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From the Citizens for Real Economic Growth:
City Clerk Pam Powell perhaps said it best when quoted in the Times-Standard yesterday:
“(A zoning change for the Balloon Track) would likely be similar to the measure that put the development of a Wal-Mart to Eureka voters in 1998.”
Citizens for Real Economic Growth has always strongly supported the process to get the Balloon Track cleaned up and developed with maximum citizen input. In this respect, the May 4th proposal by Mr. Gans of Security National to put the zoning of the parcel to a vote on the November ballot is bewildering, for a number of reasons.
For one, it does absolutely nothing to advance the process to begin the cleanup as it currently stands. For this to happen, the Coastal Commission made clear last November that Security National would have to first provide complete information on boundary issues, location of wetlands, and a characterization of the site for toxics. Since that request was issued, Security National has done nothing to provide that information. Instead, it has engaged in a pattern of political stunts in coordination with their supporters in city government designed to delay the process, and then blame this delay on their opponents for political gain. This latest maneuver is no different. Mr. Gans’s proposal is a political stunt that does absolutely nothing to advance the cleanup process, and only provides a back door for Wal-Mart to set up shop on Eureka’s waterfront.
Security National should have seen this coming. Last year they submitted a flawed cleanup plan that violated both the California Coastal Act and the City of Eureka’s own Local Coastal Program (LCP). This fact was pointed out by numerous parties in official comments to the project Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), but it was ignored, and a coastal development permit approved by the city council anyway last April. Unfortunately, this was a coverup, not a cleanup, one which proposed to grade and fill roughly 2/3 of the 40-acre site before fully characterizing it for toxics. Even to a layman, this clearly put the cart before the horse. This sham cleanup would not only effectively bury onsite toxics, making them impossible to properly characterize, but would mobilize them, imperiling nearby commercial oyster beds in the adjacent Humboldt Bay. This is unacceptable.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that this flawed cleanup plan was flagged by the Coastal Commission for its numerous illegalities. Instead of honestly addressing the process as it now stands, Security National and project supporters have chosen to try a futile end run around the law, one that cannot succeed, and only serves to delay a desperately-needed cleanup of the Balloon Track. We condemn this approach, and the campaign of disinformation being waged against those who seek in good faith to move the process along.
Placed in the context of where the cleanup process currently stands, a ballot proposal on changing the zoning of the Balloon Track before it is cleaned up is clearly premature. In response to Mr. Gans’s contentions of May 4th before city council, we were left with some questions for him and Security National:
- You said before the council that this ballot proposal would address the $4.35 million FY 2010-11 city deficit and the need for a higher city sales tax. In concrete terms: How?
- If you are proposing this as a means to speed up the process, why have you not provided the information requested of you to the Coastal Commission? In light of this failure, why should anyone perceive this ballot proposal as anything other than a political stunt?
- Who is proposing to pay for the costs of such a ballot measure
- How would this ballot proposal change the permitting process?
- What is your response to the Regional Water Board’s recent letter acknowledging, despite your contentions to contrary, that the Coastal Commission indeed has current jurisdiction over the process, specifically the right to issue or revoke the Coastal Development Permit for the project?
Until these questions are sufficiently answered, we believe the citizens of Eureka should view this ballot proposal for what it is: an expensive and futile attempt to circumvent the process. Further, the question must be asked: If Home Depot, which in recent years has closed sixty stores throughout the country, bails out as proposed anchor of the project, what then? By changing the zoning of the parcel, as Mr. Gans is proposing, there is nothing to stop Wal-Mart from becoming the designated tenant, a development specifically rejected by 61% of Eureka voters back in . In this respect, the proposal to change the Balloon Track zoning could open the door to exactly what Eurekans said they did not want.
