A Santa Rosa based Indian tribe is on a land-buying spree, acquiring vineyards, rural homes and even a large redwood-dotted chunk of property near the coast.
Bolstered by revenues from its San Pablo Casino in the East Bay, the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians has made more than a dozen purchases in the past two years in Sonoma County totalling more than $47 million.
County property records detail transactions involving more than 1,300 acres since early 2012, including vineyards and pasture in the Alexander and Russian River Valleys, as well as rugged woodland between Jenner and Cazadero.
A spokesman for the tribe said the acquisitions are mostly investments, or “economic diversification” for the 270-member tribe, although he said the approximate 650 acres of redwood-studded property near the coast represent something more.
“It’s a cultural area for the tribe. It’s for cultural protection,” said Larry Stidham, the attorney who acts as tribal spokesman.
He noted that many of the original settlers of the Lytton Rancheria came from the Kashia Pomo area of the coast.
“For the tribe it’s significant. It’s near its homeland,” he said of the “very rugged, and very steep, mostly ridgeline” land the tribe bought for $1.5 million, according to county records.
He said the tribe’s holdings now total “probably close to 2,000 acres” in Sonoma County.
Systematic property acquisitions are nothing new for the tribe, at least in the Windsor area where the Lytton Pomos have acquired “400 acres give or take,” according to Stidham’s estimates.
The tribe about a dozen years ago began buying up land — much of it densely wooded oak just west of town limits — for a tribal housing project. Its holdings now extend for almost a mile along Windsor River Road to Eastside Road.
The purchases alarmed nearby residents and town officials who feared the possibility of a casino being built, although the tribe has steadfastly maintained it has no plans to build another gaming facility there.