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March 2, 2006

The Weekly Wrap

Please, Not in Our Back Yard
Even the very liberal don't want the Endeavor in their 'hood

The Weekly Wrap

THE TOOBY BLUES: The offices of Humboldt County government that are fighting tooth-and-nail to roll back the Tooby Ranch subdivision in southern Humboldt county received yet another setback last week, as a state appellate court declined to intervene in the ongoing case. Earlier this month, Judge Bruce Watson of the Humboldt County Superior Court ruled that the county could not reverse the 2000 subdivision of the 13,000-acre ranch, one of many issues in the legal battle between local government, landowners, developer Bob McKee and other interested parties. The county had hoped that the appellate court would accept a petition that would have taken the matter straight to the higher court, but it declined last week.

Richard Hendy, a county attorney, said that the move was not unexpected, as the appellate court generally only accepts eight to 10 percent of such requests. "We knew that was kind of an uphill burden on us," he said. But the court's action didn't preclude an appeal on these issues further down the road, after the remaining issues in the case have been decided, he said. The case is currently in a holding pattern; parties for all sides will get together later this month to figure out a date for the remainder of the trial.

ATTACKERS SOUGHT, VICTIM SURVIVES: Kirk Kelis, the 48-year-old homeless man who was savagely beaten last Sunday by yet-unknown attackers, has been moved from the intensive care unit at the Shasta Regional Medical Center in Redding as his condition has stabilized, according to Arcata Police. Last week doctors told police that Kelis would likely not survive his injuries. Kelis was found on the morning of Feb. 20, shortly after 5 a.m., unconscious in the alley behind the Dollar Tree store. Witnesses said they had seen the man earlier that morning looking through a dumpster. APD Detective Gary Bates said he has ruled out five young men who were seen in the parking lot that night, and added that he is examining new leads. Bates plans to talk with Kelis in Redding later this week as his condition improves. Kelis suffered trauma to the head, torso and a punctured lung. APD Chief Randy Mendosa said that the attack is currently his department's highest priority case. Anyone with information should call Det. Bates at 822-2427.

FIE, WOOD POACHER! Orick resident Ronald Earl Vaughn thought he could get away with sawing up and removing an old-growth redwood log in Redwood National and State Parks last summer.

What was he thinking, doing that sort of thing in a region where people will park their butts in old redwoods for years to save them from felling? In a park owned by the public and named after the sacred redwood, and whose rangers are on the lookout for just such offenses (which, they note, are increasingly occurring)? In a county whose Deputy DA, Paul Hagen, waxes outraged and poetical about such incidents, as he did following Vaughn's sentencing this Monday in Humboldt County Superior Court?

"The value of the redwood stolen from our world-famous park lands is far more than any price one could ever receive at the mill or any wood shop," Hagen said. "A healthy redwood forest and all of its species needs these centuries-old trees, and our citizens and tourists are being cheated out of this beauty as well."

Well, of course, it's scooty the 38-year-old poacher was thinking: Vaughn was selling the tree to Amarant Wood Products in Crescent City, investigators discovered. From there, the redwood likely would go to shingle bolts and fence posts. But in the end it really didn't pay. Vaughn was convicted of felony Attempt of Grand Theft and Judge Bruce Watson sentenced him to 120 days in jail and three years probation. One term of the probation is that Vaughn may not enter the Redwood National and State Parks, except on a limited basis so he can commercially fish.

LAND FOR SALE: In another sort of wood poaching -- so to speak -- the U.S. Forest Service has announced its intent to sell 304,370 acres of national forest land -- including 79,825 acres in California, many in the North Coast forests -- in order to raise $800 million over the next five years to fund rural schools.

Since 2000, when the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act was passed, the SRS has provided money for schools (and road maintenance) to compensate for lost timber dollars. The SRS expires Sept. 30. The Forest Service is proposing the land sales in order to extend the act another five years.

