April 1, 2004
CDF LOSING GRIP: A state appeals
court issued a ruling last week that says state water officials
can protect rivers threatened by logging operations independent
of regulation by the California Department of Forestry. The decision
overturns a ruling by Humboldt County Judge J. Michael Brown,
who, at Pacific Lumber's behest, barred the North Coast Regional
Water Quality Control Board from requiring monitoring of water
quality in the Elk River. Palco contended that that amounted
to double regulation, but the appeals court said that was precisely
what the Legislature intended: "The Legislature has established
one statutory scheme for the regulation of timber harvesting
and another for the maintenance of water quality," wrote
Justice Linda M. Gemello of the 1st District Court of Appeals
in San Francisco. The appeals court ruling comes several months
after Gray Davis, in one of his last acts as governor, gave regional
water quality boards veto power over timber harvest permits issued
by the forestry department.
by EMILY GURNON
Humboldt County doesn't have the rent control laws of a county like San Francisco, but it does have one thing that has gotten tenants organized: Floyd Squires III.
Squires -- and his allegedly substandard rental buildings -- was to be the focus of a Tenants Union of Humboldt County protest scheduled for Wednesday outside the 211 Fifth St. offices of Humboldt Bay Properties, the landlord's Eureka company.
His tenants and their supporters have complained that Squires' buildings, which number two dozen in Eureka, are plagued with roaches and rodents, broken heaters and stoves, leaking water heaters, electrical hazards, and rotting porches and stairs. The city's building department has a long list of code violations against Squires.
"We've gotten more complaints about Squires than any other landlord, about the substandard conditions in his buildings," said Sarah Sherburn-Zimmer of the Tenants Union.
The April 25, 2002 cover story of the Journal, "A tenant's nightmare," documented numerous allegations of problems and complaints at Squires' properties.
Reached at his office on Tuesday, Squires said he knew nothing about the planned protest and called the complaints "baloney."
"There are no health and safety issues. Last year I spent $400,000 taking care of things." He abruptly ended the conversation with a reporter, saying, "I don't need to get into this any more. I have a business to run."
The conditions in Squires' apartments, often inhabited by families with children, low income people, the elderly and the disabled, are just one aspect of tenants' concerns. The other problem, Sherburn-Zimmer said, is how the landlord responds to complaints.
"Either he ignores it, or, if you step it up, talk to your neighbors and all write a letter together [for instance], that's when they're evicted or harassed," she said. "Floyd and Betty Squires [his wife] rent to people who are either low income or have a really hard time finding something else," such as those with Section 8 low-income housing certificates.
That in itself is good, Sherburn-Zimmer said. "But the reality is [the Squires'] take advantage of that."
Though it is illegal to evict someone just because they've asked for repairs, complained or called the building department, such evictions are commonplace and hard to fight in court, Sherburn-Zimmer said. "The burden of proof is on the tenant to prove that they were retaliated against. And it's really hard to prove you've been retaliated against.
"You supposedly get your day in court, but it's hard, because we can't get a lawyer to represent you. There's not really anyone who will take on a tenant's case locally."
The threat of retaliation is so real, Sherburn-Zimmer continued, that Tenants Union organizers have advised those living in Squires buildings to stay away from the protest.
In letters to the building department, responding to code violations, Squires has blamed the problems on the tenants themselves.
"It is not dilapidation," he wrote in response to one city notice that cited roaches, broken windows, rotted flooring and "general dilapidation." "It is TENANT ABUSE."
Jan Turner, staff attorney with Legal Services of Northern California, said that Squires is well known in her office. "I have lots and lots of complaints about him, for a lot of different things, and it's not only habitability," she said. She declined to elaborate, citing attorney-client privilege.
The Wednesday protest was an effort, Sherburn-Zimmer said, to let tenants know they're not alone. It was also intended to send a message to landlords to let them know that they can't retaliate against tenants without people noticing.
"You can't do this in secret anymore," she said. "Tenants are organizing, and we're not going to put up with it anymore."
