This is an important land-use issue that now sets a precedent for similarly zoned parcels in Sonoma County. Use Permit Application PLP 08-0021 continues and expands a large-scale, printing factory, Dharma Press, in the hills above Cazadero. The site was given a use permit as a religious retreat, but the primary use is now industrial.
This coastal Resource and Rural Development area has been reserved by the county for open space, recreation, agriculture, animal husbandry, and those industries and commercial businesses that utilize, serve, and process the products of the land.
All materials and labor are transported from large urban areas into the printing factory, and the finished product once again transported by 40’ truck and trailer to the same urban areas. The carbon footprint of each book produced is huge, even before it is shipped to destinations around the globe. Many of these books are delivered free to India and Nepal, but some are sold commercially to the general public along with other profitable products through their website.
Dharma Press is a multi-million dollar commercial industry that has violated its use permit with impunity since at least 2007.
Dharma Press printed successfully from urban industrial zones in the East Bay and Berkeley for 37 years and could continue to do so, just minutes from the Port of Oakland.
The printing plant in the Cazadero hills is of no financial benefit to Sonoma County, as Ratna Ling and Dharma Press pay no taxes due to a religious exemption. Without contributing to their maintenance, they utilize public roads and other infrastructure to run their operations.
Dharma Press provides no jobs for local residents after the construction phase. The printing operations are run by volunteer staff recruited from Ratna Ling Retreat and nearby Odiyan Meditation Center.
Dharma Press has produced over 400,000 books annually (2011), which is quadruple the amount allowed in their original 2004 Use Permit conditions. They have now been allowed unlimited book production.
Now 60,234 square-feet and growing, this large-scale, industrial printing factory is not compatible with a mountainous forested, coastal area, subject to extreme fire danger, and accessed by 10-foot wide Hauser Bridge Road.
After the recent narrow approval of this use permit by the Board of Supervisors, Coastal Hills Rural Preservation is continuing to challenge this dangerous precedent in court.