The proposal caused conniptions in some quarters: "I am outraged, and I don't think the public is going to stand for it one minute," said Wilderness Society policy analyst Mike Anderson, quoted in a Knight Ridder story. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in the same news story called the plan "crazy" and accused the administration of wanting "to pass more tax cuts for the rich" and "sell off public land" to pay the bill. The story provided counterpoint with Jerry Taylor of the libertarian Cato Institute, who said rather simplistically: "Private property will end up in the possession of those who value it most."

Eh, what? But anyway -- at a news conference Tuesday, the Forest Service elaborated on its proposal, saying it would let local and state government agencies and nonprofit land trust organizations have first dibs on the parcels, at market value.

A HECKUVA JOB: Yes, The Federal Emergency Management Agency opened a field office in Eureka last week. No, they don't want to hear a bunch of sob stories from proles like you who may have suffered damage during the New Year's Eve storms. In fact, they'd prefer not to see you at all. According to a Virginia-based spokesperson, the unnamed and apparently unnamable FEMA officials temporarily officed near the corner of F and Wabash streets in Eureka are here only to talk with local elected officials about the storms and disaster relief. It seems that in FEMA-world, that requires renting local office space and shipping a truckload of equipment (as featured in Friday's Times-Standard) into an afflicted town. "No, no, no," said FEMA's Russ Edmonston, when asked if a reporter might drop by for a chat with some of his folks. "There's really nothing to see." It's like the old saw about sausage -- one glimpse of the manufacturing process can put you off it forever. Perhaps Edmonston hopes to spare Humboldt County residents a similarly shocking look at how their tax dollars are spent.



Please, Not in Our Back Yard
Even the very liberal don't want the Endeavor in their 'hood


Allen Masterson, 81, has lived on F Street his entire life. He remembers an Arcata where the sidewalks were wooden, the streets were gravel and the highway was a hill stretching toward the forest. He remembers working at the Piggly Wiggly on the Arcata Plaza, delivering the Humboldt Times and folding papers for the now defunct Arcata Union as a kid. He remembers the first silent movie he ever saw, Tarzan of the Apes. It was at the Minor Theatre.

Masterson also recalls his first encounter with "bums" who would hop off the train in Arcata to try to find work during the Depression. They'd come by his place to stack wood or do other odd jobs.

Things have obviously changed, a lot. Nowadays when houseless and/or jobless people stop by his place, they're lying on his front porch drunk, or their dogs are making a mess in his yard.

"Years ago they never would have put up with this, but now we live in different times," he said.

Masterson, a retired mill worker, lives directly in front of the Arcata Endeavor, the organization that has helped low-income and/or homeless people get the basics -- food, showers, employment and other services -- since the late '90s.

When the city originally proposed placing the service center there, he and his wife, Arletta, went to council meetings to oppose it. "But there was nothing we could do about it," he said. "They were going to put there no matter what we said."

In the intervening years the Mastersons have learned to live with the Endeavor the best they could. They've patronized the car wash, donated food and clothes, and generally, Masterson says, "I don't bother them so they don't bother me" -- though relations have been, at times, tense.

Now that the Endeavor and the City of Arcata is looking for a new piece of property to create a bigger facility and a night shelter away from the downtown (and specifically away from the Arcata Plaza), Masterson can breathe a sigh of relief.

But at the same time, some Arcatans in outlying areas of the city are holding their breath, fearing that the homeless shelter and its oft-troubled clientele, known for panhandling and public intoxication, is coming to their neighborhood.

Residents of South G Street, an area that has been dubbed as the likeliest place for the new facility, are casting a wary eye toward the service center and city staff, who they say are chasing grant money without first insisting that the Endeavor deliver a concrete management plan for its new facility.

Catherine DeSantis, a South G Street resident who lives in the Marsh Commons, an eco-friendly, co-housing development abutting the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, is afraid that the homeless shelter will someday be directly across the street from her place, where kids often play. Everyone in the Commons development -- about 40 people -- signed a petition opposing the relocation of the Endeavor to South G Street, DeSantis said. About 200 people in all signed the petition.

