North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

April 3, 2003

Target yields to Coastal Commission
Giant retailer should open Eureka store next year

Out on patrol
Just another night for a sheriff's deputy

Taylor bests PL again

Bank seeks charter

An EPIC legal battle

Thompson wilderness bill

Animal shelter setback

Making Mendosa official

Tree-sitting lull

Target yields to Coastal Commission
Giant retailer should open Eureka store next year


The plan to open a Target store on the north end of Eureka appears to be back on track.

In a letter last month to the Eureka office of the California Coastal Commission, the Target Corp. agreed to modify the store to take into account the commission's concern about possible impacts to Humboldt Bay.

In particular, Target has decided to site the store so that a vegetated buffer zone at least 100 feet in width stands between it and the Eureka Slough, which feeds into the bay and provides important estuarine habitat for Freshwater Creek salmon.

That change will result in a slightly smaller store than originally envisioned, 126,000 square-feet instead of almost 131,000 square-feet.

Additionally, Target will reroute a pedestrian path on the property -- currently occupied by an abandoned Montgomery Wards store -- so that it comes no closer than 50 feet to the slough. It is also discarding a plan to roof the building with reddish brick-colored tile. Instead, it will use a brown roof tile to better match the landscape. Finally, it is reducing the height of two signs, one adjacent to Highway 101, the other along Y Street.

The modifications have met with the approval of the Coastal Commission staff, which endorsed them in a 65-page report dated March 28. The coastal commission is expected to approve the changes at a meeting April 9. If it does, Target will be granted a permit that will allow the project to go forward.

Target's decision is a major victory for the Environmental Protection Information Center, which filed a challenge after the Eureka City Council approved the project last December.

"We don't support big box retail," said Christine Ambrose of EPIC, who wrote the appeal. "And we have concerns that [the store] is going to hurt small locally owned businesses. But at the same time [Target] did dramatically improve the project and they did address issues raised in our appeal."

Ambrose expressed satisfaction at another change in the works: the likelihood that coastal commission staff will review water quality data to ensure that treated run-off from the store's parking lot is sufficiently clean.

In an e-mail sent out late last week, Eureka City Manager David Tyson said, "we are pleased the Target project may be moving forward." But he insisted that the original buffer "had more than adequate mitigation."

He also claimed that "this redesign was not what Target wanted to do, but what they felt compelled to do to avoid further delays and get their project approved."

Target officials were not reached for comment.

Tyson said there is some anxiety in the business community about the precedent this sets regarding buffer zones for other development projects around the bay.

He also noted that now that the Target project has been modified, it is not the same project that was approved by the council. What that means in terms of how the project proceeds after receiving the imprimatur of the coastal commission is unclear.

Humboldt County Supervisor Jimmy Smith, in a letter on behalf of the board, expressed support for the modified project. "Many Humboldt County residents are looking forward to the opening of a local Target store. The store fills an unmet need and will allow residents that shop at Target stores out of the area to spend money locally.

"The store, as proposed, will redevelop a blighted property," Smith added.

Like Tyson, however, Smith qualified his endorsement by saying that the board "was in support of the project as approved by the Eureka City Council."

When it was filed, EPIC's challenge was ridiculed by city officials and others, who accused EPIC of obstructionism. But the group was vindicated in February when the Coastal Commission, at the urging of its staff, ruled that the city did not adequately study the potential impacts of the project on the environment and on wildlife.

The bone of contention was the width of the vegetated buffer zone, which in the original conception ranged from 40 to 250 feet. The city argued that while its general guideline was for 100-foot buffers, those same rules allowed buffers as narrow as 40 feet across as long as their environmental impact was mitigated.

Commission staff did not dispute that the city's guidelines allowed for flexibility. Instead, it simply said that in the environmental impact report for the project, the city had failed to adequately demonstrate that a 40-foot wide buffer would have no more impact than one 100 feet wide.

Out on patrol
Just another night for a sheriff's deputy


"If I get shot, if I get dead, just get in the car and drive away. Don't try and be a hero," said Deputy Mike Campbell, handing over the extra set of keys to his 2002 Crown Victoria. "Remember, you signed a waiver, your family can't sue."

