San Marcos Town Officials Litigiously Besiege Valuable, Historic Community Resource
They say you can’t fight City Hall, but what happens when City Hall fights you?
And for at least dubious reasons.
“I don’t understand why the town of San Marcos is doing this to me,” said Shera Sandwell, longtime owner of Twin Oaks Animal Rescue and Ranching Center, walking among her horses and a respectful 10-acre open space. from the community this week.
“I have been providing and preserving a beautiful place for the community for 20 years,” Sandwell continued, “and now it looks like the city is trying to destroy me and take my land.”
After several years of what Sandwell described as harassment designed to drive her off her land in order to pave the way for a lucrative multi-million dollar real estate development for San Marcos’ tax collection, city officials filed on December 13, 2019 a 16 page complaint with 25 attachments to Superior. North County Division Court v Sandwell and his community ranch.
The complaint alleges that Sandwell violated city codes by hosting events at his ranch without proper permits and licenses. Municipal authorities are claiming over $ 400,000 in damages and penalties as well as other costs, including legal fees.
That’s more than enough in these times of a pandemic to force a single mother to successfully extricate herself from the mortgage and ranch costs of her longtime home, allowing city officials to take her land and to sell it to developers.
“Shera has used her property to host public events for a long time,” said Jeremiah Graham, Sandwell’s attorney. “She also did weddings there without any problem. What happened in this case was that the city wanted to install storm drainage for other properties, but they did not have an easement. So, they looked for other things that they could sue on her to do it.
Historic property, community values
Sandwell’s Bheau View Ranch has been an integral part of San Marcos’ civic fabric since 2001, when Sandwell entered into a capital lease for what was then a dilapidated and derelict 10-acre property just across from Cox Road in the historic Bidwell House.
The property was located in the Twin Oaks Valley area of San Marcos, where the first Native American village was located over 1,000 years ago due to the abundance of oak trees, water and flat lands, according to historians of the region.
The Bidwell House – moved by truck in 2004 to nearby Walnut Grove Historical Park, a park Sandwell played a pivotal role in creating through his leadership of the San Marcos Parks Committee – was built primarily of redwood in 1890 by Jacob Uhland, an original settler of Twin Oaks. Colonel John Bidwell purchased the property around 1921.
The whole area around the Sandwell property was not developed, but designed as a sort of Rancho Santa Fe-lite with multi-million dollar homes and fancy gated communities, all contributing to construction costs and taxes. the highest in the municipal coffers of San Marcos.
As Sandwell created what people called an oasis in this developing wilderness, upscale homes sprouted like mushrooms in the once empty fields surrounding its precious acreage.
Real estate developers and contractors, some of whom are said to have intimate relationships with certain San Marcos officials and executives, have constantly tried to find ways to separate Sandwell from its 10 valuable acres on the east side of Twin Oaks by the historic Merriam Mountains. .
Sandwell worked with mortgage companies and brokers through the California real estate challenges of the mid-2000s while hosting summer and equestrian training camps and courses for children and adults, programs for Girl Scouts and d other schools and local agencies, arts and health retreats.
The Land Curator and Remembrance Ranch have hosted numerous charity and community events and established a nonprofit 501.c Arts, Wellness and Equestrian (AWE) foundation.
Sandwell also operated an animal rescue saving older horses from neglect and death, as well as a variety of other animals including dogs, pigs, goats, chickens, and abandoned creatures like Sammy. the muskrat, an abandoned possum that now serves as an unofficial ranch mascot.
Sandwell’s community involvement included organizing family and cultural events, including small weddings and fundraisers. Professional event managers and wedding planners handled these events, with Sandwell donating his ranch as a venue to help neighbors and causes.
“She has used her property for a long time for high profile events without any issues,” said Graham, Sandwell’s attorney. “The crucial point is that she uses the property without interfering with her neighbors.
“We met with the town’s lawyers and tried to settle the matter by offering to refrain from any future marriage,” Graham continued. “Instead, they insist that she pay more than $ 400,000 and legal fees, claiming that she violated the land use provisions. His position is that they are doing so in retaliation for his refusal to grant them an easement for stormwater drainage for neighboring properties.
