<b>GRASSLAND DREAMS:</b>  The Chumash tribe wants to put 143 homes on the nearly 1,400 acres of oak woodlands and vineyards on the east side of Highway 154.

Paul Wellman

GRASSLAND DREAMS: The Chumash tribe wants to put 143 homes on the nearly 1,400 acres of oak woodlands and vineyards on the east side of Highway 154.

Chumash Call on Congress for Camp 4

Rep. Doug La Malfa Supporting Tribe’s Dreams of Annexing 1,400 Acres in Santa Ynez Valley

Originally published 1:45 p.m., October 24, 2013
Updated 11:00 a.m., October 25, 2013
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[The most recent version of this story can be found here.]

Facing widespread opposition from neighbors in the Santa Ynez Valley that would likely lead to years of delays, the Chumash tribe is now calling on the U.S. Congress to speed up its dreams of annexing Camp 4, the 1,400 acres it purchased from actor-turned-vintner Fess Parker for about $40 million in 2010.

On Wednesday night, Rep. Doug La Malfa, a Republican who represents the entire northeastern corner of California, brought legislation before the House of Representatives that would make the property part of the Chumash reservation, thereby taking it off the County of Santa Barbara’s tax rolls and, more worrisome to many, allow development to proceed there without having to endure the region’s strict planning rigamarole.

The Chumash have long maintained that they solely intend to build housing on the property for tribal members and descendents — many of whom lived in relative poverty until the building of the Chumash Casino a decade ago — and the bill, according to those who have seen the text, would prohibit gambling facilities from ever being built on Camp 4. Co-sponsoring the legislation, known as H.R. 3313, are five additional representatives: Tony Cardenas, a Democrat from northern Los Angeles; Jeff Denham, a Republican from Modesto; Raul Ruiz, a Democrat from Palm Springs; David Valadao, a Republican from Visalia; and Joe Garcia, a Democrat from South Florida.

CORRECTION: Rep. Raul Ruiz is not a co-sponsor of this bill, and was only included on an early draft as a clerical error.

Rep. Lois Capps, however, will not be adding her name to that list. “I do not support Rep. LaMalfa’s legislation,” said Capps, whose district includes all of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obsipo counties. “I understand how important this issue is for residents of the Santa Ynez Valley, the Chumash tribe and, indeed, the entire county. That is why I continue to believe a local resolution between the county and the tribe is best for all parties involved.”

This was not an entirely unexpected maneuver for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians — they’ve actually been open about their desire and intent to do so all along — and the tribe is also still simultaneously pursuing the more traditional fee-to-trust process to take the land into its reservation. But the County of Santa Barbara has already called on the Bureau of Indian Affairs to reconsider that approval, indicating that it will likely raise official appeals that could delay any final decision for many years.

“It was a momentous day in the history of our tribe,” said the tribe’s chairman Vincent Armenta of the bill’s introduction. “Members of the tribe, their children, and their grandchildren need a place where they can live and raise their families on tribal land governed by their own tribal government and the Camp 4 land is ideal.” A fact-sheet distributed by the Chumash also pointed out that the no gambling provision was included at the tribe’s request, that the property is less than two miles east of the existing reservation, that only 17 percent of members and descendants currently live on the reservation, and that all development there will be subject to reviews by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.

“It’s very unfortunate but not unexpected,” said county supervisor Doreen Farr, whose 3rd District includes the Santa Ynez Valley. “This has been coming and, clearly, they were working on it before the board ever took this last vote on Camp 4.” That vote occurred last week, when the supervisors decided to officially opposed the fee-to-trust annexation process and request further environmental reviews.

Upon learning of the news, Farr’s office was immediately in touch with Capps’s staff, and they have sent out emails to all of their constituents. “The word is out,” said Farr. “The community was alerted to it right away. I’m sure that both Congresswoman Capps as well as the offices of those members of Congress will be hearing from the community.”

On Thursday afternoon, Rep. La Malfa’s legislative director Kevin Eastman defended the congressman’s entry in regional affairs by explaining that the bill’s sponsors are a bipartisan group, including every Californian on the Indian Affairs Subcommittee, which had discussed this exact issue during the last session. “The authors of the bill recognize that the tribe has a legitimate need for housing, one too pressing to go through the decade-plus bureaucratic maze of the BIA’s procedural hurdles,” said Eastman in an email, “and that the tribe’s long-term investment in the land and efforts to ensure that county budgets are positively impacted speak to their willingness to be good neighbors.”

