The Kirkman Lok Zombie Re$ort PLP18-0012

10/25/23 Update from Guerneville MAC Rep Joe Rogoff:

The Board of Zoning Adjustments approved the Lodge on Russian River project earlier this year, and the appeal filed by Forest Unlimited was withdrawn last month.

The applicant is working on conditions compliance. (The Conditions of Approval are attached in the BZA resolution pdf) There is no timeline for project build out at this time, but the conditions do require the use permit is used within 4 years.

There will be a Design Review Committee public meeting and a Project Review Advisory Committee meeting during this 4 year timeframe, as required by the conditions of approval. The public will be notified of these meetings once the applicant is ready to move forward.

Hannah Spencer is now the planner assigned to this project.


Tuesday, Oct 17, 2023
WITHDRAWN: Guernewood Resort Appeal PLP18-0012
Board of Supervisors Public Meeting

Heads up: This is no longer the Lower Russian River:

Guernewood evacuation plan
On March 23rd 2023 the Board of Zoning Adjustment voted to move this project forward.

Invisioned by the developers as "a boutique Wine Country hotel in the redwoods"

For more information, concerns, links to revised project documents go HERE.

Please contact Lynda Hopkins and the Board of Supervisors NOW and urge them to protect the numerous mature redwood tree slated to be cut down and to protect the public’s safety now and into the future.

Reference The Lodge on the Russian River (PLP18-0012
) and


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05/27/2023 - Kirk Lok and Efren Carrillo showed up to lobby for their hotel project at the Guernewood Neighborhood Association public meeting/picnic. Only the architect, Doug Demers, was scheduled but he was a no-show. This saved them a good amount of money by not bring Mr. Demers down from Seattle.

My take away? Lok and Carrillo gave their pre-fabricated answers to audience questions that didn't address any of the community concerns.

Someone expressed dismay about the removal of 76 redwoods. Kirk Lok referred to them as the "saplings" that came up after the old growth redwoods were cut down last century. I think this was meant to suggest that it was okay to remove them. Lok never referred to these trees by what they are today: 2nd growth mature redwoods.

Someone else asked about how this would effect emergency evacuations for the nearby residents. It was explained that hotel visitors would be required to evacuate before residents got a suggested evacuation warning (per the BZA). The elephant in the room continues to be the WHAT IF the fire starts in our area and there is no advance warning.

Carrillo talked about the hotel reducing the demand for Vacation Rentals, now a popular dangled carrot and sales pitch to the community. Never mind that the targeted demographic for luxury hotels with meeting/event space for 500 people and vacation rentals is entirely different.

Publicly, I only asked about something of immediate concern: If they could please move the fence they had erected a few years prior since it was blocking the required easement for 25 parking spaces for the visitors using the public beach access. I pointed out that is was causing illegal and dangerous parking along 116 and up into the nearby neighborhood. The first thing out of Efren Carrillo's mouth was that people parked illegally all over West County. He further explained that the fence was put up because of community complaints about homeless camps on the property. Moving the fence back to allow for the legally required parking easement has nothing to do with their ability to utilize more effective options for preventing homeless campers.

After the meeting I approached Carrillo directly, for several minutes, and to his credit he didn't run away, even as some folks attempted to herd me away from him like they were border collies. All this direct conversation did for me was to confirm that he has the party line , evasive answers, down pat.

Amusingly, he had the nerve to ask me if I was also against affordable housing. This is another common ploy used to suggest that those with serious concerns about the size of this project and the negative impact to our dilapidated infrastructure, natural environment and ability to evacuate in an emergency are just nimbys against all "progress". Of course, on social media like local Nextdoor this is used as more than just a suggestion. It's used to falsely accuse and bully those who think that the project is just too big.

On April 24, 2023 Forest Unlimited announced that they were stepping up to file an appeal of the BZA decision.

Please contact the Board of Supervisors and directly to Lynda Hopkins NOW and urge them to protect the numerous mature redwood tree slated to be cut down and to protect the public’s safety now and into the future.
Reference The Lodge on the Russian River (PLP18-0012)

On Thursday, March 23, 2023 the Board of Zoning Adjustments voted to move this project forward with variances for less than code required parking and encroachment into the riparian corridors of the Russian River and Hulbert Creek, ignoring community concerns of serious public and environmental safety hazard impacts.

The meeting was moved to the Board of Supervisors Chambers
where hybrid Zoom meetings are possible but the BZA made no effort to allow greater public outreach.

The BZA ignored their own directive to the developer to lower the building height while maintaining the same footprint which was estimated to bring the room count down to 80.


•  A Press Democrat article dated 2/25/23 "...appears headed for approval"

• All BZA board members present (4of5) mentioned meeting with the developers shortly before this meeting during the disclosures portion of the meeting.

•  Eric Konigshofer, our District 5 BZA representative said,
“I hope it’s evident to everyone who’s in attendance that we’ve seriously tried to hear the community and work through this, I think, inevitable and long-term eventual development of this property — or redevelopment of this property — as a tourist-related commercial enterprise."

The most recent revised documents are available for review HERE.

