October 25-31, 2006

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By Patricia Lynn Henley

Coping at COPIA

With its fifth anniversary approaching, COPIA in Napa is making cuts and sharpening its focus to emphasize fee-based wine and food education. The goal is to break even after losing as much as $10 million annually because of operating costs and loan payments. The center is selling its five-acre South Garden to a developer for an undisclosed amount. COPIA has also laid off about 25 of its 85 workers. The main exhibit art area will be converted into a conference center (although a spokesperson says there will still be plenty of arts programs), and the center is refinancing $68 million it owes on a $70 million tax-exempt bond. COPIA opened Nov. 18, 2001 on 12 acres provided by Robert and Margrit Mondavi, who also donated $20 million. About $45 million was raised by 2000, and the bond money covered the rest.

Med pot rules

Sonoma County's medical marijuana users have new guidelines effective Nov. 1. "It's pretty much the same, they just increased the plant number from 25 to 30," explains Sgt. Chris Bertoli of the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department. Bertoli says deputies try to enforce the spirit rather than the letter of the law. "When we go into these houses, we do all we can to determine if it's a medical need." Sonoma County created medical pot rules 10 years ago, but users were subsequently arrested under harsher federal standards. On Sept. 26, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved new rules. Qualified patients can have up to three pounds and grow a maximum of 30 plants within 100 square feet. California law allows counties to set more liberal standards than the state limits of eight ounces or 18 plants.

Affordable Marin?

Habitat for Humanity, which uses volunteer labor and sweat equity to build affordable homes for low-income families, is eyeing Marin County. A Habitat affiliate in Marin closed its doors in the 1990s because of difficulties getting community approval for proposed projects. Habitat for Humanity San Francisco is now actively pursuing leads in Marin County. "We adopted the area in 2003," says executive director Phillip Kilbridge. "In 2005, we established a steering committee of Marin County residents who are working diligently to find land." They're talking with county and city officials about potential projects on government-owned properties. In addition, the county requires new housing projects to devote 20 percent to affordable units, so developer Pan Pacific Ocean Inc. hopes to satisfy that rule by giving Habitat 0.85 acres in an unincorporated area of Tiburon. Habitat would build four affordable three-bedroom homes and Pan Pacific Ocean would construct three market-rate houses on the remaining 15.7 acres.

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