You are currently browsing the daily archive for February 24, 2009.
I’m still digesting yet another remarkable Sohum meeting. All that was missing was a band.
I was hoping for a large turnout. My heart sank as I turned the corner onto Briceland Road and saw no cars parked by the Healy Center. I was pleasantly surprised by a sign indicating that it had been moved to the Mateel. I’m not the best bean counter, but I’d estimate about 200 homo sapien bodies when I arrived. It would have been really funny if the Board had kept the meeting at the Civic Club.
It was a fairly civil affair, and I think the county representatives in Clif and Steven Lazare (who took copious notes of everything said and even very bravely stood up to address some questions at several points in the meeting, and stayed for a long time after to talk to people) came away with the impression that there is overwhelming support to put the park back into the General Plan Update.
The gist of the issue for those of you still not clear on the “controversy”: a late night concert was held at the park and conducted in what is pretty much universally recognized as disrespectful manner with regard to the neighbors. There are varying accounts of how loud the noise was at certain locations in the valley, but the point is that it could be heard. This led to complaints from some neighbors, who for reasons still unclear to me expanded their complaints to pretty much everything the park people have done and have barraged every applicable government agency and nonprofit having anything to do with the park with letters, speeches, and demands.
A major focus of the neighbors has been the Planning Department, which had pretty much been willing to look the other way with regards to enforcing the very strict Ag land regulations. Unfortunately, the complaints have forced the county’s hand and the regs provide very little leeway. The result is that the park is now closed to the public, including the Tooby playground (more due to anal insurance companies than the county position which recognizes some sort of quasi-grandfathering of the playground).
The county has also rejected the Conditional Use Permit applications submitted by the park, or more specifically asked them to withdraw the applications for some reasons relating to the GPU process in which the park had previously been tracked for some zoning alteration allowing for mixed use. I don’t know the details, but apparently the plethora of letters and complaints from four or five households have led the Planning Department staff to pull the conversion out of their recommendations (“Plan B”) deeming the matter to be “controversial” and bound to slow the process. Unfortunately, this rather arbitrary action was done after the public comment process was over, and before most Sohum residents even knew it was a “controversy.” Something remains in Plan C, which is ironically the choice least favored by environmentalists, and will probably mean that the zoning conversion will not take place in the GPU.
The Planning Department has recommended that the park seek a General Plan amendment later, but that will require about a hundred thousand dollars, an EIR, and 2 years of process. It really must be done through the GPU.
So, a boneheaded Planning Department assessment of the neighbors’ complaints as a bona fide “controversy” which might hamper the GPU process leaves us in the situation of trying to convince the Board of Supervisors to insist that the park zoning conversion provisions be incorporated into the staff recommended General Plan option. I’m not so certain how necessary that is, so long as it is in the plan ultimately approved by the supervisors. Can the Board rewrite it on their own, or are they forced to vote up or down on the recommended plan from the Department? I’d be very surprised if the latter is the case.
So the meeting started. Clif opened the meeting with sort of a political benediction, stating the need for a park which doesn’t trample on the neighbor’s needs. Steve Daisy and Bob McKee presented some history of the Tooby Ranch purchase and the park, with Bob presenting a money trail which I didn’t find particularly interesting enough to follow but which was obviously intended to respond to some very serious and I believe irresponsible accusations. Katherine Lobato presented the process by which the Board has been bogged down by the neighbors’ complaints, including a telephone book thick stack of emails she has personally received since October. Then other Board members presented the explanation of today’s closing of the park (during which Steven Lazar offered some clarifications) and the financial situation. The park is 85 percent paid off, but the income is now about a thousand dollars per month in the red. They need money, which has been hard to come by because nonprofit funders have been scared off by the neighbors and because of the economy.
There were two public input portions of the meeting. The first was to allow people to relate what the park means to them and what they’ve used it for – everything from walking to frisbie golf to painting to soul finding. There were some tears about the prospect that the park will be closed indefinitely.
The second was a standard input forum with 2 minutes per speaker, and there was no shortage of words tonight. But it wasn’t like the Reggae meeting. The contentiousness was pretty well contained. I should note that several of the neighbors’ group spoke, but none opposed the reinclusion of the zoning change proposals into the General Plan. Frenchy actually made a legitimate point about having to live near the park whereas everyone else can simply go home if they don’t want to hear the music (he obviously hasn’t lived in Redway while the Mateel Hall has been in place, but it’s still a legitimate point). John Laboyteaux offered to pay half the costs of the audit he’s called for. Kurt Volkmar said that “community” should be removed from the name of the park, and linked the controversy to global economic decline and the folly of capitalist lifestyle of the past 40 years. Virginia Graziani was clearly dismayed by the park’s closing, admitting that she had filed a complaint about improper usage of the park for large concerts as detrimental to the park. She also pointed out that all outdoor concerts require permits, no matter what the zoning. Someone else argued that it was “immature” to hold the concerts without permits and actually apologized to the county reps for the community in ignoring the process – the comment drew some jeers, to which he responded with nervous pride “it’s my opinion.”