We were in the parking garage under the County Courthouse, a sprawling concrete cavern of the type common in the city, but rare way up here on the North Coast.

Campbell is the swing shift (4 p.m. to 2 a.m.) "field training officer," the only deputy a journalist participating in the Humboldt County Sheriff's Department ride-along program can go out on patrol with. But in 11 years, he said a reporter had never done so.

A few minutes before we had been in the briefing room. There was a fridge, a sink, a sign warning dire consequences if you don't clean up after yourself, a bulletin board "Baby Roll Call" with pictures of officers' kids tacked up and a TV and VCR cabinet with tapes ranging from Top Gun to training videos to the Ultimate Fighting Championship stacked underneath.

I walked in while the daily briefing was in progress. Deputy Kerry Ireland, a young well-built officer who's been on the force for just over a year, was just beginning a story. Turns out cops all have stories, and according to Campbell, better ones than the rest of us.

"So I busted this freak..." Ireland said.

"Hey, watch what you say, this guy is a reporter," Campbell growled. The whole group looked at me.

Ireland continued. He had been out on a patrol and seen a white pickup parked on the side of the road. He pulled up to check and saw what looked like a meth pipe.

"I was like, `Cool, felony,'" he said. He got the guy out of the truck, an older man dressed in a skirt and blouse, and I searched him. Apparently, he had something in his sock. It was stuffed with Astro-Glide and condoms. Further searching revealed two large black and white dildoes and even more lube and condoms.

After the briefing everyone filed out, but Ireland waited behind; he was going to go to coffee with Campbell.

"So why are you doing this ride-along?" he asked me. Campbell had disappeared and I was waiting for him. "Business or pleasure?"

I said I didn't know. Why was he a cop? Business or pleasure?

"Both." he said. He said he had joined when he found out his girlfriend was pregnant last year. He had been pretty good friends with a couple of cops, and decided to try it as a career.

Campbell came back, a small, black .38-caliber revolver in his hands. Apparently, a man who had a restraining order against him that precluded his owning firearms had dropped it off at the front desk. Campbell had decided it probably wasn't good to leave an armed man at the counter for long, so he'd decided to book it into evidence himself.

It was strangely matter-of-fact the way he handled it. A gun. Most people don't have much to do with guns, but for sheriff's deputies it's a way of life.

Humboldt County Sheriff's deputies carry Glock .40- caliber automatic pistols in their basket-weave print black leather belts, along with extra magazines, a collapsible baton, radio and pepper spray. In addition, in their cars they can carry a Vietnam-era M-16 and a 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun.

He's had to pull his gun while on duty more times than he could count, "way too often," Campbell said as we drove out on patrol, the sun setting. But in a dozen years of service he has never had to shoot anyone.

That might have something to do with the way the sheriff's department works. For the entire county of Humboldt, there are only 21 deputies devoted to patrol. Those 21 cover a beat ranging from Hoopa to Benbow, from Petrolia to Whitethorn. They also police McKinleyville, a town rivaling many of the local incorporated cities in size, but lacking its own police force.

Such a large chunk of territory means back-up is often miles away, so officers have to act with finesse rather than force. Campbell would appreciate a partner along sometimes. But other than that he wouldn't want things any other way.

The first call of the night came in over the radio at around 6:30 p.m. (18:30, actually, as the deputies, like cops everywhere, use military time). It was a call out to a house on Jacoby Creek Road, where a mentally ill man was reportedly off his medication.

This was a "welfare check," seeing if the subject was a danger to himself or anyone else. If so, he is classified as 5150 and is taken to the county mental health facility, Sempervirens. It is the only code that strips you of your constitutional rights.

The house was long and low with a half-moon gravel driveway and a sprawling backyard. A knock on the front door got no response so we circled round the back. There, next to a porch cluttered with spinning lawn ornaments, an old couple was unloading groceries.

