Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happenings: Baseball Tourism, Historic Indecision

Tonight: the City Council acted as middleman in a tourism deal, the southern Sand Canyon area is all but annexed, and history hangs in the balance (well, at least historical structures)[1].
Councilmember Laurene Weste delivered the invocation. She made an appeal to support the Homes for Heroes program which is doing a major renovation of a local veteran’s home as its November 5th kick-off event. The primary sponsors are the Southern California Gas Company in partnership with KHTS[2].

What would a City Council meeting be without awards and recognition? Shorter. In any event, the ladies of Soroptimist International were on deck this evening. I learned that there are two distinct chapters—one for Santa Clarita Valley and the other for Greater Santa Clarita Valley. These competing factions called a truce to support the “Color Me Pink” and “Color Me Purple” campaigns. Pink (and the month of October) are devoted to the fight to end breast cancer, and purple (and November) to the fight to end domestic violence. A sea of soroptimists flooded the dais to receive the recognition, each member insisting on giving hugs to each and every council member. It took a solid two minutes.

Next, the new director of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, Rachelle Dardeau, introduced herself. She was gracious and warm, thanking the City for their support of the center’s important mission to nourish the oldies with food and friendship.

General comments from council members were given next, and they would take up a hefty chunk of the evening. Councilmember Frank Ferry recalled asking staff to provide resources for resolving neighborly disputes, which have been increasingly common and violent of late. There is now a page on the City’s website that links you to resources about how to talk to a neighbor you’re having problems with. To meet Ferry's request, staff apparently Googled "neighbor disputes" and pared down the results for Claritans in crisis.

I like the ironic modifier: "Neighborly Disputes".

Ferry also suggested that families visit Saugus Speedway to catch a glimpse of the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The piney cadaver will be placed on big trucks and carted into town on its way to Washington, D.C. If you’ve never seen a large, recently felled tree lying on its side in a truck, here’s your chance[3]. A food drive is also part of the event, and sounds decidedly more worthwhile. Mayor Pro-tem Laurie Ender had no comments apart from wishing Councilmember Weste a happy birthday. In a charming moment, Frank told everyone Laurene was turning 29 years old.

Perhaps because she was reminded of her own mortality—that’s what birthdays are for, right?—Weste devoted her comments to preserving Santa Clarita’s historic structures. She said that she wanted staff to do a study of what communities have done “across the nation” to preserve their local history.

Councilmember Bob Kellar emphatically disagreed with Laurene’s plan for additional research. “At some point in time we have to say, ‘We’ve done our homework.’” He contended that that time was now, noting that the City has been working on a permanent ordinance for historic preservation for half-a-decade. Ferry weighed in next, saying he would require a clear definition of what makes a structure historic, the ability to opt-in to a listing program rather than be forced into it, and an emphasis on pursuing public ownership of valuable, historic buildings. Mayor Marsha McLean said that she agreed with Weste that more study was needed and wanted the Planning Commission to reconsider the issue.

At this suggestion, Ferry said “I have no idea what the Planning Commission did. I don’t watch them…” (Shocker.) McLean explained that they had essentially de-fanged the ordinance, making historic listing a strictly opt-in process. There was considerable discussion of this, and City Attorney Joe Montes was visibly uncomfortable. He reminded the Council that they could only discuss whether to instruct staff to perform more research, since the topic of historic preservation was not on the agenda for the evening. Everyone but Kellar agreed to more study, which City Manager Ken Pulskamp said would take about six months.

Some, like Laurie Ender and Bob Kellar, were worried about how owners of the 49 listed properties would deal with the financial burdens of being unable to modify their property and having to disclose the possibility of historic designation to interested buyers for at least six more months. In a rare moment of empathy with the affected owners, Pulskamp said that he imagined the people on the list would feel that their property values were being adversely affected. Unfortunately, he immediately followed this statement by equivocating on whether they’d be right or wrong about feeling a financial burden.

