs would do well for himself to see the judgement as being fulfilled.

  17. Clash says:

    …”Jenkel said he would call for investigations by the district attorney and state attorney general. He didn’t attend the auction or try to get someone to bid on his property because he doesn’t recognize the seizure as legal, he said.”

    This is a big part of the problem. Jenkel should focus on dealing with the lien instead of not recognizing the judgement as legal.

  18. truth in law says:

    Maybe the feds should be called in to investigate Mr. Hobbs.

  19. A vineyard owner has filed suit for the destruction of trees… really?

  20. Jon Bixler says:

    This reeks stinking rotten of an eccentric pain in the ass old man being completely taken advantage of by a wealthy vineyard owner who seems to be behaving as if he doesn’t have a moral bone in his body.

  21. anita says:

    Theft! Allowed by our courts. There is nothing fair or just here. Where is the County Counsel. This is fudiciary abuse. The lands of Jenkel have been stolen with court approval. Because Jenkel is a senior, I wonder if Adult Protective Services can get involved.

  22. Phil Maher says:

    The market value of Jenkel’s land should be applied to the settlement of the suit, not the absurdly low auction price. Even eminent domain proceeding require at least that much. There should have been a minimum bid. A stand of fir trees for $350k? 16 acres of prime agricultural land later for a mere $61k, and Hobbs still has the nerve to not call it even and wants more? The way it looks, even with legal fees added to the amount Jenkle owes, it looks like maybe it’s Hobbs that owes him money. Maybe millions. The country was grossly negligent, and Hobbs…yes, he does come off exactly like a “greedy SOB”.

  23. Elizabeth says:

    I have never seen nor will I ever purchase Hobb’s Wine. The man is a big a thief as Jenkel is a big eccentric!
    Hobbs may win the fight, but he will lose this war in the public eye.

  24. James Bennett says:

    I guess fair is where they put ribbons on pigs.

  25. Dogs Rule says:

    Don’t make powerful people mad around here. You’ll be sorry. Or, lose half your ranch in some land grab that’s legal if you squint real hard.

    Jenkel might be a kook but Hobbs is a thief.

  26. TheObserver says:

    This is a taking. You can see Hobbs getting nervous about his reputation in this article. It’s making his greed very visible. If you read between the lines a little, you can see Hobbs taking advantage of an eccentric that the community thinks is “weird.”

    I’ll tell you what’s “weird;” selling land in an “auction” with only one buyer. It’s a taking. I think Jenkel should get some decent representation and take his land back. This is creepy.

  27. Globalctzn says:

    Right or wrong I have seen the county do similiar wrongs to land owners “just a step off the edge” but “normal or not” our system is still supposed to protect their rights. This auction looks a bit to cozy to me. I am glad that Hobbs is not my neighbor, he appears to share the PG&E CEO’s mentality. How convenient that he just happens to be informed ready and able to attend these “auctions” and secure such nice adjacent property aquisitions at far below fair market price, for his own preplanned use while others less informed struggle along. Perhaps the County better look at how they are holding these sales, at least from a tax base mindset. I hope the county tax accessor takes a good look at the true value of this land and rates it accordingly, we all could use the additional tax base. We all may not agree with Jenkel’s ways but perhaps he is not so far off the mark here. Especially with Hobbs already scoping out his next purchase of Jenkel’s property. Enough.

  28. Not reasonable says:

    Jenkel has never been reasonable. Why should Hobbs be? I saw the parcel Hobbs got for $10K with two houses on it. I was 2 acres with 2 condemed rat hole shacks on it. The clean up wil lbe more that $10k.. Yes it was worht more that $10k, but there was only one bidder at the auction. No one wants that land next to Jenkel. He isnt worth living next to for free.

  29. Dan Delgado says:

    I posted on the first story that the legal process was proceeding in it’s normal fashion. I do have to say now, however, that this seems excessive. Jenkel should at least get something close to fair market value for his land. He of course could have sold the property himself to raise the money necessary to pay the judgment. The fact that he didn’t suggests someone divorced from reality. The earlier suggestion of a conservatorship certainly seems reasonable.

  30. RICHARD CANINI says:

    “Before the dispute, he [Hobbs] had only limited access and had obtained an easement from Jenkel.” – By PAUL PAYNE. Such a good neighbor!

    Before the latest sale, this was sent to me by a person well acquainted with Mr Jenkel: “They have a false judgement of around $350,000 and Hobbs has taken 2, nearly 5 acre lots with homes; one for $50,000 and another for $10,000. Both could have gone for at least 1 million each.”

    The value gained by Mr Hobbs is far in excess of the judgment. It may be legal, but it’s wrong, in my opinion. Acts like this give the law a bad name.

    The court ought appoint a conservator for Mr Jenkel. This and the expressed opinions of numerous people about Mr Jenkel could justify a court appointed conservator. A conservator could sell a small portion Mr Jenkel’s land at FAIR market value to satisfy the judgement. At the rate this is going, he’ll lose all his land and still owe Mr Hobbs.

    This is not Justice.

  31. GAJ says:

    The value of the land essentially settles the debt, despite the fact that Hobbs got it at a fire sale price.

    The pound of flesh has been taken out of Jenkel’s hide; putting a lien on his house, because Hobbs got a financial windfall, does not sound like the ethical thing to do at all.

    Assuming Jenkel doesn’t do any more boneheaded things it is time for Hobbs to leave him alone.