Campbell said he was sorry to intrude, and told them about the call. They said that it was their 39-year-old son. As they were talking, he came out of the house, in a flannel shirt and back brace. He looked tired but not dangerous.

"You don't look like a danger to yourself or others, so I'm just gonna go," Campbell said looking him over. "Sorry for coming in the back like that."

Our patrol route that night followed a loop running from the Sheriff's office across the Samoa Bridge, through Arcata, down Old Arcata Road to Myrtle Avenue and back into Eureka.

Part of the reason Campbell got into the job in the first place is that he likes the driving. He said he'd checked out one of the newer Crown Vic's in the fleet because he knew I was coming along, but what he really liked was the old Chevy Caprice, which he considered one of the best patrol cars ever made. But to drive it well you had to know how to drive well; it didn't have all the new features like automatic traction control for tight cornering that come standard on the new Fords.

When he was young, he'd been a bit a of a hell-raiser -- fast cars, pierced ears, all the cops in his Sacramento-area home town knew him by name -- but he'd always wanted to be a cop.

Now, at age 34, he's been a cop for 12 years, most of his adult life. He said the job changes you.

"On this job you get callous, you have to to survive," Campbell said. "What makes you successful is the ability to turn it on and off when you need to."

He said that sometimes you needed to be sensitive, for instance with a rape victim, but when you walk into a room where a kid's had his face blown off you have to shut down some part of you just to function.

And when cops go home and take the uniform off, they have to come to grips with the fact that it is just a job -- a hard thing for younger officers.

"When I was young this job was my whole life," Campbell said. "I'd leave the scanner on at home; I was always thinking about it. Now, when I'm home, I'm on my time. I go to barbecues. I spend time with my kids -- I don't think about this job."

In Arcata we did a traffic stop -- a broken headlight -- just so he could show me what it's like. I could get out and watch just so long as I didn't ever get between Campbell and the driver: a cardinal rule. He ran 27-25, a check for license and registration and any outstanding warrants. Finding nothing, he let the driver go with a warning.

Most officers prefer warnings, Campbell said, so long as people don't talk themselves into a ticket. They'd rather have you spend your money fixing the problem than paying a fine.

This was a Wednesday night patrol, Campbell's Friday, and was actually a lot more interesting than usual. If you want the deck stacked for action a swing shift on Friday or Saturday is the way to go.

Driving through Eureka a call came from dispatch for S-18, our call number, about a burglary report in Arcata. So back we went. First we stopped at the burgled house and found it empty. After a brief call, we learned where the owner was, at another of her rental properties on K Street in Arcata.

It was dark when we pulled up. After a loud rap at the door -- Campbell announcing "sheriff!" -- we were let in. For some reason the living room was full of people; they had their "there's a cop in the house" looks on, hands folded in laps looking straight ahead.

In the kitchen was the owner. She described the china hutch and piano that had been stolen. She'd gotten in the habit of leaving the back door unlocked, not thinking that people would steal such large, obvious items. No such luck.

After a brief conversation we drove back out to the scene of the crime to investigate with flashlights. There were deep ruts in the driveway, like from a truck carrying a lot of weight, but inside there was nothing. Just a cat, hardwood floors, and an empty attic.

Back at the station, after a false security alarm at the local animal hospital, Campbell got down to about half of what police officers do. Filling out paperwork.

Deputy Matt Helm came in to say that the gun Campbell had collected earlier belonged to a confessed child molester he'd investigated who was awaiting trial.

"Fucking scumbag," Campbell said, leaning over the keyboard of the new Dell.

Then it was dinner at Adel's with Helm and Deputy Marvin Kirkpatrick, who had led the briefing earlier, and back on the road.

We drove across the Samoa bridge and then turned onto Vance Street, a popular late night spot for prostitutes to meet their johns and transients to park for the night.

A white Saturn was parked off the side of the road at the first gravel turn-out. The seat was back. A woman leaped up. Campbell went over to investigate, shining his flashlight into the car.

"It's a familiar name," he said of the man, calling in a 27-25 to dispatch.

How many names are familiar?