Once this discussion was over, the Consent Calendar was approved in its entirety. There was some interest in an item to give Hart Baseball $50,000 (and up to another $50,000 per year for the next three years). The funds will be used to improve the fields and facilities in order to support tournaments that bring with them out-of-towners who spend money on hotels, at restaurants, and so on. Alan Ferdman objected to using taxpayer dollars to benefit baseball players and hotel owners. However, Pulskamp said the money would be coming from a tax that Claritan hotels pay expressly in order to boost tourism. In short, the City is the middleman, taking money from hotels and giving it to Hart baseball so that visiting ball players’ families will make more money for hotels. Dana Cop of the SCV Chamber of Commerce gave the proposal her full support. City Manger Pulskamp said this was a key way to get families to start “spending a whole lot more money” by being required to stay one or more nights in Santa Clarita. The goal is to have eight tournaments hosted in Santa Clarita by year four of this tourism partnership.

There was also a bit of discussion of Agenda Item 3, which renewed a contract with Data Ticket, Inc., a private parking enforcement company. Mayor McLean said that she wanted a bit of “discretion” in how harshly parking was enforced. She relayed an email from a man who was literally forced to carry his daughter from his car and who parked where he oughtn’t for a mere five minutes. Ferry and Ender pointed out that showing discretion in such circumstances is a very hard thing to do. One can’t tell if a car is parked illegally for the worst or best of intentions; red zones exist for a reason; etc. McLean was forced to be satisfied with the recommendation that special circumstances be handled in an appeal at court. The City Manager also promised to remind the company that it use good judgment when enforcing parking. The parking program is revenue-positive for the City ($300,000 in expenditures, $450,000 in revenue, of which $125,000 goes to the State). Furthermore, people in Santa Clarita love to help enforcers. 2,523 eService requests were completed, most for parking enforcement or abandoned vehicle requests.

Per usual, road maintenance and beautification projects provided additional, comment-free bulk to the Consent Calendar. Once those items were approved, a measure to approve the annexation and pre-zone of nearly 700 acres in south Sand Canyon was passed to a second reading. There is a movie ranch overlay zone to accommodate the Sable Ranch and Rancho Deluxe movie ranches. In case you had forgotten, the Santa Clarita Economic Development Corporation reminded us that movies are a big industry in the SCV.

Public participation followed. Alan Ferdman, who is nothing if not persistent, spoke about sanitation fees and board meetings. He was concerned that Santa Claritans have not been afforded a convenient opportunity to speak out against the millions of dollars being spent to comply with questionable chloride limits. He reminded the audience that more than $20M will be spent on planning a treatment plant alone; implementation and operation of the plant would cost many times more. A woman named Jennifer Adams also spoke. From her mobility scooter, she said that sidewalks near her home are in poor repair and make it difficult for her to get around. Pulskamp was distressed (embarrassed?) that she had felt compelled to come to City Hall to make this appeal and said a simple call would have received a response. Apparently there is a “pot of money” for just such unforeseen repairs.

The meeting adjourned at 7:27.

[1]Care to read the agenda? You can.
[2]Homes for Heroes
[3]That’s really the event. Read more here and here.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Happenings: City Upset That Newhall Fills Vacancy

This is written in response to Leon Worden's article from SCVNews[1], which broke the story of the phoenix-like rebirth of an American small business. He, however, used somewhat more pejorative terms. The article can be read here. Be sure to check out the helpful map.

Automotive Technology, Mike Hagerty’s shop in Newhall, employed about a dozen people, did well over a million in sales, had several 5-star reviews online (and one one-star review, to be fair), and managed to keep its doors open through the recession[2]. Quite logically, the City of Santa Clarita decided to kick them out of town. In an article from The Signal[3] last year, Hagerty reacted to being evicted by the City, his new landlord:

"'With the old landlord, it was a handshake, a phone call,' Hagerty said. 'I was 15 days late to renew the five-year lease, according to the paperwork. So it’s out by the first of December. Merry Christmas to our family and everybody else around here. What did Automotive [Technology] do that was so bad?'"