Eastman dismissed the notion that the Camp 4 annexation was widely opposed, noting that county supervisors have split votes on the issue and that the state legislators are also split. He chastised the recent decision by the county supervisors to not open up a government-to-government dialogue with the tribe. “I doubt the local officials who have refused to talk with the tribe would treat any other landowner with such disregard,” said Eastman, “and it’s disappointing to see that such behavior still exists in California.”

When asked whether Rep. La Malfa had received any campaign contributions from the tribe, Eastman said he had “no knowledge of fundraising efforts.” A quick web search, however, revealed that La Malfa had received a $1,000 contribution from the tribe in the 2013-2014 campaign cycle.

The bill’s co-sponsors have also been sent a list of questions related to their involvement in the Camp 4 annexation, and their answers will be published when they arrive. In the current 2013-2014 campaign cycle, the Chumash tribe has contributed $5,200 to Rep. Cardenas, who also received $5,000 in the 2011-2012 cycle and now counts the Chumash as one of his top five funders. Rep. Denham accepted $5,000 from the tribe this cycle, and $3,500 from them last cycle. Representatives Garcia and Valadao do not show any contributions from the tribe in their Top 100 funders.

Those concerned about the Camp 4 annexation continued sounding their alarms on Thursday upon hearing the news. Susan Jordan, who has been tracking the Camp 4 issue in her role as head of the California Coastal Protection Network, said she was “deeply disturbed” the tribe ignored the county’s request to sit down and “work in partnership” on the property. “This attempt to force fee-to-trust on Camp 4 via an act of Congress is an affront to the county, the community, and the state of California,” said Jordan. “I urge all our elected officials at the state and federal level, including the governor, to take whatever steps are necessary to stop this unprecedented legislation.”

UPDATE, OCTOBER 25, 11 A.M.: On Friday morning, Congressman Jeff Denham’s press secretary Jordan Langdon replied to a series of questions about the representatives involvement. “Congressman Denham has been concerned about Native American issues since the time he came into office in the California state senate,” explained Langdon. “As the vice chair of the Native American caucus, he has worked diligently on this issue and many others.” Noting that Denham is also working on other Native American bills in different parts of the country, Langdon explained, “This bill is a product of lengthy consultation between the community, the tribe, and Congress. It will ensure that tribe members have access to tools for self-reliance, including food, housing, education and clean water.”

This is a developing story. Expect updates in the hours and days to come.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

As they say on the casino floor - " NO DICE" !

geeber (anonymous profile)
October 24, 2013 at 5:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't like the courts? Get an Act of Congress! Can't get local political support? $5,000 will get you a bill sponsored by a clown in the desert!

ReadtheFinePrint (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 6:53 a.m. (Suggest removal)

buy 1400 acres, then decide to call it an indian reservation for the sole purpose creating a benefit a tiny group of the many of them are there sharing in this, 90?

the whiteman should be so lucky

thomas592003 (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 8:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

You could see this coming when the Chumash withdrew their application. Why is a Northern guy supporting removal of land from the SB County tax rolls. After apologizing for being a bad neighbor the Chumash pull this.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 9:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Lois should express her displeasure by throwing down a gauntlet and introduce measures to take large swaths of land off taxpayer rolls in their districts. That would get local coverage in their market and also open up the discussion of their donations from the Chumash.

pointssouth (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 9:28 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Uh, thomas592003, the bill explicity sates that there would be no casino on the property. Next time please read the article before trolling the comment section.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 9:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

good idea, pointssouth: we can learn if Lois will play hardball on this issue or just wring her hands. Why isn't she more angered that a far northern Calif. Rep. is sponsoring legislation deeply affecting HER district??
HG is obviously correct about the bill containing "no casinos" language, but the nefarious doings of Salud Carbajal are clear and has certainly assisted the Tribe when we read Rep. La Malfa's guy Eastman "noting that county supervisors have split votes on the issue " -- it was Salud at another time (he cleverly switched in the most recent vote) and often Sup. Steve L. -- this has lent merit to the Congressional cabal's efforts to make Camp 4 reservation land, thus depriving the Co. of tax dollars AND offending many others in the Valley.
One of my angles is that this is such a beautiful area, adjacent to Los Padres National Forest, why can't we leave it fallow and natural as most of it is right now. Sadly, with the Tribe's development record, how can we trust that they will be good stewards of this sacred land?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 11:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It's absolutely meaningless that the bill says no gambling facilities — how would it be enforced? Nation-to-nation agreements are known as treaties and there are serious issues of enforcement. Usually, public opinion is effective, but we've seen how the Chumash Nation government responds to the pubic opinion of their neighbors in the County and the County itself - with the proverbial and figurative finger.