"I've got a [9-year-old] daughter, for crying out loud," DeSantis said. "There will be whole contingency of males, mainly ages 18 to 35, over there. You don't know where they're coming from, you don't know where they're going to.

"We're not concerned about Pete or the guy with the blond dreadlocks," she added, mentioning two well-established personalities about town. "These new disenfranchised 20- and 30-somethings are different. It's not a person who is all kindness and love, like the travelers used to be. It's the kind of traveler who's going to knock our windows out." (DeSantis claims that a few years ago homeless campers displaced from the Marsh knocked out the car windows of Marsh residents, including hers, to retaliate.)

Illegal camping is another issue troubling DeSantis and other Commons residents. Homeless people already camp in the Marsh, she said, though the problem is not as bad as it once was now that the area is patrolled by a ranger. She imagines that when the shelter fills up, those who don't get in will walk into her backyard, so to speak, the Marsh, and camp out.

"A lot of us are peace activists, a lot of us volunteer, all of our politics are definitely left, but at the same time we've worked really hard to build a peaceful place where we can live in harmony with the environment here."

If the city can find either a willing seller or an appropriate city-owned parcel for the homeless shelter, it can receive a $500,000 from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and possibly $1 million more from the Emergency Housing Assistance Program (EHAP). About 10 parcels have been considered over the past year and most have since been disregarded, including a parcel in Valley West where there was a resounding outcry of opposition from merchants and residents.

Whichever site is chosen, the city needs to strike a deal with the property owner and fast in order to qualify for the block grant. Once the parcel is obtained the facility is required to be operational by Dec. 31, 2007.

Two property owners in the South G area have reportedly stepped forward to sell their parcels, while Rick Slack, owner of an 11-acre site off Samoa Blvd., has publicly declared that he will not sell his land to house a homeless shelter.

City Manager Dan Hauser, who retires April 30, said on Friday he was not prepared to identify "which site or sites" the city is considering, nor which sites the city has ruled out.

However he said that "there might be an acceptable building already on one of the sites that would need minor modifications for utilization as a service center."

If and when the service center moves, Hauser said the current site will become a police substation temporarily "so the folks that are used to frequenting the facility understand that things have changed."

Jane Holschuh, formerly the lead consultant hired to draft the Homeless Services Plan, said she's skeptical that the city's plan to find a new site will come through.

"I'm wondering if this is even going to happen, if they are going to have the money to run it," she said.

To be eligible for the $1 million EHAP grant a facility is required to have sheltered homeless people for at least one year, something the Endeavor has never done.

"My general experience is that you have to meet the criteria for the grant or you're excluded," Holschuh said.

Meanwhile, the Endeavor has more obstacles ahead. Already, its draft operations plan for a new facility has been called flimflam.

Peter Starr, another Marsh Commons resident, called the plan the Endeavor presented to the city "amateurish," likening it to a "college dormitory rule book" more focused on behavior of the clients than on finance, management and infrastructure.

Starr, one of the founding developers of the Commons, says he doesn't mind being labeled a NIMBY. As a docent at the Arcata Marsh, he has other objections to siting the service center on South G Street, including the possibility that the homeless will free their cats and dogs into the wildlife area, disturbing the birds.

"To attack NIMBYism or to judge NIMBYism negatively ignores the value of stewardship," he said. "Who's going to steward the land other than the people who live and love on it. NIMBYism is a false criticism."

And like Allen Masterson, Starr feels that the city will do what they want regardless of what he says.

According to DeSantis the city should stop its plans while. "I think it's crazy they're pursuing it at all," she said. "No matter what neighborhood it's in, who's going to pay for it 10 years down the road?"

Hauser said that the site chosen for the new Endeavor would likely be announced in mid-March.



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