Now, Hagerty has beaten them at their own game. He was made to shut down shop in downtown Newhall, but is right back again--right back in downtown Newhall. The City and Redevelopment Agency are not happy about this[4].

You see, the powers that be want downtown Newhall to become a place for a night out. They envision a land of theaters, wine bars, galleries, cafes, and boutiques. They do not want it to be a place that meets the more mundane, day-to-day needs of Newhallians, such as auto repair. Leon Worden elaborates in his article published yesterday:

"Current city codes prohibit the types of businesses that would impede that vision of a pedestrian-oriented shopping, dining and entertainment corridor. Banned from the five blocks of Main Street are auto shops, big-box stores, medical clinics, print shops, movie sound stages, drive-through restaurants and other businesses that interfere with a window-shopping and outdoor patio dining experience."

Indeed, Automotive Technology interfered with the sacred “window-shopping and outdoor patio dining experience.” To get them to leave town, the City bought (well, technically your tax dollars bought) a whole block that included the space Automotive Technology rented. The City evicted them and paid out a settlement of $255,000.

Automotive Technology found a new place to do business, and they started leasing there. The brilliant bit is that the new space is a stone’s throw away from their old shop, within sight of the new library, the nascent crown jewel of Old Town.

They managed this coup by moving into a vacant space formerly occupied by a motorcycle repair shop. Property owners can lease to “forbidden” tenants (vehicle repair shops, in this case) if done within 180 days of the other tenant leaving. This seems like a common-sense provision so that owners don't lose too much money waiting around for a more "desirable" business to rent their space.

While Worden calls the 180-day provision a "loophole" and sees a story of look-what-they-got-away-with!, I see it as a story of an-underdog-finally-won!. The City/Redevelopment Agency wields unprecedented power in Newhall. They are owner and landlord of more than a full block of town, they are generally successful in dictating what kind of business can and cannot set up shop, they spend taxpayer dollars on events to woo shoppers into town (events not lavished on other parts of the City of Santa Clarita), they have sunk millions of dollars into a library to replace an existing one mere blocks away, and they have used the power of eminent domain to forcibly take property. When a small business manages to persist with such uneven odds, it's hard not to cheer.

Now we just sit back and wonder whether more eminent domain awaits...

[1]SCVNEWS. Compare this with the story from The Signal (linked in footnote 3), which is far more sympathetic to the evictees.
numbers are from BizFind and may be outdated (or inaccurate--it's the Internet, as they say); there's simply no indication of how current they are. At least they serve to give you a ballpark estimate of the scale of the business.
[3]From The Signal for additional background and quotations.
[4]I base this inference on Gail Ortiz's quotation that they are trying to stop a similar event from happening again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Only in SCV: Big Day for Birds--and Birders

The Big Year premiers today[1]. You may have seen previews—it’s that movie with Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson about the obsessive pursuit of birds.

The National Audubon Society has, rather troublingly, spent six-figures on advertising the movie to its legions of birdwatching members and potential new recruits, so pivotal do they feel this moment will be in birding culture[2]. Obviously, the movie isn't going to be a blockbuster. It's being reviewed with words like "amiable", "affable" and "pleasant" at best. But I'm a pragmatist, and I too will seize on this moment, ideal or not, to talk about Santa Clarita's birds and the people who heart them...people like me. Really, how often are we topical?

You do what?

