North Coast Journal bannerNEWSBRIEFS

September 14, 2000


HSU drops Daly building plan

Former city manager dies

Coastal Commission meets

Gas prices up, motorists gripe

Expert goes presidential

Adult education begins

Litigation update

$8 million for county roads

Test scores, more test scores

HSU drops Daly building plan

After two years and $30,000, Humboldt State University has pulled the plug on a project that would have renovated the old State Theater, part of the Daly complex in downtown Eureka, into a music venue for live performances.

In a press release Friday, university officials said, "No single factor led to the decision to terminate the project." However Don Christensen, vice president for development and administrative services, said Monday the biggest reason was the failure to receive commitments from major donors.

"With any major capital campaign, you have to have a core group that gives you at least 60 percent of the funding up front," Christensen said. "If you can't identify those donors -- I'm talking about gifts in the seven figures or at least high six figures in this case -- you can't go to the community and announce that you want to raise $10 million."

Eureka city officials were caught off guard by the announcement when they were notified.

"We were surprised primarily because a couple of months ago, we had a presentation at the council meeting," said acting City Manager Dave Tyson, who was in Anaheim Friday at a meeting for the California League of Cities. "It was a status report and we were shown drawings of what the project might look like."

At the presentation, Christensen said nothing about fund-raising difficulties, Tyson added.

The HSU Foundation, which accepts and administers grants on behalf of the university, purchased the historic State Theater building, four adjacent buildings and a parking lot at 4th and G streets in 1998 from the Daly family with a $700,000 interest-free loan from the city of Eureka. HSU then transferred title to the parking lot to the city as a payment on the principal and has been making regular monthly payments ever since. A balloon payment of the principal balance is due in five years.

Christensen said the plan was that, once the building was renovated and operational with an endowment for maintenance, the building would be turned over to the university.

Although it was not part of the written agreement, Tyson said the city had made a commitment to HSU to see that adequate parking was available for performances. That may have included a new parking structure on Fourth Street and use of the city lot half a block away fronting Third Street.

"Parking should not have been an issue," Tyson said.

Christensen said considerable effort had been expended by the university in the past 24 months on the project. HSU hired engineers to assess the need for hazardous cleanup and the seismic retrofit of the buildings -- the theater was the only building that had been previously retrofitted. After a nationwide search, the architectural firm of Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer of Los Angeles, specializing in music performance venues, was hired. The firm produced conceptual drawings to be used in searching for donors.

Christensen said with so many competing fund-raising efforts in the community already, it was decided that the university would approach alumni to support the project initially.

"We felt we needed $6 million to start. We weren't able to get it," Christensen said.

Other capital campaigns in progress are the ongoing Carnegie Building endowment drive to fund maintenance for the newly restored Morris Graves Museum of Art, the Humboldt Botanical Gardens Foundation public garden and others, including the effort to restore the Eureka Theater.

Christensen and Ken Combs, HSU director of physical services, both said confusion over the Eureka Theater project figured into the decision.

The public perception was that the projects were similar -- and also competing for community support -- a perception that was false.

The Eureka Theater was considered for purchase years ago by HSU and rejected because it was "more of a movie house, not suited for live performing arts," Christensen said.

"The size and shape (of the Daly Building's State Theater) was very well suited for music," Combs said. "In our mind, it was to be strictly a music performance venue."

The Eureka Theater restoration underway is a much smaller project -- roughly $1 million, said Rob Arkley, businessman and major donor. He said he was willing to donate to both and saw the two projects as compatible and complementary.

Several members of the Daly family, who chose to sell the property to HSU in hopes of it becoming a performing arts center, declined to comment publicly.

Ted Mason, chief executive officer of Humboldt Bank Corp., which was one of the rejected buyers two years ago, said, "It's a darn shame. Now we have to find someone to occupy that building in the heart of the downtown."

Humboldt Bank is completing a $4 million project at Mall 101, to be renamed Humboldt Bank Plaza, on the north end of Eureka, for its company headquarters.

"At the time (1998) the Daly Building was a solution for us," Mason said. "It's too late."

Christensen confirmed that one option the university is considering is to sell the property now that the project has been abandoned.


Former city manager dies

Rory Robinson, Arcata city manager from 1981-88, died Sunday at his home in El Sobranto at the age of 57.

Robinson, a 30-year veteran of public administration, served as city manager for the city of San Pablo from 1988 to the present. He held a similar position for the city of Cotati prior to coming to Arcata. During his tenure in Arcata, Robinson won a national award from the International City Management Association for excellence in city leadership.

According to a report in the Tuesday West County Times, Robinson is credited with turning the economy of San Pablo around. With severe financial troubles, some city leaders were considering allowing Richmond to take over San Pablo government before Robinson backed a plan to open Casino San Pablo.

