Archive for » September 10th, 2017«

SLO’s plan to rehab Mission Plaza fails to ‘rock the boat’

As you might suspect, Mission Plaza is rather close to my heart.

Mission Plaza did not have an easy birth, but I am pleased that over time it has become an important part of San Luis Obispo life, providing breathing room for our mission and congregation space in our central business district. It has been well used.

Renovations are certainly in order, and modifications to the plaza’s physical condition to bring it into conformity with the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) are warranted. However, the specification established by the previous City Council in seeking professional design assistance to remedy the plaza’s current short-comings, as well as to provide a vision for the future, were very, very disappointing, to say the least.

Daniel Burnham, a late 19th century American architect-planner once advised that we should, “Make no little plans, for they fail to stir the magic in men’s blood.”

The RRM plan before the City Council is, unfortunately, a “little plan” in too many aspects.

Sadly, I must urge rejection of this plan, save for the circular plaza revision directly in front of the mission itself. I urge the council to reject all of the elements proposed west of the Warden Bridge, including revisions of the restroom area and the landscape and pavement treatment of Broad Street, between Palm Street and Monterey Street. The footbridge proposed behind Luna Red should not be a part of this plan. If needed in the future, it should be constructed by the businesses it would serve, not with public funds.

Why reject? In my opinion, the RRM proposal fails to asses (1) what needs to be done to keep downtown SLO both economically and socially vibrant for at least the next 25 years, and (2) what role the Mission Plaza (and its extensions) could play in that future.

Also, this plan fails to generate any excitement, nor does it address any potential economic problems that might loom in the future. Was RRM too timid and didn’t want to “rock the boat?”

I, too, am a design professional (retired), and in my experienced opinion, it is the duty of design professionals to “rock the boat.” The next few years are destined to be critical for our downtown and for retail businesses. SLO needs a plan that will excite its citizens and visitors, as well as contribute to the economic and social well being of SLO in the years ahead.

The seeds that will produce that vision of the future role of Mission Plaza, extended and embellished, have already been planted. They are already in their infancy and soon will be flourishing. They are: The Art Museum, The Children’s Museum, The History Museum, The Little Theater and The Old Mission’s Museum, with the mission itself. Together. they constitute a new Cultural Center tied together with a well-considered Mission Plaza-like landscaped circulation system.

This is the vision I ask you to consider. Without question, any future design work approvals must consider Mission Plaza extended to Nipomo Street.

I do ask and urge the council to carefully consider the design ideas for this area that have been developed independently by former Councilman T. Keith Gurnee, who is himself a professional urban planner. Keith’s designs offer much to be considered, for he stepped outside of the design constraints imposed by the previous City Council and has “rocked the boat.”

I bear RRM no ill will. It is a capable design firm. It has done better on other projects, and might have done better with this commission had the city’s solicitation for professional design services been more expansive and futuristic in its scope.

I urge City Council members to salvage and use that of RRM’s proposed design that will “work” for our future, and disregard all other aspects of the RRM proposal.

My reason is simple: Economics!

Historically, the financial base of California cities came from property taxes, but in 1978 Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13. That put a hard limit on how much tax could be levied on real property. This limitation flew in the face of an expanding population that required expanded public services.

What to do? SLO voters agreed to a half-cent increase in the local sales tax rate; this increase continues today but has a sunset date, which would require a positive repeat vote by SLO voters for the half-cent levy to continue.

The half-cent sales tax increase might have stabilized SLO’s revenue needs for an indefinite period. But, no, along came Amazon and cities, SLO included, began to witness closures of “brick and mortar” retail stores—stores whose retail sales tax was the life blood for local governments, including our own.

What might SLO do to stabilize its retail base? (RRM makes no suggestions.)

The Cultural Center that I propose could become a draw to bring new visitors to SLO. New visitors bring new money with them. The close physical relationships the elements of the Cultural Center have with each other within an extended Mission Plaza and the entire Cultural Center with the adjacent central business district suggest a very positive synergistic relationship could come into being.

