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Sweat lodge owner to resume practice

Design Review Board approves Andrew Soliz's lodge with stipulation that more elements be added to his Bluebird Canyon backyard to increase privacy.

August 09, 2012|By Joanna Clay
  • Andrew Soliz stands with his backyard sweat lodge in Bluebird Canyon.
Andrew Soliz stands with his backyard sweat lodge in Bluebird… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

The first olive branch — or, in this case, a bamboo shoot — has been extended to a neighbor of a Bluebird Canyon home who hosts monthly sweat lodges.

At a meeting last month, the Design Review Board voted 4-1 in favor of Andrew Soliz's sweat lodge on the 900 block of Meadowlark Drive, as long as he does more to shield the lodge from neighbors by expanding his bamboo hedge with additional shrubbery.

Soliz, who lives with his wife, Carrie Woodburn, started the sweat lodge when he moved to town late last year.

Half Pueblo, half Mayan, 48-year-old Soliz said he learned the practices from the Lakota tribe and has been conducting traditional sweat lodges in the U.S. for 12 years.

He has worked with at-risk youth and adults incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison. He's also a builder, handyman and artist.

At the July 26 Design Review Board meeting, the majority of public comments were in support of Soliz's sweat lodge, except for one.

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Dissenting neighbor Cameron Fraser, whose property is adjacent to Soliz's, said he doesn't take issue with Soliz's Native American tradition, but wants to preserving privacy in the canyon community, where neighbors easily peek into each other's property.

However, during his speech, he noted several grievances, such as sweat lodge participants waving at his family and an incident where a lodge participant urinated.

On Jan. 29, a police dispatch log notes that a neighbor reported that someone urinated on Soliz's property, which was visible from his property.

Soliz has said it was a bad decision made by one participant that will not be repeated.

Green builder Chris Prelitz addressed the board and compared the structure to "a wooden trellis Martha Stewart would grow sweet peas on," emphasizing that it was not permanent.

Fraser said Tuesday he wants to move on from the issue and is happy with the Design Review Board's decision and doesn't want to stop the sweat lodge activities from occurring.

Fraser said he approached Soliz and Woodburn after the meeting to let them know he is simply concerned about privacy and has no problem with their Native American traditions.

He said he mentioned a fence and that Soliz started to put up shrubbery the next day.

Soliz estimates the cost of the additions to the hedge will run him about $2,000.

Although privacy was the issue, Soliz said his family has come under fire by the community and the media.

He wants it known that he isn't "new age" or lying about his heritage. He also notes he doesn't charge participants to use his sweat lodge, but used to accept donations to help pay for propane. The propane heats lava rocks used during the ceremony.

Soliz said his car has been vandalized, he's received hate mail and his wife's business has been questioned. Fraser similarly said that his family's opposition has incited negativity from the community.

"I'm doing everything I can so that this dies down," Soliz said, "so everyone can live their lives."

joanna.clay@latimes.com

Twitter: @joannaclay

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