People always seem perplexed by what birdwatching/birding[3] is and why we bother. It’s exactly like it sounds—you look at birds and identify them, although any decent birder can also identify species by their calls and songs. Where’s the fun in that?, one rather logically asks, eyebrows furrowed. For starters, over 600 species of birds have been documented in California alone[4]. Learning to identify them and appreciating their stories quickly becomes engrossing. Our humble backyard mockingbirds somehow hold hundreds of different songs in their hazelnut-sized brains. In spring, you can train your binoculars on the night sky to see warblers and thrushes silhouetted against the moon, the merest indication that literally billions of birds are flying by night to reach breeding grounds thousands of miles away in Canada. And at any moment, miles offshore, there is a stream of skuas, shearwaters, and murrelets for which land is as alien as their open sea home is to us. The lives of birds are as diverse as they are astounding.

Another part of the appeal comes from birding’s listing aspect, the basis for big years. There is something in human nature that loves collecting. Tallying lists of the birds we observe satisfies this compulsion—lists of species seen in a particular place, over the course of a year, or throughout a lifetime. It's exciting to pursue birds that have no interest in cooperating with us. But even when not thrilled by the hunt for new list birds, the act of recording our observations gives a reason to be outside, sharpening and structuring our observations of nature. It also constantly renews our passion--this may be the millionth Canada Goose I’ve seen in a lifetime, but it’s the first one one for today.

Finally, one of our core motivations for birding (I hope) is a commitment to conservation. A drive to conserve birds has produced some of the world’s most rigorous examples of science conducted by non-professionals. Breeding bird surveys, nestbox monitoring projects, and migration counts mean we know more about birds than any other taxon of wild animals. It's made birds our best sentinels of environmental change and ideal poster-children for conservation.

That’s the best case I can make for birding’s appeal. But like any other avocation, something just has to click for you to really get into it. Some people are going to get a rush from seeing a Black Swift wheeling lithely overhead or from hearing the call of a drab little bird that cinches its identification as Cordilleran Flycatcher. Most will not. But if you’ve ever been obsessed with a sports team or winning a baking competition or memorized all the lines to some dumb sci-fi movies (no offense), you can at least sympathize with the single-minded, at times obsessive, pursuit of birds.

As for how this pursuit plays out in Santa Clarita, here are three vignettes.

The $11 Loon

The great thing about birds is that they fly (well, most do), and can end up far from where they are supposed to occur when, say, they make a wrong turn on migration. One of the big motivators for birders is the knowledge that some of these birds—vagrants, as they are called—will blunder into our local patches of field and forest.

When a vagrant is seen, there is a predictable cascade of events. First comes a moment of disbelief, followed by intent study of diagnostic characteristics of the particular species, followed by hurried photographing or note-jotting to document the rarity, followed by getting the rare bird alert out over phones and online. Depending on how good the bird is, other birders will hurry out into the field, keen on seeing the rarity and verifying your sighting.

Santa Clarita’s last big rarity was Yellow-billed Loon. Loons are sleek yet solid birds with massive dagger-like bills, stout compositions, and powerful legs. This puts them at home on the water, where they dive for fish. Many species are easy to find, but a Yellow-billed Loon is not one of them. That particular species is really at home in northern Canada or Siberia. But on March 8, 2010, a group of twenty birders found a Yellow-billed Loon on Castaic Lake.

This is what happens when a good bird is found. A posting on the LACoBirds group on Yahoo instantly reaches 1,057 LA-area birders, a few of whom may drop everything to chase down the rare bird.

This became LA’s first chaseable Yellow-billed Loon. I say “chaseable” because it stayed put for a while, allowing eager birders to re-sight it again and again. The sole other record for the county was seen as a fly-by off the coast in the late 1970s—decidedly not chaseable. The Yellow-billed Loon sitting on Castaic Lake, then, represented a first-in-a-lifetime species for LA’s many birders. That’s another key note: California birders are passionate about their county lists and want to add a bird like this to it, even if they've already seen it dozens of times outside the county.