The Tenants Union meets at 4:30 p.m. each Thursday at the Peace and Justice Center in Arcata, and maintains a hotline for tenants: 476-1919.
A community forum for tenants only is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 15 at the Labor Temple, 840 E St., Eureka.
Gov. Schwarzenegger's first act upon coming to power last fall was to sign Executive Order No. 1, fulfilling a campaign promise to reverse an automatic increase in the state's car tax. Now, a few months later, refund checks made out to those who had already paid their registration fees are beginning to show up in the mail. The owners of relatively valuable vehicles, like say a $60,000 Humvee, may be receiving sizeable refunds, but if your rig is a little on the old and tired side the checks are decidedly unimpressive. The one here is the overpayment due a Journal staffer, the proud owner of a 1979 Volvo.
by BOB DORAN
Jack Hitt, former owner of Northtown Books, died March 25 at Mad River Hospital of liver failure. He was 63.
Hitt was born Sept. 14, 1940 at Trinity Hospital in Arcata and raised in a house next door to his father's shop on I Street, Humboldt Machine. After graduating from Arcata High in 1958, he attended Humboldt State College, as it was then called, before he and his sister Mary founded The Lemon Tree, a short-lived combination coffee house, art gallery and bookstore in Arcata. He left the area between 1964 and 1967 to work in a variety of jobs, including stints as an emergency medical technician on ambulance crews in New York City and Kansas City.
Upon his return to the North Coast, he entered into another business partnership, this one with Jerry Gorsline running The Bookstore in Northtown, later re-named Northtown Books. In 1970 he became the sole owner of the store, which by then had become a popular spot for discourse, not to mention impressive literary events. Raymond Carver, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and David Rains Wallace all gave readings, as did just about any Humboldt County author who published a novel, a chapbook, or even a broadsheet. He eventually moved the business to a larger space in downtown Arcata and settled into an apartment upstairs. In 1992 he sold the operation to two of his employees: Art Burton and Barbara Turner.
The late artist Morris Graves, left, talks with Jack Hitt at a booksigning at Northtown Books. Date unknown.
"He was probably the first person to bring books to Humboldt County," Turner said. "He just had a ton of integrity. That guy, if he took on a project, he was so thorough. He would spend time with people. He really cared that they got the books they were looking for."
Hitt served his community in other ways in addition to his dedication to the printed word. When he was younger he was a volunteer fireman; from 1997 until last September, he was a member of the Arcata Planning Commission.
Hitt is survived by his father, George Hitt, of Bayside; his sisters Mary Anderson, of Arcata, and Anne Hitt, of Trinidad; his brother Don Hitt, of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; and numerous nieces and nephews. A memorial service is scheduled April 3 at Arcata Veteran's Hall, 1425 J St., from 2 to 5 p.m.
story & photos by BOB DORAN
ENTERING THE FIRST STREET GALLERY in Old Town on a drizzling grey afternoon, I'm greeted by artist Becky Evans, a warm, smiling woman clad in black, with a red vest that sets off a mass of red curls. On display in the gallery's front room are a number of her recent paintings and sculptures, part of a dual show in the process of being mounted.
At first glance there's no apparent reason to see the work as an environmental statement, or to see Evans as some sort of environmentalist artist, but she is quick to explain that the pieces all revolve around a common theme - watersheds, or as Evans puts it in the show's title, "Water / Shed."
"Watershed, as in the place where we live, how we respond to it, the history of places and what we do to the watershed but literally, what the water sheds," she begins.
[LEFT: Environmental artist Becky Evans holding an oversized paper fish, made by the students of Zane Middle School art teacher Lee Roscoe-Bragg.]
We start our conversation in front of a large painting, most of it a creamy color, but inscribed with parallel grooves revealing cool colors, the effect akin to a contour map. A blue strip at the top seems to represent a night sky; another at the bottom is dappled like a mountain stream, and studded with individual salmon vertebrae, which, Evans explains, she collected on the banks of the Klamath.
