County approves case-by-case review


The County of San Diego will now consider reservation fee to trust and liquor license proposals on a case-by-case basis.

A 4-1 Board of Supervisors vote May 4, with Joel Anderson opposed, repeals the previous county policy opposing all fee-to-trust applications and the previous policy with more stringent criteria for liquor licenses than had been the case for non-tribal land. The action directed the county’s chief administrative officer to work in cooperation with tribal governments and surrounding communities to minimize off-reservation impacts of fee-to-trust applications, review and comment on fee-to-trust applications for tribal lands on a case-by-case basis consistent with other interjurisdictional project requests for cities or other governmental agencies, consider the economic benefits to the county from a project which is the subject of a fee-to-trust application, review and comment on tribal land liquor license applications consistent with other liquor license applications throughout unincorporated San Diego County, work in collaboration with tribal governments to reinstate the county’s tribal liaison position, and include the tribal liaison position in the county’s Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget. The motion also includes notification of nearby property owners, which is the case for all other county discretionary actions.

“This action is an important step in the right direction,” said Pala tribal chairman Robert Smith. “On behalf of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, we thank the County of San Diego Board of Supervisors for supporting this important proposal.”

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has a process to transfer land already owned by an Indian tribe into the reservation. In 1994 the Board of Supervisors approved a resolution to oppose all fee to trust applications by tribal governments in San Diego County. Although an Indian reservation is sovereign a reservation which desires to serve alcohol must obtain a liquor license from the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and in June 2001 the Board of Supervisors adopted criteria for liquor licenses on tribal land which exceed the requirements for similar establishments not on a reservation.

The change in policies still allows the county to oppose a fee to trust transfer or liquor license based on the merits but also allows the county to recommend approval of a project.

“Several tribes throughout San Diego County, including Pala, have responsibly developed casinos and businesses on their reservations, employed thousands of residents with good paying jobs, and made significant contributions to the local economy,” Smith said.

In 2001 Chantal Saipe was selected to be the county’s tribal liaison, but Saipe retired in 2009 and there is not currently such a position. The tribal liaison position would be responsible for interaction between tribal governments and county departments including social services and emergency services as well as land use and intergovernmental agreements. He or she would be responsible for building relationships with each tribal government and would be the county’s main point of contact.

County staff and participating tribal governments will collaborate to prepare the full scope of the tribal liaison position.

“Tribal businesses are vital to economic development in our communities, and we are committed to working to strengthen and foster strong government-to-government relationships throughout the region and the state,” Smith said.

County approves case-by-case review