Friday, February 13, 2015

Squires Tenants File $25K Claims Against City

Posted By on Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 1:57 PM

Guy Anderson, pictured here on the day the city of Eureka shuttered the Blue Heron Lodge, is one of seven tenants who filed a claim for damages against the city, arguing it had violated his civil rights. Anderson, who was moved into transitional housing, had lived at the Heron for six months. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Guy Anderson, pictured here on the day the city of Eureka shuttered the Blue Heron Lodge, is one of seven tenants who filed a claim for damages against the city, arguing it had violated his civil rights. Anderson, who was moved into transitional housing, had lived at the Heron for six months.
Seven former tenants of Floyd and Betty Squire’s Blue Heron Lodge have filed nearly identical claims for damages against the city of Eureka, arguing the city unlawfully evicted them, violated their civil rights and intentionally inflicted emotional distress upon them when the city moved to condemn the lodge earlier this month. Each of the claims seeks unspecified damages in excess of $25,000.

The Blue Heron Lodge, which the city shuttered on Feb. 4, was the city's largest source of calls for emergency services over the last year. - STEVE WATSON
  • Steve Watson
  • The Blue Heron Lodge, which the city shuttered on Feb. 4, was the city's largest source of calls for emergency services over the last year.
The claims were all filed on Feb. 3, a day before the city boarded up the dilapidated structure on Broadway, arguing the Squireses had refused to secure a lodging permit and were in willful violation of the city’s motel ordinance. City and county staff were on hand Feb. 4, and in days leading up to the city action, helping residents connect with services and find other housing.

The Journal reported last week that the Squireses filed a claim for damages against the city, arguing its notice to vacate was issued without due process and in violation of the couple’s civil rights. The couple argues that the property shouldn’t fall under the city’s motel ordinance, as it is used for long term residential use. (The city’s ordinance doesn’t identify motels and hotels by lengths of stay and instead lists all residential structures without self-sufficient dwelling units as motels and hotels.)

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Building Lincoln's Hearse

Posted By on Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 10:44 AM

Some of the cats are sacked out in the sunshine and others inside the Blue Ox Millworks office by crackling wood stoves. Bluto, the golden-eyed, bear-faced dog, flops like a giant, piled-up rug on some unevenly stacked timbers in the yard. Birds are talking, the air is still, it’s an early spring in early February. Peaceful.

But the people are busy. Someone’s hammering on metal in the blacksmith shop, tink-tink-tink-tink. A blue beast of a tractor, three-quarters of a century old, rumbles to life. And inside the cavernous workshop behind the office, Blue Ox master craftsman Eric Hollenbeck and his two main woodworkers stand beside an ornate, partly finished hearse working out a last-minute detail. The hearse is a replica of the original that carried President Abraham Lincoln’s body on the final leg of the funeral procession’s two-week, 1,654-mile train journey back in April and May of 1865. The original hearse is gone; this one is, as Hollenbeck puts it, as authentic as humanly possible. And war veterans, mostly, have been building it.

L-R: Eric Hollenbeck with Blue Ox master woodworkers Enrique Ayala and 
Cesar Murillo
. - PHOTO BY ALEXANDER WOODARD
  • Photo by Alexander Woodard
  • L-R: Eric Hollenbeck with Blue Ox master woodworkers Enrique Ayala and 
Cesar Murillo
.
In a few days, the hearse will be on its way, accompanied by Hollenbeck (a Vietnam veteran), to Tombstone, Arizona. There, after Hollenbeck takes the hearse apart,Tombstone Hearse and Trike Co.’s Jack Feather, a Vietnam veteran and the lead builder in this project, will paint its body pieces black. After it’s reassembled Feather will finish the interior and assemble the chassis, wheels and axles built by Jay Jones (also a Vietnam veteran) of Custom Wagons in Kentucky. And then the hearse will go to Springfield, Illinois, where on May 1 through 3 it will star in the 150th anniversary commemoration of Lincoln’s funeral. Then it will be stationed with the Staab Family Livery Co., which has overseen the work.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shooting Highlights Differences in Local Policies

Posted By on Thu, Feb 12, 2015 at 3:32 PM

A deputy-involved shooting in McKinleyville on Dec. 15 left a 25-year-old suspect with a gunshot wound to the hand and this SUV pocked with bullet holes. - RHEANNON OKEY
  • Rheannon Okey
  • A deputy-involved shooting in McKinleyville on Dec. 15 left a 25-year-old suspect with a gunshot wound to the hand and this SUV pocked with bullet holes.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office released the name of the deputy who shot and wounded a suspect during a December car chase today after a shooting review committee found he didn’t violate any departmental policies or procedures. The announcement comes as similar departmental policies and procedures throughout the nation are coming under scrutiny.

