The Sonoma County Gazette: Community News Magazine
Sonoma County Gazette
| more

Photo Gallery

Lytton Rancheria development in Windsor open for public input


Lytton Rancheria development in Windsor open for public input

By Vesta Copestakes

Facing federal government designation of Lytton Rancheria acquired tribal land into federal trust and therefore out of local jurisdiction, Congressman Jared Huffman, the Windsor Town Council, and the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors have been working to strike a compromise everyone can live with. But until recently the public has not been part of that process. With the August 25th public meeting at Mary Agatha Furth Center demonstrating serious concern and opposiiton, this proposal is now on the table for discussion.  

Assuring that the land is not used for a gambling casino, and that all development meets Sonoma County environmental and building guidelines and codes is at the top of the list. But concerns still remain about water and sewer, impact on the community for traffic, and loss of an Oak woodland. So far the Lytton Tribe has been working to create a positive relationship with the community and local government, but concerns remain and assurances are sought that protect Windsor from a gambling casino in perpetuity.

Lytton Rancheria Homeland Development plans


The opposition group Citizens for Windsor are firmly opposed to the project for numerous reasons:

• Once the tribe land goes into federal trust it is exempt from local control.

• Indian tribes are not bound by tax laws and do not have to pay local taxes, therefore are not required to contribute to the maintenance of community services

• Although the Memorandum of Agreement with the county forbids a casino on tribal land, it only stipulates no casino for 22 years. People want to the agreement to be in perpetuity – forever.

• The tribe owns other lands which they could develop and don't need this larger piece of land on the outskirts of Windsor

There are other concerns so please go to their website for their full complaint.

Windsor Town Hall Meeting August 25 - citizens demonstrate their opposition


Not all Windsor residents share these concerns and many point out that Windsor is heavily developed with high-density communities right up to the property of concern.  People also feel an obligation to the Lytton Tribe for past infractions that are as recent a 1958 when their federal trust designation was terminated along with forty California tribes. Promises were made and broken, land was lost and sold, and by 1991 the tribe again petitioned to restore their federal tribe status.

Through a complex series of events, the tribe acquired land and a cardroom in San Pablo that they were able to turn into a gambling casino to earn substantial income. That income has allowed them to purchase more land in Windsor to plan a homeland that includes homes, a community center, and the potential for a winery, and hotel. They consider the winery and hotel an option for sustainable income that fits with the community and Sonoma County’s No New Casinos policy.

Common Goal

Fear that another casino could be built in Windsor motivates both those opposed and those supportive of the tribe to push for a No Casinos in Perpetuity agreement with the tribe. If you delve into the history of why Indians have gambling casinos, and how those casinos have impacted communities, you can understand why Sonoma County has enacted a no new casinos policy. Enforcing that policy in light of Federal Trust protections makes negotiating with the tribe that much more important.  Huffman’s Bill H.R. 2538 was designed to define what can and cannot be built…to be a negotiating tool for the county so that we do not lose local control over federal land.

Another common goal is public input. Much of the decisions around this and with the Lytton tribe has been with government elected…City Council, Board of Supervisors, and Congressman Huffman. There has –not been enough opportunity for public input. Outrage at being left out of the discussion is part of why people are angry. This has come up at numerous public meetings lately on many topics.  Each time to government entity has apologized and promised more opportunity for public input. There was a time when people elected politicians to represent them for decision-making on issues. This is no longer the case. With information so broadly available to everyone, more people are knowledgeable on local issues and therefore want to be part of the decision-making process.

Those concerned should contact the Windsor Town Council, Supervisor James Gore, Congressman Huffman, CA Senator Mike McGuire, U.S. Senators Feinstein and Boxer.



Here are websites that will help you learn more about what has come before if you need to catch up on this issue:

YOUTUBE Video of Town Meeting on Lytton Rancheria - Part 1

YOUTUBE Video of Town Meeting on Lytton Rancheria - Part 2

YOUTUBE Video of Town Meeting on Lytton Rancheria - Part 3

YOUTUBE Video of Town Meeting on Lytton Rancheria - Part 4

YOUTUBE Video of Town Meeting on Lytton Rancheria - Part 5

YOUTUBE Video of Town Meeting on Lytton Rancheria - Part 6

YOUTUBE Video of Town Meeting on Lytton Rancheria - Part 7

YOUTUBE Video of Town Meeting on Lytton Rancheria - Part 8

Sonoma County Memorandum of Approval approve in early March 2015:

Here's the link to the EA for the 124 acre project that the Lyttons applied to the BIA for.


