Buddhist Printing Operation Is Taken to Supreme Court by California Citizens Group
Readers of PIworld.com may recall a 2014 story about a Buddhist retreat center in California, which was under fire from a citizen's group that claimed it ran an unlawful printing operation.
The citizens group, Coastal Hills Rural Preservation, alleged that a permit given to Ratna Ling Retreat Center in Cazadero, Calif., allowing it to expand its Dharma Publishing printing operation, had violated county land use standards and state law.
Three years later, the saga continues. After a California Court of Appeals ruled on Aug. 31, 2016, that Ratna Ling had lawfully expanded Dharma Publishing, Coastal Hills petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the case. Currently, the case is waiting for review in a state court of appeals, according to an article in the Northern California Record.
As Janis Grattan, attorney for Coastal Hills, explained to Sonoma West Times & News,
“It’s rare for the Supreme Court to take a case … I think stats show they take about 3% of cases, so it’s really good they are reviewing ours.”
Ratna Ling Retreat Center was founded in 2004 by Tibetan Lama Tarthang Tulku, who had been guiding seekers in the United States since the late '60s. Dharma Publishing, which the website claims is "the first Buddhist publishing house in America," actually pre-dates the center by three decades. Lama Tulku founded Dharma Publishing in Berkeley, Calif., in 1970 when he only had one antique hand-press; it was incorporated into a non-profit in 1975.
Fast-forward to today, and the print shop now has six presses and staff of more than 100 volunteers (volunteers view work as a practice of "skillful means," a tenet in Buddhism; and because in Buddhism "the dharma is free," salaries are not paid with money from the sale of Dharma Publishing's books).
When Ratna Ling was originally granted a development permit in 2004, it had one printing press onsite to support the primary business — a residential retreat center — along with a cutter, folder, collator and binder, as Berkeleyside reported in an in-depth article.
"...Ratna Ling applied for 145 different permits to expand its operations and became an almost non-stop construction site, according to [Carolyne Singer of Coastal Hills]."
Eventually, all of the printing equipment at Dharma Publishing's facility in Berkeley, Calif., was relocated to Ratna Ling's headquarters in Cazadero, Calif., a rural, wooded area about 100 miles north. According to the Dharma Publishing Facebook page, the sales office is still located in Berkeley.
Coastal Hills argues that this supplementary side-business has transformed into a commercial print operation that violates environmental standards in the California Environmental Quality Act. They also maintain it creates a fire hazard in what is already considered a fire-prone area. As stated in the Northern California Record,
"The new permit establishes a 60,000-square foot facility on a coastal ridge in one of the most remote, fire-prone corners of Sonoma County."
The all-volunteer fire department in the area warned the county that it does not have the capacity to respond to a fire of industrial proportions, if one should occur. At the time of the latest permit approval in 2014, the county required Ratna Ling to pay the fire district $2,500 per year for training and to purchase its own fire engine.
Will this printing operation go up in holy smoke? Stay tuned.