Deputy Scott Aponte, who’s been with the sheriff’s office for 7 years, returned to full duty at the end of January. He was placed on leave after the Dec. 15 shooting that left 25-year-old suspect Andrea Frances Hunsucker with a gunshot wound to the hand. The county’s multi-agency Critical Incident Response Team’s investigation into the shooting is ongoing, but it is expected to submit its findings to the district attorney for review in the near future.

Aponte was on patrol in McKinleyville at about 9 p.m. on Dec. 15 when he attempted a traffic stop on a black SUV, having learned that the vehicle’s owner had an outstanding felony arrest warrant. The vehicle reportedly failed to stop and continued down the 2300 block of Chapel Road, with Aponte in pursuit. The vehicle turned down a private driveway, according to the sheriff’s office, and Aponte followed.


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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Mystery and History

Posted By on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 at 9:36 AM

Joanna Beem plays burlesque dancer LydiaThompson in Murder By Dessert's Mardi Gras Murder Mystery dinner, a benefit for the Clarke Museum. - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Joanna Beem plays burlesque dancer LydiaThompson in Murder By Dessert's Mardi Gras Murder Mystery dinner, a benefit for the Clarke Museum.

It was a perfectly pleasant party (we were told we were in New Orleans). Sure, the ballerina Ykatarina Chislova and burlesque dancer Lydia Thompson seemed out of sorts with each other — Ykat (pining for her dead duke, and not the paranoid live Grand Duke Alexei) calling Lyd (was she in fact a British spy?!) a low-class fan dancer, basically, and Lydia saying what a snob. But the gentlemen seemed amiable enough. Except that banjo-guitar-cello-playing Papa Ory, whose smile contained some smirk at the edges. Plus what was he doing carrying around that clarinet when it was not among the instruments with which he claimed proficiency? All so danged confusing until the ballerina collapses mid-croisée and we slowly, collectively remember some connection to Japan and blowpipes.

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Monday, February 9, 2015

Don Clausen Dies

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2015 at 3:01 PM

Don Clausen. - MARY BULLWINKEL
  • Mary Bullwinkel
  • Don Clausen.

Ferndale native and former North Coast Congressman Don Clausen has died. He was 91. 

Clausen, a World War II veteran and a Republican who served from 1963 to 1982 in the U.S. House of Representatives, was described in a 2013 Santa Rosa Press Democrat story celebrating his 90th birthday as an ambidextrous baseball player (he could pitch left- or right-handed) who was willing to reach across the aisle to make friends with his colleagues within the Democrat-controlled Congress:

"'There was no alternative,' said Clausen, recalling a more collegial body than today's Congress, gridlocked by partisan warfare that contributes to a public approval rating below 20 percent."

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Fire Breaks Out in Squires Building

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2015 at 2:15 PM

MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
February is shaping up to be a bad month for Floyd and Betty Squires.

First, last week, the city of Eureka shuttered the couple’s Blue Heron Lodge, arguing the 15-unit building was operating in violation of the city’s problem motel ordinance. Then, early this morning, fire broke out at the couple’s apartment building in the 100 block of Fifth Street, leaving an unidentified man with second-degree burns on his upper torso.

Humboldt Bay Fire Battalion Chief Chris Jelinek said fire investigators haven’t determined what caused the fire, which appears to have started in the living room of a second-floor apartment. Jelinek said firefighters were able to gain control of the blaze pretty quickly, minimizing damage to the structure’s other five or six units.

Jelinek said it is unclear how many tenants have been displaced by the fire, saying people who escaped the burning building mostly left the scene and weren’t interviewed by fire crews. The fire remains under investigation, but Jelinek said there’s nothing to indicate it was suspicious in nature. The cause, he said, remains undetermined. “The burn patterns were inconclusive,” he said.