The result of this interactive relationship should be more economic activity and more sales tax revenue for SLO, as well as sheer delight in an expanded, more exciting downtown.

Ken Schwartz, an architect and former mayor of San Luis Obispo, is widely regarded as the Father of Mission Plaza.


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It’s that time of the year: Bears get hungrier

Fishing’s good now, but as days start to get shorter, New Jersey’s bear appetites increase.

Wildlife biologists call it hyperphagia, the period when foraging for food accelerates.

In humans, the dictionary calls it “a condition in which somebody compulsively overeats over a long period.” Maybe it’s the guys snacking while watching football on TV.

More bears are seen during their fall eating spree because the bruins want to add more calories and want to put on more fat.

Even my backyard, groundhog looks like a football in September, but nobody notices.

People notice when foraging bears are seen in places like Little Falls and Woodland Park, Clinton Township, and in Mercer and Somerset counties.

Last weekend, the Little Falls mayor alerted residents when a bear was seen roaming near a McDonald’s and near homes. The bears usually eat acorns, nuts, berries, apples and bird feeders, but it’s New Jersey.

Black bears are the largest land mammal in New Jersey.  When the Fish and Game Council stopped bear hunting in the 1970s, there were about 100 bears in the state.  Now there are thousands of bears roaming New Jersey, and there are several hunting seasons for them.

Early bear hunting season starts on Oct. 9 for archers.

Trout out of hiding

Stream and reservoir fishing has not been crowded.  Now is the time when wild brown trout come out of hiding to prepare for spawning, and holdover stocked rainbows are biting.

Ed Harabin, who lives near Round Valley Reservoir, had a good August for rainbows at night. He and his wife, Fran, and their friends caught more than 50 trout a night, kept mostly 20-inchers for their limits.

He’s switched to fishing for hybrid striped bass at Spruce Run Reservoir.  There was a shortage of herring at Hunterdon bait shops, but there was no shortage at Laurie Murphy’s at Dow’s on Lake Hopatcong.

Joe Welsh netted herring on his bait barges and was transferring the bait to Laurie’s bait tanks on Wednesday when we went there.

Laurie said, “As another summer comes to a close, you can look forward to fall fishing picking up, and a lot less boat traffic.

“It’s a great time of year, even just for a boat ride. We are open with boat rentals until early November, and with bait and tackle through the winter.”

Jim Welsh, while fishing this week, had some hybrids between 5 and 7 pounds, several nice walleyes and a channel cat, hitting the Dow scales at 12 lbs. 6 oz.

At Round Valley, the water surface temperature has been lower in recent weeks, and the Great Lakes surface water temperatures were lower than normal, giving ice fishermen hope for a good winter season.

Calendar

Today: Free Outdoor Expo at Collier’s Mills Wildlife Management Area, Jackson, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., with more than 100 environmental and conservation demonstrations, exhibits and seminars

Monday: Sales for antlered buck permits begin at 10 a.m. 

Tuesday: Black bear permits go on sale at 10 a.m. for the archery season that will start on Oct. 10

Tuesday:  “European Nymphing” meeting topic of the Central Jersey TU, 7:30 p.m., American Legion Hall, 137 New Market Road, Dunellen

Tuesday: Fish and Game Council meeting, 10 a.m., Central Office, 1 Eldridge Road, Robbinsville, at Assunpink WMA

Sept. 23: Youth Bow Hunt for deer


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Boat owners doubled-up on ropes, fenders, and hope ahead of Hurricane Irma

Nearly every day at 5 p.m., Gini Gonzalez and her husband Luis sit on the back of their yacht with cocktails in hand, watching people come home from work. They’ve been living on their boat — named Happy Four — at Dinner Key Marina in Coconut Grove for a year.

Now, they are afraid they’re going to lose it all when Hurricane Irma barrels through South Florida.

“We’ve done a lot of things to it to make it ours,” she said. “My daughter says it’s not home. It’s a boat. But it’s home to me.”

