Rehab center appeal on agenda

A rehabilitation center proposed for the vast reaches of the Carrizo Plain is back before local government again, a year and a half after the county Planning Commission shot it down.

Kenneth Tab, president of the California Serengeti Corp., will try to persuade the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that his 100-bed rehabilitation and residential-care facility in California Valley is a worthwhile idea.

He described his center as potentially “one of the most unique and successful” in the world. He said he would aim at professional and sports people as his clientele.

Should he get the go-ahead, the 137,000-square-foot center would be built on 15 acres of a 487-acre parcel on the east side of Soda Lake Road, approximately a mile and a half from Highway 58.

It would include 24 employee apartments, meeting rooms, a dining and reception area, a gym, pool and spa facilities, ponds, an outdoor pavilion and storage sheds.

Tab said he envisioned the Carrizo Plain, with its silences and emptiness, as a tranquil and peaceful place for addicts to put their lives back together.

“Normally, rehab is a jail,” Tab told the county’s Planning Commission. This, he said, would be “a wilderness resort” that would allow clients “to get their minds off city life.”

The Commission and the Planning Department staff, however, found numerous problems with the proposal.

For one thing, planners wrote in a staff report, it would compete with local agriculture for the scarce water supply in California Valley. There is a 520-foot well on the site.

The center also is incompatible with agriculture, which, planners said, is the primary economic activity on the plain. The proposed center “does not add to or benefit the potential agriculture use of this site” and “would permanently remove 15 acres of land from potential agricultural use,” planners wrote.

But Tab took direct aim at the notion that the Carrizo Plain is a successful agricultural endeavor.

In his appeal letter, Tab argued that the the climate and the quality of the soil “give little agricultural value to the land in the area.”

Tab also said the groundwater is chemically contaminated.

He said many of the farmers in the area subsist on outside jobs and subsidies from the government. He included a list of 20 such farms that he said took in more than $11 million in subsidies between 1995 and 2006.

The commission also said Tab’s rehab center is “inconsistent with the character of the immediate neighborhood.”

Tab, in his appeal, wrote that the existing character of the area is “trashy mobile homes (and a) junk yard.”

Other objections:

The site is home to the endangered San Joaquin kit fox.

The Sheriff’s Department and Cal Fire have both said they cannot service the residential-care facility because it is too remote, planners wrote.

The Board of Supervisors is due to hear the appeal Tuesday.