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Sunday, February 8, 2015

On the Klamath dams front

Posted By on Sun, Feb 8, 2015 at 10:23 AM

Klamath River at Hopkins Creek, close to Weitchpec. - PHOTO BY KEN MALCOMSON
  • Photo by Ken Malcomson
  • Klamath River at Hopkins Creek, close to Weitchpec.

Former Oregon state senator Jason Atkinson has co-produced a new documentary about the conflict between users of the Klamath River and how they finally hashed out the historic Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement to take out four dams and restore salmon and other habitat. The agreement awaits Congress' approval. The film, by Atkinson and filmmaker Jeff Martin, is called A River Between Us and comes out this spring.

High Country New interviewed Atkinson about it, and notes that he was the "first Republican to ever receive a 100 percent approval rating from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters."

"Atkinson, a fifth generation farmer along the Klamath, has a long personal history with the river. He has fly-fished there since he was old enough to hold a rod and learned from his grandparents — one an Eisenhower Republican, the other, a Reagan-hating liberal — that restoring the Klamath did not have to be a polarizing issue.

HCN reports that Atkinson "hopes the film will help spur Congress to authorize the agreement — what he calls 'the greatest conservation opportunity in America.'” Atkinson, in the interview, says that it's wrong to think of the Klamath River battle as "right versus left, dams versus fish":

"HCN: But today’s political climate makes that kind of model look almost unattainable. Why is it that so many environmental initiatives have become lightning rods for partisanship?

"JA: In my mind it was 1973 when the Endangered Species Act was passed—by a Republican no less. People had no idea what the unintended consequences of that would be. Ten years later, that Act was seen as a declaration of war on small communities across the country, and I would argue that that’s when partisanship really stepped in for the first time in the conservation debate.

"The thing that frustrated me was that having grown up in agriculture, I know that every year, once harvest is done, all the farmers go fishing. Everybody does. So in my own mind, I couldn’t reconcile a narrative that makes those kinds of distinctions — and one that discounts an entire swath of Americans from the public land debate."



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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Survey your sins

Posted By on Sat, Feb 7, 2015 at 9:11 AM

Storm drain badness - PHOTO BY HEIDI WALTERS
  • Photo by Heidi Walters
  • Storm drain badness
Ah, the magical storm drain. Alligators live down there, we know, and escapees, and gourmand rats — fantastical beings swimming around in lurksome joy. Plus, of course, all that junk you’ve let wash into it, too: pet poop, cigarette butts, wrappers, caps, oil, chemicals and other detritus that drifts from fingers, drips off cars and oozes from properties.

Down the drain (or into a creek). And then magically washed to sea, right? Yes, to sea, but there’s nothing magic about that part of the journey. Once rain — or your chemically enhanced landscape watering overflow — washes the junk down the drain, that watery mix is not treated. So it pollutes our bay and ocean.

Well, the North Coast Storm Water Coalition hopes to learn more about people’s knowledge of storm drains and urban runoff and such in order to better educate them about the issues and perhaps turn around some of their deleterious habits.

Which is all to say there’s a new survey! Take it. It’s fun. There might be underwater dragons. To take the survey online, start here. To do the deed on paper, pick up a copy of the survey at your local city or county office (call first to make sure they’re ready for you).

Also, if you see stuff other than rain washing into the drain (or a creek!), report it on the stormwater hotline: 1-877-NCSC-001.

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Friday, February 6, 2015

Wet Socks be Damned

Posted By on Fri, Feb 6, 2015 at 12:04 PM

As postal carrier Brad Renner's socks can attest, there's some localized urban flooding in Fortuna. - MELISSA SANDERSON
  • Melissa Sanderson
  • As postal carrier Brad Renner's socks can attest, there's some localized urban flooding in Fortuna.
Apparently, it takes more than a little localized flooding to knock the United States Postal Service off its game.

Humboldt County has been hit with a healthy dose of wind and rain over the last 24 hours, leading to some rising rivers, downed power lines and flooded streets, particularly in Fortuna and the Eel River Valley. So did postal carrier Brad Renner take the day off, figuring Fortunans would be fine getting Friday's mail on Saturday? Heck, no. He threw on some shorts and made the rounds.