In conclusion, it is important to note the current context of this proposal: the developer’s sole owners, Robin and Cherie Arkley, are being sued for $50 million of their personal fortune by Bank of America, immediately on the heels of the failures of their two banks; a zoning change on the parcel from public to commercial would instantly make its value skyrocket; and the change is exactly the same that Wal-Mart sought and repeatedly failed to get in . Furthermore, there has never been a guarantee in writing that Home Depot will anchor the proposed project. It is easy to imagine a scenario in which Wal-Mart, with its deep pockets able to finance a legal cleanup, could easily assume tenancy on the site in the future. This corporation, which has already poured tens of thousands of dollars into a bid to locate on the Balloon Track, would see its fondest wish fulfilled with this proposed zoning change. We emphatically oppose this Trojan Horse proposal on the grounds that it creates an end run around an issue that Eureka voters emphatically rejected twelve years ago.
A “citizens group” is suing the Coastal Commission to prevent it from taking action which would deviate from a decision made by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, citing a lack of jurisdiction on the part of the Commission to override Eureka’s abatement order. The Pacific Legal Foundation is handling the suit on behalf of Citizens for a Better Eureka, which claims to be independent of Arkley. PLF is a legal think tank and advocacy organization which champions libertarian-conservative causes particularly around property rights, and was pivotal in the overturning of Measure T. Here’s the SourceWatch entry on them.
Citizens for a Better Eureka is calling itself am “association of environmentally concerned local citizens,” and I guess technically it makes some rhetorical sense since they are trying to support a toxic waste abatement program. I’ll be curious to see if the organization takes up any other environmental causes. Do these environmentalists have any problem with the large amounts of money PLF has taken from Exxon-Mobile?
Addendum: The Times Standard covered yesterday’s press conference.
Much as I just haven’t had the time to keep up with the rapidly moving story due to the volume on my plate, I’m starting to get drawn in. As you’ve probably read or heard, the Eureka City Council approved a development permit allowing, among other, things a clean-up site. An appeal has been requested with the Coastal Commission on the basis that the EIR was inadequate and that the proposed clean-up plan is inadequate.
Earlier this week two of the three council members (Jeff Leonard and Mike Jones) accompanied a couple of city staff to the Coast Commission meeting in San Francisco. Bonnie Neeley, generally seen as on the opposite side of the controversy, now chairs the commission. The decision to hear the appeal based upon the finding of “substantial issue” was decided without input from the public, including the city representatives. Councilman Larry Glass (who did not vote to approve the permit) and others had called the trip a political stunt. From the other side comes criticisms of Neeley, accusing her of preventing input from Jones and Leonard, though another commissioner made it very clear that public input is not generally solicited for the mere issue of whether there is substantial issue to justify an appeal. You can access the video from a post at Heraldo’s.
The Times Standard’s editorial of today politely slams Leonard and Jones, while wagging fingers at everyone else in the debate as well. The TS lamentation about the discussion seems to be underscored by the thread attached to the article as well as the many threads over at Heraldo’s (Heraldo has been covering the issue extensively since the Eureka City Council took up the matter). There is also an article which pretty much sums up the story to date.
Heraldo has covered the events from one perspective. You can find another at the Humboldt Mirror. This will likely become the next polarizing issue for the county, and will no doubt play prominently in the 2010 Supervisor elections, particularly in Neeley’s district with rumors of challenges from Leonard and Mayor Virginia Bass (rumors of challenges from the left are greatly exaggerated at this point, but there’s plenty of time).
Hank Sims has also weighed in.
Here’s a virtual tour of the proposal. Notice the intact railroad tracks!
And more to the point of the moment, Phase 1:
Addendum: An emailing reader corrected my misspelling of Neely (I think I’ve been spelling it wrong for some time) and the number of City Council members. He also states that Neely’s position on the project is ascertainable through more than mere perception.
Bonnie Neely was the former spokesperson for C.R.E.G. (Committee for Regressive Economic Growth), whose one and only purpose was to stop the Marina Center project. Don’t know how else you can spin that.
Second addendum: Ryan Hurley uncovers the smoking voice mail!
I just haven’t had the time to keep up with it, but Heraldo has made numerous posts as some initial processes for a proposed clean-up have already passed the Eureka City Council with very little public opposition. Apparently it’s not having such an easy time at the Coastal Commission level.