• Lowering the height of the project by a single story has only reduced the number of units by 12. This is because the project developers increased the project's footprint by 5,230 square feet, against the specific request of the BZA to lower the height AND maintain the original footprint.

• The projects 2 meeting rooms are designed for a 500 person capacity. This suggests that their primary advertising will be targeted to Corporations and Convention Planners.

• The developer sought a variance to reduce the number of the County's Zoning Code requirement of 225 spaces down to 175, a number which includes the required 25 spacing for the public to access the beach. The number of parking spaces has been further reduced (since the height of the hotel was reduced to 35ft) by 26 and still relies on valet stacked parking for larger events with an increase from 15 to 22 stacked spaces. Stacked and juggled Valet Parking would be especially unwise in the event of an emergency evacuation.

• This Addendum rescinds and replaces all Comments and Conditions listed under the “PERMIT SONOMA FIRE PREVENTION” section of the “Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustments Draft Conditions of Approval Exhibit A” for File No. PLP18-0012 with the following updated Fire Prevention Comments and Conditions: PERMIT SONOMA FIRE PREVENTION

It specifically states on page 2:

II. Additional Fire Safety Conditions for Projects in Both the SRA and LRA:

Occupancy and Operation

x. Prior to operation, written approval that the required improvements and comments have been addressed and/or corrected shall be provided to PRMD from the County Fire Marshal/Local Fire Protection District.

x. The subject property (or properties) shall be in full compliance with Building Code regulations, Fire Code Regulations and Hazardous Materials regulations

a. A fire inspection shall be conducted by the Sonoma County Fire Prevention Division to determine if the subject property (or properties) is currently in full compliance with applicable Building Code regulations, Fire Code Regulations and Hazardous Materials regulations.


• Their Mitigated Negative Declaration did not address the updated CA Fire Hazard Severity Zoning of our area from Moderate to High which is now considered a significant issue.

• The developer boasts (pg 79): “Guests will not have to leave the resort to use other facilities. If some guests chose to do so, the other public facilities will not be significantly impacted.” Perhaps the developer finally realized that stacked/valet parking could very well discourage guests from venturing off of their property? So much for adding to the local economy!


Impact to Neighboring Emergency Fire Evacuation:

According to, and excerpted from, the project's 2nd Revised Mitigate Negative Declaration

dated February 3, 2023, pgs 87-88:

If located in or near state responsibility areas or lands classified as very high fire severity zones, would the project: 1) Substantially impair an adopted emergency response plan or emergency evacuation plan;

Developer Comment: According to the Safety Element of the General Plan, the project site is not located in a high wildland fire hazard area. There is no separate emergency evacuation plan for the County. Furthermore, the project would not cause an interference with emergency evacuations.

Significance Level: Less Than Significant Impact.

My Comment: According to the state's revised Fire Hazard Severity Zones map, the project site IS located in a high wildland fire hazard area.

This is the evacuation plan for Guernewood Park, across Hwy 116 from the Lok project (Lok location has been added to map):
Guernewood Evacuation Map
I have to admit, when I first saw the draft of this "plan" presented at a Guernewood Neighborhood Association meeting I though the Cal Fire and Russian River Fire logos had been added to boost the humor of this ludicrous joke. The plan assumes that a fire source will be at a specific and convenient location. When I learned that it had become an Official Evacuation Plan I decided not to renew my membership with the GNA. pdf of evac map.

From, Fire Prevention Sonoma County Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update pg28:

Roads and Highways

Numerous county, state, and federal roads and highways pass through high wildfire-risk areas. Any of these roads could be temporarily closed if a fire is burning in the vicinity. Closure of these routes would cause serious transportation problems for county residents. It could also hamper access of emergency responders.

State and federal routes in the county passing through high wildfire-risk areas include Highway 1, Highway 12 (near Glen Ellen), Highway 101 (north of Healdsburg), Highway 116, and Highway 128. Wider roads can act as fuel breaks for fires, stopping or temporarily slowing their spread. Large wildfires, however, are not stopped by roads and have been known to jump distances of up to a mile, particularly when winds are high.

Updated 2023 California Fire Hazard Severity Zones

Long overdue, The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has updated the state's Fire Hazard Severity Map. Our area is now primarily rated as HIGH RISK:

Fire Hazard Severity Zone, Guerneville
Mouse over above image to view the 2007 map. Enlarged 1.8MB pdf of above images HERE. Interactive source map HERE. LA Time article HERE.

According to the Sonoma County Wildfire Risk Index map of March 29, 2022, the entire area is now rated VERY HIGH RISK:
Sonoma County Wildfire Risk Index map

Directly across Hwy 116 from the proposed hotel are the side by side ingress/egress roads of Old Monte Rio Rd and Lovers Lane that hundreds of residents rely on as the sole means of evacuation. This is already a difficult intersection to exit from our residential area on busy weekends without adding the huge numbers that this project will attract.

