Justin Vineyards tree removal violates county code

June 14, 2016


Justin Vineyards and Winery violated San Luis Obispo County grading code when it removed hundreds of oak trees from a rural Paso Robles property, a county code enforcement officer said Monday. The code enforcement officer spoke at a meeting of more than 50 residents who oppose the Justin Vineyards project.

Recently, workers removed hundreds of oak trees from a property located at 750 Sleepy Farm Road. The property is owned by Estate Vineyards and managed by Justin Vineyards. Workers removed the trees in preparation for planting a new vineyard that would be added to Justin Vineyards’ collection. The project also involves the construction of a 20-acre-foot water storage pond.

Code enforcement officer R. Moore said county officials found Estate Vineyards to be in violation of grading without a permit on slopes in excess of 30 percent.

Removing oak trees on agricultural land is not prohibited by county code. However, county code regulates grading on steep slopes, which can cause erosion and creek sedimentation.

The Tribune reported that Estate Vineyards submitted a permit application for the construction of the water storage pond. The permit application stated no trees would be removed as a result of constructing the pond.

Several neighbors have spoken out against the Justin Vineyards project, saying oak trees make the Paso Robles area beautiful and removing them destroys the landscape. Additionally, neighbors are concerned the project may cause their wells to go dry.

Stewart and Lynda Resnick

Stewart and Lynda Resnick

Justin Vineyards has responded by saying the company will plant 5,000 oak trees across its properties. The wine company is owned by Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick.

The Resnicks, who are one of the nation’s wealthiest farm operators, had been major proponents of the failed effort to create a water district to manage the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin. Many local residents have accused the Resnicks of attempting to expand their water banking enterprise into North County. The Resnicks own a majority stake in the nearby Kern Water Bank.


1) For those who still do not understand, Justin Vineyards was part of PRAAGS who pushed the adoption of the Water District in the North County. This incident is a great example of how we dodged the bullet of having large corporations (and their investors) controlling our basin water and having their way with our basin. Now the county has to act to preserve our natural resources, and we need public outcry.

2) We’re not the only ones having problems with vineyards clearcutting forests. Sonoma County has been battling the clearcutting of redwoods (for vineyards) by global corporations. Google “clearcut redwoods vineyards”.

Removing large trees which take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, whether by commercial vineyards or State Parks (eucalyptus trees) increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. It’s short sighted and should be a major concern to global warmers and our Air Pollution Control Board.

Once native oaks are removed and the soil is augmented by chemicals for grape vines, it MAY never again be suitable for native oaks, and besides that, a wildlife habitat has been destroyed.

Kaiser Bill

Your post has many pertinent and well reasoned arguments, but eucalyptus trees are non-native and should be removed whenever it is feasible.


For those of you who still do not understand: The same people who dropped the ball here are also in charge of your water. They are called the County. Throw all the stones you want at the water district efforts but at least those people realize the County has a horrible record of doing anything right. Now do you think the County will look out for you?!


You think that Stewart Resnick and the water brokers/wine magnates should be in charge of the water? The reason I point this out is that we still have people who would choose Resnick over the County. Doesn’t this incident show you that these industry giants care mainly about profits? What is wrong with you

The county’s actions so far may be feeble, but that’s partly because the county has to follow state law. Yet, that is better than giving our water away to business interests who would work toward selling it off.

Face it, you lost the election big time. We don’t want to hear your drival anymore.


California’s regulations are so strict that is has become cheaper and more practical to just do what you want and deal with the ramifications later. This state is out of control and has surpassed common sense years ago. Is removing a bunch of trees to expand wrong? Maybe, maybe not. I know that what government does to business here is even more wrong. Try dealing with California Department of Fish and Wildlife. They belive fish live in sand and need protection!!


Boycott Justin Winery and Wonderful products, including Figi water. Express your concerns on Yelp/Justin Winery. Resnick/Estate Vineyards LLC/Justin Vineyards is banking our water. Save the Paso Basin; Spread the word.


Make sure the 5,000 new trees are Red Oaks. They’re the best oaks for firewood.


Let the government eat cake. By the time you get a permit for anything you are broke and old, forget this is a wealthy couple, think if it as you wanting to build a dream home.


“Hello….?”. Where are all the posts supporting private property rights I usually read on here?


Most people here support private property rights with the assumption that people will be responsible. When people cannot follow basic good neighbor policy, other will find a way to deal with them. I don’t think anyone is supporting any new laws here, just looking for ways to stop people from taking advantage of a fairly open policy on property rights.


What? You’re going to bring Stewart Resnick to Jesus, as it were? And you don’t regulate based on people’s “assumed” behavior?


I can relate to that. Two points: First is I think many people like the concept of freedom and property rights until it isn’t convenient or it is against someone they don’t like, (and the Resnick’s are easy to dislike) Second, there absolutely is a call for a law, and both Mecham and Arnold have stated they would support one. It is interesting CCM found time to link the water district, but not the oncoming ordinance Debbie Arnold told the crowd yesterday that she and Frank supported.


Just leave your “good neighbors” hanging with debt and go bankrupt.


“Justin Vineyards has responded by saying the company will plant 5,000 oak trees” just so long as the trees they plant are of at least the same size or larger as the ones they illegally removed.


it is easier to do something and beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission beforehand. how old were the oaks? they should be fined….heavily


It sounds like the permit addressed ONLY the construction of the pond, not the grading of the slopes. Contractors will take advantage of ANY loopholes or oversights when dealing with govt. agencies.

Was there a permit issued for any grading OTHER than the pond? If not the estate is guilty of violating the county ordinance.

Prior to any work was a storm water prevention plan provided to the county? It doesn’t sound like there was.

Why wasn’t a CEQA document prepared by the project proponent and submitted to the county for review?

Somebody REALLY dropped the ball on this one.


“Somebody” very likely got paid big bucks to be sure the County dropped the ball and made sure county employees dropped the ball or else.

“Somebody” will be sure that any county employees who violate the wishes of his big donors will lose their jobs.

Very few have the courage to stand up for what’s right if it means losing their livelihood.

If enough of us stood up to the crooks we could root them out.


I think this goes much further in it’s implications. who surveyed the property for T&E species or critical habitat…such as kit fox, burrowing owl, etc. Were there any nesting bird surveys done?

There are a whole host of potential problems associated with this apparently un- permitted project.

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