Maybe one of these days I’ll catch up with the story and write someting intelligent. Or not so intelligent. Either way.
I just haven’t had the time to follow up on the story, but after a couple of years of doldrums the Marina Center project has heated up in recent weeks. Heraldo has covered it extensively. Last night the Eureka City Council met to discuss approval of the EIR. It looks like Heraldo, Tom Seaborn, and others were there to “live blog” it. I’m trying to picture this meeting with so much clicking of laptop keyboards in the audience.
3-2 vote in the end.
It’s back in the news, with a clean-up plan, and looking to heat up quickly. I haven’t been following the story recently, but Heraldo’s got some posts and a growing contentious thread on the topic. I’ll get caught up on it, oh, when… I don’t know when I’ll have time to get caught up on it.
Marina Center Forum January 26th, 2009 at Wharfinger Building 6:00pm – 9:00 pm
Humboldt Baykeeper, the Northcoast Environmental Center, and the North
Group of the Sierra Club will be hosting a forum to discuss the Marina Center Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the 26th of January at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka from 6:00pm to 9:00 pm.
This informational forum will include presentations from a variety of experts regarding the DEIR and will act as an opportunity for the community to become educated about the environmental issues surrounding
the Marina Center project.
For more information, contact Humboldt Baykeeper at 268-8897.
My question though: when is the deadline for public input? Isn’t that coming up really quickly?
The Times Standard’s article barely scratches the surface and makes no mention of the aging BAE study commissioned by Eureka during the WalMart controversy. It focuses on the impact of the megaboxes in Crescent City, then acknowledges later in the article that we’re talking very different economies and cultures. The Humboldt Business Council did commission a poll last fall which suggests that the Eureka citizenry is supportive of the proposal, though last fall’s election results introduced some ambiguity.
I doubt the following paragraphs from the article are going to excite the majority of Humboldt residents, at least not in the right way for Marina Center advocates.
In addition to bringing traffic into town, Naffah said the combination of Home Depot and Wal-Mart has also brought the interest of other national chains, which he welcomes with open arms.
He said Starbucks is opening a shop across the street from Home Depot, and Walgreens has plans to move in shortly. He said he has no question that Home Depot played a role in those companies’ decisions.
”One thing sort of feeds into another,” he said. “There’s kind of a synergetic snowball effect.”
The Marina Center faces a number of serious obstacles, both from local grassroots opposition and potentially from various layers of regulation as Mark Lovelace explained to me some months ago.
I had promised to study the issue and make some sage comments about the whole thing. We are of course waiting for the Security National economic study intended to address concerns raised by the BAE study as to the impact on local businesses. I did meet with Security National representatives last fall and they made some compelling arguments for the proposal. I would add to their arguments that Humboldt County has an aging population with families on the decline. All of the school districts are experiencing declining enrollment as the economic bases are melting away.
I don’t know if this proposal would make a difference. It doesn’t revive old economic bases, nor does it introduce new ones with the possible exception that the development would introduce a small amount of infrastructure to accommodate high tech industry. It would seem to basically kick around the same money, the only benefit coming from the multipliers if there is an increase of income and more spending. But sooner or later local progressives are going to have to propose something and not just stand in opposition to whatever comes along.
A Balloon Track maintenance project that Citizens For Real Economic Growth’s spokesman Larry Evans referred to as “poorly considered and poorly documented” was stopped a day after it was begun.
Security National CUE VI started the project on Thursday, with plans to apply clean and crushed aggregate rock to its vacant Eureka parcel’s existing roadways, which, SN said, have not been maintained for close to 10 years.
“Concerned citizens and local community environmental and good government groups first became alarmed by the description of ground-disturbing work that could encroach on protected wetlands, as well as risking potentially dangerous releases of toxic wastes contaminating the site,” Evans stated in a news release.
One of the phone calls CREG and others made was to Eureka Community Development Department Director Kevin Hamblin.
Hamblin told The Eureka Reporter that when SN first approached the city in October 2006 with repair and maintenance questions and asked if a coastal-development permit was required, SN was told that per the state Coastal Act “road maintenance including road grading of potholes and things like that” was exempt.