Most roads within the steep, heavily wooded hillside area of Guernewood Heights don't meet Sonoma County Fire Safe Ordinance:
Ch 13 - Sec. 13-34.
- Two-way roads. (a) In addition to meeting the applicable standards in the preceding sections, all two-way roads shall have a right-of-way of not less than twenty-five feet (25') and shall be constructed to provide a road with a minimum of two (2) ten-foot traffic lanes providing two-way traffic flow. ( Ord. No. 6318 , § I, 8-11-2020) State Law reference— California Code of Regulations, Title 14 Natural Resources Code, Division 1.5, Chapter 7, Subchapter 2, Article 1-5, SRA Fire Safe Regulations 1273.01, 1273.05, 1273.06.

The area is heavily populated and has numerous existing vacation rentals with inadequate/unsafe parking for their occupancy allowances.

Our area IS a high fire risk area owing to the terrain, poor road conditions and lack of enforcement of the law requiring all property owners to maintain fire safe space, even on undeveloped lots. If in doubt, ask residents about our escalating costs of insurance and our 2 recent evacuation orders. Updated, proposed, Fire Severity Hazard map: HERE

Supporters of a development of this size at this location have claimed that we will have enough advance notification for an emergency evacuation. This ignores the very real possibility of a fire that starts in our immediate area on a day with high winds.

In the Flood Plain:

At 44ft: In Guerneville HWY 116 west of town closed. Safeway floods. In Monte Rio and Guerneville Park the main business sections flood.
Travel in most areas nearly impossible.
(per NOAA)

On Pg 14 of the MND, the developer states: hotel buildings " ...will be built on pier foundations to allow for construction amongst the redwoods without damaging their roots as well as to elevate and support the buildings to withstand flooding and seismic shaking."

It's mind boggling that the hotel project illustrations always show the first floor of buildings directly at ground level. Where are the piers raising it out of the flood plain?:
resort at ground level in flood zone

FEMA FLOOD PLAIN MAP shows this area as flooding at 56-57ft. Photo evidence shows flooding at 45 and 48ft:
flood map
The red X on the far left, above, is a residence that reported that the 2019 flood water came within a foot of their 1st entry step.
Mouse over image to show heavily wooded area.

February 27, 2019 Russian River flood crested at 45. 38 ft.
This is the entrance to Lover's Lane, directly across 116 from the proposed hotel site:
2019 Guerneville flood Kirk Lok hotel

1995 - River crests at 48ft.
Residents looking across flooded 116 at the location of this proposed Resort from Old Monte Rio Rd:

Kirkman Lok

Mega Drought and the Condition of Guerneville's Aging Sewer System: URBAN SERVICE AREA?

Currently Sonoma County’s agriculture communities and large resorts have ZERO conservation requirements or even basic use limits despite their residential and small farm neighbors running dry. There are also no fees being charged for the use of groundwater unless the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) has that capacity in limited basins.

Without accountability for the use of groundwater means that big private businesses are thriving off the unregulated use of our groundwaters while individual residences, small farms, and our public resources are having to suffer the consequences. Full Nov 28, 2022 SoCo Gazette article HERE.

From The Russian River County Sanitation District (RRCSD): During heavy rainstorms associated with atmospheric rivers, the RRCSD sewer collection system could possibly become inundated with storm and flood water, which may contribute to an increased chance of sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) which could increase the risk to the public.

We are asking residents to assist by following these suggestions during heavy rains:

- Please do not drain any non-sewage, into the sewer system.
- Please reduce your indoor water use and limit your input into the wastewater collection system during rainstorms and rising river levels.

According to this 2022 listing for a lot just uphill from the project site, "Sonoma PRMD confirmed sewer and electricity readily available at street level. There is a water moratorium in existence for the area and no new connections available for the next 5 yrs. Buyer to find other alternatives for water."
water and sewer hook-up moratorium

02/17/22 - Lower Russian River MAC Meeting with the Sonoma Water Agency
. The video starts (1:02:39 - 1:06:49) at the Q&A section that discusses Sanitary Sewer Overflows during floods, goes into the age of our system and how mounting upgrade and repair needs to this infrastructure aren't being met:

To view Sonoma Water's entire presentation go to 43:39.

• Aging Guerneville sewer system: A sewer main broke and dumped 100k gallons of raw sewage into the Russian River on Feb 16, 2014

From the 2023 revised Mitigated Negative Declaration, pg. 69:


Would the project:

a) Physically divide an established community?

Developer's comment: "The project site is located within a rural, unincorporated area northwest of the community of Guerneville along Highway 116 (River Road). It would not block or otherwise physically divide Guerneville or areas adjacent to it. The project includes connections to public transit, bikeways and trails."

• The public transit schedule is seriously limited and inconvenient. Hwy 116 between the project and Guerneville is DANGEROUS for pedestrians and bicyclists because it ISN'T connected with bike lanes, trails or paths!

b) Cause a significant environmental impact due to a conflict with any land use plan, policy, or regulation adopted for the purpose of avoiding or mitigating an environmental effect?

Developer's comment: "Lodging facilities may not exceed 50 rooms per site in rural areas and 200 rooms per site in Urban Service Areas (the project site is in the Guerneville Urban Service Area)."

