New Times San Luis Obispo

Cal Valley deaths highlight area's struggle with pot regulations

Chris McGuinness Feb 1, 2018 4:00 AM

The rural community of the California Valley made headlines Jan. 29 after a father and son were found shot death on a remote property in the area.

While circumstances that led to the shooting deaths of 70-year-old Edward Chavez Mendoza and his son, 37-year-old Edmundo Eduardo Mendoza Jr., are still under investigation, news of the shooting reignited concerns in the isolated community about cannabis cultivation operations, which appear to be continuing in the area despite the county's recent ban.

File Photo Courtesy Of Slo County Supervisor Debbie Arnold
STILL A CONCERN The shooting deaths of a father and son near a California Valley cannabis grow site sparked debate once again about cultivation operations like this one in the remote SLO County Community.

According to investigators with the SLO County Sheriff's Office, the bodies of both men were discovered shot to death inside a residence in the 12000 block of Arrow Bear Trail on Jan. 29. While the department declined to release further details surrounding the deaths, it did say that at this point in the investigation "there does not appear to be any outstanding suspects or threat to the community." The department added that it had been called out to the property nine times since 2012, with many calls involving a "subject with mental illness causing a disturbance."

The property where the deaths occurred had been a cannabis cultivation site, growing as many as 500 plants at one point, according to the Sheriff's Office. At the time of the deaths, the operation had been scaling back its cultivation due to the passage of a countywide cannabis ordinance, which took effect Jan. 1 and banned cultivation in the California Valley.

According to several area residents, the ordinance hasn't stopped grow operations from popping up in the area in open defiance of the county's regulations.

"They were pretty much just going to ignore [the ban], saying the county wasn't going to do anything about it," California Valley resident John Wilson told New Times.

Patrick McGibney said he continued to see cultivation sites and hoop houses going up. McGibney is a member of the California Valley Community Services District board, but said his comments to New Times were his own personal views and not those of the board.

"[The ban] definitely did not put a dent in them," he said.

Marvin Martin, who has been working in the California Valley for the last three months, made similar comments, stating that he'd not seen much enforcement activity since the Jan. 1 deadline for enacting the ban.

"I heard that after the first of the year they were going to coming in and check everything, but they didn't really come out until after the shooting," he said.

Irrespective of whether the Mendozas' deaths were related to cannabis cultivation, the attention the shooting has drawn to the area could mean a crackdown on grows. Martin claimed he saw multiple county code enforcement vehicles in the area on the same day the Sheriff's Office was at property investigating the deaths.

"They were going all over the valley," he said.

Wilson said Cal Valley growers he spoke with were concerned about the county coming down on them in the wake of the shooting.

"Everyone I talked to said, 'Now the county is going to shut us down,'" Wilson said.

As of Jan. 31, investigators had not announced any connection between the cannabis operation and the deaths. Autopsies for both men were scheduled to take place Jan. 31. Δ