North Coast Journal WeeklyIn the News

December 21, 2000

Eureka schools eye changes

Hospital sale complete

Crabs founder dead at 84

Housing self-help grant

Home Depot by the bay?

Breast cancer grants

Samoa under new ownership

Plaza people pay the price

Eureka Schools eye changes

Last week Eureka City Schools Superintendent Jim Scott announced a set of proposals that could lead to reassignment of 500 students to different schools and the closure of Marshall Elementary.

The district is facing declining enrollment and a serious budget shortfall, around $800,000 last school year with an additional $1.2 million deficit projected for this school year. (See Journal story Dec. 7.)

"There's no question that that's an issue in our district at this time," said Paul Gossard, principal of Marshall Elementary. "We have to be fiscally responsible. Right now we have eight elementary schools and the average size is just over 300. It makes sense to downsize the number of schools. However the thing that's putting the issue in sharp focus in terms of Marshall is the facilities issue at the high school."

The plan calls for redesignation of Marshall Elementary, located across the street from Eureka High, as an extension of the high school campus. It would give the high school room to deal with overcrowding, an opportunity to do away with decaying portable classrooms and provide space for a juggling of classrooms during a required seismic retrofit.

The second part of the board's recommendation deals with grade-level alignments. The plan calls for conversion of Winship and Zane into middle schools with all district 6th grade students shifting to those sites. In addition Worthington K-8 school will be converted to a K-5 school.

The school board will take action on the proposals at its meeting Jan. 10.

Hospital sale complete

Escrow was expected to close Tuesday on the sale of General Hospital to the non-profit Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange Corp., owners of St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals.

Of General's 498 employees, 490 were offered continuing employment at St. Joseph. Eliminated were either top administrative positions or some former St. Joseph employees who were not eligible for rehire. General Hospital Chief Executive Officer Martin Love's final day was last week.

One major anticipated change is the switch to a new health plan, said St. Joseph Spokeswoman Laurie Watson Stone. General Hospital employees were under a locally administered health plan while St. Joseph workers were covered by Blue Cross. Since Blue Cross rates are expected to increase 45 percent after the first of the year, all employees will be covered under the General plan.

Crabs founder dead at 84

Lou Bonomini, founder of the Humboldt Crabs, the oldest continuously running semiprofessional baseball club in the nation, died Sunday at the age of 84.

Bonomini, a native of Blue Lake and former Eureka High School baseball star, founded the Humboldt Crabs in 1944 as a player and coach. He managed the club from 1945 until he retired in 1986.

A mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Bernard's Catholic Church.

Housing self-help grant

A McKinleyville housing project for low-income families has received a $99,981 grant.

The Self-Help Housing program (see In the News, Oct. 12), administered by the Rural Communities Housing Development Corp., will provide housing to 23 low-income families. The families are required to put in about 40 hours a week building the house but are provided with expert advice and easier financing.

The program so far has been financed by a $579,650 predevelopment loan from the California Department of Housing and Community Development and $900,000 in low-interest loans from Humboldt Bank. The grant, also from the department, will help to pay for construction supervision, training, house plan selection and help with building permits and inspections.

Home Depot by the bay?

The owners of the Bracut Industrial Park have applied for county permits to demolish 10 buildings -- 77,600 square feet of existing industrial space -- and build a 115,400-square-foot, concrete block and steel post building, with a 28,000-square-foot garden center and a parking lot with 603 spaces.

The project, on the site of the current home of the Mill Yard and A&I Roofing north of the Indianola cutoff on Highway 101, appears to meet all the specifications of the retailing giant Home Depot, according to an agent for owners Dennis and Arlene Hess of Willow Creek.

"I'm not going to tell you no," said Dave Schneider of Pacific Affiliates Inc. "Quite obviously it could be Home Depot, but from our standpoint -- Mill Yard or Home Depot -- you have the same issues no matter what."

That's true, according to Humboldt Community Development Director Kirk Girard. The parcel is properly zoned and the new building would not even be a change in use for the industrial-zoned parcel. But the county now requires a new conditional use permit for large retailers locating on county property, even if the parcel is already properly zoned.

The permit process will allow the county to assess the full impacts of the project and allow for public comment. In addition to a conditional use permit, the project will require a Coastal Development Permit from the state and sign-off from a number of other public agencies, including Caltrans.

