“Clear Lake is in trouble on many fronts,” reported Mendocino County Supervisor Dan Hamburg at last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Clear Lake is in Lake County, not Mendocino County, but Supervisor Hamburg’s promiscuous attentions were nevertheless drawn to our chronically depressed neighbor to the east.
Once the blue collar Riviera to the San Francisco Bay Area’s working classes, Lake County’s once-thriving motorcourts and affordable spas have, since their 1950s heyday, become lakeside poverty centers. And the great lake that inspired them?
Hamburg said it is on life support. “Algae, hydrilla, and now this latest pest with the mussels which started off with the Great Lakes and has moved down the Mississippi Valley and is now taking hold westerly, a couple of serious sites in Nevada and it’s now moving into California.
“The mussels basically move on the vessels, you know, on boats, and [Lake County] Supervisor [Denise] Rushing talked about the programs that they’ve enacted in Lake County to try to control this infestation problem. Many of them are based on citizen volunteers; the county does not have a lot of money to put into this, but they are seeking funding, and, you know, looking at various potential sources of capital to enact their program.
“It really seems like, and this came through in the presentation [that Hamburg attended recently], that they need a program that inspects vehicles as they come across the county line because there’s something like 700 entrances where people can put boats on the lake so there’s no way to have inspections at all those different sites.
“They really need to enact more sophisticated program or they’ll lose all the piping, all the intake valves, these mussels slowly take over infrastructure and after a number of years Clear Lake will be kind of a lost cause so they really are getting very serious about the mussels and the hydrilla and the algae and all the other issues that are associated with that lake, not to mention the mercury! Which is another problem. People are advised not to eat fish out of the lake because of the ongoing mercury issues up there.”
Departing the hopelessly polluted waters of Clear Lake, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, including Hamburg, denounced legislators Noreen Evans and Wes Chesbro for their recent attempted raid on Mendocino County’s nearly empty coffers via the recently enacted $150 “fire protection fee” that will be imposed on parcels with residential structures in state responsibility areas — i.e., most of Mendocino County. The fees would be collected via property taxes. The assumption is that since Mendocino County’s thousands of hill dwellers could not live off the pavement without CalFire’s aerial services, those hill dwellers, and almost every other property owner in the County should pay to support CalFire’s crucial presence in California’s outback.
Insiders say the fee probably will never get collected. The state has tried it before and been overturned by courts. It’s not a fee, according to the courts, it’s a tax and taxes require voter approval.
Supervisor John McCowen praised the recently completed “Operation Full Court Press” which, McCowen said, “has been very successful in eradicating marijuana in the Mendocino National Forest by all accounts.”
“All the accounts,” however, are from Operation Full Court Press, and when’s the last time a government agency announced a failure? But there’s no doubt the all-out police counter-offensive on entrenched marijuana operations in the Mendocino National Forest put a serious dent in 2011’s pot crop: 100 conscripted Mexican growers and guards arrested along with the removal of some 500,000 pot plants, 1500 pounds of processed marijuana, 32 guns, more than a ton of fertilizer, 57 pounds of agro-poisons and pesticides, 22 miles of irrigation pipe, 13 man-made dams, 120 propane tanks and 23 tons of miscellaneous trash.
And in 2012 the whole show will undoubtedly re-commence.
Supervisor Carre Brown said she’d heard complaints from some private landowners in Potter Valley that trespass grows on private property are just as big a problem but don’t get the attention the big raid on the national forest just got.
Supervisor Hamburg said the operation wasn’t likely to get the kingpins they hope for and that as long as marijuana is illegal marijuana will be grown like this. “This is not a winnable fight,” said Hamburg. “The federally supported price is what causes this. This will go on until we change the laws.”
Supervisor Pinches agreed. “Legalization is the only answer. But it’s a vested interested now. Huge parts of the government are dependent on marijuana being illegal. It’s ironic that there’s no money for mental health services but there’s money to eradicate marijuana.”
CEO Carmel Angelo reported on the state’s recent decision to send low level felons (except for sex criminals) back to county jails. State money is supposed to accompany the prisoner shift but there are still lots of unknowns about how it’s going to work.
At any one time, Mendocino County has a hundred or so parole violaters at San Quentin, and several hundred more mostly low-intensity felons confined elsewhere in the state prison system. This cadre of career screw-ups rotates in and out of the system until they get too tired to use dope and to exhausted to commit the petty crimes that accompany the pursuit of dope. At about age 50 looking like 70, toothless and spent, their catch and release lives of crime are over.