Fortuna postal carrier Brad Renner makes his rounds Saturday. - MELISSA SANDERSON
  • Melissa Sanderson
  • Fortuna postal carrier Brad Renner makes his rounds Saturday.
Troy Nicolini, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service stationed at Woodley Island, said most areas of Humboldt saw 2 to 3 inches of rainfall Thursday and through Friday morning, with some areas, like Honeydew, seeing more than 7 inches. "Our rivers are responding accordingly," Nicolini said, adding that they're rising quickly from their relatively low pre-storm levels. The only river currently in danger of flooding is the Eel, which is expected to crest its banks tomorrow morning and flood some low-lying areas in the bottoms, Nicolini said.


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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Eureka Closes Blue Heron; Squireses File Claim for Damages

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2015 at 3:13 PM

Guy Anderson, sitting in a wheel chair and clutching a sleeping bag, was one of the last tenants of the Blue Heron Lodge was condemned by city officials this morning. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Guy Anderson, sitting in a wheel chair and clutching a sleeping bag, was one of the last tenants of the Blue Heron Lodge was condemned by city officials this morning.
Eureka officials shuttered the Blue Heron Lodge this morning, boarding up the dilapidated blue building after working to help tenants find temporary housing assistance.

The city contends that the property’s owners, Floyd and Betty Squires, have failed to secure a lodging permit for the 15-room on Broadway for this year, after operating without one for all of 2014. Chief Building Official Brian Gerving said the city has repeatedly notified the Squireses that they were operating the lodge in violation of the city’s motel ordinance, which requires all motels and hotels within city limits to get a permit. The Squireses, Gerving said, have repeatedly contended that the Blue Heron is not, in fact a motel or hotel.

City officials boarded up the Blue Heron's rooms after tenants vacated the property. - EPD CAPT. STEVE WATSON
  • EPD Capt. Steve Watson
  • City officials boarded up the Blue Heron's rooms after tenants vacated the property.
But Gerving says it is, by the city’s definition, which doesn’t distinguish between “transient and non-transient hotels,” or those that accommodate visitors who stay for a couple of nights versus those whose guests generally stay for months at a time. Instead, Gerving said, the ordinance defines hotels and motels as places that don’t have self-sufficient dwelling units, which in most cases means they lack a kitchen and minimum square-footage requirements. Under that definition, the Blue Heron is a motel, according to Gerving.

The Squireses, however, appear as though they aren’t going down without a fight. The couple filed a claim seeking damages in excess of $25,000 against the city Tuesday alleging that the city’s notice to vacate was issued without due process and in violation of their civil rights. And the Squireses touch on the hotel/motel question, arguing that the Blue Heron offers fewer amenities than a hotel and thus doesn’t fit that definition. “I have owned the property for over 10 years and never used it for a motel,” states the claim, which is signed by both Floyd and Betty. “It is used for long term residential use. There are no phones in the rooms and housekeeping and linens are not provided as tenants do laundry off site.”

As a part of their claim against the city, the Squireses included a copy of the business license they procured for the lodge on Jan. 1. The license describes the business type as “hotel/motel.”

Gerving said city staff met with Floyd Squires last week and he made his position clear that the motel ordinance does not apply to the property.

Eureka police officers stand by as tenants move out of the Blue Heron Lodge on Broadway, which was condemned by the city this morning. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Eureka police officers stand by as tenants move out of the Blue Heron Lodge on Broadway, which was condemned by the city this morning.
Nonetheless, the city followed through with shuttering the property this morning. Gerving said staff from the county Department of Health and Human Services and Street Outreach Services were also on hand to help move the tenants who remained at the property into transitional housing and sign them up for additional services.

There was also a heavy police presence at the property this morning, which Eureka Police Capt. Steve Watson said was due, in part, to a threat called in to the FBI this morning. Watson said the man who called in the threat warned of a protest at the Blue Heron and said he was “going to go down in flames and be a martyr.” When EPD investigated the man, Watson said it was found that he had a prior conviction for making a destructive device and it was decided his threat should be taken seriously.

