Marin Independent Journal Editorial in support of The Last Resort

WE HOPE Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey can find a way to resolve Lagunitas artisan David Lee Hoffman’s county permit problems.

Hoffman’s backyard creations are supposed to be models of sustainability. His efforts also have created run-ins with county enforcement officials.

Kinsey hopes he can work with Hoffman and county staff to come up with a compromise where the 68-year-old Hoffman can bring his creations up to county codes and reduce his numerous fines “to a more manageable amount.” An administrative law judge has ordered Hoffman to pay $226,000 in county fines and to tear down the 30 or so structures he built as models of sustainable living. The judge threw the book at Hoffman.

Hoffman readily admits he failed to get county permits before building his projects. Their focus, he says, are on creating innovative models for sustainability and recycling. Those are goals that reflect the spirit of Marin’s much touted green countywide plan.

Hoffman’s work and approach reflect the freewheeling days of the 1960s, when county building permits were widely ignored, even by code enforcers, in West Marin.

He’s built solar-powered showers from salvaged materials, cisterns that capture rainwater for re-use and an outdoor composting toilet that has run afoul of county health standards. Officials say Hoffman does far more than push the envelope. They contend he rips it apart, risking polluting
groundwater and nearby creeks and streams.

One county health inspector calls Hoffman’s creations “a public health hazard.”

Public health issues are something that Kinsey cannot ignore. And resolving decades of county building violations is not going to be an easy task.

Kinsey says he’s willing to work to find a solution that preserves Hoffman’s artwork and cleans up possible health problems. The supervisor might first want to take a look at the costly fines he faces.

“If we crush his life’s work, what would we gain?” Kinsey told the IJ. “I’m trying to find a way to let it be, to stand as the heartfelt artistic expression of a creative guy.”

We wish Kinsey luck.

Hoffman questions the premise of some of the county health standards, but that doesn’t mean he should be allowed to ignore them.

Even Christo obtained the permits needed to build his “Running Fence” in 1976.

But leveling the life’s work of a backyard bohemian innovator who is devoted to promoting sustainability would be a loss that should be avoided, if at all possible.


  1. william bryant says:

    That is not cool. The Last Resort is David Lee Hoffman’s life work. Yea, maybe he broke some rules, Just does not mean the county should take it down! Example: Us, as citizens, make a mistake we get fined or worse. When the county or government makes a mistake like going to jail for something you did not do and later they prove you are inisent you get the words “sorry”. Don’t call this a free county. you should call it a “more free country”. instead of doing it the easy was and taking it down (witch would include machines polluting the environment and a waste of gas) you could try something else Marin County!

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