"It took a lot of work for people to understand and be convinced that the casino could be an asset rather than a negative, and Rory did that," said Ron Kiedrowski, assistant city manager, in the article.

Robinson, who was described as an avid pilot "and adventure seeker," was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in May and had recently begun chemotherapy. He is survived by his wife, Carol Robinson, and his 16-year-old son, Michael.

Coastal Commission meets

Want to build something on or near the coast? How about tear something down?

The California Coastal Commission, the state's watchdog agency charged with enforcing California's coastal land use policy, is meeting in Eureka this week discussing matters ranging from the construction of 4,000-square-foot homes in Malibu to a change in zoning in Del Norte County.

Of local importance, the commission discussed the planned demolition of the Simpson Timber Co.'s facilities on the Samoa Peninsula. As of press time, the commission had not voted on a request by Simpson to demolish a sawmill, power plant, drying kiln and other equipment that made up the lumber mill, but Commissioner John Woolley said that he didn't foresee any problems.

Woolley, who is also District 3 county supervisor, said, "The only query that's come my way is about the taking down the dock" that served the mill. Woolley said the concern was that removing the dock would lessens the value of the land as a industrial plot. But he admitted that the dock was dilapidated and in need of rebuilding.

"And you'd need a permit to rebuild it," he added.

The commission isn't the only state regulatory body in town this week. The Regional Water Quality Control Board will be touring the Louisiana-Pacific Corp. pulp mill in Samoa Sept. 21 and meeting in the Arcata City Council Chambers Sept. 22.

Gas prices up, motorists gripe

With prices for a gallon of 87 octane unleaded fuel climbing as high as $2.26 per gallon, it's getting easier and easier to hate your local gas station. That's especially true when gas is cheaper almost anywhere else in the state -- even in urban, affluent markets like San Francisco.

"Are any of the local distributors making money? No, I can assure you they are not."

So says Rex Bohn, operations manager at Renner Petroleum, which supplies much of the diesel fuel to Humboldt County. Bohn said that the cost Renner pays per gallon of diesel fuel has risen 60 cents in recent weeks, even more than gasoline. And in order to survive, his company has had to pass that increase on.

The result? "Diesel is costing more than $2 a gallon now. Last year at this time it was $1.35."

Jim Seiler, vice president of Humboldt Petroleum, a major gasoline supplier, said that the increase could be traced back to the price of crude oil. "It's almost three times as much per barrel as it was just a year and a half ago," he said.

Fuel prices could eventually have a more profound effect on the county economy than gas prices. Much of what Humboldt County consumes and produces must be trucked in, and increases in fuel costs could theoretically lead to increases in the price of many other goods in the long run.

Expert goes presidential

The good news is that they're both good guys.

That's according to Katie Darden, a Trinidad handwriting expert who reviewed samples of both George W. Bush's and Al Gore's handwriting. She said in a statement that she found them both to be "solid in terms of personality," without "a lot of warning signs or major flaws."

"They are both friendly, expressive, empathetic and like to be around people. Both men are intelligent and can easily express their ideas to others. They feel good about themselves and are also proud of their families' contributions."

So how is one to choose between the two? Darden suggests that voters pick their candidate on the basis of "how you feel about the politics of the party that has nominated him."

Darden's analysis was included in the Sept. 11 issue of the U.S. News and World Report as part of their "Washington Whispers" column and on MSNBC, the cable news channel. You can find the column on the web at

Adult education begins

Just because you aren't a kid anymore doesn't mean you can't learn from school.

Northern Humboldt Adult Education fall session classes are beginning soon and offer the chance to do something as momentous as finish high school or as lighthearted as cake decorating.

There are four campuses to choose from -- McKinleyville, Orick, Arcata and Manila -- and each offers night and weekend classes. And if you feel like using your new-found skill on the job, the Job Market has a location at the McKinleyville campus. Call 839-6450 for more information.

Litigation update

Humboldt County environmental activists don't all sit in trees. Many sit in courtrooms or at computers -- and they have been particularly busy recently.

The Stafford landslide case, in which residents of the small community allege that irresponsible logging practices by Pacific Lumber Co. caused landslides that destroyed their property, took a dramatic turn last week. Presiding Judge John Feeney was disqualified from the case. Plaintiffs claimed that Feeney was biased because of work that he had done for the defendant, Pacific Lumber, while still a private attorney. Judge Galen Hathaway of Mendocino County ruled that "a reasonable person would entertain doubts concerning Judge Feeney's impartiality."

The only two other eligible Humboldt County judges disqualified themselves shortly thereafter -- not that it mattered, as Frank S. Petersen, a retired Del Norte County judge, had already been chosen to hear the case. A status conference is set for Sept. 29 at 9 a.m.

