Update on The Last Resort Lagunitas
The Last Resort Lagunitas, located in Marin County, California, is an art environment and model of ecological sustainability whose mission is “to discover and perfect sustainable environmental solutions for waste management, water reuse, and food security.” Built by David Hoffman over the last 40 years, there are dozens of buildings and sculptures on this site, most created from recycled materials or harvested from his own property. Many of the hand-crafted structures were inspired by Japanese, Chinese, and Tibetan art and architecture utilizing masonry, stone, and wood. As a young man in his twenties, Hoffman was inspired as he backpacked throughout Asia and beyond, ultimately visiting over 100 countries. In 1973, after settling in Marin County and developing an innovative sonic cleaning method for fragile and ancient textiles, Hoffman moved on to importing artisanal tea culture to the mainstream United States. His work was so innovative that it was chronicled in the 2007 documentary All in This Tea by noted filmmaker Les Blank. It was during this time that Hoffman began to construct The Last Resort, in order to demonstrate that one could live on the land sustainably and without pollution.
The site, with its meandering paths and contemplative corners, features over 30 buildings— some functional, others more spiritual—and also boasts a unique “integrated bio-management system” designed for disposing and recycling waste through vermicomposting: utilizing worms, micro-organisms, and carbon-rich leaves to break down grey water and food scraps, prior to being reutilized in Hoffman’s gardens. This is, however, of primary concern of the Board of Supervisors of Marin County, as is Hoffman’s treatment of human waste, which is also broken down with worm composting (compost toilets are prohibited in Marin County). The County has reprimanded Hoffman about his flouting of county codes, and has levied over $200,000 in fines and penalties for his waste treatment systems, for building without permits, and for running his current tea business, the Phoenix Collection, on the site. The County has also called for demolition of the architectural structures within the compound. “I understand their concerns,” Hoffman has stated, “but my concern for the planet is far greater than my fear of breaking the law.”
On November 17, 2017, a hearing was held to determine whether the site (or how much of it) should be demolished or sold, and whether access restrictions should be imposed. The judge, who had never adjudicated a case of this nature, was impressed by the number of supporters in attendance, as well as the evidence of long-term community support evidenced by petitions and letters to the County in support of David Hoffman and his unique compound. The judge suspended the demolition of any structures or restriction of access until March 2018, when another meeting will be held and the issues at hand will undergo further review. Hoffman and his supporters feel this is a step in the right direction. In the meantime, he has continued to live—and, despite a court mandate, build—on the property. However, as reported by Point Reyes Light, a local news source for Marin County, his fines have continued to mount: he has roughly $350,000 pending on his property tax bill, reflecting the court’s administrative penalties, as well as a $93,000 bank lien on the property to cover the costs of the work of the County-appointed receiver. Mr. Hoffman, who is battling Lyme disease, said the timeline ahead—rearranging his life and work— is daunting. “I always believed that I was working on solutions, not creating a bigger problem. We can’t rely on government and big business to fix the problems in our world; we need people who understand the problem to do our part to make the planet a better place. The laws of nature just conflict with those that politicians make.”