Sutter Butte Preservation Campaign

[Note:  In January 2010 the Yuba Historical Society worked out a settlement agreement with the defendants, the County of Sutter and Pramod Kumar.  The  County revoked the use permit for the 900-acre subdivision and  YHS dropped the lawsuit. The stipulation stated that if the Kumars submitted another subdivision for their property that YHS would not oppose it.]

County approved subdivisions are threatening the integrity of the Sutter Buttes.  In recent years, the number of project in the Buttes has proliferated, threatening to fundamentally change the character of this historic and environmental landmark.

Dear friends of the Sutter Buttes,

Growing up in the shadow of the Sutter Buttes, I've had the opportunity to hike through most of the mountain's varied terrain.  I can't get enough of what this little mountain offers, whether it is the different shapes and personalities of the various peaks, the wide-ranging ecosystems from parched savannah to lush riparian vegetation, or the mystifying tales past down from regional Indian tribes.

But who owns these "Middle Mountains"?  Visiting the Sutter County assessor office in Yuba City, I discovered that the bulk of the 75 square mile circular mountain range was owned by around two dozen families, who mostly live near the Buttes.

Occasionally I would hear that a Butte ranch would be fore sale.  From the 1970s through the early 90s it was customary for a neighboring rancher to purchase  land that came up for sale in the Buttes, before the property ever went on the market.  This process worked fine for the Buttes' preservation.   Traditions of livestock raising continued; the mountain's extraordinary qualities were protected; and some property-owners would allow qualified organizations to conduct guided tours onto their land.   In the mid-1990s major changes in land use patterns started occuring in the Buttes.  Speculators began buying up ranches and, taking advantage of the low-cost land, they sought to turnover a large profit by transforming seasonal pasture into "dream homes".                                                                                                                                          

Over the past twelve years more than four square miles of the Sutter Buttes were carved up for speculative subdivisions, translating into more than forty lots, ranging from twenty to one hundred acres in size.  The of the forty parcels have now sprouting houses, WITHIN THE BUTTES!

The Yuba Historical Society believe the Buttes are a regional treasure and should be protected from the damaging effects of suburban development.  Arguably the most significant historical site of the Sacramento Valley, YHS is focusing our attention on the mountain’s protection.  Consequently, when another Sutter Butte subdivision came before County decision-makers in December 2007, the Historical Society led the public opposition.

The Yuba Historical Society lead the public opposition to this 900-acre, 13-lot development.  County supervisors were flooded with scores of emails and phone calls, 90% opposed.  The Supervisor chambers were overflowing on the December 4 hearing.  Yet despite the outpouring, the Sutter County Supervisors approved the “Sutter Butte Ranch” project by a vote of 3 to 2.

Concerned with the significant environmental impact of the project, the Yuba Historical Society hired the prominent Sacramento environmental law firm, Kenyon Yeates.  This lawsuit is the first time that Sutter County’s laissez-fair development attitude toward the Buttes has ever been challenged in the court system.    YHS’s lawsuit five cause of action are:

  • The County failed to analyze the whole project by defining the project as nothing more than lines on a piece of paper, when in reality, the parcel subdivision will increase the amount of development in the Buttes.
  • The County decision-makes overruled their Planning Department’s expert opinion that an EIR should be prepared, and failed to provide any meaningful environmental review in response.
  • Sutter County illegally deferred mitigation for the project until, at some future time, the property owners perform a nondescript “environmental analysis” in place of a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  However, the California Environmental Quality Acts requires an EIR for this project, because a “fair argument” exists that the project may result in a significant environmental impact to the Buttes, including historical, biological, and aesthetic impacts.  For example, when archaeologists surveyed the project property in 1989, they considered the site of the old Frye Ranch eligible for the prestigious National Register of Historic Places designation.
  • The County set precedent for even more future subdivisions, once again overruling its expert planning staff, by approving a variance for the project to waive the requirement for 11 of the project parcels to provide frontage to a County road.
  • The Sutter County General Plan states:  “The County shall preserve the Sutter Buttes as an important agricultural, cultural, historical, and ecological resource.”  The approval of this project ignores this directive.

Our law firm Kenyon/Yeates were lead attorneys on noteworthy California environmental, CEQA, and land use decisions.  We are fortunate to have such a top-notch law firm representing us, yet the burdens of litigation are high, and even though Kenyon/Yeats have reduced their fees in light of the public benefit nature of the lawsuit, our legal fees are still substantial.  Therefore in order to triumph, we need your help.

Your financial contribution will make history by showing Californians that there is a large group of dedicated people, from all walks of life, that cherish the Great Valley's only mountain.  This is a perfect opportunity to take bold action to say NO to more development in the Buttes, and begin the process where the Sutter Buttes can be justly regarded as one of the golden State's acclaimed landmarks.

Sincerely Yours,

Daniel Barth


Write checks to:  Yuba Historical Society

                                330 Ninth Street

                                Marysville, CA  95901

                                Notate that is for the Lawsuit

                                THANK YOU!

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Aug 24, 2008, 6:39 PM
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