"The title is `Klamath River, Sky, Land and Water,'" says Evans. "The painting is my response to the fish kill on the Klamath River; I went out there after the first headline hit. I felt the need to respond, because all of my work deals with direct experience with the landscape. The center section represents a topographical map of the area [on the river] I was able to get to at the fish kill. The layers of paint are encaustic, layered in colors to remind people of the layers of time it takes to build a watershed. It's a direct response to a place - and an event - and my being in that place."
Encaustic painting is a technique where beeswax is heated along with pine resin and pigment. "It goes all the way back to Greek and Roman times," Evans explains. "It's a very ancient way of painting."
Spread around the room are several spiraling towers constructed of sticks and mud, organic sculptures that Evans describes as vortexes. "That's a universal form in the natural world. When you look at weather maps, you'll see weather forming spirals; when you look at the eddies in water on a river or creek, you'll see spirals; you see them in pine cones, in a sunflower, the currents of the ocean, the solar system, the galaxies. They're all around us."
One particular piece is constructed of fire-blackened manzanita branches. "The Friday Ridge Fire out in Willow Creek last year burnt through an area that's important to my husband's family and his tribal ancestors. He belongs to the Tsnungwe Tribe from the south fork of the Trinity River. The fire burned through [the area included in his] family's water rights. In some ways [the piece] is a commentary on fire, on the cycle of flood and fire, and how some of our current forest practices can interfere with the natural cycles. [RIGHT: "Friday Ridge Fire," 2004, manzanita, river stones by Becky Evans]
"There's social commentary, there's definitely some politics involved, but they're also about the beauty of the natural world, and the impact of man's presence. I try to include my response to that."
Originally from Whittier, Evans moved to Humboldt County in 1967 to attend Humboldt State. "I was not an art major at first, but I took a few art classes and my eyes opened to a new world around me," she recalls. Among those eye-opening courses was a watercolor class where she met her husband, the highly respected painter, Bob Benson. "We went out on location together to paint landscapes, and that's been an ongoing pattern in our life, going out painting together, or for me sometimes bringing back objects and kind of letting them talk to me."
The pieces of salmon skeleton she gathered along the Klamath spoke to her loudly. Her experience as a witness to the fish kill inspired "30,000 Salmon: a concurrence," part two of her double show.
As we pass into the back half of the building, we are engulfed by oversized paper fish, patterned after Japanese koi kites, hanging by the dozens from a maze of fishing line. "These came from Lee Roscoe-Bragg, an art teacher at Zane Middle School; her students have been making these for the past several months. There are 179 of their kites," Evans says as she weaves her way past a student from Humboldt State on a ladder suspending more fish, moving to the back of the room where community volunteers are stringing a myriad of fish on more fishing line. Every available surface is covered with boxes of fish art, contributions for the installation.
"Altogether there will be at least 30,000 salmon images, in many different forms," Evans continues, explaining that the objects were created by hundreds of elementary, middle school, high school and college students from all over Humboldt and Trinity counties and by numerous area artists.
Evans sees these objects as a creative offering memorializing the fish's struggle, and as a way to promote awareness and respect for our environment by reminding us of the salmon's importance.
"The loss of all those fish is very much a layered topic, one that affects Native Americans, farmers, commercial fishermen, water rights. There are so many political parts to the puzzle, but I didn't feel like that was where I wanted to go. I wanted to make a creative response, hence the subtitle, `a concurrence.' What you see here is a coming together of hundreds of people, all different ages and abilities, all working to do something positive." n
An opening and reception for "30,000 Salmon" and "Water / Shed" takes place during Arts Alive! Saturday, April 3, from 6 to 9 p.m. at First Street Gallery, 422 First Street, Eureka. Both shows run through May 16. Becky Evans presents a talk at the gallery Saturday, April 10, at 2 p.m., free to the public. There will also be a special reception for children, teachers and families who contributed to the project on Saturday, April 17, from 2 to 4 p.m.
© Copyright 2004, North Coast Journal, Inc.