“County staff continues to research and plan for the realigned responsibilities and dollars coming from the State,” said Angelo — County staff being Sheriff Tom Allman and Chief Probation Officer Jim Brown.
“Trust Accounts” are being set up which will supposedly ensure that the money for the new prisoners isn’t siphoned off for other services which, Angelo said, will allow the County to “track the realignment monies in order to be fully transparent and assure that the realignment dollars are utilized for the intended purposes.”
“The goal of AB 109, is to effectively serve the community by promoting alternatives to the traditional and cost intensive approach of incarceration,” Angelo added. “If the County simply perpetuates the existing incarceration model, we are likely to run into the same cost limitations that the State has.
Quoting Governor Brown concerning the realignment proposal, “With early intervention,” Brown declared with typically empty rhetorical flourishes that assumes there are existing strategies to keep the lumpen out of the justice system, “local governments can better address the service needs that can stop the revolving door of the corrections systems.”
Angelo continued, “Mendocino County, like all counties across California must look to alternatives and pursue those alternatives in order to avoid the costly mistakes of the past. AB 109 parolees will require a diverse scope of services, including mental health services, alcohol and drug services, housing and job placement services among others.”
Which sounds a lot like siphoning off money to the dubious ministrations of “helping professionals” to us, but there it is. The other departments insist that they’re “part of public safety too” and felons, like children and the elderly, are dependable funding units for an array of haphazardly educated college graduates. The homeward bound felons will be accompanied by an estimated $1 million per year from the state over the next four years as a plan to accommodate them is prepared by Allman and Brown and several other County officials.
The Allman-Brown Plan will require a 3-2 approval vote by the Board of Supervisors, but a 4-1 vote to disapprove it. This apparent contradiction took up about half an hour of Board discussion to no clear purpose.
Supervisor Pinches concluded that he hoped the plan wasn’t too ambitious, otherwise it may end up costing more than a $1 million per year and the overrun would come out of the County’s depleted General Fund.
Then it was time to once again return to the Ukiah Valley Area Plan, a giant paper monster that refuses to die. As Ukiah sprawls unplanned in an unsightly mess between its naturally confining Coast Range mountains, its alleged plan has been undergoing a slo-mo update for two decades. Although the Ukiah Plan has been approved in various forms several times since 2003, last week the Supervisors got to weigh in again:
“The purpose of this meeting is to provide the Board of Supervisors the opportunity to review the Final EIR incorporating responses to all comments received during the public review period, the Findings of Fact and Statement of Overriding Considerations regarding environmental impacts that cannot be mitigating [sic] to a less-than-significant level, and to review the final UVAP document incorporating all Board direction on land use changes and final text changes.”
Attorney Jared Carter, accompanied by realtor Jack Cox and prominent Ukiah businessman Jim Mayfield, were part of the small contingent on hand.
Cox and Mayfield own pieces of the Brush Street Triangle — a prime 90-acre piece north of Ukiah that the trio of Gradgrinds envision as a new County Courthouse and whatever else can be located there so long as they cash in.
The gray-haired triumverate didn’t like the item in the mitigation report that required the Brush Street Triangle owners prepare a Master Plan for the site. Carter said such a requirement amounted to putting a moratorium on development of the site, as if developers have been beating down the doors over the years to convert the site to cash. Supervisor Pinches agreed, saying the Master Plan requirement was a violation of their property rights to develop it as they see fit. Supervisor John McCowen defended the requirement, saying that it should not be that hard for the owners to come up with a plan for such common features as water, sewer and compatible uses.
In the end the Master Plan requirement stayed in.
The UVAP, not so incidentally, continues to assume that there’s plenty of water and sewer capacity for whatever development anybody might want anywhere in the finite Ukiah Valley. Protection Plans are called for, as are Water Assessments — neither of which will ever be honestly prepared or enforced — and the bald faced lie that “possible municipal use of this aquifer would not adversely affect the aquifer since this annual yield far surpasses the total amount of water needed to serve the future development of the Ukiah Valley.”
To his credit, Supervisor Hamburg doubted the whole idea.
“Disposal of septage is an increasing problem,” said Hamburg. And water itself? … Tapping the aquifer for 10,000 acre-feet? We have no evidence that we can draw anything like that without running into problems from the state.