• Considering the current condition of our infrastructure it's outrageous that Guerneville (not to mention, MONTE RIO!) is designated an Urban Service Area. The 2020 Sonoma County General Plan (see page 57) needs a SERIOUS OVERHAUL!

If Guerneville was considered RURAL the project would have no more than 50 rooms, wouldn't need to remove 76 mature 2nd growth Redwoods, wouldn't need to encroach into the protected riparian corridor, wouldn't need to seek a variance to provide less than required parking but would be compatible with the area. Any responsible property owner would restore the riparian corridor without an encroachment deal.

Biological Assessment?

Lok hired Kjeldsen Biological Consulting to prepare a biological assessment report of the site in July 2008 for the County Planners.

Field observations were done on September 29 and December 14, 2006 and September 28 and December 14, 2007 (pg 6 of report).

From pages 6 and 7 of the report: "The area was surveyed to determine whether occupied raptor nests were present within the proximity of the project site (i.e., within a minimum 500 feet of the areas to be disturbed). Surveys consisted of scanning the trees on the project site (500 ft +) with binoculars searching for nest or bird activity. Our search was conducted from the project area looking for droppings or nest scatter from nests that may be present that were not observable by binoculars."

Nesting season typically starts in February and goes through August for Ospreys. Both parents incubate the eggs — about 36-42 days from when they are laid until they hatch. Osprey chicks spend a very long time in the nest after hatching. Their first flights usually occur about 55 days after hatching. Ospreys have a high nest-site fidelity and return to previously existing nest structures each year. 

According to the Kjeldsen report (pg 23):
"We did not observe any rookeries, nesting sites or breeding habitat for wildlife of the area associated with the project. Raptor (Osprey) nesting is common along the Russian River but no nests were observed on the property or near vicinity."

The ONLY fauna species they reported seeing were Scrub Jays and Common Mergansers. Perhaps our local birders should have been hired independently instead: Other species observed at site location:

March 2023 - The Osprey are back in their nest directly across the river, a short distance from the building site:
osprey nest Guerneville

Encroaching of Riparian Corridors and Threat to Anadromous Fish

The map below shows the developer's plan encroaching into the riparian corridor. This begs the question: Why bother to create legal protect for riparian corridors if a variance can so blithely be granted?

Note that their swimming pool will be right against the Russian River. There has been no mention of pumps and storage tanks to remove the clorinated water before flooding washes it into the river:
Lok encroachment into riparian corridor
Click HERE for enlargement of the Encroachment Map.

Threatened Anadromous Fish

Killing Coho salmon with urbanization and… a highly toxic chemical used in the production of millions of tires every year is killing salmon in the Pacific Northwest, and it is being detected in streams across Northern California, a new study finds.

The Hotel on River…and on Hulbert Creek as well, will create forseeable and predictable problems. Migrating fish, Coho and Chinook salmon and Steelhead must have navigable, undisturbed, unobstructed and unpolluted pathways to reach and depart their spawning sites. Somewhat ironically this particular hotel footprint has a problematic, negative footprint. It has considerable direct contact on the riparian habitat of hulber Creek and the bank of he Russian River.. These issues have never been admitted nor have plans been studied for amelioration. WHY NOT? These fish have a huge economic, recreational and conservation role to play in Sonoma County and California. (Read the Press Democrat article by Mary Callahan, December 2, 2023. King Salmon Fishing Season At Risk)

The developer is remiss in not addressing this problem by working with the many volunteer organizations, and government agencies, local, regional, statewide and federal. Scientists have known for decades that stormwater runoff from roads, highways and other urban areas has been linked to high rates of coho salmon deaths in Washington state, where as many as 90% of salmon in the Puget Sound area have died before they could spawn.

Videos of Salmon in Hulbert Creek HERE.

Removal of 76 Redwoods

Impact to mature, 2nd growth, redwoods. The circles represent clusters of redwoods with mulitple trunks. Only 4 of the 43 redwood clusters will not be impacted:
Save the redwood along the Russian River
Click HERE for fully detailed construction impact document with enlargement of the above map.

"Local redwood forests are crucial in providing a healthy, stable climate. Studies show that coast redwoods capture more carbon dioxide (CO2) from our cars, trucks, and power plants than any other tree on Earth." - Sempervirens Fund

Outdated 2018 Traffic Impact Study & Parking

The Sonoma County Guidelines for Traffic Impact Studies states on page 2, “For projects that have languished and/or are being resubmitted, all previous traffic studies relating to the development that are more than two (2) years old will have to be updated.” The parking study was up-dated but not the traffic study.

From pg 9 of the Lok 2018 Traffic Impact Study, full document HERE:

"The study area includes the project access and segment of SR 116 along the project frontage, as well as the following intersections...

