Last week I caught a story on one of my many news feeds. The fact that it came out of California – and the Napa Valley – makes it even more interesting, because it shows how much Silicon Valley titans will pay to spend a night in a trailer park.

It also illustrates how, in zoning, nomenclature often trumps rational thinking.

The story was ostensibly about a company that paid $55 million for a 50 guest room luxury resort that catered to the deep-pocketed California moguls and celebrities who would pay up to $3,500 per night while they toured the Napa Valley wineries. You can do the ciphering even without a calculator – that’s $1.1 million per room.

             In modern teenage parlance that I hear less these days than a few short years ago: “Duuuude!!!!” (I’ve always translated that in my post-50 brain as “wow!,” but if I’ve sadly missed the meaning, please don’t tell me)

But there was another story buried within.  The property was zoned agricultural, and [I’m using some license here], in the infinite wisdom unique to Californians considering the use of land, it was suitable for the transient vehicles of an RV Park but not for a highly manicured luxury resort.  Because of the intractable nature of those West Coast denizens when it comes to changing zoning classifications, each of the luxury rooms was built upon a chassis much like a mobile home. Apparently, that was the only way it could be done. Where a true mobile home would use plastic skirting to hide the wheels, they used “decking” and other attachments.

A little creativity can go a long way.  And now if I can only figure out how to disguise a multi-acre recycling facility as a single family home, one of my next zoning battles will be solved.

Author’s Update

Thank you to folks who have kindly asked “where have you been?”  Posting land use commentary and updates on recent cases and legislation takes time.  It also takes a certain amount of energy after eleven o’clock at night, something that comes in shorter supply with each passing year.  The bad news is that it has now been three months since I last posted on this site. This is the longest hiatus I’ve ever had in the nearly five years I’ve been writing this blog. The good news is that my recent (and grueling) work schedule indicates a return to a much stronger economy.  Also, there just haven’t been any new cases coming out of our appellate courts worth commentary. But they’re coming, and as I crawl back into my saddle I’ll keep you up-to-date.

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