“There are lots of issues where it looks like the mitigations are unrealistic,” the Supervisor continued. “This Plan allows up to 5,000 potential housing units, but it’s not clear that the resources exist. It’s a 20 year plan and nobody can be expected to know what’s going to happen in 20 years.”
Hamburg also wanted to know who’s going to pay for the infrastructure development that would be required.
County Senior Planner Roger Mobley replied, “If you don’t have the infrastructure you won’t have the development. You can’t put it all on the projects.”
The County’s highly paid environmental consultant Leonard Charles, a man grown into middle age working on Ukiah’s plan, has traded his groovy guy ponytail for a Peter Pan-ish wavy gray coif. His contribution to the conversation consisted of this statement of the obvious: “With growth management you can prioritize the kinds of projects you’d like to have. Individual projects can fall under cumulative impact analysis in this plan.”
Upshot: No major development can or will be developed — even in the highly unlikely event a developer could get financing. (Hence the Cox-Mayfield-Carter desire for the proposed new Courthouse anchor for their eternally fallow Brush Triangle.)
Tony Shaw, Executive Director of the Employers Council Mendocino County, said he had lots of experience in public policy, planning and financing and knew from his training and experience that the “mitigations” in the plan are, in short, a very bad joke.
“Where will the money come from all for all these mitigations?” he asked. “I have identified 47 work tasks that you need to do” (according to the EIR’s Mitigation Monitoring Plan). “Most of these programs have to be done by 2014. So you’ll be seeing these programs come before you from the Planning Department.
Shaw took a deep breath: “Here we go — Growth Management Plan; Adjoining Use Restrictions; Commercial and Industrial Land Use Restrictions; Rezoning Land Parcels; Hazardous Development Areas Regulations; Russian River Corridor Plan; Russian River; Russian River Floodway Development Strategy; No Adverse Impact Standards; Interim Stormwater Plan; Best Management Practices Plan; Groundwater Stewardship Program; Natural Resources Inventory; Natural Resources Review Guidelines; Wildlife Preserves Acquisition Dedication Area Identification; Transferred Development Rights Program; Riparian System Management Plan; Stream Setback Standards; River Corridor Use Regulations; Riverbed Bank Maintenance Program; Oak Woodland Habitat Inventory and Conservation Plan; Land Use and Development Code; Development Proposal Criteria and Performance Standards; Hillside Codes; Historic Resources Inventory; Historic Preservation Design Guidelines; Cultural Resources Inventory; Pedestrian Access Standards; Bicycle Route Standards; Particular Matter Guidelines; Traffic and Air Quality Impact Strategy; Noise Standards for Construction; Design Guidelines; Landscaping Guidelines; Sign Guidelines; Brush Street Triangle Master Plan; Interim Design Guidelines; Public Service Master Plan; Valleywide Firesafe Standards; Disaster Preparedness Plan; Water Demand Report; Parks Facilities Needs Assessment and Master Plan; Trails Master Plan; In Lieu Park Dedication Nexus Study; Energy Efficiency Design Guidelines; Energy Incentive Plan; Community Choice Aggregate Analysis; Qualified Greenhouse Gas Reduction and Energy Master Plan.”
Shaw has a point. If all of these mitigations really had to be accomplished it might be the next millennium before any project could proceed.
“By my analysis,” Shaw concluded, “it’s going to cost you about $4.7 million to do this and about 47,000 hours of staff time. It’s going to require eight departments to work on these. And it will involve numerous hours of the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission and I just want to know how are you going to pay for it and how are you going to get it done before 2014?”
No response. Although Supervisor McCowen later seemed to agree that the mitigations were a dead letter.
“We received a number of comments which seem to center on two or three main issues,” said McCowen. “One of them is that we are approving mitigations that may or may not be feasible, and if they’re not economically feasible, and they’re not actually implemented, then what are they really mitigating? It may be more a question for County Counsel: Are we vulnerable on that issue? Does it undermine the legal requirements to approve mitigation measures without perhaps clearly identifying how they’re going to be funded?”
Then it came time to craft the resolution approving the Final EIR pretty much unchanged.
And thereupon commenced a lengthy series of teensy insertions and miscellaneous caveats.