1. SR 116 (Main Street)/River Road
2. SR 116 (Main Street)/Armstrong Woods Road
3. SR 116/Guernewood Lane"

But according to pg 80 of the February 3, 2023 Revised Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration, HERE:

"In February 2016, in response to County peer and staff review of a previous traffic study for the project prepared by W-Trans traffic engineers, an updated traffic analysis for the project was submitted by W- Trans on behalf of the applicant in 2018, and was subject to TPW peer review. The project analysis included the following:

The analysis considered six intersections in the project area:

1) SR 116/River Road
2) SR 116/Armstrong Woods Road
3) SR 116/Old Cazadero Road (southbound approach)
4) SR 116/Lovers Lane (southbound approach)
5) SR 116/Old Monte Rio Road (southbound approach)
6) SR 116/Guernewood Lane"

The only nearby traffic impact study was done in 2018 at Guernewood Lane, a short through road with few homes, NOT the more critical intersections of Old Monte Rio Rd and Lovers Lane, needed for emergency evacuation for hundreds of people directly across from the hotel. In fact, their map, below, doesn't match up to the GIS zoning map or the Sonoma County ESRI map. It has the project site misaligned with the nearby intersections and ignores the existence of Lovers Lane right beside Old Monte Rio Rd:
Bogus traffic study map
Detail of Figure 1 of the 2018 Traffic Impact Study

Kirkman Lok
Click HERE for enlargement of the Esri map.

Inexplicably, there was a traffic study done at Armstrong Woods Rd but NOT between Rio Nido and Armstrong Woods Rd in Guerneville! This is an area well known as a traffic congestion nightmare; in 2018 residents of Rio Nido were quite outspoken about their concern with it being made even worse with the addition of this large hotel. Local residents currently arrange their outings with this in mind and pray that they don't get a migraine and run out of aspirin at the Wrong Time.

Closest escape route for the nearest residents to the Lok Resort
HERE for map enlargement pdf file. Just because the situs lots are zoned for Visitor Serving doesn't mean a hotel of this occupancy capacity is appropriate for this location!

Our area's traffic and emergency evacuation problems are further exacerbated by unreasonable occupancy allowances permitted to existing Vacation Rentals (10-18 total daytime visitors per unit).

Among the several variances that the developer is seeking is less than code required 225 parking spaces with a controversial (and dangerous) plan for valet stacked/shared parking:Lok parking plan
Click HERE for an enlargement of the Lok Parking Plan.

The developer has said that the hotel will rarely be at full capacity. This makes no sense from a business perspective. A fully jam-packed parking area would be a hellish nightmare in the event of an emergency evacuation. And how many people would be willing to wait for their cars to be unwedged just to visit other area restaurants in the area? What happens when the valet parking service doesn't show up for a shift?

Nothing guarantees that the 25 pubic parking spaces required within the 1985 public easement to the beach will be dedicated to visitors to the beach. It will certainly be used for visitors to hotel conventions and the hotel restaurant and bar.

Response to Arguments in Favor of a Project of This Size

Historical Precedence and Economic Imperative

Proponents like to say that the Lower Russian River has always been a resort area, attracting huge numbers of visitors with a huge hotel previously at this proposed building site. While it did become a blue collar seasonal vacation destination after the logging boom their claims are grossly exaggerated and completely ignore the population growth since 1900. In the early 20th century visitors arrived by train. After WWII large families arrived in packed station wagons. Now many visitors arrive 2 per vehicle.

Guernewood Park Resort 1955
1955 arial view of Guernewood Park Resort. Not so huge. Image source: Sonoma County Library

Ginger's Rancho
Ginger's Guernewood Park Rancho, 1969 Image source: Calisphere

Gingers Rancho 1980

Our local infrastructure hasn't kept pace with population growth. Of course we are still a charming seasonal visitor destination but over time we have also become an area for year-round residents, many on low to moderate fixed incomes. There isn't enough acreage or infrastructure for unlimited tourist Industry growth. The hotel previously at this site was much smaller, as was the population when it was there, otherwise why the need to remove 76 mature redwoods? What we need for our area is a sustainable and safe balance of visitors and full-time residents for a healthy local economy.

A hotel with no more than 50 units would be more in keeping with our area and would make it possible to avoid the currently proposed variances for encroachment into the riparian corridor and less then code required parking. It could also avoid the removal of the 76 redwood trees. Even built at a smaller size, infrastructure should be fixed beforehand.


* Source: per US Census Bureau - Population Estimates

This eloquent post from Nextdoor comments on conclusions being reached by cherry picking examples from the past. "Primary industries shift. Maybe we should be viewing this inflection point as an opportunity to build a local economy around sustainable practices of conservation."

Some have suggested that a large hotel will reduce the demand for single family dwellings used as vacation rentals. While is an attractive argument to gain support from the many residents negatively impacted by the VRBO industry it ignores that fact that these two types of lodgings have very different target audience demographics.

Public Beach Access. The developer and many project supports have touted that the Hotel will provide public access to the beach with parking for 25 cars. This is not a gift from Kirk Lok! There is a pre-existing easement from 1985 which requires this public access and 25 parking spaces. The developer is currently in violation of the easement's parking requirement since they erected a fence along the front of the property with a locked gate. This has compelled beach visitors to park illegally and unsafely along 116 as well as into neighboring areas withr oads that can't meet the Sonoma Fire Safe Standards.