A new lawsuit filed by the Lost Coast League, a non-profit citizens group, against the California Department of Forestry saw its first substantive action on Friday, Sept. 1. The California Court of Appeals in San Francisco issued an emergency stay that temporarily prevents Pacific Lumber from logging timber harvest plans along the Mattole River. The stay is only in effect until the courts can rule on the plaintiff's request for a restraining order that would stop logging until the case had been decided.

The League claims that CDF's analysis of the potential effects of logging on a sensitive watershed was insufficient. PL and CDF both claim that more than adequate measures were taken to protect the land and forest.

And, the Californians for Alternatives to Toxics (CATS), along with other environmental groups, filed a lawsuit against the EPA on Aug. 31. The suit claims that the agency has not lived up to its obligation to study the effects of herbicides, specifically forestry herbicides used to control unwanted vegetation after a clearcut.

At the same time as these three lawsuits were making their way through the courts, a law aimed at temporarily stopping the practice of clear-cutting died in the state Assembly. Assembly Bill 717 would have imposed a two-year moratorium on the practice, to be extended indefinitely if a commission of scientists deemed the forestry method harmful to the environment. AB 717 made it out of committee just in time to expire on the floor along with several other bills that the Assembly didn't have time to hear. The bill died when the legislative session ended at midnight Aug. 31.

$8 million for county roads

The deteriorating roads and bridges of Humboldt County will get some additional help this year.

More than $8 million in state gas tax revenues will be dispersed to the Humboldt County Association of Governments, a group comprised of the county of Humboldt, cities and special districts.

The money comes from the State Transportation Improvement Program, which takes federal gas tax monies and gives them to the states. Historically, CalTrans has kept most of the funds for repairs on its own roads. This year a significant portion was passed on to local governments.

The additional funds will help a little, said District 3 Supervisor John Woolley. But clearing the county's backlog of road maintenance would cost "something on the order of $60 million.

"This touches the problem but it will take this kind of momentum for several years before we make real headway."

Test scores, more test scores

Humboldt County's high school STAR tests scores may have fallen, as reported in the Journal two weeks ago, but the good news is that our Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores are just fine.

Statistics released last week by the Humboldt County Office of Education show that the county's college-bound students exceed state and national averages by a wide margin.

"There has been steady progress in student achievement," said Humboldt County Superintendent of Schools Louis Bucher. "The SAT is one indicator of how well we can expect our students to do in colleges and universities. This year's scores, and those of past years, show us that local students are capable of making a smooth transition to higher education."

While the scores show that the 44 percent of the county's high school students who take the SAT's are doing better, STAR test results have dipped. Does this indicate a gap between those on the college path and those who are not?

"We've been looking at that ourselves," Bucher said. The difference in scores may be attributed to the difference in the tests. The SAT tests have more direct impact on a student's future.

"Part of what's going on is that up until recently students didn't seem to take the STAR test that seriously," he said. "Until recently they didn't get individual scores. I think they felt like, `Well, we have to do this because the state requires it.' Because they weren't being judged as individuals, the amount of effort was insignificant."

Bucher said that some districts have started including STAR scores in student transcripts to stress the importance of the scores. Additionally the governor has proposed that those who score in the top 5 percent on STAR should receive scholarships.

Gaston Caperton, president of the New York-based College Board that administers the SATs, pointed out that SAT scores have been rising nationwide, particularly in the math portion.

"The significant increase in this year's math score, and the overall upward trend of the last 10 years, must be due at least in part to changes in the courses students take in high school," said Caperton in a statement. "To sustain this momentum, we must increase the availability of rigorous courses, including Advanced Placement (AP) courses, especially in inner cities and remote rural areas."

A bill introduced by the Assembly Education Committee Chair Virginia Strom-Martin would do just that.

"There are nearly 300 schools in the state that don't have sufficient programs or means to develop honors courses -- many of them in my district," said Strom-Martin. "This is simply unacceptable, especially since we are raising the bar for kids to graduate and go to college."

AB 2613 has passed the Assembly unanimously and is on the governor's desk. It will establish a grant program to fund development of UC-accepted honors courses, teacher training and instructional materials. Another bill, SB 1689, will provide funding specifically for course development in schools that do not offer AP classes.

Arcata and Eureka high schools, the county's largest schools, each offer 10 different AP courses. McKinleyville High offers six courses, Fortuna High, five and several honors courses (which do not count toward extra college credit). South Fork offers honors English classes, but has no AP classes.

"Some of the smaller high schools don't have enough students to make up an AP class," said Bucher, "but if there was a teacher on the faculty with special training, they could offer advance placement courses or they could use remote learning."

"It's hard to provide AP classes in a school our size," said Susie Jennings, associate superintendent for the Southern Humboldt Unified School District. "We're hoping to tap into some of the online classes being developed by the university."

Jennings said the district is applying for a $30,000 grant to develop four new AP programs at South Fork High School.



Comments? E-mail the Journal:

North Coast Journal banner

© Copyright 2000, North Coast Journal, Inc.