NOTE: The following Press Democrat article described the results of the poll, sponsored by that newspaper, on the Lafferty-Moon Swap. - Ed.


Published on March 13, 1996
1996- The Press Democrat


Sentiment among Petaluma residents is running strongly against the controversial Moon-Lafferty land swap, according to The Press Democrat Poll.

The poll found 49 percent of Petaluma residents oppose the swap, 16 percent favor it and 35 percent are undecided. The poll represents the first snapshot of public opinion in a rancorous debate in which both sides have claimed to have a majority of support.

Peter Pfendler, who lives next to the city-owned Lafferty Ranch on an 800-acre ranch retreat, feared that his privacy would be ruined if Lafferty became a public park. He bought the nearby 380-acre Moon Ranch with the intention of trying to swap it for 270-acre Lafferty and $1.4 million in county open space funds. Pfendler would get privacy and the city would create a regional park on Moon.

Max Johnson, who moved to Petaluma 23 years ago, said he is wary of the complexities involved in the swap.

``I don't trust it at all,'' he said. ``Why are we playing these games? It doesn't make any sense.''

Pollster Richard Hertz of Rohnert Park contacted 228 registered Petaluma voters between Feb. 1 and Feb. 19 for their views on the issue. The poll has a 6.5 percent margin of error, Hertz said.

The most popular reason given by poll respondents for opposing the swap was that Lafferty is an irreplaceable treasure that should not be lost. Respondents also said the swap is a bad deal for the city and Lafferty should remain in public ownership.

Betsy Burson, who once visited Lafferty, shared those opinions.

``I love the views at Lafferty,'' Burson said. ``I don't like the way business is being done. I think Mr. Pfendler is taking us for a ride.''

Burson, 40, has not been active in the debate. But she said believes the deal was created without enough public participation. ``I'm afraid it's too little, too late.''

Of those who favor the swap, the most common reason given was that Moon Ranch is more accessible. Respondents also said the swap represents a good deal for the city and would be the best use for both properties.

``Dollar for dollar, the Moon Ranch is 10 times the place Lafferty is,'' Lon Gilbert said. ``It all boils down to getting the most use for your money. I've been to both places. Being a realist, I really think that Moon Ranch has it hands-down over Lafferty.''

Gilbert, 65 and retired, serviced water systems on both properties decades ago. Gilbert said he could be swayed if both properties could be turned into public parks without burdening taxpayers, but he is skeptical of such an outcome.

``I wouldn't mind both, but I'd be disappointed if they kept Lafferty and gave up Moon,'' Gilbert said. ``There's two small lakes on Moon, a beautiful area for equestrian rides and hiking trails -- and it's not straight up and down.''

Patricia Longenbaugh, 53, said she just wants the seemingly endless conflict to be resolved.

``I'm in favor of it because I hope they'll get it over with and stop fighting over it and wasting time,'' she said. ``Please, let's get our priorities straight.''

Petaluma Chamber of Commerce employee Betty Vasil signed a petition against the swap and wants Lafferty to remain publicly owned. She said, ``I feel it is in the best interest of the community as a whole for it to remain as it is.''

CHART: 2 b&w by Press Democrat Graphic; Press Democrat
Poll(see microfilm)

Open Lafferty Home           Background