I had to get out to Castaic Lake to see the loon, my drive considerably shorter than the one faced by birders coming from Orange County or San Diego. As I got close to the pull-out, I looked for a tell-tale clump of birders huddled around expensive Swarovski spotting scopes and impossibly enormous telephoto lenses. That’s a sure sign that the bird is still on the water. I scanned and scanned but didn’t see that reassuring clump of humanity. Regretting that I had waited a few days to come out for the bird, I drove up to the parking kiosk. The attendant said hello and apparently noticed my binoculars, for she knowingly proffered a very birderly statement, one that gives the hearer as much satisfaction as the teller: “It’s still here!” After her three words, our shared smile, and an $11 parking fee, I had seen it, too.

Bird-watching pumps $36 billion into the economy each year[5], and here was Santa Clarita’s own little piece of the pie[6]: scores of $11 parking passes purchased by people who had come to Castaic not to jet-ski or bass fish but to stare at a Yellow-billed Loon, their first real chance in the history of birding in LA County. Considering most birders are, ahem, older, the senior discount made it not a bad deal at all.

The Endemic, Rare, and Endangered

Even our common birds are good ones, if you keep a global perspective. In twenty minutes on the Santa Clara River, you can see about half-a-dozen of California’s endemics or near-endemics—bird species found nowhere on earth but California, sometimes a bit of Oregon, Nevada or Baja as well. These birds are Oak Titmouse, California Towhee, Wrentit, California Thrasher, Nuttall’s Woodpecker and, on a good day, maybe a flock of Tricolored Blackbirds (don’t you just love bird names?). For people living outside the Golden State, these are destination birds. They don’t do much in the way of migrating or dispersing far afield, so it’s very unlikely they’re going to inadvertently make it to Florida or New York, much less Britain or Australia. Many of our endemics are rather drab, blending in well with their brushy homes. But what they lack in color they make up for in song, filling our hills with a chorus of chips, chants, whistles, and trills that can only be heard in California.

In addition to these endemics, many of which are locally abundant, we also have some globally rare birds. The endangered California Condor is in a class of its own. It is immense, weighing over 20 pounds with a wingspan of nine feet, an arresting image in flight. But it is another number that’s far more staggering. There are just shy of 200 California Condors living in the wild at this moment; most of us have more Facebook friends than there are condors. Without extraordinary captive breeding efforts and millions of dollars spent in on-going monitoring, feeding, and conservation, they would most certainly have gone extinct. Yet the few that remain are often seen in and around town, especially on canyon drives through Placerita and Sand Canyons[7].

There is something bittersweet about glimpsing a species like the California Condor soaring free. The sight is special for a reason in which you can take no relish: we almost lost them and may still lose them yet.


Let’s close this discussion in the way we close the year of birding in Santa Clarita: with the Christmas Bird Count. A CBC is an attempt to identify and count every single bird in a 15-mile diameter circle in 24-hours. The National Audubon Society makes all of the data collected available to scientists and enthusiasts alike. Some count circles, as they’re called, have been counted for more than 100 consecutive years. A map on Audubon’s CBC website shows that America is literally blanketed with these end-of-year counts, a vast and comprehensive data pool for biologists.

The effort in Santa Clarita usually yields some 130 species of birds. Non-birders are often astounded—maybe astounded is a strong word—by the fact that there are so many species in Santa Clarita. Most of the SCV’s CBCs also turn up unusual finds. Black-and-white Warbler, Plumbeous Vireo, Harris’s Sparrow, and Red-necked Grebe are all fine birds seen on previous CBCs, not typical of this part of California (again, such wonderful names). One discovery, a Painted Redstart, even got local kids birding. It’s a gorgeous creature: jet black with a brilliant scarlet belly, bold white wing patches, and a delicate white crescent cradling its eye. For weeks, one darted among the pines of Newhall Memorial Park, as it would have done in the forests of Mexico’s Sierra Madre Mountains, where it was expected to occur. The kids at the adjacent Boys & Girls Club took a trip to visit the bird, naming it Paco[8].