But all went smoothly on site this morning, Watson said. The captain said he breathed a sigh of relief watching the place be boarded up, noting the residence has generated more calls for police and emergency services over the last two years than any other in town. Watson also has a personal history there. When he lead the department’s fledgling Problem Oriented Policing team in 2010, the first warrants it served were on rooms there where heroin and methamphetamine were being sold.

“I’ve spent many, many hours in that building,” he said. “I’ve had a cockroach shower there — literally — inside the Blue Heron where I was searching and disturbed something and had roaches rain down on me. … (The conditions) are intolerable and subhuman. No one should have to live like that, regardless of their background. When you live in that kind of negative, ugly environment it tends to breed a sense of hopelessness, which breeds more crime and disorder.”

Watson called conditions in the Heron's rooms, like the one pictured that was vacated this morning, "intolerable" and "subhuman." - EPD CAPT. STEVE WATSON
  • EPD Capt. Steve Watson
  • Watson called conditions in the Heron's rooms, like the one pictured that was vacated this morning, "intolerable" and "subhuman."
Watson said he was thankful county staff was on hand to help the tenants transition into something better, and also expressed appreciation for the Eureka Rescue Mission and local homeless advocate Betty Chinn, who he said also helped set up placements for some displaced tenants. He said helping the tenants wasn’t something the city was obligated to do by law, but it was the right thing to do. Gerving said he was also grateful for all the assistance the city received and that it was able to find “at least temporary housing” for all Blue Heron residents who needed it.

Moving forward, Gerving said inspectors found code violations at the property during a walk-through today. It will take some time to determine the full extent of those. “We’re still evaluating what the next steps will be, and that will probably be determined over the next couple of weeks,” he said.

The Squireses have faced a long history of accusations surrounding the quality of their housing. Most notably, the city sued them back in 2011, seeking to have 26 of their properties placed into the hands of a receiver, who would bring them up to code compliance and bill the Squireses for the expense. The properties in question have been inspected and a ruling from a local judge in the case is expected any week.

Amid that legal skirmish, the Squireses countersued the city (unsuccessfully) and, in their claim, they contend that’s motivating the current action. “Brian Gerving is abusing his power as building inspector in retaliation to the lawsuit filed against him and the city of Eureka,” the Squireses wrote. “He is violating our civil rights meant to protect our freedom.”

Meanwhile, Watson said he hopes this morning’s action has a reverberating effect.

“The city had no other resource but to take this action,” he said. “We can’t fix the problem unless we hold the owner accountable, and we can’t fix the problem until we shut down that source of income for him and essentially force compliance upon him. … I think the owners and managers of these types of establishments are on notice that the city isn't playing around and is serious about trying to improve conditions for the people that live in these establishments and for the city as a whole.”
On Jan. 26, Eureka officials posted notices to vacate on the door of each of the Heron's rooms, and also left fliers with contact information for people and agencies that would help the tenants find housing. - EPD CAPT. STEVE WATSON
  • EPD Capt. Steve Watson
  • On Jan. 26, Eureka officials posted notices to vacate on the door of each of the Heron's rooms, and also left fliers with contact information for people and agencies that would help the tenants find housing.
Eureka officials serving notices to vacate on Jan. 26 took note that the Blue Heron Lodge's sign had been changed to read Blue Heron Residences. They believe this may have been part of owner Floyd Squires' attempts to convince the city the property shouldn't be subject to the motel ordinance passed by the city council in 2013. - EPD CAPT. STEVE WATSON
  • EPD Capt. Steve Watson
  • Eureka officials serving notices to vacate on Jan. 26 took note that the Blue Heron Lodge's sign had been changed to read Blue Heron Residences. They believe this may have been part of owner Floyd Squires' attempts to convince the city the property shouldn't be subject to the motel ordinance passed by the city council in 2013.


Officials were able to find Guy Anderson, who's lived at the Heron for about five months, a free two-week stay in a local hotel as his social worker tries to find him more permanent housing. - MARK MCKENNA
  • Mark McKenna
  • Officials were able to find Guy Anderson, who's lived at the Heron for about five months, a free two-week stay in a local hotel as his social worker tries to find him more permanent housing.

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