North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

July 19, 2001

Waterfront proposals in

HSU case goes to DA

Dairy adviser for Humboldt

NO HMOs for HSU?

Loleta Cheese awards

Blue Lake casino underway

No God Squad for Klamath

Vegan activist gets her menu

Waterfront proposals in

A luxury waterfront hotel in Old Town Eureka? A fish cannery? More shops? How about a parking lot?

Four proposals were submitted by the July 2 deadline for the 1.8-acre group of waterfront parcels east of C Street owned by the city of Eureka, but one project was quickly withdrawn and a second was submitted without the mandatory $10,000 application fee.

The City Council had requested proposals from developers for 1.8 acres, which includes seven continguous parcels. Six of the seven parcels are vacant and one contains the historic H.H. Buhne Building, peeling green and dilapidated, which would have to be moved to another city-owned parcel on the west side of C Street.

The developers submitting proposals included some familiar names. Gary Stone, owner of the Humboldt Bay Inn on 4th Street, was back again with a new financial partner and a proposal for a hotel on the site. Then early this week the city was notified he would not be submitting a proposal after all.

Stone had been awarded an earlier exlusive agreement by the city to build a major hotel, but after several plan revisions to meet all the stringent requirements for development in the coastal zone, the project stalled and time expired on the contract. (Stone did not return calls from the Journal for this report.)

The city also received a proposal from Laurence Lazio, owner of Lazio's Seafood Co. and former owner of Lazio's Seafood Restaurant across C Street from the city's parcel. Lazio is proposing to be an operator --not an owner --a multi-use facility that may include a restaurant, take-out and fish-processing facility for tuna and salmon, strikingly similar to the complex he owned and lost during the economic downturn in the 1980s. The old waterfront restaurant was once one of the premier tourist attractions on the North Coast.

But Lazio failed to provide the $10,000 upfront money required from all developers and whether the city will consider his proposal is unknown.

The two developers who met the deadlines and requirements of the city are Delores Vellutini, who is attempting to build on the adjacent parcel she owns between D and E streets, and Glenn Goldan.

Goldan and ReProp Investments are proposing a "Seaport Village & Square -- a place to live, work, visit and play." The project mixes a public "piazza" or square, private residences, rental suites and commercial space.

Eureka Waterfront Partners, which includes Vellutini and partner-architect John Ash, has continued to struggle with the city's parking requirements for its adjacent development called the Eureka Pier, between D and E streets, which was first proposed in 1995. The retail-restaurant-boat rental project with luxury condos on the second floor has undergone numerous revisions. The partners propose to use part of the city-owned C Street property for parking and reserve the remaining portion for future development.

The proposals will go before the Redevelopment Advisory Board Tuesday, July 24, and to the City Council Aug. 7.

Meanwhile, other city waterfront projects are progressing or are complete. The small boat basin at the foot of Commercial Street has been rennovated and the boardwalk from C to F streets is under construction. Signs and kiosks on 4th and 5th streets directing visitors to Old Town have been installed.

In addition, a business plan has been completed for the Humboldt Fishermen's Marketing Association project west of C Street -- which will combine a public fishermen's work area, fish-buying and processing, and visitor access -- and the city is seeking funds for development. The city also has secured block grant funds for a feasibility study for a round-the-bay tourist train.

Regarding the city-owned 14-acre parcel east and west of the Samoa bridge, site of the failed Halvorsen project, the city has secured funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to study contaminants on the parcel and a second grant to study the best use of the property.

In the private sector, property owner Rita Sicard is moving forward with a plan to build 41 waterfront suites to be used as daily rentals on the east side of F Street on the waterfront. The complex will also include a day spa, restaurant and shops.

HSU case goes to DA

Humboldt State University police have concluded an investigation into the activities of John Sterns, executive director of university advancement from 1998 until March 20 when he unexpectedly resigned. The case was turned over to the district attorney July 6 for evaluation and possible prosecution.

Sterns was in charge of alumni relations and media relations for the university, and he had fiscal and supervisory oversight for the campus public radio station KHSU, the Natural History Museum in Arcata and the First Street Gallery in Eureka. Sterns also directed the university's fund-raising activities and had access to several funds administered by the HSU Foundation and some state accounts.

According to a press release Tuesday, university staff noticed "financial irregularities" in expense accounting reporting by Sterns, who was their supervisor. In March the employees, along with "prominent alumni leaders," presented the information to officials. Sterns was placed on leave and instructed to leave campus, and an investigation was launched.

Based on reports, financial support from the community grew from $10.9 million in 1997-98 to $28.4 million in 1998-99 to $39.2 million for 1999-2000 -- a rate of growth that won the praise and attention of the California State University Chancellor's Office. The figures for the two most recent years are being revised.

Once the irregularities were discovered, campus officials notified the police and the Chancellor's Office, which launched its own administrative review. In addition, HSU officials notified the state Department of Finance and the state auditor.

HSU police have maintained contact with Sterns throughout the investigation, according to Sean Kearns, director of university communications. Sterns could not be reached for comment.

Dairy adviser for Humboldt

"We have a dairy industry that happens to be one of the few viable resource-based industries left here in Humboldt County," said Dennis Leonardi, chair of the board of the Humboldt Creamery.