Here's one chronology of Lytton Tribe early history using records from the National Archives:
Anrticle from the Contra Costa Times:
Lytton background:


Striking a compromise

Lynda Hopkins presented a meeting-in-the middle presentation at the Windsor public meeting. She has elaborated n that compromise position in an editorial submitted to the Windsor Times and shared with us. Neighbors of the Lytton Development are exactly that – they live adjacent to this proposed development. Their lives will be impacted the most with traffic, water, light pollution, etc.

Thank you Lynda for sharing your proposal with Gazette readers.

Windsor Eastside Road to Hwy 101along Windsor River Road

Neighbors of Lytton Development

By Lynda Hopkins

What happened in Windsor on Tuesday, August 25 was a beautiful thing. The Furth Center ballroom was standing­room­only. Nearly 100 people lined up along the walls, looking out over 400 occupied seats. At the front of the room, two citizens shared a platform with a U.S. Congressman, a Sonoma County Supervisor, a Tribal leader, and the Town Council of Windsor. People came because they cared about their community. They came because they wanted to learn about the proposed fee­to­trust project of the Lytton Rancheria. And they came because they wanted their voices to be heard by the leaders they elected to represent them.

What progress was made at the meeting? Congressman Huffman publicly announced that he would consider an amendment to his bill, H.R. 2538, that would strengthen the no­gaming clause. He also promised that the bill “was not going anywhere anytime soon,” and that the natural pace of the legislative process would allow for community dialogue to continue before the land might be taken into trust. Supervisor Gore expressed regret over the previous lack of community input, and promised to continue facilitating a dialogue between the community and the Tribe. Town Council members stood up and expressed a desire to reflect the will of the community, and promised to release a draft agreement with the Tribe later this summer. Tribal Chairwoman Mejia listened to a passionate crowd that expressed concern over: the change of project scope from residential to commercial; excessive water use in a severe drought; the 22­year expiration date of the County's MOA; the loss of agricultural open space; the removal of 1,500 mature oaks; the traffic impacts of the commercial development; a legislative loophole in H.R. 2538; and lost property taxes.

Seeking a Solution 

Finally, concerned citizens and neighbors who have been working on this issue for the past three months suggested a solution. I’d like to reiterate that compromise here for those who were unable to attend the meeting. We propose that all parties:

­Accept and support the 124­acre residential project proposed by the Tribe and currently under review by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA);

­Expand the Tribe’s agreement to follow the Sonoma County General Plan to cover all land beyond the 124 acres in perpetuity;

­In exchange for the Tribe’s cooperation and goodwill, reduce the required County’s negotiated mitigation fees from $6 million to $2 million;

­Ask that Town of Windsor hold public meetings regarding the proposed community benefit in exchange for water and sewer service;

­Ask that Town of Windsor contribute funds towards the proposed community benefit in order to promote fiscal responsibility on the project;

­Support the hookup of Town of Windsor water and sewer for the residential project;

­Engage in community dialogue going forward by forming an advisory committee of elected officials, Tribal representative, and community representatives, that would meet quarterly during the development phase of the project and annually thereafter.

I'm a vegetable farmer who ascribes to the “Community Supported Agriculture” model, or CSA for short. CSAs create community while forging mutually beneficial relationships between different types of people. We need a name for this proposal, and I’d like to be able to call it a “CSA” or “Community Supported Agreement.” But to do that, the community needs to rally behind it.

I can guarantee that no one will love this proposal. After years of tense negotiations, the Tribe will not want to return to the give­and­take of more deliberations. The County will not want to give up $4 million in mitigation fees. The Town will not be eager to invite an impassioned public into a complicated negotiation process, nor to put Town money towards the public benefit. Neighbors will balk at the loss of oak trees and extension of development beyond the Town’s voter­approved Urban Growth Boundary. Importantly, our current proposal is just a starting point in a very complicated conversation going forward.

