The intended sale of a 13-acre Guerneville campground in a redwood canyon near Armstrong Woods has public officials and social service providers scrambling to find a way to ensure that 50 people who live there aren’t left out in the cold.
The Faerie Ring Campground, in foreclosure since earlier this year, goes back on the auction block Saturday after two previous auctions failed to draw a successful offer. The opening bid is $359,940, according to online auctioneers Hudson & Marshall. Its list price is $599,900.
The prospect of a sale has campground residents, many of them low-income, in limbo. Some say they don’t know where they’d go if forced to leave, though for several months they’ve lived rent-free, absent formal management in place.
“Everybody’s worried about what’s going to happen,” said one resident, Sandra Lambert, 57.
She has lived for 16 years in an aging trailer parked at a hillside site with her husband, surviving lately on her wages as a part-time taxicab dispatcher.
Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, who represents the area, is hoping to persuade Chase Bank to postpone any additional sales activity. She wants the bank to hold off until county officials, perhaps in partnership with a local nonprofit, can determine if someone can buy the land and maintain it for use at affordable rates. Chase has owned the land since foreclosing on former owner Jim Friedman.
“In my opinion, it would be a catastrophe if people were to be displaced from the Faerie Ring Campground,” Hopkins said. “I really think that a lot of the folks that live there have no other choice, and I’m really concerned that some would be homeless.”
The lower Russian River already struggles with how to serve a large number of people who are experiencing homelessness, though the most recent countywide census showed a substantial drop, from 248 to 214 in unincorporated west county.
But officials and local advocates don’t want to jeopardize what progress has been made despite several controversial and, ultimately, failed efforts by the county and West County Community Services to partner on a new shelter and permanent housing.
The result, however, is that about $1.2 million in county funds set aside to address homelessness on the lower Russian River remains unspent. Some portion of it could be made available to facilitate a purchase of the campground that would avert evictions, Hopkins said.
Community Development Director Margaret Van Vliet said a county loan to WCCS so it can purchase the property is among the considerations.
Any such move would require significant investigation of the property and its liabilities, not yet begun, as well as approval by the county Board of Supervisors.
“We are coming to realize how many vulnerable people are living there and why having them displaced could be hugely problematic,” Van Vliet said.
But communication is difficult. The listed broker for the site, Anna Harris, said she could not speak about the property but only relay inquiries to Chase, which has not responded directly to The Press Democrat.
The bank has been trying since April to sell the site, first at a live auction in April that brought no bids and then with an online auction a few weeks ago that yielded a high bid of $365,000.
Guerneville gears up for River Pride 2.0
Weeks before the inaugural Russian River Pride Parade was scheduled to take place, event planners were confronted with the devastating news that some of the permits required for the parade were unavailable.
In response, Rodger Jensen, event coordinator, hustled to make “lemonade out of lemons” and confirmed the celebration would take place without the parade. River Pride 2.0, a two-day celebration, kicks off this weekend.
On Saturday the festivities begin with pool events and raffles at R3 Hotel in Guerneville, 16390 4th St., featuring DJ Bryan Hughes from noon to 5 p.m. The River Boat Queens Show will take place at 8:30 p.m. at R3 Hotel featuring Mercedez Munro.
On Sunday morning a pride breakfast will begin at 7 a.m. at 3 Alarm Grill, 16218 Main St. The Big Bang Celebration begins with a pool party at R3 Hotel, including more raffles, hosted by Berlin and Diva D and featuring DJ Bear Mittens from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Celebrations will continue throughout the day and Jensen encouraged attendees to bring pride flags and wear fun outfits.
“Our Wendell Joost will be taking us on Hook and Ladder Fire engine rides all through the day from (the R3 Hotel)resort all the way down Main Street and back to the resort!” Jensen wrote in a post.
Elizabeth “Elyse” VanDyne, Russian River Chamber of Commerce executive director, said the event is very important to the community.
“Leaders of the community want to celebrate and foster acceptance and diversity,” she said. “This is a great way to do it.”
As for a Russian River Pride parade, VanDyne said it would have to wait until next year. “We will be doing it,” she said.
Jensen announced the Pride Parade cancellation on a Facebook post on Aug. 14.
“Today is going to be a rough day for our town, and our LGBTQA community and myself,” Jensen wrote. “After trying very hard to save the event, it is in my greatest sadness that after seven months of backbreaking work and lots of sleepless nights and hours, we are going to have to postpone Russian River Pride!”
On the following Sunday, Jensen announced Russian River Pride events would take place on Saturday, Aug. 25 and Sunday, Aug. 26 urging visitors to not cancel reservations.
“After a crazy two weeks of letdowns, I have done my best to make lemonade out of lemons,” Jensen wrote.
Since 2009 the Sonoma County Pride celebration has been held in Guerneville. This year the county pride parade and festivities took place in Santa Rosa in June. This weekend will be the first-ever official Russian River Pride.
Rescue divers located the body of a San Francisco man who was reported missing on Sunday in Guerneville. Mubarak Salisu, 29, was pulled from the Russian River on Monday at noon, according to Misti Harris, Community Engagement Liaison for the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.
The sheriff’s office received a missing person call around 8:40 p.m. on Sunday. The caller reported that he and Salisu were vacationing in a rental home in the 15600 block of Riverside Drive in Guerneville with several other friends all weekend.
According to reports, Salisu didn’t show up for dinner, and his friends became concerned for his welfare. Salisu’s flip-flops and T-shirt were found at a dock on the edge of the Russian River. His cellular phone was located in the vacation home.