McCowen: “I move that rezonings other than areas 25, 29, 32, 37 necessary to meet the housing settlement agreements and the rezonings for the Calpella sewage treatment plant and Grace Hudson school go through the normal process at the landowner’s expense.”
Chair Smith asked the Clerk to read the motion back.
Clerk: “Motion to rezonings other than 25, 29, 32 and 37 necessary to meet housing agreements and Calpella sewage plant and Grace Hudson school the landowners will be financially responsible.”
Smith: “Sounds a little…”
Pinches: “We’ll need to take out the…”
McCowen: “Will be… I think I said will go through the normal process at the landowner’s expense.”
Pinches: “Will need to pay the applicable fees.”
Smith: “And I think UVAP ought to be mentioned there. It ought to say UVAP map areas. So that it stands alone and it’s… it’s… intelligent or it’s clear. As a stand alone item. As an action.” …
And so on for several more minutes, until…
After the 3-2 vote approving the Final EIR (Pinches and Brown dissenting), Supervisors McCowen and Pinches had a little exchange about the Masonite site which will keep its industrial zoning, according to the UVAP.
Pinches: “By leaving the land use designation for the Masonite site industrial it’s a big mistake. I think that the people of Mendocino County made a huge mistake. That’s the primary future economic driver, the best piece of property for future jobs, for retail, for whatever you want to put, mixed use. We have over 3800 acres of industrial land in Mendocino County. Most of it is either not utilized or underutilized. We passed up a real big opportunity to start an economic engine, get an economic engine opened up and it’s… I just feel it’s a big economic mistake, not only for the job aspects future of Mendocino County but for the finances of Mendocino County itself because the… I hope I’m wrong. But I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if we drive by that site 20 years from now and it’ll still be sitting just as it is. If you remember the proposal that DDR come forward with by now we’d be obtaining… If they were allowed to go forward with their development, they would… the County of Mendocino would be getting a minimum of $2 million a year in revenues right in the general fund. We passed that up. Now we had another opportunity here, we had another bite at the apple, we passed that up. So it’s really ironic that even the owner of the property never even showed up to state the case. They’ve kinda given up on Mendocino County. It’s a really sad sad state of affairs for the economics of Mendocino County and for anybody that wants a job or raise their grandkids here. It’s a big mistake.”
McCowen: “That particular company kinda gave up on the United States and even prior to the vote on Measure A they announced that they were pulling out of any projects in the United States that they were not already committed to and they were moving their money to Brazil because they got a better rate on return. Had that measure passed, you might still be looking at concrete slabs for 20 years. It’s not at all clear that their development proposal was feasible, certainly on the scale that they were planning for. So I think the voters made a wise decision there. What I’d like to say about the UVAP and planning in general is, and I think most if not everyone agrees, we can’t keep going through the process that we’ve been stuck in with the General Plan Update, with the UVAP, with the Coastal Planning. We just churn and churn and churn. Supervisor Brown and I probably have a two foot stack of paper if not a three foot… Well, I don’t think it’s three feet, but it’s at least two feet high of documents, draft after draft, you know, public hearing drafts, there was the UVAP tentatively approved in 2003 I think.”
McCowen: “Then there was the 2007, which this version allegedly is, although it went through this reconsideration process. It’s really not clear to me that in the end we’ve wound up with any better product than if we had just plowed through it and adopted a plan in a timely manner. I’m certainly not holding staff accountable. I think if anyone is accountable it would be the decision makers who I think we sometimes we wish that all of the public all the stakeholders are going to get together and sit around and agree on a plan that everyone supports. That’s just not likely. So I think we have to be ready that on any given planning document we’re not going to have unanimity in the public, in the community. And yet we need to move forward and adopt plans and not spend inordinate amounts of staff time and resources on endlessly going through the process and then stopping short of taking a final action that we need to take to get these things adopted. Next on our horizon is probably the Mendocino Town Plan which is about 20 years overdue for review. The only thing that we can be sure of is that everybody in the town of Mendocino or who is affected by it, or concerned about it is not going to be in agreement. And yet, somehow we have to move through the process and make some decisions. We can’t just keep putting these burdens on staff and then expect them to be able to do all the other functions that we look to them for.”
Everybody then thanked their well-paid staff for simply doing their desk jobs — pointless as it all seems to have been.
“Not only have we put Leonard Charles’s children through college, but your grandchildren as well!” McCowen joked.
“He even got enough money to get a haircut!” Pinches added.