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Valley People (Jan. 11, 2017)

HIGHWAY 128 was closed a little after 3pm Sunday when the Navarro spilled its banks, and the banks stayed spilled through Monday. CalTrans, County road crews and PG&E linemen did truly excellent work keeping the roads clear and the lights on.

VALLEY QUIK PICS: High school principal Keri St. Jeor got a scare at this Ray's Road home the other night when suddenly the power box on the side of his house went up in flames. Volunteers were quickly on-site and just as quickly extinguished the blaze, which seemed briefly like it would engulf the principal's modest dwelling.

A CHIMNEY FIRE Monday morning in one of the structures behind the Farrer Building, central Boonville, was just as quickly extinguished.

AND, SUNDAY AFTERNOON, late-ish, the Anderson Valley Ambulance volunteers were honored with a dinner by their board of directors.

CALTRANS, Eureka, wants to raise the speed limit from 30 mph to 40 mph through Philo. The Supes will ponder this silly and most unwelcome proposal at their 24 January meeting.

BACKGROUND: Until the mid-90s the speed limit in downtown Philo was a lethal 55mph. Crossing the road from Lemons Market to the old Post Office was a kind of pedestrian roulette, made even more hazardous when CalTrans removed the painted perimeters of the legal crosswalk, explaining that a nebulous study from 1955 informed them that crosswalks lent pedestrians “a false sense of security.”

IN JUNE of 1996, an infant was killed and his brother and mother injured when a speeding northbound pickup coming up over the semi-blind south rise into Philo barreled into another pickup which had stopped to allow the mother and her two sons to cross where the crosswalk had been erased by CT. The halted truck slammed into the three pedestrians, killing 16-month old Juan Ceja.

A PUBLIC OUTCRY arose to both slow traffic and restore the crosswalk. A crew of late night guerrilla crosswalk painters several times repainted the crosswalk. The following mornings an over-large Caltrans crew ground off the unauthorized restoration.

(NOW it can be told! AVA staff, as citizen journalists, several times repainted the crosswalk in the dead of night. We wanted, and still want, a pedestrian overpass, visualizing it as an elegant aerial walkway bridging east and west Philo while creating a true Valley landmark. Naturally, that proposal got no traction beyond the office of Boonville’s beloved weekly.)

THAT AUGUST, Philo organized a large protest in front of Lemons Market where upwards of 200 placard-waving locals denounced Caltrans and spent an afternoon threatening to block traffic “all the way to Cloverdale” as six CHP officers did their best to keep the protesters off the highway.

IN THE WAKE of the protest Caltrans hosted a community meeting at the AV Grange in Philo where Caltrans listened to dozens of angry locals demand that the speed limit in Philo be reduced. Caltrans eventually agreed to set the speed limit in Philo at 30mph, adding “30mph zone ahead” signs and permanent speed indicator radar signs on each end of Anderson Valley’s second city. The crosswalk never was replaced, although a number of people live on the west side of the highway who regularly cross the highway, west to east. A tasting room is also opposite the popular and always busy Lemons Market. The desire for a safe pedestrian crossing is no less urgent today than it was in 1996.

MOTORISTS, especially touri, continue to barrel through Philo from both directions, to and from the Mendocino Coast. The lowered speed limit, however, honored by most locals, has made Philo pedestrians much safer for more than a decade now. It’s simply nuts to re-raise the speed limit.

THERE'S NO REASON to change anything, but Caltrans’ periodic “speed surveys” apparently now show that some people are speeding through Philo so, in Caltrans logic, the speed limit must rise to be consistent with Caltrans’s “prevailing speed” doctrine.

ALTHOUGH the Post Office is no longer across the street from Lemons’ Market, the hazards in both directions remain the same: People still stop for pedestrians crossing the street, southbound cars still stop in the middle of the street to make left turns, school children are still loaded and unloaded on both sides of the street, etc.

WHY CAN'T Caltrans leave well-enough alone and save us all the trouble, expense and increased hazard?

BLACKBIRD FARM is a quasi-educational operation located on 245 acres deep in the hills west of Philo. The owner is a Los Angeles charter school entrepreneur named John Hall. Charter schools are funded out of public education money. Hall and his family are a kind of mini- charter school conglomerate, with both non-profit and for-profit operations in several states. Hall has been sued by the State of California for funding improprieties. His legal difficulties have been spelled out in a series of articles by the Los Angeles Times.

HALL wants to radically expand his Philo property to accommodate 292 transient visitors, meaning he has a major hotel-like resort business in mind on a property accessed only by narrow, poorly maintained country road.

THE ANDERSON VALLEY has never been more united in opposing a proposed project. Many residents fear the County's Planning Commission will either permit Hall's expansion whole or reduce the number of transients he wants to accommodate to a "compromise" number that is still so large it will transform West Philo to an urban level of use wildly incompatible with a rural area which does not have the community resources capable of serving a large-scale hotel way to hell and gone in the hills.

PROBLEMS WITH THE BLACKBIRD RANCH proposal to raise their allowed occupancy from 37 to a whopping 292 continue to perplex local agencies. Just this week Anderson Valley Fire Chief Andres Avila, and after a careful reading of the regs, Avila saw that one-way road designations are not applicable over the lengths of the narrow five miles of winding private road into the property from downtown Philo. The road would have to be widened to at least 20 feet. It is presently mostly a 12-foot dirt road and a one-lane bridge over the Navarro River. It would also need to be brought up to current road standards, i.e., paved.

COMBINED WITH BLACKBIRD’S failure to obtain building permits for the structures it has erected since buying the property, and its failure to prepare a proper emergency plan, along with only partial and grudging compliance with previously agreed to upgrades, this latest access assessment from AV's fire chief would seem to make their radical capacity increase unlikely.

BLACKBIRD'S neighbors, over whose land the narrow access road runs, are unlikely to grant easements to do the required road upgrade. Neighbors are all opposed to a Blackbird expansion, especially one of the grotesque dimensions Blackbird proposes.

AT WHAT POINT will the pure unreasonableness of Blackbird’s hotel fantasies be shared by the County’s planning staff?

RIXANNE WEHREN of Albion speculates about the root cause of the silt build-up at the mouth of the Navarro: “My theory is that the huge landslide upriver at Floodgate some years ago released a huge amount of soil into the river, the bulk of which filled up the estuary to about five feet deep, instead of over [its normal] 20 feet. That slug of dirt and gravel is now going over the berm, filling in the offshore low swales, and backing up to create a larger berm than ever before. Without big storms to carry it out, that sediment is too heavy for the river to clear it out…”

ED NOTE: The 1995 Floodgate Slide — attributed by locals at the time to an ill-considered road that Louisiana-Pacific cut at the bottom of a steep section of the Navarro River’s bank to enable newly cut logs to be lowered to log trucks at the bottom of the hill instead of the more difficult method of raising them to a top-side road — was massive, so massive it blocked off the Navarro. Ms. W's surmise seems logical, given the berm build-up at the river mouth some 20 years later now.

COMPTCHE NATIVE and life-long Navarro River watcher, George Hollister: “I have had similar thoughts. It reminds me of something my friend Larry Hyder told me long ago, “Rivers are sediment transport systems.” And I once heard Prof. Carl Yee say, “One man’s erosion is another man’s beach.” So yea, there is sediment in rivers. This is a good thing, and can be bad thing.“The source of beach sand at the mouths of our rivers is erosion from a respective river’s watershed. There are multiple factors determining the size of the sand bar at the mouth of the Navarro, and a multitude of sources of sediment in the Navarro, so one should be careful about drawing absolute conclusions based on subjective observations. What I have observed is that the size and shape of beaches in our area are constantly changing.“Was an LP road responsible for the mentioned landslide? Likely was a factor. But so was the Navarro River that undercuts the same hillside, as was the weathering underlying bedrock. These massive landslides are periodic and inherent in all of our watersheds.”

HOW MANY COUNTRIES can you live in without leaving Mendocino County? If you were Ray Pinoli, born in 1925, dead at the very end of 2016, I'd six countries, and Ray only left Philo to fight in the Pacific as a Marine during World War Two. (Which could count as seven countries, but that experience was on another planet entirely.)

Ray Pinoli

AS A KID in the Anderson Valley, Ray lived through the Depression. He would have remembered a WPA crew building the bridge over Con Creek in 1933, the bridge on Anderson Valley Way just north of the Elementary School we drive over today.

HAVING SURVIVED the War, Ray would have enjoyed, maybe, the tranquil, prosperous, optimistic 1950s and, here in Mendocino County, the great logging boom when there were more than twenty lumber mills from Yorkville to Navarro, and sea-going ships hauled lumber out of Noyo Harbor. Everybody had a job, everybody made enough money to live on, everybody was pretty much on the same page, socially and politically. (Same page, definition of: Aberrant behavior was strictly an indoors affair. You voted Republican or Democrat because both parties stood for defined principles. Drunks and crazy people did not live on the streets, and even bums often wore tattered suits and ties. Ethnic minorities were represented by Amos and Andy, Charlie Chan, Tonto, the Cisco Kid and Pancho. Betty Crocker loved her kitchen. Versions of this America is what Trump seems to have in mind.

AT THE END of the 1960s, Ray would have been startled, perhaps perplexed, probably amused by the hippies who began buying up logged-over land in the hills to carve out non-urban lives, developing the marijuana industry to pay their modest mortgages. Among them was a new crop of veterans produced by Vietnam.

BY 1980, the wine pioneers were here — Darren Edmeades, Tony Husch, Jed Steele, and Steve Tylicki (“We're built out,” Steve said around 1990. “There will never be vineyards in the hills.”) Ray sold part of his prosperous holdings to the Roederer family of France, and the Roederers soon erected the first fully industrialized wine plant in the Anderson Valley, Scharffenberger was second. (Scharffenberger later became two people in the form of a candy bar, Scharffen-Berger. You’re getting to be an old timer if you remember when he was one guy.)

WITH THE WINE INDUSTRY came immigrant Mexicans who made the industry prosperous and without whom the industry would not exist.

AND BY THE TIME Ray died two weeks ago, Anderson Valley was a bilingual community whose primary income derived from wine, marijuana, tourism, government jobs, and, you might say, a significant number of mystery money people with vague pedigrees.

RAY lived in six countries without leaving home — seven, if you count the Marine expeditionary force in the Pacific.


County Transportation Director Howard Deshield:

“Many of MCDoT Road Crew employees volunteered to come in to work over the holiday. They came in at 3 a.m. to sand the County roads to ensure they would be safe for holiday travelers. These employees have my sincere appreciation, and I am sure, that of the County, for their efforts. They are listed below:

Ukiah: Sterling Long, Kevin Weer, Philip Crane, Tony Silveria

Willits: Cole Munderloh, Jerry Harris, Bill Petersen, Richard Branch

Laytonville: Sean Leslie, George Alexander

Boonville: W.T Johnson, John Tindall

Point Arena: Steven Archuleta

Mechanic: John Hendricks

GOTTA BE: John Tindall, we’re going to assume until we hear from him, may be descended from Maurice Tindall, himself descended from a pioneer Valley family and, for years, Anderson Valley’s justice court judge. Judge Tindall was also a columnist for the early Advertiser. He told me once that he was 16 and hunting elk up on Signal Ridge when the ’06 quake struck. “Down in the Valley it looked like a giant kelp bed; all the big trees were swaying back and forth, and I had a hard time keeping my feet.”

HELP WANTED: The Anderson Valley Health Center is looking for someone to replace the sorely missed, Logan McGhan. The long-winded particulars of the ad tout The Valley “known for its pinot noir grapes and homesteading families…. Our patient population consists of about 40% seasonal and migrant farm workers of Mexican descent, 20% seniors whom are some of the original homesteaders of the valley and have a strong desire to age-in-place, and the rest of our patients who make up the valley’s diverse and creative population of back-to-the-landers, artists, farmers, foodies, truckers, loggers and more.”

THE UNINTENTIONALLY hilarious ad, a minor masterpiece of evasion and lib-think, also mentions the Center was founded by Mark Apfel and his cousin Franklin. Mark Apfel is now a sprightly senior citizen who has certainly served the Anderson Valley well, making house calls even, and where else do you see a doctor doing that? But he and his excellent nurse practitioner can’t handle the present patient load by themselves.

THE DOCTOR WANTED AD should read: The job pays about $160,000 a year when all the jive government pay-backs are factored in. We’re sure you, dear applicant, know how to work the system. From modest beginnings as a storefront clinic treating their sexually transmitted diseases, the hippies now want to die here. The Clinic has since ballooned to the size of a small hospital  with a dentist, a psychologist and lots of people walking around in white coats whose mortgage keeps it constantly in debt, not that it bounces checks. Yet. Pinot-Schmeeno. If you’re that far into wine, please don’t apply. We have more than enough boring people here already. The heavy Mexican patient load occurs because the wine industry of the Anderson Valley and Mendocino County takes zero responsibility for its employees while it sucks up all the water and douses its vines with heavy loads of lethal chemicals. They’ve killed all the frogs, and will kill all of us over the long haul. Our population isn’t any more creative than the population of any other place in America, but outside the oppressive cadre of yuppo-guppos who now dominate the public life of the Anderson Valley, there are lots of genuine and interesting people here.

HOW ABOUT YOU, Mr. Negative? Do you use the Boonville clinic? Yes, I do. I got a scrip a couple of winters ago for real cough syrup, the stuff that’s high percentage codeine, which I had to go to Rite Aid in Ukiah to actually get and where I had to listen to about ten minutes of bullshit from some learning disabled kid about how to drink it. And, after a life time of scrupulously refusing to kill spiders, one of the ingrates bit me as I lifted it from my bathtub. My finger swelled to where it slopped over on my keyboard so I hustled off to Dr. Apfel for relief. The doc, taking a quick look, gleefully plunged a needle into the ailing digit to drain it of spider fluid and I went back to work, cured. Ordinarily, in emergencies, of which I’ve had few for a person my age because I walk a lot, do a lot of push-ups and only get drunk one night a week, I head for St. Mary’s Hospital on Stanyan, San Francisco. They promise a free pizza if they don’t get to you in thirty minutes.  I’ve never waited more than ten.

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