WatchSonoma Watch

‘Stop-work’ order on Guerneville-area timber conversion


Sonoma County code enforcement officials are scheduled Monday to inspect a 10-acre timberland conversion project on property near Pocket Canyon, just east of Guerneville, owned by winemaker Paul Hobbs.

Hobbs also has been clearing trees on a highly visible parcel near the his winery on Gravenstein Highway at Graton Road, property he obtained in a civil suit against political activist John Jenkel. However, county officials say Hobbs acquired the necessary permits for that work.

Although Hobbs obtained a timberland conversion permit from the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection for the Pocket Canyon property, he did not meet additional conditions of that permit, specifically obtaining a use permit and grading permit from the county, county officials said. County officials said they had issued a “stop-work” order on the site pending the inspection Monday.

“We are going to be inspecting the site on Monday to see if the work that has been done amounts to a violation of county ordinance,” said David Hardy, supervising planner for the Sonoma County Permit & Resource Management Department.

Hardy said that under the county’s timber conversion ordinance of 2006, a use permit is required whenever timberland switched to agricultural uses such as vineyards. Hardy said a code enforcement team will try to determine if any of the work constitutes grading, which has not been approved.

Hobbs said he has applied for a county use permit and that “absolutely no grading” work has been done at the site, nor will any work be done until the necessary permits are obtained.

“We’re not moving a finger until we get that permit,” he said.

Hardy said his plans are to plant between 8.5 and 10 acres of vineyards on the Pocket Canyon property. He said he will irrigate the vineyards using a reservoir that is filled from runoff and that no well water will be used.

On Monday, Hobbs’ property will also be inspected by officials from Calfire and North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

15 Responses to “‘Stop-work’ order on Guerneville-area timber conversion”

  1. Larry Hanson says:

    The bigger picture here is that the corporate wine industry is using a provision called “right to farm”, meant for farmers who grow food, to essentially turn water from streams and in underground aquifers into wine. Think about it–streams and aquifers are not contained on one property.

    Water resources are being called the next gold and apparently the rush is on. But in waters’ case, having enough is life and death and not simply making a killing in a gold mine.

    There are many impacts to wine production but the worst may be sapping up more water that will likely get exported (how many locals can afford $80 per bottle). Even if were cheap, enough is enough. Where is the planning for societies true needs?

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  2. John Roberts says:

    Paul Hobbs had a 12′ easement into his property. He needed a 30′ easement in order to build his winery – 30′ is the requirement for a commercial venture. John Jenkel granted that easement for no money, only the verbal agreement with Hobbs to not cut down the 60 Douglas Fir trees that were on Hobbs property next to their shared property line. Hobbs later drilled a well 200′ from Jenkel’s existing well. For whatever reasons, Jenkel’s well started drawing sand for the first time in many years of service. He had a sand filter installed by a Pump Co. that was supposed to purge itself on a periodic basis. It malfunctioned and ran water continuously for a few months impacting only a partial part of the grove that was even or downhill from the water flow. It has since been repaired. Two trees were seriously damaged and apparently 6 more were impacted. These trees were cut down by Hobbs. Later in the winter one tree blew down and clipped a corner of one of Hobbs buildings. Hobbs then claimed that the whole grove had been compromised and removed the remaining 52 trees. He then sued Jenkel for the costs. He was awarded $160,000 in damages, and then for whatever reason, the judge doubled the amount of the judgment against Jenkel. Hobbs has since forced three parcels to come up for auction and has paid himself handsomely by securing the bids and collecting the money right back. Today, there are foundations poured for future buildings where the original fir tree grove was. Hobbs has been paid handsomely for doing what he does best, cutting down trees and planting sterile vineyards. Nice work if you can get it.
    His completed clear cutting of 10 acres of ridgetop forestland in Pocket Canyon without the proper permits is an insult to all of us.
    What arrogance.

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  3. Pearl Alquileres says:

    Clearly we just don’t have enough GOVERNMENT agencies & regulations.
    Maybe we could close a few schools, a couple fire depts and lay off some cops & free up funding to finance another agency. Create some new regulations & hire some more code enforcement officials.
    This guy Hobbs acts like he OWNS the property! Who the he11 does he think he is??!!

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  4. Western Cluebird says:

    It’s not just about the trees, though seeing them on the ground was sad.I would have tried to save some along the roadside myself, but it isn’t my land.They could have been diseased or dying for all we know.
    The trees that Jenkel admitted to intentionally killing fell on and damaged a building at Hobb’s winery.
    This was one of many actions that Jenkel engaged in to harass his neighbor and interfere with his livlihood. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
    I understand the sympathy for an elderly man who seems to be incapable or unwilling to face reality , but Jenkel is not the victim he would like to portray himself as, or the press is making him out to be.I have seen victims rights advocates flee from him. Now, many who have posted here want Hobbs to spare Jenkel from the consequnces of his bad behavior.
    Who was outraged when Jenkel was hired to drive the horse-drawn hearse by the soldiers family and he hired his lackeys to protest along the funeral route?
    Who complained when he paid people to protest outside of local small businesses because they refused to sign his bizarre anti-war pledge?
    I don’t know Paul Hobbs, but I think he would have a hard time taking the title of “most unethical” away from Jenkel.
    I also know that there were a lot of unseen expenses associated with the properties. If anyone wanted to pay off all of the liens, the attorney fees, the removal of condemmed buildings, the removal of the stand of trees made unstable by Jenkels actions, etc. they could have bid on the properties, too. Nobody seemed to want the hassle and expense, so Hobbs was free to bid whatever his attorney suggested.
    I admit, it seems outrageous that anyone could get that prime real estate for such a low bid, but there is much more to this story than meets the eye.