Graham added, “This is causing (Sandwell) a lot of financial stress. We are due on October 15 in Department N-31 of the North County Superior Court before Judge Blaine Bowman.
After several requests for comment, longtime San Marcos City lawyer Helen Holmes Peak sent an email to:
“I have received your request regarding the Bheau View Ranch. Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on an ongoing dispute. Sincerely, Hélène.
Graham summed up: “People in the community should know that the town is trying to drive (Sandwell) off its land.”
Community outrage ensues
Sandwell’s cause has resonated throughout the community with many friends, neighbors and even Hollywood celebrities flocking to the ranch for its health and wellness properties and relaxing vibe rallying to the cause.
“The San Marcos City Council is notorious,” said Jamie Palmer, a San Marcos native and longtime resident. “We have a history of land grabbing and violation of property rights. “
“I spent 40 years at Twin Oaks Valley and my dad spent even more,” continued Palmer. “The city council never recognizes the rights of individual landowners. They always want to come in and steal a certain amount of goods to do this, that, or the other. They have been doing this for years and have been wrong time and time again. “
Olivia Tosic, President and CEO of the Sky Alert Foundation for the Missing, said, “The Bheau View Ranch has been a staple in our community for over 20 years. It is a shame that Shera Sandwell, a prominent member of this wonderful community and avid member of the Trails Advisory Board, has been so brutally shut down by the city.
“And for what,” Tosic continued. “To come with bulldozers to destroy this lovely 10 acre mound to build another housing community and destroy the incredible natural beauty this ranch has to offer?” It would be a travesty. “
Rally to save the ranch
Members of the Hollywood and Malibu communities have rallied in defense of Sandwell. Mariel Hemingway, Nia Peeples, the late Jamie Sams, to name a few, and other celebrities who have frequented the ranch for its health and wellness benefits have supported Bheau View’s efforts for years. years.
Billy Wirth has been a particularly close friend and staunch supporter of Sandwell and the community resource that San Marcos city officials seek to destroy with their pernicious campaign of harassment and litigation.
Wirth has a permanent place in pop culture, portraying Dwayne, the “stereo death” vampire in the iconic 1980s film, “The Lost Boys.” Other famous roles include: “Boys on the Side”, “Body Snatchers”, “War Party”. His television roles include appearances on shows such as “Tales from the Crypt”, “Sex and the City”, “CSI”, “Chicago PD”, “Scorpion” – and recently “Godfather of Harlem” (with Forest Whitaker).
As a director, Wirth is best known for his critically acclaimed feature film, “MacArthur Park” (Sundance competition), as well as his directorial debut with the short film “Kismet”, written and produced by Sheri Sussman – starring actors such as Stephanie Niznik, Garry Marshall and Mariette Hartley.
“We’ve been working with the ranch for 10 years to film and document it,” Wirth said. “Our plan is to continue to develop a docu-series on the ranch and all the humanitarian and COVID-related work that goes on there. We are now shopping for the show. This sparked the interest of the network.
What a future for the historic ranch
Just this week, the apparent harassment by San Marcos officials continued in earnest. Someone has filed a complaint with the San Diego Humane Society about Sandwell’s humanitarian efforts to save and care for older horses.
Humane Society enforcement staff came to his ranch on Monday June 28 to ask him to “see his papers” in the form of a driver’s license and ID, asking a series of questions. about his personal affairs and business interests.
While a smoking gun did not directly hit San Marcos officials, questions from Humane Society officials oddly focused on a topic that would normally not fall under animal control. Officials asked her about event permits and the possibility of her continuing to host wedding events as well as the specific nature of her business interests, Sandwell said.
With the trial scheduled for October, Tosic, Wirth and others have asked community members to contact San Marcos City Hall at (760) 744-1050. Rebecca Jones is mayor. Sharon Jenkins is acting mayor. The members of the city council are Ed Musgrove, Maria Nunez and Randy Walton. Emails follow this format for each official: [email protected]
“I hope everyone will agree to stop threatening Ms. Sandwell with their policies,” Tosic said earnestly. “They violate her rights by not allowing her to continue what she has been doing with the community for two decades. We ask everyone in this lovely community of San Marcos to call and write to City Hall. Please help save the Bheau View Ranch.