But the park supporters clearly outnumbered the detractors by about 10 to 1 at least. Darryl Cherney directed a comment to Mr. Lazar saying in essence: “What constitutes a controversy? Will it clear things up for you if you get five hundred letters to their four? It’s easily done.” Jim Lamport pointed out the irony that the park is being closed down to protect Ag land when the agricultural output of the last seven years exceeded that of its entire prior existence – the Toobys having only used the land for some cattle. Estelle suggested that it’s probably more effective at this point to direct concerns to the Board of Supes rather than Planning Department staff. Garth Epling emphasized that the events are only a few times per year, while acknowledging that sound does carry in that valley. Various people expressed sympathy for the neighbors while criticizing their over-the-top tactics.
I really wish we could hold intelligent discussions of policies down here without constantly bringing up marijuana. The jokes about using the property for “ag purposes” were funny maybe the first five times. It got old.
The meeting ended with lots of follow-up discussions. I noticed Josh Suite, who ran Estelle’s fall campaign, had a long conversation with Clif, but I was too engaged in my own conversations to overhear the substance.
By the way, Estelle and Ferndale Realtor Tina Christianson will be on Dennis Huber’s show Monday morning to discuss planning issues. And a week later he will have Kirk Girard and a Planning Department player to be named. I’ll post a reminder later in the week. The shows are call in and will present further opportunities for this discussion.
At the end of the meeting suggested letters and addresses of people to contact were provided on sheets of paper. I’m too tired to type them all in right now, but I’ll be happy to post it if someone sends them to me in an email or deposits them in the thread.
The photo above was taken by Pierre Gaude and was lifted from the Park site.
Addendum: I’m posting a sample letter and contact information in the thread.
He’s our champion. What can I say? After all these years of oppression, I can speak up as a white man. We need more programs. We need affirmative action! We need media by and for white men who can speak to our concerns and experiences. I feel so empowered!
Here’s an excerpt.
First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks.It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known. Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.
Second, no people anywhere have done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ‘ 60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream. Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants. Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated their time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.
We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude???
Where indeed? Ingrates.
And later in the column he explains why we white men find black people so scary. Black people need to think about that. But I would criticize him for focusing on the anecdotal issues at the expense of the systemic discrimination against white people, especially white men. We want equal representation in the Board rooms! We want equal representation in Congress! And I’m tired of security in the department stores not watching me closely when I walk in. I want attention too!
I’ve been talking with business people up and down the coast. Small businesses everywhere are in trouble as consumer confidence slides. I was in Fort Brag yesterday for depositions and had lunch at Sharon’s By the Sea, a great little seafood restaurant on the west end of Noyo Harbor. The waitress was very happy to see me walk in and told me it’s all of the sudden become very slow. I suggested that maybe it was the weather, but she shook her head. The owner was offering his own “stimulus plan” with a ten percent discount for checks paid in cash. I wasn’t quite sure if it was a joke and I only had a credit card with me. Other businesses are describing it as if there had been a faucett of money which has all of the sudden been turned off.
As you’ve no doubt heard, the banks taking the TARP money have not used it to offer credit. Apparently they believed the money was just for their own shareholders’ welfare. The good news is that Obama is finally softening to the “N” word.
You’ve probably heard that some Republican governors have talked about refusing certain provisions of the stimulus funds. Today Senator Chuck Schumer announced that there will be no “al la carte” distributions. It’s all or nothing.
Meanwhile, a CNN poll indicates that for the moment people trust politicians more than businessmen. Obama’s ratings are still high, but that won’t last long if there isn’t some indication of hope for a turnaround soon.
Addendum: The RNC is considering a send-off of the “renegade” Republican Senators who voted for the stimulus bill into the pit of darkness where there shall be a weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Meanwhile Bernanke is suggesting that the “recession” may end this year with “full recovery” taking several years. He also said he doesn’t think we’ll have to nationalize any banks, which made investors happy whether it’s good news for the economy.
Second addendum: Now Steele’s wimping out. No punishment for the Rogue Repubs.
Third addendum: The San Francisco Chronicle is in trouble.
And Paul Krugman on Obama’s “mysterious plan.”
I just don’t get it. And my sinking feeling that the administration plan is to rearrange the deck chairs and hope the iceberg melts just keeps getting stronger
There are basically three approaches to saving the banks: Nationalization, throwing money at them without conditions, or leaving them alone entirely. The third got us where we’re at. The second appears to have been ineffective. He’s going to have to buck the free marketers he surrounded himself with and think in terms of some sort of receivership for the bad banks. He should just do it and avoid the “N” word.
Fourth addendum: I missed it tonight, but I guess Obama did pretty well for himself. I hope it translates into something tangible.