Christmas bird counts continue annually, drawing anywhere from 15 to 30 people. It’s a mixing of seasoned observers with enthusiastic beginners. This is especially true in years where The Signal runs a story and draws in locals. Otherwise, Claritans are sorely lacking at the event. It may be an odd way to spend the morning, counting the number of Glaucous-winged Gulls on Castaic Lake or estimating the size of a flock of Cedar Waxwings flying overhead or going to great lengths to make sure that we are indeed counting a bird as Red-naped Sapsucker, not Yellow-bellied or a hybrid. But count we do, every year. We put on jackets over jackets and imitate owl calls at five in the morning and slog through mud in pursuit of animals that we love to watch and long to know and have a vague but intent urge to protect for others to enjoy long after we’re gone. We count birds because birds count—to us, at least.

[1]It’s shocking to learn what the movie is about judging from the previews, which made it look like The Bucket List, but with more falling down. Here’s the film's website and generally unimpressed reviews from Rotten Tomatoes.
[2]There is supposedly some Audubon branding throughout the movie, but really, this investment of my dues makes me cringe. A small fraction of people may be deeply affected by movies—say those who perversely got clownfish after watching Finding Nemo or kids who dive into dictionaries after watching one of the spelling bee movies—but let’s be sensible here. This is, at best, a sweet little pleasant film, not a force to spawn thousands of eager new birders ready to send checks to their local Audubon chapter.
[3]People get overly concerned about the distinction between bird-watching and birding. Birding is just shorter and easier to say, so many people use it as their default bird verb. However, it usually connotes a more intense and practiced pursuit of the observation of birds than, say, enjoying “the pretty red bird” that eats at your sunflower seed bird feeder (it’s called a House Finch). Birders are also often the sort who will travel to “chase” rare birds that are reported elsewhere, whereas bird-watchers are typically happy watching most anything.
[4]Here’s the list of all those birds, as published by the California Bird Records Committee. World-wide, there are another 9,000+ species more. Literally no one on earth has ever seen all the living species of birds. Ever. Some have gotten close.
[5]So says the US Fish & Wildlife Service.
[6]Well, technically, the money went to the County, but you’ll allow me some thematic license, won’t you?
[7] LA’s most authoritative birder, Kimball Garrett, reported seeing one from near Vista Valencia golf course this past May, so most anywhere is fair game for a condor flyover.
[8]Paco may have been a girl. There's no way to tell from afar. So here's his/her story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Happenings: 65 Minutes of Nothingness

Sometimes I wonder, Councilmember Weste.

All of City Hall’s important business is saved for just before the holidays or when people are away on summer vacations[1]. This mid-October meeting, then, was predictably tedious—just a consent calendar and the usual chorus of come-to-this and donate-to-that and hooray-for-us.

Mayor Pro-tem Laurie Ender delivered the invocation. She said that breast cancer is a bummer, the refrain we hear most everywhere this time of year.

Recognition went to the Rubber Ducky Regatta fundraising event held annually at Castaic Lake for Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers. A large yellow ducky came up to accept the proclamation for Rubber Ducky Regatta Day. Well, I thought it was a duck until it strode off stage and pulled off its head, revealing it had been an imposter—a man wearing a duck costume!-all along. This disappointing revelation soured my enjoyment of the rest of the meeting.

Next, LA County Sheriff Captain Paul Becker spoke about his anti-gang task-force. He said that gangs have been “migrating” from major cities to suburbs, drawn by Santa Clarita’s proximity to Los Angeles and the promise of customers with plenty of disposable income for drugs. He also talked about using localized crime prevention zones to maximize efficient deployment of law enforcement resources. And he stressed that Santa Clarita has never been statistically safer, judging by aggregate crime statistics.