April 2019 - Shows parking required for the 1985 easement to the public beach:
Kirk Lok required easement

March 2023 - Sometime after April 2019 Lok violated the easement for required parking to the pubic beach by erecting a fence too close to CA-116:
Kirk Lok violation of easement

Restoration of the Riparian Corridor. Even without a hotel the riparian corridor could be restored. The developer is dangled this carrot since they seeking a variance to encroach into the riparian corridor with the hotel and swimming pool.

It's zoned for a hotel! Actually it's zoned for Rec and Visitor Serving Commercial. It could be a public park with the only free beach access in Guerneville and have a restaurant.

Last year an Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration for the hotel was published for a 30 day public review and comment period from August 27 through September 27, 2021. The County released the result of that study. Public comments were received from 70 households.

10 (14%) of the public comments were for support of the project. 60 (85%) were opposed. That’s a lot of opposition!
Of the 60 opponents, 50 of 70 (or 71%) expressed concerns about local traffic congestion. And 50 of 70 (71%) also expressed fire evacuation concerns! Thus a large majority of the 70 respondents were concerned about traffic congestion, and fire evacuation.


The proposed hotel will have anywhere from 4-37 employees on site depending on time of day and season. These are primarily seasonal, part-time, low paying jobs. Most employees won't be able to afford to live in the area. Kirk Lok opposed a 2021 Petaluma ordinance that was designed to protect hotel workers who were laid off during the coronavirus pandemic. Press Democrat article HERE. PDF of article HERE. Kirk Lok's letter in opposition to the hotel worker protection ordinance HERE. The ordinance was brought forth by the pro-worker North Bay Labor Council, AFL-CIO

The following is excerpted from Sonya Karabel, Researcher, UNITE HERE Local 2850 Union:

The local 2850 hotel hospitality workers union for the North Bay can tell us something about what some people widely want to believe here in Sonoma County: Most jobs in the Sonoma County hotel industry are not good jobs. The union has no reason to believe the proposed hotel will provide a living wage of stable employment for local residents, that will lift up the community and improve the economy of the Guerneville area.

Low-wage hotel jobs, form the foundation of a deeply unsustainable economy in Sonoma County, based on low wage tourism jobs. People should not deceive themselves by believing that hotel jobs will provide a living wage, and the possibility of purchasing a home along the Russian river or elsewhere. These will not be great jobs.

Residents of the Russian River, should say “NO” to a luxury hotel development that serves wealthy travelers, while leaving behind local workers, and residents.

Fun Facts & Smoking Guns

RUSSIAN RIVER ALLIANCE: A local non-profit and a major vocal supporter of the Lok Project lists the Lok Group as a financial Supporter/Donor. Curiously, their members page has no information on how to become a member, no e-news letter for public outreach and no information on board meetings or elections. It's also questionable whether or not the listed members are even aware that they are official members of the RRA.

The Russian River Alliance's main program is the called the Work Force Fund.They collect donations and get grants to financially support local workers. They require that those who apply for financial help be currently employed at least 24 hours a week. This begs the question: Who benefits more, local workers or the local employers? Who are they really supporting? I learned about this requirement from a friend who looked into getting some financial assistance from the RRA. She was a long time local resident senior citizen who had been forced to live out of her car for several years. She was ineligible because she only worked 8 hours a week.

"Russian River Alliance believes one of the best ways to support our businesses and our local economy is to support our local workforce in times of need." - from the Russian River Alliance website

It's curious that the Russian River Alliance supports the developer, Kirk Lok, who is also a hospitality worker employer who is on record as being in opposition to a proposal for hospitality worker protection legislation.

The Russian River Alliance is one of two local non-profits started by Chuck Ramsey, the other being the Monte Rio Community Alliance, which charges $25 annual dues. The Monte Rio alliance focuses on making code compliance complaints and parking violations to the County on behalf of it's members. Sonoma County takes these type of complaints from anyone for free. There is no evidence of any new activity on their website since 2019.

Chuck Ramsey writes in his (only) Monte Rio Community Alliance 2019 Spring Newsletter, "We represent the Monte Rio Community in the Russian River Alliance." and further states that the Russian River Alliance incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit in 2012 "... as the successor to Redevelopment" and, "We provide outreach by attending meetings, by encouraging communication on Nextdoor, and through our website, Facebook, and monthly columns in the Sonoma County Gazette." He also mentions the Municipal Advisory Council "... of which we have strong representation on." , a reference to Jeniffer Wertz, co-founder of the Russian River Alliance. At that time Jeniffer was serving to represent all of Guerneville as a MAC Rep, not just the agenda of the Russian River Alliance.

All of this representation and outreach seems to have been self-appointed and self-serving:

I could find no mention of the Russian River Alliance on the County's webpage about Successor Agencies to Redevelopment.

• Chuck was the first person to sign up at Nextdoor with the Monte Rio zip code which automatically made him the lead for Monte Rio thereby allowing him certain amount of influence over local issues as noted by this resident's post:
nextdoor assumptions

After the Feb 2022 BZA Meeting he mockingly refers to community concerns of the project's impact on local emergency evacuations, drought and failing infrastructure as "doomsday scenarios":
Chuck Ramsey

Jeniffer Wertz (Russian River Alliance) made an authoritative post on Nextdoor in support of the Lok project in 2021, saying it was in response to concerns presented on this page. Apparently she didn't know that I had moved from Monte Rio to Guernewood Park.