Still, there are two reasons that it’s worth re­opening negotiations with the Tribe. First, the community deserves to have a voice in this process. Up until now, all negotiations have taken place behind closed doors. Lack of transparency has fostered distrust in our elected representatives, and caused many of us to question the integrity of agreements they reach ­­ especially when large sums of money are involved. Sometimes, government gravitates towards an increased project scope and increased mitigation fees rather than a lessened impact to the community. We prefer the 124 acre residential project described in the BIA application to the commercial project on 500 acres and $6 million of mitigation fees that came out of the County’s closed door sessions.

The second reason that we believe in continued conversation is that the Tribe deserves to be warmly welcomed into our community. They have purchased more than 500 acres of land in and around Windsor and the Russian River Valley. We are already neighbors. We appreciate the Tribe’s willingness to consider our concerns, given that they already completed good faith negotiations with the County ­­ and we hope that we can work with the Tribe constructively going forward.

Due to the fee­to­trust process, land use change is coming to greater Windsor and the Russian River Valley whether we like it or not. And thanks to a concerned community speaking up, we now have a seat at the table ­­ which means that we have an opportunity to help guide that change.

Can we work together with our elected officials towards a solution?

Can we create a Community Supported Agreement?

What do you think?


Here are the maps showing (a) the 500+ acres proposed to go into trust through Huffman's legislation and b) the entire 1300 acre area that the County supports putting into trust

Windsor land designated to go into Federal Trust for Lytton tribe


What a complete garbage piece about the Lyttons. I see you don't allow comments on your fluff piece trying to sell lies to the community.  No mention of the casino that can be built in 22 years based on the counties MOA with the tribe.  You should be ashamed of such a lacking piece.

Here are you other mistakes.

"Not all Windsor residents share these concerns and many point out that Windsor is heavily developed with high-density communities right up to the property of concern."

Many?  There were maybe five people who spoke in support of this at the meeting. MANY?

"Promises were made and broken, land was lost and sold, and by 1991 the tribe again petitioned to restore their federal tribe status"

Actually the Lyttons ask the government to disolve the trust so they could sell the land.  Then they sold it and moved.  Then they later sued to get it back.  Only native americans can sell their land and come back thirty years or more later and claim it was unfairly taken when they sold it.

"Through a complex series of events, the tribe acquired land and a cardroom in San Pablo that they were able to turn into a gambling casino to earn substantial income. " 

Look at the history on this?  Did you not bother?  The San Pablo community did not want it.  Just like our project it grew and grew and grew unbeknownst to the community around them.

"That income has allowed them to purchase more land in Windsor to plan a homeland that includes homes, a community center, and the potential for a winery, and hotel. They consider the winery and hotel an option for sustainable income that fits with the community and Sonoma County’s No New Casinos policy. "

Really?  They need MORE income when making 200 million a year with only 270 members????  A potential winery?  LOL  They plan to build a gigantic winery, larger than any around here.  They plan to build a hotel, spa, restaurants and shops!  Way to make it sound more like a house development.  They have already been doing the surveying and planning for building all of this stuff and yet, you, the crappy, purchased media in Sonoma County, barely breeze by that topic.

"So far the Lytton Tribe has been working to create a positive relationship with the community and local government, " 

What?  When?  The Lytton Tribe responded to one neighbor who brought them a big basket of organic vegetables from her farm on Starr road by having an attorney call her.  The Lytton Tribe leader, Meija, could not have looked more disintersted in what the community had to say during the Town Hall.  She made faces and rolled her eyes.  Once it was open to community comment, she left about four comments in after saying to the moderater that she was leaving.  Sounds like they really want to foster a positive relationship with the community!

~ Ty Justice

Actually - I don’t allow people posting their own comments - but I do post comments that filter through me. I find the vitriol on anonymous postings only foments anger, hatred, prejudice and passing along false information.

In fact - what I posted in my article has been reviewed by people working toward an in perpetuity agreement against casinos with the Lytton tribe since Sonoma County has a no casinos policy going into the future. But the tribe has to agree to abide by local laws - not just federal laws - which is what people are working towards.

