County won’t yield on yurts


Pam Linn/Associate Editor

Development of a controversial spiritual retreat in Latigo Canyon has ground to a halt again as county planners rescinded a 1994 construction permit that was renewed last year.

The project was conceived as an environmentally friendly vacation spot utilizing 95 yurts, circular tents traditionally used by Mongolian nomads. However, the plan was opposed by neighbors and environmentalists who contend the initial permit and its renewal last year were issued by mistake. County planning staff say they only followed suit after the California Coastal Commission approved it.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky last fall said the permit was “an embarrassment” and vowed to stop the project unless it received more intense scrutiny by government agencies. The yurts, he said, were not tents, but cottages, and the campground was really a conference center.

Developer Richard Weintraub, who had begun site preparation, was notified March 8 he violated provisions of county zoning law by trimming branches from several protected oak trees without prior approval of an oak tree permit. Failure to comply with the zoning ordinance would result in a criminal complaint being filed with the District Attorney. Conviction can result in up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for each day in violation, Weintraub was warned.

The plot plan was rescinded after a site inspection showed the planned yurts would encroach on a significant oak woodland and were within 200 feet of an environmentally sensitive habitat area (ESHA). Inspectors also said building and significant grading in hillside management areas would take place in the development of the property, and the plot plan “did not accurately reflect the topography of the property.”

The developer must now apply to the Department of Regional Planning for a conditional use permit, an oak tree permit and review by the Environmental Review Board before development of the campground may proceed.