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Commissioners OK subdivision on land with history of illegal pot grows
• Seven homes to be built on new cul-de-sac off of Richland
pot property
This aerial Google map features a red outline on the barren spot east of Richland Avenue where seven residential lots will be created. The greenhouses shown here on the property were used in illegal marijuana growing operations.

The Ceres Planning Commission unanimously approved a Vesting Tentative Subdivision Map on Monday, Feb. 16 for a seven-lot single-family residential subdivision consisting of seven lots on two acres at 1632 Richland Avenue.

The site has a history of illegal marijuana growing operations on it which have been busted by the Ceres Police Department in 2015 and 2019.

The action reconfigures three parcels just east of Richland Avenue approximately 285 feet south of the Richland Avenue/Darby Lane intersection, into seven building lots. An existing house and accessory structures will be removed. The home sites will be situated around a new cul-de-sac accessible from Richland Avenue. The new street will be placed between two existing houses on Richland Avenue.

The project is considered a great in-fill project with the property already zoned as R-1 lots with a Low Density Residential (LDR) designation by the Ceres General Plan.

In 2006 the commission approved a map for an eight-lot single-family residential subdivision at the same address but went through several automatic time extensions mandated by state lawmakers because of the economic recession of 2008-16. Eventually it expired for lack of activity in August 2018. The new owner, Omar Fernandez submitted a new map entitlement request for seven lots in November.

Senior Planner James Michaels said the lots will be sized between 6,244 to 9,437 square feet.

Fernandez was asked about an existing 30-foot-wide ingress/egress easement on the north side of the property. He said he wants to abandon the easement and donate the land to the nearby neighbors to allow the project to maintain entry into the storm drainage basin lot or donated to the city. 

Miguel Zamudio said leaving the easement open would help him since it’s the only way he can access his garage. City Engineer Daniel Padilla said the city could not allow the subdivision without the affected property owners being made whole or satisfied by retaining the easement.

Sofia Valderas called into the meeting to urge the commission to approve the project “as soon as possible because it’s been a nuisance property.”

The property was the focus of neighborhood concern when greenhouses would appear and disappear over the years for the illegal growing of marijuana plants. In April 2015 police swooped into the property to rip up and discard $1.5 million worth of cannabis after someone was shot trying to sneak onto the lot behind existing homes. Neighbors along Zona Bella Lane often endured the wafting odor of cannabis emanating from the greenhouses which were in full view of two-story bedrooms overlooking the property.