"Thousands," he said. "I'm not being facetious, there's a huge amount of the population that we see here all the time."

It came back that the man was wanted on $50,000 bail for grand theft, and the woman had a trial date for charges of meth use.

He got the man out of the car, searched his pockets and found a screwdriver, $113 and an apparently legitimate stash of medical marijuana. The woman, a leathery faced type with high feminine voice, at first wanted a ride back to town, but when Campbell said he'd have to search her before she got in the car she decided to walk.

We drove to the jail. I asked our passenger how he was doing.

"Could be better," he replied behind the screen. "I ain't stoled a fuckin' thang."

He was booked into jail, and Campbell decided to call it quits. Not much had happened, but that's the life: Anything can happen and nothing much ever does. But when something's going down, the sheriff's department has to be there, like or not. Campbell said that, considering, it had been a pretty interesting night. After all, it was just a Wednesday.

Taylor bests PL again

Pacific Lumber Co. had no grounds to sue Petrolia resident Ellen Taylor for monetary damages it incurred during logging protests two years ago, a state appellate court has ruled.

Taylor, 60, was hit with a SLAPP suit in April 2001 after she participated in protests against logging in the Mattole and spoke on KMUD radio about the issues involved. SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) are often used by large companies to silence their critics. Pacific Lumber, along with Steve Wills Trucking, Lewis Logging, Columbia Helicopter and other logging concerns, sued her for trespass, intentional interference with business relationships, waste and unfair competition.

A Humboldt County Superior Court judge ruled that PL had no basis for its suit, but PL appealed. A three-judge Court of Appeal panel in San Francisco affirmed the original ruling on March 25.

The suit against her prompted many of her fellow protesters to stop their activities for fear of similar reprisals, said Taylor, who co-owns a cattle ranch in the Mattole area. "They [PL] were trying to say that anybody who supported protests, even to the extent of giving a candy bar to a protester, was part of a conspiracy to disrupt the course of a legal business," she said. "It was extremely chilling."

Pacific Lumber did not return a call for comment.

Bank seeks charter

A proposed new state bank based in Eureka, called Redwood Capital Bank, moved one step closer to reality last week when a charter application was filed with federal regulators.

The charter approval is expected to take three to four months at which time the bank will seek investors through the sale of stock.

The proposed board of directors was also revealed in the announcement. They are: Stephen P. Arnot, attorney; Karen Ann Brandvold, CPA; Russell N. Britt, president of Britt Lumber Co.; John E. Burke, dentist; Larry A. DeBeni, developer; John J. Gierek, Jr., owner of Humboldt Moving and Storage; J. William McAuley, CPA; Craig. L. Perrone, owner of DelReka Distributing; John (Jack) R. Selvage, retired president of SHN Engineering; and Steven M. Strombeck, developer. John Dalby is the proposed CEO and will also serve on the board.

Dalby, who was president of Humboldt Bank from 1999-2001, said in announcing the formation of the bank last September that the bank founders wanted to bring "community-based banking" back to the North Coast.

Dalby said Humboldt Bank and Six Rivers Bank, both launched in 1989 in Eureka, are no longer local in terms of ownership or management.

Humboldt Bancorp, owner of Humboldt, Tehama and Capitol Valley banks, merged all three bank charters into one in 2002 and moved its top administrators from Eureka to Roseville, Calif.

Six Rivers Bank sold in 2001 to North Valley Bank of Redding.

A specific site for the new Redwood Capital Bank has yet to be chosen.

An EPIC legal battle

Four years after filing a legal challenge, the Garberville based Environmental Protection Information Center finally had its day in court with Pacific Lumber Co. and its state regulatory agency allies last week.

The case before Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John Golden has to do with the company's Sustained Yield Plan, which regulates logging on PL timberlands for the next 100 years. The SYP, as it's known, was a key part of the 1999 Headwaters deal.

EPIC's contention is that public input was not adequately factored into the plan and that it fails to protect the habitat of endangered species such as the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in old-growth redwoods.

"They thought that because they had a deal they had a right to break the law and ignore the law," said EPIC spokeswoman Cynthia Elkins.