I attend many public meetings - and people FOR something are fearful to voice their opinions because people against something are an angry crowd. I had people come up to me - simply because I am media - to tell me that they did not agree with the angry crowds. That they want to work with the tribe in a neighborly manner. I also received emails to that effect but was asked that their letter not be posted because they didn’t want to experience being recognized as a pro voice. This is true on web sites where people are allowed to post comments as well. The FOR voices remain silent except among themselves - because they don’t want to expose themselves to anger.

In terms of what happened in San Pablo - I edited down pages of material - it was a legislator who twisted laws to allow the casino because he wanted the income and jobs in his territory. Which is why I provided links so people can do their own research.

This whole project is not a done deal. But if people continue to be closed doors with fixed opinions they are likely to get exactly what they fear and do not want. If there is a give and take - they have a chance of getting at least a compromise - hatred never solved anything. ~ Vesta

Thanks for the response... 

Except I didn't think that people were that angry.  Sure, the first guy was a little off his rocker (and not a member of either group opposing this) but for the most part nearly everyone who asked questions were polite, not angry.  There will always be a couple of angry people but the majority were not rude.  
Also, why would you state that the Lyttons have tried to be good neighbors and tried to work with the community when they have all out refused to even talk to neighbors?  
Because “neighbors” have told me that they are part of the negotiations with the tribe - that they are working through channels that will keep some local control over the project through cooperative action as well as legal documentation.

They will only talk lawyer to lawyer.  Sounds like great neighbors.  The woman refused to even stay for a couple dozen questions, choosing to take off just a few minutes into the community being able to ask questions.  
I have the chief on video sitting through lines of people coming forward - but even I bailed after an hour.

Doesn’t that seem a little strange to you?  Nothing about this in the paper?  This tribe so badly wants community support that they completely refuse to engage with the community until the two citizen groups in Windsor threw a stink about it, distributed a few thousand fliers and organized events to call attention to these 15 closed door meetings by the council.  Only then were they made to come to this event... all pushed by Gore and Huffman.  Originally the council said they would not be attending the event.  Originally it was just the lawyer of the Tribe that was going to attend.  As the attention became too much, they were pressured into that Aug 25th meeting.  The woman left a few questions in to the community questions after sitting there looking bored, rolling her eyes and huffing and puffing.  Had the citizen group done this to her there would be hell to pay in the papers.
I have to cut her slack for huffing and puffing and looking uncomfortable for two reasons - I understand she has health issues - and not everyone has the stamina to face conflict. She is not a politician - she is a tribe leader. I’m not into judging her on what she looks like - but more interested in how she and her tribe work with the community. I am not into conflict - but am into conflict resolution. So as a media source - you will not see me play up the conflict. It's counter-productive in my mind.

Personally I do not have a fixed opinion but I do have a problem with our politicians and our press not doing their jobs and educating the public.  This tribe is not being all warm and fuzzy with neighbors.  This development is too large for Windsor and this tribe has plenty of money coming from that casino that they do no need to have a hotel and winery in Windsor.  Isn't 200 million for 270 members enough?  
Also, why no mention in your piece regarding the ever growing Lytton plans.  This started out as 50 homes/50 acres and from 2013 to 2015 exploded into this massive development.  You barely mention the development… making it sound as if it's some warm and fuzzy homeland when in fact it's a gigantic development in farm land area.  
I only came into this subject recently and don’t know enough to state facts - which is why I suggest people follow the links I provided to learn more. People who are personally involved in seeking a working relationship, and personally impacted know a lot better than I do what’s going on.

There's complex history across the board and the more I learn the more differing stories I hear. So what is fact? I can't be certain so I'm not into telling the tale as if I know what I'm writing about. I don't. I only know what I have learned and the opinion I have formed on it.
When I brought up to someone that Native Americans are not the only people who have lost their land to invaders, etc, people nod and agree. And yes some tribes make millions off gambling casinos but others are stuck in patches of unusable land no where near populations where a casino could thrive. And why did the government say you can't do other things but you can make money on gambling - pretty stupid ruling - but we're stuck with that one.
Lack of foresight and legal shenanigans all preclude this situation. So with that in mind - doesn't it make sense to TALK with people before they are put into a position where we have no local control over what they do?