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Letter: Don’t turn Capay Valley into a Sacrifice Zone

The following letter was sent to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors and shared with the Davisite

Hello Yolo County Supervisors,

Allow me to be frank. Although each county supervisor is elected by the voters of their district, you represent all the residents (whether they voted for you or not) of the entire county.

That means your unspoken eagerness for pot revenue needs to be balanced against how the carpet-bagging influx of most pot grows being located mostly in District Five could undermine what was already here and growing.

“The “California Travel Impacts” report, prepared for Visit California by Dean Runyan Associates, shows visitor spending reached $454.3 million and supported 5,219 jobs in Yolo County in 2019.”

While our county’s three large cities get the credit, recreation in Capay Valley is also a significant factor, with river rafting, Almond Festival tourism, lavender farms and wine tasting, the Yocha Dehe Golf Club, Cache Creek Casino Resort, Séka Hills Olive Mill, Mother’s Day garden tours, and 3 decades of Full Belly Farm’s Hoes Down events drawing considerable crowds. The county took in $15 million in local tax revenue in 2019 from visitors.  https://www.dailydemocrat.com/2020/05/16/new-economic-report-highlights-importance-of-tourism-to-yolo-county/

Another report shows how agricultural production and the food system are key factors in western Yolo County’s economy:
  • Western Yolo could experience a 30 percent increase in visitation from the recent designation of Barryessa Snow Mountain National Monument immediately west, adding an estimated $50 million in annual economic activity and $800,000 in tax revenue over five years. Similarly, the county could expect to see an increase in local agritourism as the regional farm-to-fork movement continues to expand.
  • Rises in tourism could augment the demand for accommodations such as lodging, food (restaurants and grocery), entertainment, fuel and especially transportation facilities. Economic development, tourism and transportation strategies for rural jurisdictions and businesses will help western Yolo maximize this market opportunity. The case study incorporates a plan for bicycle tourism using the City of Winters and surrounding western Yolo County as its primary case study to provide an example of one such strategy.

Page 7: https://www.sacog.org/sites/main/files/file-attachments/yolo_case_study-technical_report_final_0.pdf?1480711320

At the Cannabis meetings (before COVID) which I attended, the staff pretended to listen to us but their intention was to placate us. It has come to pass that nothing we said budged them; their report doesn’t reflect how strongly people here don’t want to be stuck with most of the pot grows in the county.

I know of two couples who sold up and left Capay Valley due to the disturbances from pot grows near their homes, and many others who are trying to cope with the noise, the transient workers, the dogs and armed guards that go hand-in-hand with a crop like cannabis.

It’s not too late to do the right thing. From the very beginning of this Pot Bonanza, county offices had posters warning that once the regulations were finalized pot growers might find the requirements more difficult than they expected.

But, instead, we the residents are somehow second class citizens compared to the commercial cannabis businesses. There is still a little time to fix this, or else history will show the dire results of putting tax revenues above residents.

Don’t turn Capay Valley into a Sacrifice Zone  

Lauren Ayers
Guinda, CA

Comments

Lauren Ayers

I asked my neighbor Helen if I could post her galvanizing letter to the county supervisors. Here it is:

Helen H. McCloskey
Rumsey, CA 95679

Re: May 4 CLUO BOS Meeting May 3, 2021

To the Board of Supervisors:

I have participated from the start in the County’s foray into adopting cannabis as a source of revenue, so I can attest that, in my opinion, with 5 years experience as a Planning Commissioner in another jurisdiction, as well as having participated on the County’s General Plan Review Committee years ago, and serving currently for the second time as a Capay Valley Advisory Committee member, Yolo County has violated or deliberately and disingenuously avoided the protocol that the state of California has in place precisely so that new “projects” do not cause harm in the communities which they affect.

The primary purposes of CEQA are to avoid, reduce or prevent environmental damage, and foster an informed and transparent public decision-making process by providing information to decision-makers and the public concerning the environmental effects of projects either undertaken or approved by lead agencies.

From the start, Yolo County- you- chose not do the required CEQA process to analyze the impacts of bringing a new, highly controversial, and federally illegal industry into the County, not that any of us cared much about the latter point, but its status certainly highlighted the need for solid analysis. Deliberately avoiding a CEQA review, and pretending that a new endeavor of this magnitude was merely something to be handled “ministerially”, you turned this project- how to tap into the serious money represented by the cannabis industry- over to the Ag Commissioner, who had no experience in the matter. Meetings, which I attended, were held on private property and not properly noticed as required by the Brown Act. Decisions on who could get permits and how the process should proceed were made haphazardly, with inaccurate and faulty information on qualifying criteria, and changing rules. Your actions and policies created an unlevel playing field for residents interested in entering the new industry and deprived many of entry into an advantageous business opportunity, particularly for farmers seeking to diversify their portfolio of crops and revenue. Staff’s handling of this led to chaos that led to two moratoria, also not properly noticed, neither of whose parameters were followed or enforced by the County. The Board of Supervisors has given staff vast discretion in administering the cannabis venture with little or no oversight, and the cost is high.

Staff and hired consultants have consistently disregarded the repeated expressions of dismay from the farmers and residents of the Capay Valley regarding the County’s cannabis implementation. The documented realities include: increased crime, environmental degradation, noise, smells, lack of law enforcement, animal neglect and abuse on permitted grows that go unaddressed, loss of property values for long-time residents next to grows ridiculously allowed by staff with no community input or notice of any kind, violations of the law on the part of permitted growers that never lead to the County pulling a permit, favoritism to growers, disregard of the incredible efforts of the residents of the Capay Valley in making the Capay Valley a family-friendly, organic farming Mecca and environmental and recreational resource for the benefit of all.

Most of us voted to legalize cannabis. Little did we know our County’s implementation would harm so many and benefit so few, creating a policy of social and economic injustice that creates great wealth for a few at the expense of the community. When anyone can grow cannabis, it’ll be farming. Growing cannabis isn’t “farming”; it’s a grant of special privilege, available only to those with access to wealth, and largely abused.

The cannabis industry completely lacks transparency. I have far more knowledge of who is in charge at Exxon Mobile, for instance, both in terms of the Board of Directors, the CEO, and upper management staff, than I’ll ever know about the grows in Rumsey. Who holds the permit? Who is the grower? Even those rules have changed several times with no public input or notice. Who is in the fluid, secretive LLCs and corporate structures? Who are the investors? What hedge funds, Bernie Madoff types or cartel interests are funding these operations behind the scenes? What you have enabled is not acceptable.

For the violations of the Brown Act, you should be held accountable. For the deliberate circumvention of CEQA, you should be held accountable. For your outrageous EIR, built on the absence of CEQA, you should be held accountable. For the economic injustice your policies have put in place, you should be held accountable. Choosing a dark source of money over transparency of process and the well being of the people is corruption.

President Lincoln said, “If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never again regain their esteem.” May I suggest you try.

Sincerely,

Lauren Ayers

What's a CEQA?

Here's a very concise explanation of one environmental reform from the early 70's (!!) that has democratized the planning process in so many ways:
https://www.sierraclub.org/sites/www.sierraclub.org/files/sce/redwood-chapter/newsletters/April2013.pdf

Ron O

Glad to see Lauren expand upon the reasons for her concern, compared to what was submitted on the Vanguard. Which mistakenly brought up the "elephant-in-the-room" - the casino (in a seemingly positive manner), but which "tramples" over everything else.

But, all water under the bridge, at this point. Maybe someday things will change regarding that.

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