Rural Petaluma Neighbors Challenge Cannabis Industrialization

Sonoma County, California — “No Pot on Purvine” read a catchy flyer appearing in a rural Petaluma neighborhood in Northern California, announcing an October 8 meeting. It almost got cancelled, because of the rampant wildfires, so some people did not make it. However, 30 concerned citizens attended.

“We live in rural West Petaluma, and are spearheading a campaign to keep our ag. and open space just that,” arrived an email to a group called Preserve Rural Sonoma County, which maintains a website and Facebook page. “We are up against a big money cannabis operation with sights on land purchased on our rural Purvine Road. It calls for acres of indoor and outdoor Cannabis cultivation and processing, which will impact our water, safety, security, traffic, etc.,” wrote Ayn Garvisch.

Garvisch hosted the meeting at her home across the street from the large grow. Three other articulate women joined her at the front of the crowd– Britt Jensen, Phoebe Lang, and Autuym Condit. Participants were asked to sign in and a large table displayed the site plan and communications with the county. The owner of this contested cannabis grow at 334 Purvine, who lives in San Francisco, showed up at the meeting with a few people. He was not invited and was not allowed to enter, since this was the first meeting of the group.

It was a family affair, with one person being 14-years old, and another mentioning that he began living in the neighborhood in the 1940s, as well as sweet dogs welcoming visitors with their playful energy. The issues at hand were serious, yet the laughter among friends and people meeting for the first time was contagious. One couple has already paid a substantial retainer to an attorney. So the group has both an activist and a legal approach.

Following are notes this reporter took:

“Water is a big issue, since we do not have much water in certain parts of this neighborhood. Some of us have shallow wells, which would be compromised.”

“The Water Quality permit will be key and could be hard to get. They will have to keep their run-off on site.”

“I don’t want the traffic, drugs, thieving, guard house tower, triple barbed wire, and 24-hour surveillance. This scene will look like a prison.”

“We should demand an EIR (Environmental Impact Report). The cultural resources of this area and the historical nature of a 150-years-old barn and chicken houses are also important,” said Autymn Condit.

“The advice we received from another local group, Petalumans for Responsible Planning, was that an EIR report would stall the project and catalog all environmental and cultural resources in the area. There are many cultural resources and history connected to Purvine Road that the County is unaware of.”

“We are guinea pigs for the County’s forthcoming cannabis policies. It has yet to be determined if their current restrictions on water use and water quality address the tangible effects of such an operation for years to come.

“Our property values would be likely to go down once this operation has been established, which may draw other pot growing operations.”

“We want to keep our neighborhood as beautiful countryside and for food agriculture, rather than have it industrialized.”

“This differs from the small operations that have been happening.”

“We have to prepare for a protracted struggle.”

“One of their applications says they will have 5 workers, whereas another says 15. Purvine is a narrow, windy road, so this would be a traffic nightmare, leading to increasing accidents, some potentially serious.”

“A current tenant at the site, a school teacher, is being evicted, thus taking an educator of children out of the community.”

“The owner lies. He says it is only a weekend home and organic farm. Then they tore down the historic chicken houses.”

“We’ve researched who the owners are, and they have lots of money.  I do not expect them to back down.”

“We have to be ready for a protracted struggle. We need to become a royal pain in their back.”

“A benefit of this is that we will get to know our neighbors better.”

This initial meeting accomplished many things, including the development of an email list of concerned citizens and creating a neighborly feeling among participants. Next steps include a neighborhood picnic and displaying lawn signs.

The group has started a letter-writing campaign to 2nd District Supervisor David Rabbit and others. One such letter includes the following:

I have many concerns about this industry’s impact on our area’s water quality, availability, safety and traffic. Furthermore, I believe that the proposed plan would contribute to increased theft, odor, and would have permanent effects on the cultural and natural landscape of the area.

More information on the challenged website: 334 Purvine Rd.

file parcel 022-230-018 the dropbox link follows:

Neighborhood website:

Shepherd Bliss (3sb@comcast.net) is a retired college teacher who has contributed to 24 books.

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