Pubdate: Sat, 25 Dec 2010
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2010 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson, The Press Democrat


Land prices in Mendocino County's rural northeastern region have 
weathered the recession better than other areas, the result many 
believe that has more than a little to do with marijuana production.

"Of course, i"s a factor," said county Supervisor John Pinches, whose 
district includes the area.

Overall, the value of Mendocino County real estate has declined by 
1.4 pecent, or $140 million, in the last year, said county 
Assessor-Clerk-Recorder Sue Ranochak. That translates to a property 
tax loss of $1.4 million. The county's share of the loss is about 
$420,000, she said.

Many homeowners in the county have been seeking reductions in their 
property taxes as their home values have plummeted. But there have 
been few requests in the northeastern county, Ranochak said.

"We haven't seen the drop in values in that area. I'll let you decide 
why that is," she said.

Foreclosures also are rare in that area, Ranochak said.

The rugged territory stretching from Laytonville to Covelo is known 
for its pot production.

"That's the major economy in the northern part of the county. That's 
no secret," Pinches said.

But he doesn't believe it's the only thing buffering land prices 
there. Property values in the area did not skyrocket the way they did 
in some areas of Mendocino County, so they didn't suffer the same declines.

"The property in the north county has never been oversold like some 
of the properties have," Pinches said.

Ukiah real estate broker Dick Selzer agreed but said it's clear the 
land values have been propped up by the money made from marijuana production.

"It's income property," he said. "It's a profitable business to own 
real estate and to grow dope and sell dope. That's just the way it is."

Some in the marijuana industry fear that may not last as a glut of 
marijuana continues to lower prices. At a forum on the future of 
marijuana, growers reported many people are having a hard time 
finding outlets for their crops.

Many were conflicted about an ballot initiative that would have 
legalized marijuana for all uses in California because it could have 
created greater competition. The November ballot measure failed.

The price of North Coast marijuana already has dropped to about 
$2,000 a pound, down from $4,000 to $5,000 a pound several years ago. 
Prices can vary dramatically, depending on quality, growers say.

Jim Hill, a member of the Mendocino Medical Marijuana Advisory Board, 
said he's heard land prices already are declining in the north county.

Some rural landowners already may be having trouble paying their 
bills, he said.

Many of them purchased owner-financed properties because it's nearly 
impossible to obtain regular loans for bare land, Hill noted.

One thing is clear, Hill said. "When these land prices do come down, 
we're going to lose a lot of value to the county." 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake