Mendocino County Today: June 24, 2012

THE SANTA ROSA PRESS DEMOCRAT finally got around to mentioning the Brooktrails real estate/County tax hole issue last Friday, only about nine months after the problem surfaced. AVA readers began reading about the problem last September when Supervisor John McCowen first tried (unsuccessfully) to convince his fellow Supervisors that the County was complicit in the real estate scam at the Brooktrails housing development outside of Willits where unsuspecting buyers were buying small, unbuilding lots in Brooktrails, not knowing that they had no water or sewer, and in some cases not even decent road access. As the real estate market tanked in recent years, the problem was made worse when the unbuildable lots stopped selling at tax auction and the County was unable to get back the tax money they had advanced to Brooktrails. Two weeks ago the Board finally got around to “de-Teetering” Brooktrails, meaning that the County will no longer advance County general funds to Brooktrails with no hope of recovery, to pay the cost of assessments for sewer, water and fire for hundreds of abandoned lots. (The County will keep paying the actual property taxes, at least for another year, because the Auditor-Controller says it's too much work to "un-Teeter" the taxes. ) The only new items in the PD account were 1. It could be worse because some property owners of unbuildable lots are still hanging on and paying taxes, and 2. the Brooktrails attorney, Willits-based Chris Neary, says it’s really the County’s fault for allowing the lots to be sold without water and sewer hookups (a hard case to make given the legal conditions in the 60s when Brooktrails was formed under a special provision of state law). Theoretically, Brooktrails could combine the lots into bigger pieces and reduce the total number of parcels that would need service, but that’s a very slow prospect at best and unless they could somehow make thousands of parcels go away in the process.

LAST TUESDAY the Board decided not to enact a county-wide mobile home park “rent stabilization” program that has been advocated for by a number of Ukiah seniors for years. (The City of Ukiah has a rent arbitration program that is paid for by per-space fees charged to the six mobil home parks in Ukiah.) Apparently, there’s one trailer park in Ukiah called “Lake Mendocino Mobile Home Estates” in the North Ukiah-Calpella area which is charging upwards of $700 per month per space and the space-renters there are the primary advocates for the rent control program. But after hearing from outgoing County Counsel Jeanine Nadel that the County “has no standing” to deal with individual trailer parks, the Board unanimously decided that imposing rent stabilization on the dozens of trailers parks (or more, anyone with two or more trailers on one parcel is a trailer park according to state law) was overkill (renters from several other parks submitted petitions against the idea). Several board members declared the rents being charged at Lake Mendocino Mobile Home Estates (owned by a Glendale outfit in Southern California called SRA Inc.) amounted to rent-gouging, but that the renters were “on their own” to deal with it. However, no one has any idea what they can do. (That was the reason they approached the Board of Supervisors in the first place.) The AVA will have full coverage of the rent stabilization program discussion in next week’s edition.

MENDOCINO TRANSPORTATION DIRECTOR Howard Deshield came to Anderson Valley last Wednesday night at a meeting hosted by the local Community Services District to conduct a preliminary discussion of initial plans to replace the bridge over the Navarro on Philo-Greenwood Road (a county road). The bridge is a wooden bridge that’s about 60 years old (built in the 1950s). It’s obviously showing its age and has been patched and repaired several times over the years. But some of the deterioration is beyond ordinary repair (e.g., split beams with straps and deteriorated concrete footings). Many local residents like the bridge the way it is, arguing that it’s one-lane nature slows people down and makes the area safer. They also say the bridge is quaint and is a mini-tourist draw of its own. Others say the aging bridge is vulnerable to big flood-driven logs that might damage it or take it out in a bad winter. (This has happened in the past.) And the narrowness of the bridge can itself be a safety problem, especially on summer weekends when tourists and locals flock to the area to picnic and swim and, at times, crowd the bridge roadway seemingly oblivious to through traffic as it goes by them with little to spare. Deshield said the County was still in the very early planning stage and doesn’t have a specific plan to replace the bridge yet. If done, it would be done with federal gas tax money which would require the bridge to meet basic (industrial) standards, which means wider and made of reinforced concrete. This idea doesn’t sit well with many locals, so the next meeting (which Deshield says is about six to eight months off) will be interesting as the design and the overall approach start taking shape. Supervisor Dan Hamburg was on hand and he pointed out that widening the bridge without widening the approach roads didn’t make a lot of sense. But Deshield said they might also consider widening the short approach road from Highway 128 to Hendy Woods State park to be compatible with the wider new bridge.

AS WITH JUST ABOUT everything else concern marijuana law, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder added to the confusion again earlier this month telling the Washington Times that federal officials are not going after those who are staying within the confines of their states' medical marijuana laws, but said “some have come up with ways in which they are taking advantage of these state laws.” “We limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law,” Mr. Holder told a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, adding that his department tries to focus on marijuana operations that “stretch state laws” or, in the case of raids in Colorado, where distribution centers were placed near schools.

THE BIG SIERRA NEVADA World Music Festival is underway in Boonville. Looks like it may be the biggest crowd they’ve ever had in Boonville. Cars line the roadway as far as the eye can see in both directions. Most of the attendees (heavy on the loosely defined hippie/reggae lifestyle types) are well-behaved and problem free. On Friday night there were five arrests, three for drunk in public and two people who were oblivioiusly ingesting the drug ecstasy right in front of a Mendo cop. The only other problem is the very high volume of some of the amplified music as it continues past midnight. Several very popular high profile world music artists (including pop icon Jimmy Clif) were on Saturday night’s line-up which may at least partially explain the large attendance.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything? My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind. If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more. Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle. I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded. I would have eaten popcorn in the ‘good’ living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace. I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth. I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored. I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains. I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life. I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted. I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream. I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day. I would never have bought anything just because it was practical/ wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime. When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, ‘Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.’ There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.” — Erma Bombeck

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