But the exception is that “you can’t have mechanized equipment within 50 feet of the edge of an environmentally sensitive habitat area,” Hamblin said.
“They were just asking what was exempt and we told them,” he said. “They were getting ready to do (the) work (and) we started to receive a lot of complaints and concerns on Thursday.”
The city went to inspect, but it didn’t seem that SN was “going anywhere but on their roads,” Hamblin said.
“We were following the rules for the abatement of a nuisance, to allow needed emergency access for fire equipment, medical services and police,” SN Senior Vice President Brian Morrissey said in an e-mail response to The Eureka Reporter’s inquiry about the maintenance activities. “We invited Coastal Commission and city staff to observe our work to further ensure that no ESHAs were harmed.”
CREG said heavy equipment and “industrial-scale bilge pumps sprayed potentially contaminated water out of potholes.” Morrissey contends none of the work traversed into a wetland area.
More details in the article listed above. According to Hamblin as quoted in Hank Sims’ Town Dandy column of last week, the project shouldn’t draw much public attention until August. I figured I had some time, but it looks like the issue may already be heating up.
Shortly after I was drawn into the discussion I had an interesting conversation with Security National representative Brian Morrissey which as I’ve said appealed to my blue side as opposed to my green – Brian has said that they may be releasing local economic impact information that is more up to date than the BAE report based on a study made before the doomed Wal-Mart proposal of 9 years ago. For a summary of issues from the project opposition’s point of view click here (contains several pertinent links). Security National commissioned a poll released shortly before last fall’s election which indicates strong support for the project in Eureka, support which may have been reflected in the Eureka City Council race results. Assuming the poll was accurate, the question is whether that support will hold once these permit and court battles are underway.
For those who want to catch up there are numerous articles including this (biased but substantially accurate) timeline and a recent series in the Times Standard. The North Coast Journal had a very comprehensive cover story some months ago as well but I don’t have time to sort out a search right now as their are dozens of stories there which incorporate “balloon track.” Some help Hank?
Meanwhile, I guess I have to pull out my Balloon Track file and dust it off.
Photo is from Balloon Track Watch.
A week ago this morning I was talking with Richard Salzman about the Balloon Track. The conversation produced this gem which I couldn’t get out of my head all day today.
“Your friend Brian Morrissey is a nice guy. But make no mistake, he’d be very happy if he could turn make US 101 look like the I-5 Corridor from San Francisco to the Oregon border. And he’d crucify kitchens on church doors!”
Okay. I made the last part up. But the king of hyperbole’s point resonated loud and clear during my last 24 hours in Medford. But for the immediate presence of gorgeous hills, it looks like Redding, Chico, Oroville, and Yuba City. Sprawl thrown out seemingly without care, as if aesthetics were completely irrelevant and nobody ever heard of civil engineering. Locally owned businesses far and few, hidden off the main drags where a solid wall of corporate logos lines each side of every major artery, which is pretty much every street within a few blocks of the freeway. I’d been there many times before, but I’m looking at these places in a different light now. I may not be just passing through them. If you believe Salzman, I could end up living in one.
These towns and cities didn’t start this way. The courthouse areas of town are usually the older areas, where the architecture retains some character. Medford is no exception. The courthouse, built in 1910, is pretty. Across the street is the old library in a beautiful golden brick building built in 1911 with glass in the windows bearing that distortion from age surrounded by gorgeous wooden frames. It was set in a park of sorts, beneath old and twisting oak trees. Unfortunately, it’s boarded up, the library having been moved to a more modern (and probably more safe) concrete and glass setting downtown (the “downtown” being curiously empty on a weekday – I had no problems finding parking anywhere. Is the economy in trouble there?).
But as you’re standing by the library and looking over to the courthouse, if you look to the left you’ll see two very drab and gloomy concrete boxes – the justice center and the county prison. Not just ugly like in Eureka, but dreary, almost as if the designers wanted to put defendants in a mood as they approach. Maybe the facade should bear the Dante quote – “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” (My masthead motto is a play on that, by the way, for those who were wondering).
