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Big illegal cannabis grow in American Canyon triggers appeal
Land Use

Big illegal cannabis grow in American Canyon triggers appeal

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American Canyon cannabis grow

Police found 1,916 plants inside this American Canyon rental home. The landlord is appealing a $5,000 code violation fine, saying they didn't know about the indoor operation.

Landlords of an American Canyon rental home are contesting a $5,000 civil fine imposed after police found 1,916 cannabis plants being grown indoors.

Nim Cho and Wendy Wu, owners of the house on Pelleria Drive, appealed the fine to the city in a letter. The El Sobrante residents said they bought the American Canyon house in November 2020 and rented it to a tenant recommended by a friend.

Now their American Canyon house has no income, they have to pay the big loan to buy it and they are trying to borrow money to hire a contractor to fix the house, they wrote.

“Please understand our terrible situation,” they wrote, calling themselves “a pair of pitiful seniors” who had nothing to do with what was happening inside the house.

The appeal went to the Planning Commission on Thursday. But the commission holds Zoom-only meetings because of the pandemic. The couple could be seen on the screen as they tried to talk, but not heard. City officials called them, but holding the phone against a computer didn’t work well.

“I had a very hard time hearing,” Planning Commissioner Eric Altman said after listening to them. “I’m not sure I heard it all.”

The commission continued the hearing to Aug. 26 to try to iron out the communication problems at the advice of City Attorney William Ross. Ross said the appellants are entitled to a fair hearing.

Police on May 17 were called to the Pelleria Drive house after a neighbor heard noise from a home invasion attempt, a city report said. Once inside, they found 1,916 cannabis plants, far above the city limit of six for personal use only.

Bars were welded and secured to the interior windows, police said. Photos of the house interior show plants appearing to be several feet tall in lines with overhead lights and a dehumidifier.

“Quite an extensive operation for cultivation of the plants,” city Community Development Director Brent Cooper told the commission.

Police arrested a person at the house. That person isn't facing the $5,000 civil fine. A city report said city laws make the owner responsible for code violations on the property.

Cooper explained the ground rules to grant an appeal under city laws. The commission would have to find that either no violation occurred or that the Wus weren’t the house owners.

“The role here for the Planning Commission isn’t to second guess the ordinance or the fine structure or any of that sort,” Cooper said. “You’re here to see the evidence and determine if the citation was granted correctly. It’s a very kind of narrow band.”

Commissioner Tammy Wong asked if there were any signs of the cannabis growing operations from the outside.

“They took extreme measures to conceal the activities going on inside,” Detective Franklin Walsh said. “From standing outside and talking to other people in the area, nobody had any idea.”

Then the landlords would have had no way of knowing this was going on from the outside, Wong said.

Wendy Wu said she stopped by the house to check the front. But, because of COVID-19, she couldn’t go inside.

The city’s fine of $500 per day for each plant over 20 is capped at $5,000 a day. Otherwise, the fine, in this case, would have come to $957,000.

Also, the fine could have been higher if the cannabis plants had remained in the house for more than one day after being found by the city. That didn’t happen because the police removed the plants.

The central Chinese city of Zhengzhou was flooded-out by a record-shattering amount of rainfall on Wednesday.  More than 24 inches of rain fell in the city in a 24-hour timespan.  Eight inches of that rain fell in just one hour. Rescue crews worked frantically to save motorists from the flooded streets. The floodwaters submerged a school.  Children were floated out of the school in plastic bins. The city's underground subway system was overrun with water.   The flood waters were waist-deep in some areas.  Commuters who were stuck in the flooded subway trains stood on seats to save themselves.  A dozen people drowned. In neighboring India, heavy downpours flooded city streets.  Several days of rain in the region caused a massive mudslide near Mumbai.  At least 31 people were killed in the mudslide. In the western United States, an unrelenting drought has caused significant wildfire risks.  Large wildfires destroyed houses as they spread.  "I really don't know what else to say about this, we've lost everything."The 79 active wildfires in the country have burnt nearly 1.5 million acres.Oregon's Bootleg fire is now the third largest in the state's history.  Thousands of firefighters and emergency personnel work around the clock to fight the blazes.  A change in the weather pattern helped to calm the winds which gave fire crews the chance to control the fires. The Tamarack fire jumped across the California border into neighboring Nevada.  Officials ordered new evacuations.   Derek Rickford fled from his house as the fire approached from three different sides. "We've had fire approach from three directions and they've stopped it within about a quarter mile in each of the three directions."California power company, Pacific Gas and Electric, announced it will bury 10,000 miles of its electric lines.  It will cost the company up to $30 billion to complete the project.   PG&E made the announcement after admitting its equipment may have ignited one of the large fires. 

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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