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  5. Jon Bixler says:

    The level of unrepentant douchbaggery required to pull such a stunt boggles the mind. Mr. Boggs, you have indeed found a legal loophole through which you will undoubtedly extract every last bit of Jenkel’s land. One can only hope that there is a karmic response to your rotten behavior.

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  6. Kharma says:

    Yeah, I thought trees were close to Hobb’s heart? Wonder if he has one?

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  7. Phil Maher says:

    @Western Cluebird-

    It wasn’t so much about the terms and conditions of the judgment, or whether the land was blighted and encumbered, it was about the fair market value of the property vs the auction price.

    What got me was indeed the hypocrisy involved. Hobbs was concerned enough about some trees to file suit, but after seeing what he’s done with the land (rightful or not), I was left wondering how he set’s his priorities in terms of which trees are important, and which aren’t. From the results, it appears that no tree fits into the important category when it’s in the path of the D-9 or could be replaced by a few cash producing vines. You say you were also “stunned” by what you saw. I went beyond that- I tried to liken it to what I’ve seen on a similar scale during the course of my life. Clear cutting in the Pacific Northwest didn’t even come close. All I was able to come up with was the indiscriminate destruction left in the wakes of events like hurricanes and Mt St Helens.

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  8. Beef King says:

    I for one am very concerned about the precedent this will set if Hobbs is allowed to destroy 10 acres in the Pocket Canyon.
    The traffic along Hwy. 116 is already dangerous enough with quarry trucks ruining the road, let alone the traffic that will come with Hobbs’ dream of alcohol producing plants instead of trees.
    I hope all who care call Efren Carrillo and put pressure on him to make sure that Hobbs’ vision of destruction does not become reality.

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  9. Kharma says:

    It’s a good thing ‘Grey Whitmore’ isn’t in public service, this individuals moral compass is broken. Just because you can get away with something, it doesn’t mean it’s just. It’s nice to be important, it’s more important to be nice. Revealing perspective, ‘Grey’.

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  10. Western Cluebird says:

    I was a little stunned to drive by and see the trees down, then reminded myself the it is Hobb’s property and he has a right to farm in this county.
    Personally, I am glad to no longer see the mounds of garbage and billboard sized signs Jenkel always displayed along the roadside.
    If you knew the amount of liens on the properties and expense to remove the condemed buildings, etc. you may not be saying that Hobbs stole them from Jenkel.
    Why do you think no one else bid on the properties?
    Hobbs is not the only one that Jenkel has harassed-just one of the few that can legally get the better of him.
    Jenkel is no longer allowed to litigate against people in his own name.Do you wonder why?
    He still has valuable property holdings in San Francisco.He is not destitute and not a victim, except of his own doing.

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  11. Jon Bixler says:

    Yo Grey… The legality of the judgment isn’t being called to question. It’s the ethics (or lack thereof) of Hobbs forcing the satisfaction of the judgment by parceling up Jenkel’s land so that he can have more room for his Pinot. C’mon, Jenkel’s 72 years old. Hobbs had his judgment. He could have simply placed a lien on the property and collected his $300K during probate.

    Instead, he’s buying Jenkel’s land at the auctions that he forces as prices RIDICULOUSLY below market. At the end of the day, Hobbs will own the better part of a million and a half worth of Jenkel’s real estate for a paltry $300K.

    The most absurd part to this story is that he had the stones to sue Jenkel for the destruction of trees. Hah! If you reallly want to see trees being destroyed, take Phil’s advice and drive by Hobbs’ freshly acquired 4 acres that he picked up at auction for a thousand bucks. He’s bulldozed every single tree. Hippocrit indeed.

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  12. Grey Whitmore says:

    Oh grow up people. Hobbs obtained the judgment legally.

    As for Karma, um, hello, there is no god. Or other selective beliefs about events in someones life.

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  13. Phil Maher says:

    Have a drive by on Hobbs’ property that he essentially stole from Jenkel on Gravenstein Hwy. Given the amount of stripping of the land that was once covered by trees, you witness not only utter devastation, but you’re left with the feeling that his lawsuit that was allegedly premised on the death of a stand of fir trees was nothing more than a ploy to use his money to bully his neighbor into getting what he wanted. He’s done more purposeful destruction than Jenkel could’ve done if he had wanted to. Such hypocrisy!

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  14. Jon Bixler says:

    Kharma…. you said a mouthful! This guy has some nerve suing his neighbor for killing trees considering he absolutely EXCELS at this type of activity. What goes around comes around.

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  15. Kharma says:

    Knock-knock…who is it? Kharma, we have some business to take care of.

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