The retired couple, both 70, moved their boat from the edge of the marina closer to shore in hopes the inner parts of the marina would be protected by surrounding vegetation. They doubled up on ropes and tied down everything possible. Once the preparations are finished, they’ll leave their floating home and hunker down with Luis Gonzalez’s sister in Pembroke Pines.

The Gonzalezes are among the hundreds of people along the South Florida coast — a part of the estimated $11.5 billion recreational boating industry in South Florida — scrambling to prepare their boats ahead of the Category 5 Irma, expected to make landfall early Sunday.

dinner key marina

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Boat owners at various marinas took all kinds of precautions to protect their vessels. They tied up their boats with thicker ropes and used more ropes than usual. Small fenders were replaced with ones twice their size. Cushions were taken out and placed inside. Sails were wrapped tight and Bimini tops were removed and stored. Blue masking tape secured doors, hatches, and anything that might fly open.

Getting on and off the boats was like navigating an obstacle course of ropes, and it took a leap to step on the boats, since they were tied as far as possible away from the edge of the dock. Some boats were moved up the river, if owners could find a spot.

But they won’t know how well all their efforts will work until the hurricane hits.

dinner key marina 3

Further north at Miamarina in Bayside, James Hudson, captain of a yacht, arrived in Miami on Wednesday. After spending all summer in the Bahamas, he and another crew member plan to stay in Miami through December.

But as of Thursday, their weekend plans included staying put inside the boat during the hurricane. They’ve tied down the boat with thicker-than-normal ropes and larger fenders. As the water rises, they’ll release the ropes allowing for more slack. If they feel their lives are in danger, they’ll make a run for the bathrooms.

“I’m going to the bathrooms in the marina, which are all concrete and no windows, and stay there for a few hours,” said Hudson.

Hudson, his crew member, and a few others planned to stay in their boats at the marina, according to Hudson.

Back in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida, there were 26 direct fatalities, 15 in Miami-Dade alone, according to the National Hurricane Center. The relatively low fatality number is often attributed to massive evacuations exceeding 1.2 million people. Boat damages were estimated at half a billion dollars.

“You’re brave,” Jason Cohen, who was working on another yacht, said to Hudson. “If you get the eye of the storm, it’s gonna be tough.”

miamarina bayside 3

He said he works for six owners, and on Wednesday, he spent 18 hours securing boats. This one, which he estimated was worth around $800,000, was his fourth so far.

Cohen gestured to the concrete dock, filled with dozens of yachts and sailboats at Bayside Marketplace, and said: “If it happens here, I can guarantee there’s gonna be boats on the concrete.”

But Hudson found security in the surrounding concrete. Bayside is lined with concrete buildings, full of shops and restaurants. The water is relatively shallow, and the marina at the edge of the bay is further from the ocean itself than other marinas, he said.

miamarina bayside 4

Harry and June Pasquier relocated their 52-foot sailboat Gypsy for similar reasons — this marina was the safest place they could dock their boat, they said. Their old boat was damaged 12 years ago by Hurricane Wilma at Dinner Key Marina, but boats at Miamarina were hardly damaged, recalled Harry Pasquier.

That line of thinking and their boat insurance, however, hardly curbed their nerves.

“We’re very nervous,” said June Pasquier. “I think you have to be. If you’re not nervous, there’s something wrong.”

The annual threat of hurricanes and tropical storms hasn’t slowed down the boating lifestyle in South Florida.

The Gonzalezes, whose yacht is docked at Dinner Key, have built a life around boating. Before selling their home and moving onto their yacht, they would spend long weekends on it. Their floating home has taken them to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas.

Luis Gonzalez said he would have paid thousands of dollars to have his boat docked on the river, but few spaces were available and the docks he inspected were in bad condition. So he and wife secured their boat and are mentally preparing themselves to lose it.

“At the end of the day, [the boat] is insured and we’re gonna buy another one, and we’re gonna live in it again,” he said.

Just two weeks ago, they bought a second boat that is stored in Jacksonville.

“It might be a double whammy,” he said.

His wife responded: “But we’ll buy another one.”


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