Again odd, nobody came in or out of any of the buildings while I was there, about 20 minutes before my depo started a block away. Not one person. I felt like I was in one of those old last-man-on-Earth movies, but for the cars and bicyclists driving by. This was about 12:30!
The trip up was a minor adventure in yesterday’s weather. I needed gas at Crescent City. My gas card is for Shell, and apparently there’s no such gas station in Del Norte County. I got distracted driving by Home Depot and trying to imagine it on the waterfront in Eureka and all of the sudden I was out of town. I figured there must be a gas station at 199 and sure enough there was a blue sign reading “gas, food, and lodging.” Made me happy, because I didn’t want to double back as I was hoping to reach the Collier Tunnel before it got dark and weather was nasty. But alas, the sign lied. It led me around a loop to another street with the same sign pointing left. I drove by a motel with all the windows dark and a tanning salon. No lodging, no food, and more to the point, no gas. And no indication there had ever been gas. Right after that was 199, about a hundred yards from where I turned off it. I tried the other side, but gave up quickly deciding to head back into town. I had no idea there was a station just a few miles up the road, which I figured there probably was but after the blue signs lied to me I didn’t want to take any chances on losing more time.
I stayed at the Best Western on Barnett Street. A nice place, the experience only being slightly marred by the presence of two tour buses with their generators running all night. The hotel folk were mum about whom they were, saying only that it was “a performing arts group.” One look at the roadies loading up the next morning made very inadequate the description “a performing arts group.”
As usual I imbibed in my cable TV fix. There was Bill O’Reilly ranting about the fact that while WalMart and most of the other major retailers are going to be saying “Merry Christmas” this year, some outfit called “Best Buy” will be saying “Happy holidays.” Bill took that as an affront.
Jon Stewart chimed it with some of his blue state elitism many of us love in response to the president talking about his relationship with Harry Reid. Apparently they’re both from western states and they’re both “plain talking” prompting Stewart to comment that the president was making much of the fact that they both shared a time zone (are Nevada and Texas in the same time zone?) and speak English. I flipped the channel while he was interviewing some boring actress.
AMC was showing Jaws which I hadn’t seen in years. I noticed for the first time that the actor playing “Quint” was also the guy who played the gangster who was played in The Sting. And also he was one of the spooks in Three Days of the Condor. Versatile actor. Who is he?
Does Nancy Grace talk about anything other than rape and murder? And is her face capable of any expression other than a scowl?
And so on. I go through the exercise just to be sure I haven’t changed my mind about cable.
I want to like Medford. I like Ashland and Jacksonville. But that’s probably where the local rich folk live, kind of like Trinidad and increasingly Arcata. But the first thing that hits you as you drive in from the north is some huge gaudy building on the side of a hill east of the freeway. What is that thing anyway, and why was it built? It’s totally out of place, almost like somebody wanted some sort of permanent memorial along the lines of ancient pyramids or the Tower of Babel.
Alright. I’ve got the elitist snark out of my system for the night. My deposition went very well anyway. And I had a great meal at a mini-chain called the Black Bear restaurant right next to the hotel. The portions are huge, so I got breakfast out of it too.
On the trip back I saw two or three “Get us out” signs much like the one I’ve been reading for years in Ukiah. It’s a Bircher sign of course. Details here. Ever read the Blue Book? A fascinating read. Welch thought that Soviet military prowess was a myth and that the arms race was a communist plot to destroy our economy. I guess by some estimates that one backfired.
And the fruit police were closed up. What gives? California not worried about the med-fly anymore?
And a warning to men using the restroom at the Collier Tunnel rest stop. The ADA handrail at the rear keeps the toilet seat cover from standing up properly, worse than when you have those fuzzy things on them. To quote a comedian I can’t remember, “a simple biological function became a major feat of engineering.”
No, Home Depot doesn’t look like it belongs in Crescent City. But honestly, I’m more turned off by the casino at the Klammath River.