Monday, February 3, 2014



New Hearing Date Set: April 8, 2014!

We don't have all the information yet, but it appears that Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management Department is allowing the TNMC to submit new documents, including a supplemental Mitigated Negative Declaration. It is unclear at this time why our appeal effort, delayed for two years, now must deal with new submittals. It seems the rules of this game -- if there are any --- keep changing. We'll keep you updated.

Friday, March 15, 2013

We've received $680.00 in checks since the recent letter was sent out. Thanks everyone! Just $9,320 remaining to reach our $10,000 goal...

Friday, March 8, 2013

March 8, 2013

Those of you who attended the Board of Zoning Adjustments Hearing in April 2012 , are well aware that CHRP was not given a fair chance to present its case opposing the massive expansion of Ratna Ling's printing operations. The BZA made the wrong decision. At that time, nearly one year ago, CHRP filed an appeal with the Board of Supervisors. Although it has not yet been scheduled, it should be heard sometime in the next few months.

CHRP is asking the Board of Supervisors to regulate Ratna Ling, enforce the General Plan and protect rural Sonoma County. CHRP has a strong case for having the industrial printing operations scaled back to their 2004 Use Permit conditions, based on the following issues:

1. Numerous unresolved violations of their 2004 use permit
2. Breach of County general plan & land use policies
3. Ancillary use vs. industrial printing plant
4. Expansion of printing facility from 20,000 sq ft to 60,000 sq ft
5. CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) violations
6. Inadequate mitigated negative declaration in lieu of the required EIR

An attorney who is experienced in CEQA and Land Use issues has been hired to assist with the case. She’s been paid $2,500 as a retainer, which emptied the CHRP account. $10,000 is needed to wage this appeal - that is 100 people donating $100. Any amount is welcome!

Here's how you can help:
  • Send a check for any amount to: Betsy Anderson/CHRP, P.O. Box 618, Gualala, CA  95445 (donating this way is not tax-deductible)
  • Make online, tax deductible donations through our sponsor, the OWL Foundation - Open Space, Water Protection and Land Use  (Tax Deductible)  Scroll down to Coastal Hills Rural Preservation/CHRP
  • Go to our website for a more detailed summary of our position and actions.
  • Like us on Facebook:
  • Share this information with friends and interested people

Thank you very much.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

News Articles

We’ve made the news! The following links will take you to recent stories.

6/4/12. Press Democrat letter to the Editor: A rural factory (please write to your paper of choice, keep this issue alive)

6/7/12. Berkeleyside Newspaper: Retreat center’s expansion plans provoke concern  ( A well researched article on the Sonoma County issues and larger Nyingma Buddhist Community)

6/7/12. KQED News Story

6/7/12. Press Democrat: Retreat center’s expansion plans provoke concern

6/7/12. Press Democrat: Buddhist printing press wins OK to expand operations

6/8/12. Press Democrat: Seaview Ridge residents appeal Buddhist retreat's expansion OK

Update on BZA Hearing regarding Use Permit for Ratna Ling / Dharma Publishing

On June 7, the Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments, which is part of the planning agency and makes decisions on permit applications and zoning variances, approved a Use Permit for Ratna Ling/Dharma Publishing. The following items were included:
  • Approve the conversion of 40,000 sq. ft. of temporary book storage tents to permanent use.
  • Press output will be measured by one 24-foot truck a day. Dharma Publishing officials have said this will allow some expansion of the current operation.  Press production was limited to 100,000 books per year in 2004 and reached as high as 395,000 books in 2009.   Now there is no numeric limit on book production.
  •  Approved a new six-bedroom dormitory and eight yurt seasonal campground.  These structures more than double available worker housing (primarily for the printing operation) and replace illegal worker housing in use since at least 2007.
  • Increased the number of residents to 122 from 67. (76 resident workers, 40 guests and 6 seniors in assisted care)
  •  Increased number of printing plant workers to 94 (from 27)
  • Allowed production of non-text items for sale through the onsite Dharma Publishing internet store.  These non-text items include yoga cushions, prayer beads, sculpture, gift wrap, greeting cards, posters, etc.  Production of non-text items for sale and distribution to the Buddhist community would be confined to 10% of the press building or approximately 2,100 sq. ft. of the 21,000 sq. ft. press building.  Residents and guests would be allowed to produce an unlimited number of these items in their cabins for "personal" use.

In approving the new Use Permit, the Board of Zoning Adjustments determined the 40,000 sq. ft. of book storage tents did not have to meet updated fire safety standards because they were approved by PRMD administrative decision (without public notice or hearing) in 2008.  The Use Permit Conditions of Approval are contingent on the findings and recommendations for fire safety measures following an onsite inspection of the fabric book storage tents by the Sonoma County Fire Marshall, PRMD Project Planner, Timber Cove Fire Chief and CalFire Battalion Chief.   Among the issues to be resolved is whether Dharma Publishing will be allowed to use "high pile" storage methods (12 feet or taller).  This concentration of highly combustible paper and books, in a potential warehouse fire, poses a significantly increased threat to rural, volunteer firefighters which requires additional training, equipment and water.

Coastal Hills Rural Preservation - CHRP - has filed an appeal with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and is awaiting a hearing date. This continues to be costly endeavor. Your financial support is essential to its success.

·      Donation: Make online, tax-deductible donations using PayPal through our sponsor the OWL Foundation - Open Space, Water Protection and Land Use; scroll to Coastal Hills Rural Preservation

The issue remains the same: appropriate land use in a Resources and Rural Development Zone.

