Modest Calif. home yields $800K pot farm
By Michael Manekin
DALY CITY, Calif. — Growing trays, potting soil, exhaust fans and some 450 marijuana plants with a street value of between $800,000 and $900,000: That's what the San Mateo County Narcotics Task Force found Monday evening in a modest Daly City home across the street from the Westlake Shopping Center.
Police were alerted to the most recent large-scale indoor pot greenhouse when the owner of the home — located on the 200 block of Bel Mar Avenue — grew suspicious of her tenants and alerted them that she would drop by for an inspection.
When the homeowner paid that visit recently, she discovered that the locks had been changed.
Monday morning, the homeowner returned with a locksmith — and once the lock was picked, the pair met with the skunky stench of marijuana.
Daly City police were alerted, and by 5 p.m., the Narcotics Task Force was issued a search warrant, said spokesman Commander Mark Wyss.
When a half-dozen officers raided the home later that evening, they found the plants, along with intricate electrical and irrigation systems rigged up to replicate a moist spring day — ideal conditions for cultivating the weed.
The elaborate setup occupied two bedrooms and much of the home's basement, and a new circuit-breaker had been installed to efficiently steal electricity from PG&E, police said.
A PG&E spokeswoman could not confirm the value of the electricity stolen, but after a similarly sized Daly City pot operation was raided in January, it was determined that some $50,000 in electricity had been diverted around the meter and spliced directly into the home.
Police have yet to make any arrests following Monday's raid. The home had been apparently evacuated by the time the locksmith forced the door open, according to the homeowner.
Some of the personal effects left behind included an unmade bed and large-screen TV in the master bedroom, scattered copies of "Us" magazine on the living-room floor and remnants of kim chi, beer and salad dressing in the refrigerator.
It was yet another large-scale seizure of a commercial-sized marijuana crop in San Mateo County.
"We've been averaging probably about one a month for the last six months," said Wyss.
Last year, at least 10 homes were known to have been used for indoor pot cultivation in San Mateo County, police reported. Many of these homes were discovered in the North County.
Last December, firefighters responding to a blaze in a two-story home in San Bruno discovered nearly 1,300 marijuana plants, 60 grams of dried and packaged pot, cash and a loaded AK-47 assault rifle. One month later, on Jan. 29, an 84-year-old woman accidentally crashed her car into a Daly City home, found to be packed with more than 700 marijuana plants worth some $800,000.
Wyss said the large number of such discoveries in the North County may indicate that growers supplying San Francisco medical-marijuana dispensaries are choosing to locate in northern San Mateo County because home rentals are less expensive, and the operations are not too far away from the market.
Suburban homes also offer a good cover for commercial growing operations, Wyss added.
"(Growers) have the image that the house should be occupied by a resident, but meanwhile, they've got a commercial-level cultivation operation inside the house. ... It's a very lucrative business to be involved in."
Copyright 2007 MediaNews Group, Inc. and ANG Newspapers
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