Deputies searched the surrounding area on Sunday night but were unable to locate the missing man. On Monday morning, the sheriff’s volunteer search and rescue dive team, aided by the Russian River and Monte Rio Fire Departments, swam the Russian River near the dock, Salisu’s last known location.
Harris said they searched for an hour before locating Salisu’s body in about 12 to 15 feet of water at about noon. The rescue team’s search for Salisu included video footage for evidence.
Harris said the county coroner’s office is investigating the death.
“The coroner will determine cause of death and manner,” she said.
More than 60 people filled the Guerneville School community room last Saturday for a preliminary look at district boundaries proposed for the new Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council (MAC).
“What we’re really here for today is to listen to you and get your feedback,” said 5th District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins who’s shooting to have the river MAC up and running early next year.
Last month Hopkins unveiled six districts that loosely delineate Forestville, Hacienda, Rio Nido, Guerneville, Monte Rio and Cazadero. The districts as a whole will represent the lower river, with each district having one or more elected representatives. As now proposed, nine representatives may be elected, possibly two or three from the more populated districts of Forestville, Guerneville and Rio Nido and one each from Hacienda, Monte Rio and Cazadero.
The proposed district boundaries were a prominent concern last week with residents questioning how the boundaries were drawn and whether they accurately reflect residents’ common political interests.
The proposed Guerneville district lines drew flack because the eastern boundary split the town in two, putting Guerneville residents east of Armstrong Woods Road in the neighboring Rio Nido district.
“What was the thinking in dividing Guerneville up?” said Guerneville resident Marcy Cooper.
The maps represent a “first stab” at possible boundaries and are based on census tracts, said Hopkins’ Field Representative Amie Windsor.
“Dividing the population was not our intent,” said Windsor. Working with Permit Sonoma, the county Permit and Resource Management Department, the tentative first-draft boundaries were intended to reflect “natural communities,” based on the area’s populations and geography. The suggested boundary adjustments would be taken into consideration before anything is final, said Windsor.
Some lower river residents were left out of all six districts, an oversight that will be corrected, said Windsor.
Also to be determined are how district representatives will be elected and what voter qualifications may include.
“We’re working that out,” said Windsor.
Hopkins hopes to have a completed lower river MAC proposal on the Board of Supervisors Sept. 11 agenda for approval, said Windsor. Then a recruitment process will begin inviting candidates to represent the districts, followed by an election.
When it’s official the lower river MAC will represent roughly 13,000 people in an approximately 50-square-mile area from Forestville to Cazadero.
Whatever its final configuration, the MAC “will essentially empower the community to have a much stronger voice” when negotiating with county government, said Lynda Hopkins, who hosted Saturday’s meeting.
The MAC will convene monthly public meetings rotating throughout the districts and advise the Board of Supervisors on lower river political issues and priorities.
MACs elsewhere in Sonoma County and Mendocino County provide political clout to areas that may otherwise lack a political presence in matters before their county Board of Supervisors.
From a Board of Supervisors’ perspective, a MAC “is advisory, but it’s a loud megaphone,” said Hopkins. Having a formal citizens advisory group advising the board brings “a tremendous amount of political and moral authority.”
Hopkins is also advocating a Sonoma Coast MAC involving residents from Valley Ford to The Sea Ranch.
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Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office divers retrieved Monday the body of a 29-year-old San Francisco man from the Russian River, near a Guerneville vacation rental home where he had been staying with friends over the weekend, a sheriff’s official said.
The man’s body was found about noon in 12 to 15 feet of water near docks in the 15600 block of Riverside Drive, Sgt. Spencer Crum said in a news release.
The man, who wasn’t identified, was reported missing about 8:40 p.m. Sunday when he didn’t show up for dinner, Crum said. He had spent the weekend with his former husband and several friends at a vacation rental in the same area where his body was found.
The man’s friends had found his flip flops and t-shirt at a dock on the edge of the river, and his cellphone was found in the home, Crum said. Deputies searched the area Sunday night to no avail.
About 11 a.m. Monday, the sheriff’s Volunteer Search and Rescue dive team, aided by the Russian River and Monte Rio fire departments, entered the water near the docks and located his body within an hour.
Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman said about 20 people, including deputies, firefighters and three divers, participated in the recovery.
There are private docks behind most of the homes on Riverside Drive, and a deep channel runs along that side of the river, Baxman said. Most of the river is shallow this time of year, he said.
The Coroner’s Office will investigate the death, Crum said.
You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 707-521-5457 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @guykovner.
Everybody loves a show that’s both intimate and full of the smells of trees, right? Built to Spill, the 26-year-old Boise trio whose sound came to define early 2000s indie-rock, will play Guerneville’s Redwood Forest Theater on Sunday, Sept. 16 — with a yet-to-be-announced special guest.
A Noise Pop presentation, it’s a benefit for Save the Redwoods League and Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods — and as the 1930s venue only holds so many people on those chevroned wooden benches lightly dusted with detritus from all the Sequoia sempervirens, it’s going to be quite the five-hour experience. Tickets ($40-$75) went on sale today at noon.
It falls on day after the park’s Old Grove Festival, which is the only other public, ticketed event the amphitheater hosts. Like a naturally occurring house of worship, it’s a great site to hear Doug Martsch, Steve Gere, and Jason Albertini perform songs like “Else,” “Three Years Ago Today,” and “Strange” (or so we can hope). The 200,000 acres of enormous trees and the mystical, beautiful ecosystems they create need your help!
Built to Spill (and a special guest), Sunday, Sept. 16, 4-9 p.m., at Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, Guerneville, $40-$75, tickets.