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Slow Sloppy Sloburbs

Ukiah’s streets are constantly being ripped into, sometimes for an “upgrade” to your television service, sometimes for more noble reasons like replacing aging sewer pipes.  When any given contractor is finished mining our streets, he will inevitably leave behind what has become a network of patches that either end up below the surface of our expensive asphalt or above. 

I always thought that it must be extremely difficult to match surfaces. I imagined all the science and complicated mathematics that must be utilized to yield an unbroken, smooth piece of asphalt that would leave even an in-line skater in awe.

I’m happy to report that someone, some genius no doubt, with a revolutionary scheme to flatten all that is not has created a piece of patchwork that won’t mistreat even the smallest of wheels. 

If you would like to witness this glimpse into the future, drive on South State Street, north of Low Gap Road, close to the Days Inn.

I propose that the engineer be found and a series of workshops be initiated, especially for the nice guys who were working on Mill Street in Willits earlier this month.

The Sunday morning crew at the Maple Restaurant on State Street gives unparalleled diner service and cooks up a mean breakfast. The Coffee is feeble, but I think that’s almost a requirement for a good diner. Tip your wait staff well; they work hard for their money.

Several weeks ago, someone wrote a letter to the Ukiah Daily Journal demanding that Dave Hull and Rick Piffero take down the large flag flying at what is being dubbed by some as “Fort Piffero” unless the two are willing to light The Colors at night as is required. Several nights ago, I was westbound on Standley Street when I saw a glowing flag, flapping in the wind on top of the hill. Floating there, surrounded by nothing, the flag looked eerie and beautiful at the same time. A woman, jogging by in her designer $200 dollar spandex and Made By Slave Children Gap outfit exclaimed in disgust at the flag. C’mon lady, get real! If some artsy-fartsy lesbian from Chile had suspended her body up there for a night and lit it with ten-thousand candles, you would call it art.

Wouldn’t you know it? I missed my first entire City Council Meeting in over a year and from what I hear, Councilwoman Kathy Libby finally had an all out shouting match with City Clerk, Marrie Ulvilla. I’ve been trying to piece the evidence together and have only received very preliminary reactions from several folks who were in the audience. So far, it doesn’t look good for Libby, but in the name of fairness, we’re going to wait for both women’s points of view before coming to any conclusions. I will say that Libby has always been a constant champion of truth and accuracy when it comes to combing through previous meetings’ minutes. Needless to say, from now on, if I miss a Meeting, I’ll do everything I can to at least record it.

I received a letter of “concern” over a statement I made a while back about the inevitability of growth. The writer stated, “not for publication,” so I will only respond. It would be great if one or two generations of parents had only one baby each (that’s what I did and as God is my witness, I will not have more than one.) That could help in solving many problems we now face. But do you really think that people are going to stop making babies? NO WAY!!! How many times have you heard, “She needs a brother so she has someone to play with.” As if neighbors and schoolmates don’t exist. So, I return to the very basic (do the math) concept of inevitable growth. Sir, I support you in all your efforts and I do think there is a smattering of hope that the population boom will slow, but it won’t reverse and while it’s frustrating to say, we are headed for critical mass, so you might as well plan for it. 

Phil Baldwin would like another ally on the Ukiah City Council. Baldwin and I sat for a chat last week about the future of Ukiah, the hills to the West and “Sloppy Sloburban Growth” to the North and South.

So far, only Baldwin and Paul Andersen have announced a run for the two council seats up for grabs this November. Everyone else is still playing political Chess for the mayoral seat. 

While Baldwin is cautious to support Andersen’s run at this time, he mentioned several times that it would be nice to have a third vote on the Council. The two agree on some of the key issues related to growth in Ukiah. Both would like to see Ukiah growing up rather than out.

Baldwin also noted that “the economic pressures for growth in this town are so great, that even a four or five vote majority on this council would not be able to stop them.” Phil’s frustration lies in what he sees as the lack of control by city and county planners over planning in the Ukiah Valley. He feels that the valley’s water districts and associated interests have more control and as far as they’re concerned, the more, the merrier. 

But Phil, more housing may drive the price of real estate back to earth. 

“We need affordable housing, but I don’t think that letting the private market make all the development decisions will ever provide more affordable housing.” 

