Letter from David Lee Hoffman to Jxxx Bxxx

 The Last Resort
July 15th, 2015 

Hi Jean, 

It was 15 years ago I read a little blurb tucked away in the back pages of a newspaper talking about species extinction rate had surpassed 100 per day! I remember thinking why wasn’t this information headlined on the front page of every newspaper? It’s taken me all these years to understand the answer to this conundrum. The attitude of the Planning Group reminded me of this. 

It is so easy in wealthy, comfortable Marin to disregard the cries of the planet and believe our money can fix the ills and protect us from future personal discomforts and inconveniences. We separate and isolate ourselves from nature and real sustainable life. We forget that we too are just creatures of the planet dependent on clean water and air, and healthy food. It’s from our ignorance and arrogance that blinds us to our beautiful planet’s current fate, the Sixth Mass Extinction. Unlike the other five, this one is caused by the way we have chosen to live on the planet. It comes as no surprise that this information isn’t on the front page either! 

It’s a folly to think our complacent leaders and politicians will resolve the problem (let alone even have a dialog that a problem exists). We are living in difficult and challenging times. We need bold and innovative action. We need leaders and politicians with a backbone strong enough to stand up and fight for the planet. It is not enough to put in a few bike trails and then boast that Marin has “one of the greenest counties in the country”? 

We are in the midst of a drought the likes not seen for 500 years. The same ridiculous and archaic laws with regards to water are still in place. Greywater systems that function are illegal. Composting toilets are illegal. It is illegal to capture and store winter rainwater running down the driveway. I know because I am being penalized for all three. 

I eat almost exclusively out of my organic garden all year around and have done so for 40 years. I enjoy fresh fruit off my trees that I planted. My water supply is meager but I’ve so far managed to grow 

my own food and still have some left for friends and neighbors. My MMWD water usage is less than a third of county average. Why? Because I irrigate using grey water and stored rainwater. 

I can also grow great tasting and healthy food without purchasing any input for the soil. All fertilizer is generated in situ on the premises. In 42 years on the property, I have never used herbicides, fungicides, or pesticides and have never had an insect problem. Frogs, snakes, lizards roam freely in the garden. 

My carbon footprint is minimal; 3 •••lbs of firewood cooks an entire meal. That’s less than a SUV uses to drive to Fairfax and back. Or I can easily cook the same in my solar cooker when the sun is shining. But wood ash provides valuable minerals and nutrients for the soil and is an important addition to my earthworm’s diet. 

I have lived and have worked out of my home for 42 years. From the beginning, the County of Marin has been selling me a business license for my tea business. Now they want my little business moved off the property. I will probably close up shop as I’m too old to begin anew somewhere else. 

All these years of unpermitted labor has been done with one purpose in mind: to build a demonstration model of sustainability. With that I am successful. Many visitors come here and see only the whimsical architecture and eclectic structures. John Torrey was motivated to pursue Historic Landmark Status because of the overall Folk Art theme. Walter Scott was impressed by the designs and construction techniques. But for me, first and foremost, are the systems in place for handling “waste” and water recycling. I am not proselytizing theories, but can demonstrate in practice viable alternatives to our common polluting and wasteful practices. 

I recently had a tribal leader from Africa visit me where the preciousness of water is clearly understood by all who politely asked, “you Americans strange. Why do you shit in your drinking water?” 

And wash our cars, do our laundry, hose down the sidewalks, all with purified drinking water! As an ever-increasing thirsty planet struggles with the lack of clean, safe water, isn’t this a good time for a paradigm shift? 

I’m a worker, I make things, I invent things. I’ve been using my hands as tools for construction all my life. But I also seem to have a knack for getting on the wrong side of the law. Now I’m at the end of the road here as far as being able to live in my home. The majority of the $350,000 fine the County has levied against me has been applied to my tax bill. This will allow them to sell my property for unpaid taxes. I’ve already spent over $100,000 in legal fees. Unless my current attorney can convince the County to go back to an earlier reduced fine of $60,000.00, which I have agreed to pay, I think its time for me to give up the legal battle and leave Marin. 

Jean, I’m not asking for any help from you. I knowingly and willingly built without permits for forty-two years. I will accept my fate. But I do want you to know I have been, and will remain, a big fan of yours. The work you have done to preserve the beautiful character of this valley is your legacy. I am honored to have been your neighbor and friend all these years. 

My best wishes to you and your family, 


P.S. By the way, we are having an open house on Saturday, August 8th, from 10:00am to 5:00 pm. Please drop by if you can. I don’t believe anyone on the Planning Group has ever been to my property. They are welcome to come as well…



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