In addition to PL, the defendants include the California Department of Forestry and the state Fish and Game department, both legally bound to uphold the Headwaters agreement.

One surprising revelation produced by the proceedings last week was that the Sustained Yield Plan didn't even exist as a physical document until December, when it was cobbled together after Golden repeatedly demanded to see it.

Elkins feels confident in the case, if not the court.

"If there's any justice in world today we will prevail," Elkins said. "The question is: Is there any justice?"

If the case succeeds some or all of the "incidental take" permits that allow PL to log in the habitat of endangered species would be invalid, though Elkins expressed skepticism that that would ever happen.

One way or another, after four years, she said it feels good just to have had a chance in front of a judge.

"It felt like a victory just getting that far," Elkins said.

PL, for its part, had nothing to say on the matter.

"I have no comment for you," said PL director of communications Jim Branham Tuesday.

While the courtroom trial is over, Golden isn't expected to actually issue a ruling on the case for months.

Thompson wilderness bill

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, has introduced a bill that would protect 300,000 acres of federal wilderness in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Lake, Napa and Yolo counties -- including the Lost Coast.

Thompson's legislation, known as the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, would protect certain federal lands from future development and commercial activities. Other activities, such as horseback riding, fishing, hiking, rock-climbing and canoeing, would still be allowed, though off-road vehicles and mountain bikes would be prohibited.

Environmentalists said the bill, introduced March 27, would help protect several endangered species, including the bald eagle and the Chinook salmon. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Barbara Boxer.

Meanwhile, a little-known regulation adopted quietly by the White House in January may open areas previously closed to motorized vehicles, such as the King Range's Black Sands Beach on the Lost Coast. The regulation would allow right-of-way claims across thousands of miles of federal land under an 1866 law passed to encourage development of the West.

Animal shelter setback

With only 14 months until the Humane Society's contract expires, the county's new animal control facility is back at square one.

The county has had to abandon plans to build a new state-of-the-art facility on Hilfiker Lane in Eureka because of coastal zoning problems, so once again the hunt is on for a suitable piece of property.

"Fourteen months from not finding a piece of property to construction? Try that," said Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner John Falkenstrom, who oversees animal control.

The county has been searching for a site for the last two years so that it could take over important animal control functions from the Sequoia Humane Society. The society has been wanting to focus more on spaying and neutering rather than housing strays and euthanizing them, but has been stymied by the county's lack of an alternate facility.

Making Mendosa official

This week the Arcata City Council is expected to approve a contract officially making Randy Mendosa Arcata's new police chief.

Mendosa has been serving as interim chief ever since Chris Gallagher resigned from the position in January after being told that his contract would not be renewed in March.

Tree-sitting lull

The flurry of climbing, demonstrations and high emotion in the woods of Freshwater seems to have died down. Besides a brief visit to cut traverse lines on Saturday morning, Pacific Lumber's team of tree climbers was seldom seen last week.

Loggers, however, cut ever closer to treesits on Greenwood Heights Road, at one point felling a tree that was roped between two others that had tree-sitters in them.

The tree leaned, blew back in forth in the wind, but stayed standing, held up by the lines. The situation led to frantic negotiations between the sitters and the loggers on the ground, who were unsure where the dangling trunk was going to fall.

Eventually an agreement was reached where the sitters would cut the lines holding up the tree if the loggers would pack up and leave for the day.

Activists expressed outrage that a tree known to be tied to inhabited trees would be cut.

"We've been very open with what trees were tied in; there's no way they couldn't have known about it," said long-time sitter Remedy, speaking from the ground by phone Tuesday. Two weeks ago, Remedy was hauled down from the tree she had occupied for nine months and arrested.

The PL contractor that was reportedly involved in the incident, Steve Will's Trucking and Logging of Hydesville, was reached, but declined to comment.

In other news, several small demonstrations were held in front of PL climber Eric Schatz's house in Elk River last week, prompting at least one call to the authorities. According to activists, officers that arrived on the scene did not arrest anyone.



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