Friday, May 4, 2012


Coastal Hills Rural Preservation is continuing efforts to limit the expansion of Ratna Ling Retreat Center and Dharma Publishing.  If their Use Permit is approved, Dharma Publishing will have six presses, 94 workers (from 27 in 2004), 40,000 square feet of book storage space, no limit on the number of books they can produce and a 24 foot press supply truck every day.  Residents of the combined printing and retreat operations will be 122 (from 67 in 2004).  

Ratna Ling is organized, has professional representation and is well funded.  
Your support and donations are essential if we are persuade the County to require Ratna Ling to move their printing operation to an appropriate industrial location or at the very least return to the "ancillary" one press printing operation they presented to the community in 2004.

Unfortunately the present Board of Zoning Adjustments and Board of Supervisors is undermining the General Plan and Zoning Regulations piecemeal, throughout the county, by approving one inappropriate project at a time.  This is the case with Dharma Publishing.  (We do not oppose the Retreat Center.) The BZA and Bd. of Sups will go on their merry way unless we push back.  Please join your neighbors to preserve rural life and stop industrial development on the coastal ridges.

Our next meeting is
Monday, May 7th at 6p.m.
Fort Ross School 

A reminder: Dharma Publishing operated very successfully in Berkeley for 30 years before moving to Ratna Ling.  Now they must truck in all raw materials and ship out all finished products 200 miles to the Bay Area.  Ratna Ling pays no property taxes to offset the impact of the printing operation on local roads and community services.


At a hearing on April 5, 2012, the Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments considered an application by Ratna Ling Retreat Center and Dharma Publishing for a new Use Permit.  About 70 people attended, 60% were Ratna Ling supporters, the balance were long time coast residents.

Ratna Ling presented their proposal first. Senior leaders of Ratna Ling spoke at length before and after a professionally produced video about the importance of Dharma Publishing's mission to provide religious texts to Tibetan refugees.  Ratna Ling argued that the printing operation was ancillary to the retreat center because making books is a part of their religious practice.  This first presentation took about 40 minutes.

This was followed by a public comment period, during which each speaker is given 3 minutes.  Prior to the hearing Coastal Hills Rural Preservation asked the Board Chairman and 5th District representative, Tom Lynch, for 30 minutes to make a formal presentation during the public comment period.  He allowed a number of opposition speakers to give their time to Carolyne Singer.  She  was allowed 20 minutes to present our concerns.  Carolyne made clear the issue before the Board was land use and not religious practice or religious freedom.  Having covered the history of Dharma Publishing's ever expanding printing operation, in violation of their 2004 Use Permit, Carolyne was stopped before presenting arguments against Ratna Ling's present Use Permit application to expand the book manufacturing to 94 workers, remove all limits on the number of books produced and keep 40,000 square feet of "temporary" book storage tents.  We also presented to the commissioners a copy of our paper and online petition with 390 signatures.

During the rest of the public comment period Ratna Ling supporters and opponents were called on randomly.   Representatives for the opposition continued to present information in 3 minute segments about the inadequacy of the project's Mitigated Negative Declaration on environmental impacts, inconsistencies with the General Plan and  Zoning Regulations and impacts on the surrounding community and whether the temporary tents could meet fire regulations for long term use. The inappropriateness of this industrial scale printing operation in a rural area was made very clear. 

Ratna Ling supporters who spoke publicly included volunteers in the organization and contractors who had worked building the retreat center and printing operation.

Following public comment the BZA Commissioners questioned Ratna Ling (RL) representatives at length.  Answering questions were two members of the RL organization, who are also lawyers working for free, ex county supervisor Mike Reilly, and hired representation Steve Butler (lawyer) and Jean Kapolcok (planning consultant).

Commissioner Dick Fogg was concerned about the printing operation "mission creep", an initial objective that keeps increasing in scope.  He asked if Ratna Ling's proposed 20 year "Master Plan" would be the end of growth or if Ratna Ling would return asking for more.  Other commissioner's questions were 1) Whether a county "Transient Occupancy Tax"(TOT) can be collected on retreat guests as a possible way to recover the cost of road repair.  (Ratna Ling claimed that because all guests are "retreatants" they should not have to pay the TOT.  As a tax-exempt religious organization the retreat center and printing operation do not pay property taxes.)  2) How much of the printing operation was "vested" in the 2004 Use Permit meaning prior approval which could not be revoked.  It was unclear whether only the press building was " vested" in 2004 or whether the 40,000 sf of book storage approved by Planning without public notice or a public hearing would also be considered a "vested" right.  3) The volume and purpose of "non-textual" "sacred object" manufacture.  Ratna Ling makes yoga pillows and mats, prayer beads, cards, posters, etc. for sale on their Dharma Publishing website as well as "sacred" banners and small sculptures.

The opposition was not allowed to rebut Ratna Ling's statements or present any further information to clarify the issues the board had raised.

At the end of a five hour hearing the Board took a "straw vote" to unanimously approve Ratna Ling's new Use Permit and continued the hearing until June 7, 2012 at 1 p.m. to hear County staff, Ratna Ling and public comment on two issues:

1.  Whether the book storage tents, approved in 2008 as temporary, accessory structures, will pass County and State Fire Codes for use as permanent book and paper storage structures.   

2. Clarify the extent of non-text manufacturing at Ratna Ling and how much product is given away and how much is sold. 


DONATE:  The filing fee to appeal the Board of Zoning Adjustments decision to the Board of Supervisors is $1,052.  

Accountant Ward Anderson is handling our bank account. 
Make checks out to Betsy Anderson / CHRP.  These are not tax deductible. 
Mail checks to Betsy Anderson, P.O. Box 618, Gualala, CA 95445 


Make online, tax deductible donations through our sponsor the
OWL Foundation - Open Space, Water Protection and Land Use

Scroll to Coastal Hills Rural Preservation and make a donation through Paypal.

Thank you for your support and generosity,
Coastal Hills Rural Preservation Steering Committee