The truth about your Lafferty Ranch
and public access to the Sonoma Mountain Countryside

If you just tuned in...

  • Lafferty Ranch is the only public property on Sonoma Mountain -- 270 acres of spectacular views and a year-round stream -- and we own it!

  • Since 1962, the City of Petaluma has planned a wilderness park for Lafferty.

  • 1980s: Peter Pfendler moved in next door and began his campaign to keep the public off Lafferty to protect his privacy (see below.)

  • 1996: After public opposition killed Pfendler's proposal to swap Moon (dude) Ranch for Lafferty, the Petaluma City Council voted unanimously to plan and develop Lafferty Ranch Park.

  • In 1997, a City-appointed committee drafted a park Management Plan. Mr. Pfendler and others forced the City to do an unprecedented level of studies, while preventing public access.

  • The City has published a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), due to be approved this fall.

EIR: No significant environmental impact from unsupervised hiking

  • None of the 46 potential environmental impacts listed in the EIR, including wildlife, fire, and traffic, are considered "significant" (EIR, p. 46-51). This refutes the neighbors' claims that hikers must have permits or escorts to safely walk on Lafferty Ranch.

With desperadoes like these on the loose, it's no wonder some folks on
Sonoma Mountain are afraid to open Lafferty to public access.

On Lafferty EIR
7 PM Tuesday
June 30, 1998
Petaluma City Hall,
Post &
English Streets

Traffic Impact?

  • Lafferty's 6 car per hour traffic impact (EIR, p. 113) is "potentially significant," only because Mr. Pfendler got the County to recommend a standard that no other rural park in the county can meet. He's hoping to use his clout with the County to kill the project.

Drive it for yourself! Take East Washington from 101 or downtown Petaluma toward Sonoma Mountain (you can't miss it!). Turn left on Adobe Road, then after less than one mile, turn right on Sonoma Mountain road. Follow this road about three miles up the mountain. The Lafferty Ranch gate is where Sonoma Mountain Road turns sharply 90 degress to the left.

Costs low despite lawyers' attacks

  • Opening the park will cost around $300,000 ( about $20 per Petaluma household). Responding to legal threats account for over one quarter of that total.

  • By comparison, improvements for a modest 4 acre Petaluma neighborhood park are estimated at over $500,000. The City's annual park development budget is $1 to 3 million.

Access: A temporary roadblock

  • The City recently completed an detailed boundary survey that proves we have full legal access to Lafferty from Sonoma Mountain Road. The neighbors are challenging this survey, to prevent your use of Lafferty, so the City may have to condemn the disputed land.

Lafferty is a County issue

Mr. Pfendler and others are attacking public access and trail recreation (for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians) all over Sonoma County. They want to:

  • Delete Sonoma Mountain trails from the County's Outdoor Recreation Plan

  • Prevent the Open Space District from buying agricultural land trail easements from willing sellers

  • Require multi-million dollar roads to future hiking parks, pricing them beyond County budgets.

  • Prevent future owners from allowing trails.

Learning from the past...

Opponents of Lafferty have characterized our efforts as "petty bickering," or based on prejudice against millionaires. Here is the history of what we have encountered in our six year effort to keep Lafferty for a public wilderness park.

LOWBALL APPRAISAL: 1992: Peter Pfendler offers to buy Lafferty at the City-appraised price, which neglects to include the value of Adobe Creek water rights, potentially shorting the City by $1 million..

BACK ROOM DEAL: 1992: After promising a public process to resolve Lafferty park issues, some Council members work privately with Mr. Pfendler and County officials and agree to "swap" Mr. Pfendler Lafferty, its water rights, and $1.4 million in exchange for Moon Ranch. For three years they resist growing popular opposition to the swap.

IGNORING STATE LAW: 1995: Pro-swap Council majority ignores laws requiring General Plan amendment and voter approval of the disposition of public utility property.

MASSIVE MISINFORMATION: Swap supporters produce "Give Us the Moon", a four-page newspaper insert claiming Lafferty is unusable due to ecological sensitivity. Leader of Case Grande United Anglers (an organization that received a large donation from Mr. Pfendler for a fish hatchery) says Lafferty Park will threaten the steelhead. Both claims are based on studies done by Mr. Pfendler's consultants, which are later proven false by the Lafferty EIR.

TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY: 1996: Frustrated with swap opponents' testimony at City Council meetings, Council member Mary Stompe, with support from the rest of the pro-swap majority, proposes that a majority vote be required to put items on the Council agenda.

BROWN ACT VIOLATION?: Council Members Stompe, Nancy Read, and Lori Shea, in a private Sunday meeting with former Council members Brian Sobel and Michael Davis, formulate a plan to "freeze" discussion of the swap until after the November City Council election. At the next day's Council meeting, Mayor Patty Hilligoss, who claimed no knowledge of the Sunday meeting, nevertheless read a prepared statement in support of the freeze proposal. The majority rescinded the freeze after several citizens sued them for violation of the State's open meeting law.

FELONY VOTER FRAUD: Swap supporters organize the Committee for Choice to circulate two petitions drafted by Mr. Pfendler's lawyer. Several politically prominent individuals organize a paid signature gathering campaign, which produces nearly 2000 forged signatures, one of the largest voter fraud cases in State history. Felony charges were filed against the organizers.

OPEN SPACE FUND RIP-OFF: After Mr. Pfendler withdraws Moon Ranch from the swap, and despite public protests at poorly publicized meetings, the County Open Space District proceeds to pay Pfendler $1.4 million for the conservation easement on Moon Ranch. (This is despite the fact that the purchase was contingent on the swap, and would not have been made without it.) They ignore citizen requests to negotiate full purchase of Moon for a Regional Park. Pfendler promptly puts Moon Ranch up for sale, promoting development of the "preserved" pastureland into a vineyard estate.

FIGHTING PROGRESSIVE OPEN SPACE POLICIES: Pfendler attacks the OSD for being too aggressive in pursuing good deals for the public, including seeking trail easements from landowners who accept the public's money for development rights.

STIFLING PRESS FREEDOM: 1997: Argus Courier reporter Dave Alcott begins to investigate individuals higher up in the Committee for Choice. After complaints from Brian Sobel to the publisher, Alcott is demoted from the City Hall beat, and is later fired.

ILLEGAL FENCE: Without County permit or City permission, Mr. Pfendler cuts down three trees on Lafferty and erect a mile of tall chain link fence, a hazardous wildlife barrier, across the face of the mountain. Much of this fence is on City property, blocking public access to the historic stone fence that marks the property line.

HOBBLING THE OUTDOOR RECREATION PLAN: After public opinion polls and workshops demonstrated overwhelming support for including more wilderness parks and trails in open space in the County's long term Outdoor Recreation Plan, Mr. Pfendler and the Farm Bureau get the County staff to delete most of them from the draft plan.

PACT AGAINST TRAILS: Mr. Pfendler and some neighbors create mutually binding property covenants, in which any one of them can prevent future owners of any of the other properties from allowing public trails on their property.

Published June 1998 by Citizens for Lafferty Ranch and a Regional Park
P.O. Box 237, Petaluma CA, 94953

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