By Richard Darvas
May 17, 2010 (Dehesa)--On a hilly downgrade that spills into Dehesa Valley, Vietnam veteran Joseph Diliberti built an earthen sanctuary on 3.7 acres. Over 31 years--shaped by ideals of Henry David Thoreau’s transcendentalism and principles of Jamaica’s Rastafarianism--the individualist hand-crafted mud houses, a lofty tree house and an Asiatic pagoda. But an unresolved weed abatement dating back to 2004 leaves Diliberti in danger of losing his land to a public auction on March 18, 2011. Compounded by penalties and interest levied by the County tax collector, a weed-cutting service billed at $25,500 has mushroomed to a $63,993 tab. On behalf of San Diego Rural Fire Protection District (RFD), Fire Prevention Services (FPS) cleared vegetation on the site for three days in 2004. FPS’ actions as a private contractor reflected new defensible-space regulations enacted after the 2003 Cedar Fire.
Since East County Magazine ran an investigative feature on Diliberti’s plight on May 3, 2010, new developments have emerged—including a grassroots effort to help Diliberti keep his land, complete with fundraising, a Facebook page, and a documentary filmmaker.