This 11/02/21screenshot shows that she was still presenting herself as a MAC Rep on her Nextdoor bio page... long after her MAC term was expired:Jeniffer Wertz

As the author of the Gazette's Monte Rio Musings column, Chuck supports the Lok project while again making a jab at community members who were outspoken about their concerns. In the December 2022 MR Musings column he wrote: "The Lok hotel group is moving forward with their plans to develop a hotel in Guernewood Park next to Dubrava Condominiums. The process seems like it has taken forever but is not surprising with some of our locals." The entire column is worth a read for his rant about Sonoma County government takeovers and complaints about the MAC election, which he lost and couldn't be bothered to announce those who did secure positions.

Chuck Ramsey is correct in stating in his resume that he has been on other local boards but I don't believe he was able to secure any of these appoints when there was an election challenge for the position.

On Feb 2nd, 2023, coincidentally one day before it was announced that public comments were again being taken by the BZA on the Lok project, he wrote a column titled: History corner: Monte Rio Hotel celebrates more than 100 years in river area The Monte Rio Hotel was NOT there for "more than 100 years". It only existed for about 30 years before being torn down. He wrote that the hotel "consisted of 100 guest rooms." an implausible and unsubstantiated claim. He eventually explained that this information came from an Artificial Intelligence application. I think the purpose of using this A.I. created text as the lead into his column was designed to further convince the public that a hotel with 100+ rooms was an historic precedence.

The Monte Rio Hotel certainly was an architectural curiosity, each floor apparently being accessible at ground level from Starrett Hill which it was built against. By examining photographs you can see that, while the hotel was tall and wide, it was quite shallow in depth. Just count the doors.

Monte Rio Hotel
The Monte Rio Hotel at 5 stories.

Monte Rio Hotel
The Monte Rio Hotel after the addition of 2 stories.

I wouldn't be surprised if Chuck's ghost writing Artificial Intelligence program got it's 100 room claim by scraping posts by Chuck's sycophants on Social Media. I welcome a link to a reliable citation that confirms the number of guest rooms at the Monte Rio Hotel since I have been unable to find one.

Chuck Ramsey Trump
Chuck Ramsey, borrowing a curiously familiar campaign slogan on his personal website.

Kirk Lok and Some Business History

PERMIT HISTORY LOOKUP: Searching by address seems to pull up the records for the 3 lots involved with the hotel project: 17155 Hwy 116, GUERNEVILLE, CA 95446

Check out the still active violation VPL18-0104! The word from local homeless services provider (who wishes to remain anonymous) is that the Lok Group gave permission to homeless campers to stay as unpaid site security. Local residents attempting to access the river have driven off by surly campers claiming to own the property. The developers have shown little interest in being responsible for the property they own, the environment or the safety of the community... Interestingly, I've found no evidence of the County charging any fees for this violation.

Tax bills for the 3 lots on Hwy 116 are mailed to 2041 Falcon Ridge Dr, Petaluma, CA 94954, a lovely gated residental community with no Google streetviews. Kirk Lok is clearly fond of gates... the hotrl will be fenced nd have a gate house at the entrance from 116. The Lok group website, originally given to the community as a link to project plans, no longer exists.

Covid Bailout loans:
$416,788: Approved April 27, 2020 Loan statue: Forgiven
$650,174: Approved Jan 31, 2021 Loan status: Not Disclosed

Our former District 5 Supervisor, Efren Carrillo: was hired by the Lok Group of Companies(Kirkman Lok) as some kind of liaison to the public. The same Efren Carrillo who neglected to tell his constituents that there was a small window open to apply for a Vacation Rental Exclusion Zone in their surrounding area for free instead of $8,400. Residents would have to pay this fee even if the Exclusion Zone is needed for public safety reasons such as poor road conditions for emergency vehicle access and high fire risk terrain. Thanks to Efren, there were zero VR X Zones in District 5 created under his leadership.

One can't help but wonder if Mr. Carrillo was one of the beneficiaries of the above (forgiven!) Federal Covid Paycheck Bailout "loans"...

Kirk Lok 2009 Petaluma Hotel bankruptcy. Click HERE for pdf of article.

The Kok Group Quality(!) Inn Petaluma
Yelp reviews are hilarious, especially Cindy Lok's responses.

Oh, no they didn't! Oh, yes they did... feature this photo of a bathroom sink on their website:
Kirk Lok hotel

Kirkman Lok, head of the Lok Group of Companies:

Legal actions are starting to be taken against County Agencies across California for allowing developments/commercial projects in high fire risk/poor access areas:

Judge overturns approval of major Lake County resort:
"Markham’s ruling states that the findings primarily addressed whether the project’s residents could safely leave the site in during a fire. However, the EIR didn't’t focus on “whether evacuation of the residents in the nearby area would be affected by the evacuation of the Project’s residents during a wildfire.”"

