Resolution in sight for Lagunitas tea purveyor
December 18, 2019
The date has been set for a mandatory settlement conference between the county and David Lee Hoffman, the Lagunitas resident who for years has defended the dozens of unpermitted structures on his property despite mounting fines. In superior court this month, Judge Paul Haakenson put the settlement discussion on the calendar for March 12, a meeting he hopes will result in a final resolution. The conference will include county counsel, the receiver to whom the judge gave control over the property in 2015, a representative from the Bank of America—which has a lien on the property—and members of the Lagunitas Project, a nonprofit that has been fundraising for months and hopes to eventually take ownership of the property. Mr. Hoffman faces a nearly $1 million tab on his property taxes in penalties and fees, alongside the estimated cost of $2.2 million to bring his property into compliance. Paul Seaton, the executive director of the Lagunitas Project, said he hopes for $90,000 in grant monies next year. With support from groups like the Marin chapter of the Sierra Club, the project envisions using Mr. Hoffman’s property as a model of sustainable systems. Though Mr. Hoffman and the county have agreed to apply the more lenient historic building code to the property—dubbed The Last Resort—the settlement will iron out the details. For example, Mr. Seaton hopes the county will agree to preserve the extensive and unique gray water system, which filters and recycles water, and a black water system that composts human waste. In a letter sent in August, the chair of the local Sierra Club chapter, Judy Schriebman, wrote that Mr. Hoffman has demonstrated a “nearly closed-loop cycle for waste treatment and food production, on a very small property. This is an extraordinarily powerful and unique working example of sustainability.” At the hearing last Friday, Judge Haakenson encouraged Mr. Hoffman not to stall the settlement in any way, considering the case has dragged on for more than a decade and that the alternative to an agreement was bulldozing. “What I often tell people embroiled in litigation is to look forward, not backwards, and not to pose the problem but rather the solution. That’s what we are going to work on in the next 90 days,” he said.