Jenkel pasture auctioned for fraction of value

  • A deer stands in part of the 2.5 acres of land owned by John Jenkel which is being seized by Sonoma County on April 21st. Photo taken in Graton, California on Tuesday, April 12, 2011. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

A Sebastopol-area winery owner was the lone bidder again Thursday on another hunk of activist John Jenkel's horse ranch, walking away with the nearly three acres of flat, Gravenstein Highway land for a mere $1,000.

It was the third auction conducted by the Sonoma County sheriff to satisfy a $350,000 civil judgment against the offbeat protester by his neighbor, winemaker Paul Hobbs.

Since 2009, Hobbs has acquired more than half of Jenkel's 16 acres through the forced sales for $61,000, according to county records.

The assessed value of the last piece alone was more than $96,000 and real estate brokers said it could easily have fetched $250,000 on the open market.

"I don't want to come across as a greedy SOB," said Hobbs, who just returned from his winery in Argentina. "But some of the things John did . . . he's been an irascible neighbor. We've really suffered a lot at his hands."

Hobbs conceded the exceptional nature of the deal but said there have been liens and other expenses in acquiring the earlier properties that total more than $200,000.

"It's not as sweet a deal as it seems," Hobbs said. "It's not a bad deal but it's not as simple as it looks."

Jenkel, 72, who erected anti-war signs on his property and shares his belief that the government was behind the 9-11 attacks at meetings across the North Coast, called the sale "a taking."

He said he tried to block the auction by filing legal papers but was rejected by Superior Court Judge Gary Nadler. He said the seizures were part of a government plot to silence him.

"I've done everything I can possibly do to try to stop this," an emotional Jenkel said outside the county administration building in Santa Rosa.

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