To help that industry stay viable during rapid changes in the marketplace, the University of California has decided to place an adviser in Humboldt County to help educate dairy farmers and research how they do their jobs.

It's important scientific work because Humboldt has a unique and mostly unexamined dairy production system, said Deborah Giraud, director of the UC Davis agriculture extension office in Humboldt County. Humboldt dairy cows feed mostly on pasture, while most of the dairy cattle in the state are kept in feed lots.

"There isn't a lot of information on our pasture-based dairy system," Giraud said.

A large part of the new extension officer's job will be to study how pasture-based dairies deal with manure. It can be a source of pollution, Giraud said, adding too much nitrogen to runoff water. But if it is used properly, it can be a helpful fertilizer for the pastures.

"We all think it's better to have the grass in the pastures suck up that nitrogen than for it to go downstream," Giraud said. "What we don't know is how much nitrogen the grass can suck up. Those kinds of research test plots need to be done."

No HMOs for HSU?

Humboldt State University employees will lose an important choice in healthcare starting Jan. 1.

The three health insurance companies that had been providing Health Maintenance Organization-style coverage are all withdrawing from Humboldt County. HealthNet, PacificCare and Blue Shield had all offered relatively inexpensive, no-frills health insurance to HSU employees through the California Public Employees' Retirement System.

"There are about 840 employees in the three HMOs," said Sean Kearns, director of university communications. Kearns said they will all have to choose a different health plan this fall.

That will be more expensive. Employees will have to choose one of two "preferred provider coverage" plans, PERSChoice and PERSCare. Both allow patients more choice about which doctors they want to see but also cost considerably more.

"Say you've got the Blue Shield HMO plan. You're paying $35.04 a month. Under PERSChoice, you'd be paying $68 a month."

Other Humboldt County residents that had used the HMOs will also have to find new insurance. Michelle Naiditch, spokesperson for Blue Shield, said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles that the contract between CalPERS and the insurance company makes it impossible for them to continue offering HMO products in Humboldt County -- even to people who are not employees of HSU.

"Our CalPERS contract stipulates that if we withdraw our HMO offering from CalPERS we are required to withdraw from the entire county."

Employees enrolled in the HMO-style plans will receive information concerning future choices when the open enrollment period starts in September.

Loleta Cheese awards

If you've tasted it, you already know: Loleta Cheese Factory Organic Sharp Cheddar is first class. That fact has now been confirmed by the judges at the California State Fair commercial cheese competition, where three Loleta organic cheeses won gold medals.

The Loleta Cheese Factory manufactures organic cheeses using Strauss Family Creamery organic milk. That cheese is then sold under both the Loleta Cheese Factory and Strauss Family labels (see Journal cover story, "It's the organic cheese," Feb. 1).

According to Vivien Strauss, who runs the creamery in Petaluma with her brother, the secret to the cheese's success is simple: Loleta Cheese owners Bob and Carol Laffranchi make cheese "in small batches with really high quality milk."

Blue Lake casino underway

Construction officially began on the Blue Lake Rancheria casino July 14.

The $13 million building, expected to be completed by June, could employ as many as 450 individuals. Profits from the casino are to be distributed in a way that helps the surrounding community, especially the city of Blue Lake, according to tribal leaders.

Residents of Blue Lake have expressed concern about the effect the casino could have on the character of their city (see Journal cover story, "Gambling on Casinos," June 15, 2000). The rancheria has promised to perform additional environmental studies and cooperate with the city to resolve policing responsibilities.

A major expansion of the Cher-Ae Heights Casino in Trinidad is also underway with expected completion by the first of the year. The project includes a restaurant and bar overlooking the Trinidad harbor.

No God Squad for Klamath

The federal government took action to relieve the plight of farmers without irrigation water in the Klamath basin -- but not the kind of action they had hoped for.

The farmers had requested that the federal government convene a committee that provides exemptions to the Endangered Species Act. The Bureau of Reclamation decided earlier this year to shut off irrigation water to the farmers based on concerns over three threatened species of fish, including Klamath River coho salmon.

That request was denied in a letter from Interior Secretary Gale Norton to farmers' attorneys July 13.

Earlier in the week, however, the Senate approved $20 million in disaster aid to the farmers as part of a bill dealing with the larger problem of the drought in the Pacific Northwest.

Some farmers continued to force open headgates at the Klamath Irrigation Project in Klamath Falls, Ore. A July 13 attempt marked the fourth time the headgates had been forced open, although none of the attempts released enough water to help the farms. Local law enforcement again declined to arrest any of those involved.

Vegan activist gets her menu

Judge Tim Cissna ruled July 11 that a vegan inmate of the Humboldt County has the right to vegan food.

Kimberly Starr, a forest activist who received a 120-day sentence for trespassing and resisting arrest, had claimed a vegan diet -- one including no animal products -- was part of her Jewish faith. The county initially refused her request, maintaining her diet was a matter of choice rather than religious conviction.

Judge Cissna ruled that Starr's veganism was an important part of her religion. He gave the jail the choice of either feeding Starr vegan meals or releasing her until a hearing could be held on the issue. The county decided to feed Starr vegan meals until her release in three weeks.


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