Baldwin is thinking of ways of encouraging developers to follow the plan. Incentives for clustered affordable housing, subsidies in exchange for control over how much equity a home can garner and zoning mechanisms that would make developers build one story buildings that are structurally ready for a second story when the market calls in the future. Phil wasn’t always so keen on mixed-use housing, but has recently changed his mind, noting lack of space.

Give incentives, lay down the law, but we still have absolutely no control over growth in the entire valley as most of it still lays on county lands. Phil Baldwin knows that and would like to annex properties surrounding the city — “problem is that it would take a vote of the property owners and would not be cost effective, because there is little retail.” 

I asked Baldwin how it feels to be a constant minority (it’s not uncommon to see Phil on the losing side of a 4 to 1 vote). Baldwin feels that he represents 57 to 68 percent of the community. “If not, we’ll find out during the election.” He calls his supporters “The Silent Majority,” but, “When you’re talking about development, generally, the people who have the most at stake, financially turn up the most consistently at city council meetings to make sure things are going to turn out for them. A lot of those people who are interested in protecting the environment and our quality of life don’t have quite the staying power of those who have a major financial stake. And they’re going to get their butts kicked if they don’t start turning out in voting numbers.”

And what about Kathy Libby? The two certainly have a fiery relationship, often exchanging harsh words at the council table. C’mon Phil, do you like stirring things up just to see Kathy’s face get red? 

“I rarely speak up or say anything just to bother people. I’m too serious. I get concerned. Some of Kathy Libby’s ideas concern me. She seems a little confused.”  

Phil Baldwin is a dreamer, with visions of a tranquil town that grows, keeping its calm about it while others around are losing theirs (apologies to Rudyard Kipling). A town where purveyors of loud and profane rap music will be ticketed and skaters will be fined threefold for carving up our streets (provided they have a skate park). He would like to see a trail system that allows access along the western ridge top from the end of Standley Street to Low Gap Park.

Baldwin says he’s running again because “the next four years could make a huge difference in what kind of community this is going to be.” Bottom line is that the Vice Mayor would like to see 200 to 600 acres of the Western Hillside placed in open space preserves; he wants to underground utility lines. “I think the hotel, restaurant people in town would have a significant stake in undergrounding utilities on State Street… I want people who live here to be able to take guests from out of town to State Street proudly.” Baldwin would like Ukiah to “grow with more quietude than less;” and he would like to see more pedestrian friendly planning (mixed use, wide sidewalks, etc…). “If we had 50,000 people living here instead of 35,000, it could still be a decent place to live.”

In November, Ukiah Voters will choose two City Council members and one Mayor (Para yvar, por favor.)

The Mendocino County Planning Commission meets tomorrow (Thursday) at the County Administration building on Low Gap Road. The commission will continue a discussion that has gone on for a year now regarding a 150-foot US Cellular Tower (dubbed “The Oil Rig”) located on Spanish Mountain, southwest of town. Neighbors of the tower have maintained that US Cellular lied and cheated to get the structure erected. US Cell maintains it has done nothing wrong. The item will be heard at 10am in the Supervisors’ Chambers. The public is invited to attend and participate. I’ll see you there.

One Comment

  1. Betsy Cawn December 22, 2019

    It has been “fun” watching the evolution/devolution of Mendocino County over the last fifty years, the first thirty as a frequent visitor before leaving the Bay Area for good, the past twenty as a Lake County resident grateful for the distance from the major Highways (101 and 5), commercial congestion, and political contentions that created the incompetence resulting in preposterous lawsuits between the City of Ukiah and its sanitation district at vast public expense (for example).

    Lake County public health and safety systems are no less manipulated by the mini-kingpins (builders, brokers, bankers, and the profiteers they serve — agricultural and geothermal industries) but much less fuss. The fervent scrambling for office and political power, wielded by clever civic “collaborators” like Mari Rodin, and Ft. Bragg city managers and planning directors, is low key on this side of the Cow, because the keepers of the County Clubhouse indoctrinate elected officials as soon as they get into office so that internal hierarchies and smoke-filled-rooms are rarely exposed to public scrutiny.

    Thank you, Mr. Watters and the AVA!

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