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Lawsuit seeks access to Petaluma's Lafferty Ranch

  • Bruce Hagen,a Petaluma parks commissioner and activist working to expand access to largely inaccessible Lafferty Ranch park, walks along rolling grassland and wooded slopes along proposed route of easement offered by ranch owner atop Sonoma Mountain that would provide park access from Jack London State Park to Lafferty Ranch park. Background is view toward Kenwood and Sugarloaf State Park.

A lawsuit seeking public access to Lafferty Ranch on Sonoma Mountain was filed Thursday, rekindling one of the most contentious political issues in Petaluma history.

Disputes over public access to the 270 acres of wooded, rolling hills the city has owned since 1959 polarized Petaluma politics in the '90s, when council meetings played host to overflow crowds and angry shouting matches.

An effort to put the issue before voters failed, and four opponents to public access to the property were convicted of election fraud related to forged signatures on two proposed 1996 ballot initiatives.

Lawyers filed suit Thursday in Sonoma County Superior Court on behalf of Friends of Lafferty Park, Bill Kortum, Larry Modell and other longtime advocates for a park on the site, just east of Petaluma.

It names adjacent landowners Kimberly Pfendler and the Bettman-Tavernetti family, among others, as defendants.

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