The Caltrans' approval was the deciding factor a number of years ago when Wal-Mart attempted to build a store at the Indianola Road intersection -- on the site of the old drive-in theater. Caltrans said traffic from a Wal-Mart would require an $80 million full-cloverleaf intersection. The project was later withdrawn.

The Bracut traffic proposal is unique, Giraud told the Journal. It calls for the addition of acceleration and deceleration lanes, closing the existing median break to eliminate crossing and left turn movements against through highway traffic. Travellers from Arcata and McKinleyville would enter using the existing right-hand turn lane. Traffic from Eureka and south would have to travel beyond the current intersection opposite the KOA campground, make a U-turn in the new median lanes half-way to the Bayside cutoff, and re-enter Highway 101 traffic heading south.

The county planning department is in the initial stages of gathering information on the request which involves notifying all potentially affected agencies including Caltrans. The city of Arcata sent a letter Dec. 14 to the county opposing the project as proposed, citing the project's scale and location.

Breast cancer grants

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, with more than 200,000 diagnoses a year in the United States alone. With early detection, the disease is usually curable -- and grants are now available to fund a grassroots detection drive.

The North Coast Breast Cancer Early Detection Partnership Program is now offering minigrants of $5,000 or less. Organizations and individuals interested in starting programs that either get more women screened or promote healthy lifestyles are eligible for the funding.

Of particular interest to the program are projects that reach out to underserved populations: African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indian and lesbians. For more information or an application, call Maureen Lawlor at 445-8121 ext. 6302.

Samoa under new ownership

The historic company town of Samoa was sold Dec. 13 by the Simpson Timber Co. to the Samoa Pacific Group, LLC, a corporation set up expressly for the purchase by two Humboldt business couples, Lane and Kathryn DeVries, and Dan and Kendra Johnson.

Lane DeVries, co-owner and chief executive officer of the Sun Valley Bulb Farm, is a native of Beverwyk, Holland. He came to Humboldt County in 1983 to grow flower bulbs -- which he has done ever since. Dan Johnson, owner of DanCo Builders, is Humboldt born and raised. Both said at a press conference after the sale was officially closed that they were primarily interested in preserving Samoa because of its historical and cultural significance.

"It is our goal to restore Samoa to its past glory and improve the town," DeVries said.

Much is unknown about the purchase and future of the town. The sale price is unknown, although it was more than the minimum bid of $1.7 million; the identity of other bidders remains a well-guarded secret; DeVries and Johnson left the financing for the project an enigma, saying only it hadn't involved banks; and the nature of future improvements to the town remains unknown pending completion of a master plan, which DeVries said could be expected in the next six to 12 months.

What is known is that two major improvements are planned for the near future. DeVries confirmed that the town would soon be receiving natural gas service and that the sewage system would be replaced within the next two years.

Also made clear is that the town's purchase was an investment by four individuals and not the companies with which they are associated.

DeVries said, "If there are any flowers, it will be in front of the hostelry."

That wasn't entirely a true statement, however. Sun Valley lilies were delivered with the letters informing residents of the identity of their new landlords.


Plaza people pay the price

Three new city ordinances aimed at dealing with Arcata's downtown homeless population to be considered at the City Council meeting Dec. 20. The ordinances attempt to deal with what many feel has become a growing problem for local businesses and residents -- aggressive panhandling or harassment of people trying to shop on or walk across the plaza.

The first of the three ordinances prohibits parking overnight in the lot next to Redwood Park, where many of the downtown denizens camp for the night. The second would impose a plaza-wide ban on dogs unless they are leashed and being led from point A to point B, and would limit smoking to the sidewalks on the far north and south sides of the plaza. A third ordinance would prohibit sitting or lying on sidewalks, curbs, planters, monuments or other public property.

"The objective is to minimize the impact on downtown and northtown businesses," said Dan Hauser, Arcata's city manager. "They don't deal with the long-term problem," he added.

Steve Lazar agreed. Lazar, a six-year Arcata resident and long-time opponent of Plaza regulations, was the only person at a Dec. 6 council meeting to speak out against regulations.

"They don't deal with the situation, they just try to push it elsewhere," he said. "They are limiting access to our public spaces for everyone. We need to come together as a community and have the solidarity not to put up with this behavior rather than regulate it into a corner."


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