The City Council harbors the collective illusion (or delusion; take your pick) that more than a handful of Claritans are watching them conducting the City’s business. As such, they indulge in a round-robin series of updates and reports that—whether dull or innocuous or important or admirable—aren’t really heard by too many people. But they like going through the motions. As such, Councilmember Laurene Weste spoke about the Homes for Heroes kick-off event next month to help meet veterans’ housing needs. Councilmember Kellar reiterated that the rubber ducky regatta was a worthwhile event. Mayor Pro-tem Ender encouraged people to attend Daniel Pearl World Music Day, a tribute to the journalist who was kidnapped and murdered by Al-Qaeda. Councilmember Frank Ferry applauded the marriage of Dennis Luppens, long-time bachelor and Santa Clarita Special Districts Administrator, to Carrie Barnes. The ceremony took place in the very chambers in which the council was presently assembled. Aww. Finally, the Mayor wants you to take a survey about community services on the City of Santa Clarita’s website, and she mentioned that you can learn a new language using software available for free at the libraries. Swell updates, all.

The Consent Calendar was approved without much in the way of discussion, save some recognition of City employees for completion of the most recent phase of the I-5/Magic Mountain Parkway road improvements. Laurene Weste also expressed appreciation that the City will try to acquire open space in Agua Dulce by applying for a grant from the State. It would cover up to $250,000 of an unmentioned purchase price. The parcel is over 1100 acres of potential mining property—ask the nearest real estate agent to do the numbers (one's never far off in the SCV).

Among other items approved were revisions to personnel rules to govern City employees. These rules are mostly what you’d expect: helpful reminders to employees that no, it’s not OK to threaten co-workers with a gun and you can be disciplined for being drunk at work, accepting bribes, or sleeping on the job (that last one is Rule XI, Section 2S). Why even bother showing up for work? However, the revisions approved pertained to representation by Service Employees International Union, the rightly maligned and dreaded acronym that is SEIU. Finally, Newhall Hardware has been officially freed of the shackles of potential designation as a historic site with the second reading and passage of an ordinance modifying the current Historic Preservation Ordinance. Basically, it is no longer of official historic value--yay. The City shouldn’t have been able to have it both ways, at once destroying the shop when it altered Old Town Newhall's traffic flow, then refusing to let the owners sell their place to let it become something else. Many other buildings are still in a kind of historic preservation limbo.

There was some confusion as a woman wanted to be sure that she got to speak while the council members were trying to unanimously approving the consent calendar. After assurances that she could speak in just a moment, all items were passed with the recommended actions.

Public Participation followed. An elderly man expressed concern over Lee Baca and prisoner abuse. He was distressed at how much condemnation is coming out from the media before all the facts are known, yet also made it clear that prisoner abuse is a very real problem that must be adequately addressed, yet also emphasized that Baca should have his day in court, and also felt that taxpayers shouldn’t be put in a position to be liable for violent abuses perpetrated by law enforcement. Everyone found something to agree with. Alan Ferdman had a more focused message, challenging the City Council to stay committed to fighting unfair chloride regulations. Recall that millions of dollars are being spent to start planning for a chloride treatment plant that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Mayor McLean would tell Ferdman that they are only doing what must be done to avoid potentially enormous(er) fines from authorities.

Finally, Rudy Losorelli pleaded with the City to help him reach some kind of solution to his problem with a profoundly inconsiderate neighbor. You likely remember the name and the story. Losorelli and his family live literally feet away from a fenced tennis court with very bright lights. The court is only one part of what they describe as a “commercial sports complex” in the middle of the otherwise quiet Happy Valley neighborhood. He and his wife spoke about safety concerns as 100 mph tennis balls might come flying into their yard or through their windows at any moment. Mrs. Losorelli said that a number of City personnel have been out to try and mediate the problems, but “We’re losing faith,” she despaired.

“Folks, I gotta tell you something: [dramatic pause] You couldn’t give this house away,” lamented Bob Kellar, folksily. He said the City needs to work harder and faster on the problem, and wants an agenda item to look over code to insure that no other homeowner is forced into a situation like the one facing the Losorelli family. “This…stinks!” said Ender of the situation, after talking about how the man who uses the courts doesn’t even live on-site.

The meeting ended at 7:05.