Wildfires, CEQA, Climate Change & the Courts:

Fire Experts Warn:

Interesting article by the Center for Biological Diversity:

Previous Documentation & Meetings

05/10/23 Russian River County Sanitation District Virtual Community Meeting (starting at 12:14):

03/24/23 Press Democrat article announcing BZA approval and some serious misinformation: Mary Callahan wrote: "Last fall, commissioners required developers to pare down what had been planned as four-story buildings and 120 guest rooms to three stories and 108 rooms." It was actually last SPRING and they were directed to keep THE SAME FOOTPRINT, certainly NOT to increase the footprint by 5,230 sq ft.

03/23/23 BZA Audio of final public hearing and Board of Zoning Adjustments voting to approve the project. At 0:00-1:47of the recording, all present BZA board members disclose recent meetings with applicant representatives.

02/25/23 Press Democrat article With developer's vision of rebranding the Lower Russian River as the Wine Country with some redwoods.

02/19/23 River Talk Episode 2 show archive - Joe Rogoff in conversation with Bradley Dunn of Permit Sonoma, regarding Lok project starting at 51:08. Bradley Dunn makes it clear that it's up to the public to confront the Board of Zoning Adjustments when they decide to allow variances for parking requirements, updated traffic study requirements, etc.

02/16/23 River MAC Meeting:

At 2:10:30 Elected Monte Rio MAC rep, Cynthia Strecker's comments are censored by the timer usually reserved for members of the public. On February 14th Mike sent what appears to be an unapproved meeting report to the MAC and the PRMD on behalf of the Land Use Committee, downplaying community concerns of impact to Emergency Evacuations in the area. At the full MAC meeting he again reiterated that MAC Reps can make public comments at the BZA Meeting. Clearly this is necessary since Mr. Nicholls censors serious concerns from the public, MAC Reps or Land Use committee members to the Board of Zoning Adjustments!

02/09/23 MAC Land Use Committee Meeting:

At 26:55 Joe Rogoff asked if anyone knew what changes to the previous IS/MND. Committee Chair Mike Nichols suggests that the "only reason" the developer put off the December hearing was because Fish and Wildlife wanted to weigh in. Joe then brings up community concerns about emergency evacuation and and the size of meeting rooms in regards to inadequate parking. Mike recommends that he personally send a letter to the BZA about his concerns (rather than providing details of community concerns in his report).

Cynthia Strecker (Monte Rio MAC Rep) was prevented by Mike Nichols from making comments on the Lok Project as a member of the public at this meeting (on the grounds of being a Brown Act violation?) and advised her to save her comments for the next full MAC meeting. (See below video where she previously was allowed to speak and provide relevant information which contradicted Mike Nicholls glowing report.) This is a shame since she has put the most time into studying the impact of the Lok project and has the most thorough knowledge on the subject. It's strange (suspicious to me) that she wasn't asked to be on the Land Use Committee in the first place for this very reason.

11/22/22 MAC Land Use Committee Meeting:

Fortunately, during the public comments period, Cynthia Strecker was able to correct much of the (mis)information initially provided Committee Chair Nicholls. Just for fun, rewind the meeting to 4:04 to see the kurfuffle over the Pledge of Allegiance.

11/02/22 revised MND for recirculation: HERE.

08/11/22 revised application documents: HERE.

With height knocked down from 53' to 35' (4 stories to 3 stories), and
with the original footprint:

Link to the Full BZA 02/24/22 Zoom Meeting HERE.

Link to previous Lok Project BZA documents including written public comments:

11/22/21 Eric Koenigshofer from the BZA Meets with MAC Land use Ad Hoc Committee to discuss The proposed Lok Hotel and the size of the project:

06/17/21 Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Committee meeting with project developers;
Kirkman Lok, Efren Carrillo, Doug Demers and Jean Kapolchok:

02/18/21 River MAC Land Use Committee, Chaired by Mike Nicholls, drinks the developer's Kool-Aid: His report to the full River MAC includes dodgy propaganda provided by the developer then suggests recommending "...endorsement by the full council."

Crap public outreach:
Nov. 2, 2022 Public Review & Meeting Notice at intersection of Old Monte Rio Rd at Hwy 116. Click HERE for enlargement.

The majority of the Lok outreach was done through groups with membership dues. Your average resident got notification as illustrated in the above photo. This document provided by the developer shows the extent of their "public" outreach.

Over-Concentration of Vacation Rentals in the Area

The Lower Russian River Municipal Advisory Council map of Vacation Rental Concentration in the Guernewood/Monte Rosa areas directly across Hwy 116 from the Lok Hotel project. This map was created before all of the VR applicants that were in the moratorium "pipeline" got approval to move their permits forward at the original, outdated guidelines which based number of required parking spaces only on number of bedrooms, not the total allowance for day and night time visitors and didn't consider road widths:
Vacation rental concentration
Click HERE for entire lower Russian River Vacation Rental Concentration map. Per the county's occupancy guidelines of 2 per bedroom, plus 2, plus (automatic!) 6 daytime visitors these vacation rentals can have anywhere from 10-18 visitors.