Jurisdiction and law enforcement, including civil law issues on tribal lands are complicated issues. The whole point of the Chumash effort to bring the land into the reservation is to have jurisdiction over it, including what they will do on it. Mr. Armenta may ask now to have a statement in the legislation about no gambling and be serious in that intent, but he knows well that is not binding on future tribal leadership.

at_large (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 11:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

at_large you are misinformed. An act of Congress is binding on native American bands or tribes. The Chumash "Nation" has none of the rights of an actual country. Their rights are even less than each the fifty states. They have about the same soveriegn rights as a county or the University of California. I am tired of the agit prop being spewed by the Santa Ynez valley anti Chumas crowd and am also concerned that Capps has jumped on the bandwagon.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 12:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

La Mafia recommends succession from nation for county up north.

Hemlockroid (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 2:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I wonder what this discussion would look like if these were white folks planning to grow wine grapes on land with property tax discounted 20-75% based on agricultural use.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 7:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Stunning move. Most likely getting other casino district friendly legislators to carry water for them in Washington, when they knew their cause had dried up locally.

Gosh, how great to have our local congresswoman carry so much seniority and prestige in Washington DC so she can bring a stop to this nonsense ASAP.

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 25, 2013 at 11:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The Congressman who put forward this bill represents the northernmost district in the state -- further geographically from SB County than any other district. The bill creates a bonanza for 143 persons, a "tribe" of land developers, against the best interests of the remaining 430,000 people in the county.

THIS is democracy at work?

SamRedDog (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2013 at 11:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Congressman that sponsored the bill is a Republican. The Republicans have a majority in the House. There is nothing a Democrat like Capps can do to stop the bill from passing the House. The bill will most likely be attached to some spending bill that will then be approved by the Senate and signed by the President. That is how our democracy works.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2013 at 1:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Ms. Jordan is well-entrenched in politics in this state, having been a member of the board of supervisors and whose husband is former Assemblyman Pedro Nava. Lacking all of those advantages, the Chumash tribe is justified in seeking a lawful solution in Congress. It is unreasonable to expect them to take on Ms. Jordan and her associates unarmed.

PD12345 (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2013 at 2:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

P.S.: I’m pretty sure it was Mr. Parker’s estate, not himself, who sold the land to the tribe.

PD12345 (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I suspect the common "political" denominator in this bi-partisan appeal to the federal government was Indian casino cash, particularly in those districts where Indian casino cash trumps party loyalties. Just guessin' here.

Is it easier to buy what you want 3000 miles away where no one cares than it is right under our noses, where we do?

foofighter (anonymous profile)
October 26, 2013 at 3:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This is a perfect example that Political Parties are a joke. Politicians advocate for themselves and their own pockets not their constituents as they claim. Pick a politician (whore) from a non-associated area of the State, put money in their pocket, and create an act of Congress. The people this guy is supposed to represent do not care what goes down in Santa Barbara County nor do the other critters in Congress. Greed has been the blight of man from the beginning. The best way to control Greed is to terminate all the Special Interest Groups, until then expect it to get worse. Follow the Money.

howgreenwasmyvalley (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2013 at 11:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey all you elected reps! Don't be stupid and forget this! If you support our "Native American" cause to assert our rights and turn the Santa Inez Valley into a mini-Las Vegas, then who knows? You might even get really, really lucky, (wink wink!), at the Chumash Casino!!

youknowhoo (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2013 at 4:38 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Does anyone actually read these articles? Sheesh, the bill before Congress says that the new land added to the casino will NOT HAVE GAMBLING, therefore no new casino. "mini-Las Vegas" my a@@. The tribe wants to build about one new home per ten acres on camp 4 and the nimbys in the valley are in a uproar. What a joke.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2013 at 5:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

That is added to the reservation.

Herschel_Greenspan (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2013 at 5:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Gosh, HG, it seems pretty naive to me that you would believe their stuff about "one new home per ten acres" -- really?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
October 28, 2013 at 7:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

This whole thing is sneaky. Very sneaky. Once the land is in Chumash hands they can do whatever they want with it. Think Levittown.

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
October 31, 2013 at 11:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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