Hare Creek Heats Up

by Malcolm Macdonald, September 28, 2016

The City of Fort Bragg held an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) scoping session Monday, September 19th at Town Hall on the topic of yet another shopping center project near Hare Creek. The result was akin to a college football game between Alabama and Cal, about 48-3 against.

The EIR workshop was designed to gather public input concerning the slightly redesigned proposal put forth on behalf of the owners of the three (+) acre property immediately west of the intersection of Highways 1 and 20.

Two Fort Bragg City Council members, Lindy Peters and Mike Cimolino, were present throughout the two and a half hour meeting, though only Peters made public comment. He asked that the EIR place special emphasis on the following issues related to the project: 1. the potential aesthetic impact; 2. hydrology (water use); 3. the possibility for irreversible long term impacts; 4. and the related topic of overall cumulative impacts.

The proposed Hare Creek shopping center would be anchored by a Grocery Outlet store, approximately 15,000 square feet in size as well as two additional buildings sized at 10,000 and 4,500 square feet, for a total of 29,500 square feet of retail space. Associated developments would include an access road, a parking lot, loading zones, pedestrian improvements, rain water storage tanks, utility connections, drainage improvements, utilities, signage and landscaping. The project differs from a 2014 proposal, heard and denied in early 2015 by the Fort Bragg Planning Commission and City Council, in that the buildings are set twice as far back from the highway, grading of a grassy, man made hill would be minimized, and a road surrounding the project has been dropped.

The meeting was moderated both by Fort Bragg's Community Development Director Marie Jones and Florentina Craciun, an environmental planner employed by Michael Baker International, a firm (see their web site at mbakerintl.com) hired by the City of Fort Bragg to oversee the EIR process for this Hare Creek shopping center project. Craciun emphasized more than once that the fifty or more folks in attendance should refrain from either booing or clapping to avoid intimidation of others, and for the most part the audience complied, but she probably hadn't counted on Rex Gressett and Dave Gurney.

When Gressett stepped to the microphone for one of his three minutes of allotted comment (participants were allowed more or less unlimited turns at the microphone by the end of the evening's festivities), he promptly let out with a statement that the entire meeting was nothing more than illusory theater. Looking at the audience Mr. Gressett went on, “They [apparently city government] are not going to listen to any of you… If we want that property to be saved, we have to save it. Marie Jones ain't gonna do it. She works for the developers. She works for the people who want to desecrate our community.”

At this point Ms. Jones nearly shouted into her microphone, “Alright, Rex. That's enough. He cannot personally assassinate me… I'm done.”

Gressett asked, “What are you going to do, have me arrested?”

Though Ms. Jones appeared to beckon a young Fort Bragg Police Department officer from the back of the room the situation diffused, though not before Gressett asserted, “I say Marie Jones is behind this. I say, she is an absolute menace to the best interests of this community.”

Despite Mr. Gressett's claims about theater, it is too often he who puts on a show. On multiple occasions he has directly accused Jones and City Manager Linda Ruffing of being in cahoots with developers, yet he has to the best of this writer's knowledge never offered up any specific evidence to back up this claim beyond his raised voiced pontifications.

Rex Gressett is what one might call a colorful character, but his inherently contradictory stances on issues (on other, recent occasions he has stated his desire to allow local businesses to be free of all regulation) and passive aggressive public behavior (he wimpishly thanked the police officer for not arresting him then later came back to the public comment microphone with a promise, “To be nice this time.”) more often than not get in the way of civil discussion of the pros and cons of significant issues facing the city of Fort Bragg.

I enjoy Rex's personal brand of theater, but not to the point of accepting unfounded personal attacks as some sort of Gospel according to Saint Gressett. Though Ms. Jones's tone could have been gentler, how could any sane person blame her for finally saying, “Rex, that's enough.”

Mr. Gressett's antics and to a lesser degree the confrontational, not-able-to-take-yes-for-an-answer, style of David Gurney detracted from the tempered remarks of people like oceanographer Leslie Kashiwada. She spoke for a group called Citizens for Appropriate Coastal Land Use (CACLU), which includes educators, scientists, and small business owners. Interested readers can check out their Facebook site, where the group touts bullet points about the EIR process for the proposed Hare Creek shopping center, including: 1. The need to fully assess impacts on environmentally sensitive areas. 2. The project is not consistent with the City’s stated policies, plans, and goals in the Coastal General Plan. 3. It would bring about an increase in urban blight due to its impact on businesses in the central business district (CBD) and other shopping centers (already four vacancies each in the Boatyard Shopping Center and S. Franklin St strip mall, along with approx. fourteen vacancies in CBD). 4. It would bring more franchise businesses to Fort Bragg (already have twelve). The unincorporated areas of Mendocino County just renewed a moratorium on franchise businesses for one year – should Fort Bragg consider such a moratorium? 5. This area used to be a dairy farm. It was rezoned in 1995 to allow for this type of development, with the city hoping to increase its tax base. No consideration was given to the cumulative impact of development on Todd Point or on the gateway to the city. 6. The California Coastal Commission questions the legality of the proposed building site given the numerous requested Lot Line Adjustments over the years. Which LLAs have been approved (need a transparent trail of documentation) and is the current configuration approved?

Many other cogent questions/comments filled the nearly two hours of public input. Those interested in seeing and hearing them all should check out the invaluable Mendocino TV's website (mendocinotv.com) for an opportunity to view the meeting in its entirety. Despite the show put on at Town Hall, written comments by the public pull the greatest weight in this EIR process. Such comments can be directed to Marie Jones, the Community Development Director for the City of Fort Bragg. The comment period for the scoping session ends on September 30th. After the EIR is made public (most likely in January, 2017, a further forty-five day comment period will ensue. Most likely ending around March 1, 2017).

(The author's website is seemingly never ending at: malcolmmacdonaldoutlawford.com.)

9 Responses to Hare Creek Heats Up

  1. Susie de Castro Reply

    September 28, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Bottom line: there are two sides to this story, and it doesn’t matter if you have 43 on one side and three on the other. Why is it that our local reporters are only telling one side of the story?

  2. Susie de Castro Reply

    September 28, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Hare Creek Shopping Center is not yet another shopping mall. It is the stimulus of more business, and the creation of more jobs.
    The model for job stimulus, in the future, is small business. Once that is established the fun begins: It will be another important center for the business sector and customers, as well.
    Think of how important Harvest Market is to us – YUGE! Think about the thousands of dollars Hospice Thrift store generates. Think of the pleasure Subway brings to people, everyday!
    Not just that, the Boatyard is headquarters to First Responders during a citywide disaster.
    Skunk Radio boasts a history of celebrities, too.
    Hare Creek Shopping Center will create its own history, and promises to be part of yours.

  3. David Gurney Reply

    September 29, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Malcolm Macdonald, the City of Fort Bragg’s hall monitor, focuses on Rex Gresset’s behavior instead of reporting the news. Over a third of this piece focuses on Gressett, who made perfectly accurate observations on the kabuki theater that this scoping session actually was, and then is blamed for turning it into theater. Though Gressett’s first amendment rights were severely violated, Macdonald doesn’t care, nor wonder why city manager Linda Ruffing felt the need to have a constant police presence during this peaceful public meeting in the first place. Apparently, words spoken with passion are a perceived threat to people like Jones, Ruffing and Macdonald.

    Yes, Jones and Ruffing are in “cahoots with developers” despite Macdonald’s whining that Gressett hasn’t provided him with proof. That’s the reporter’s job, not Gressett’s, and the evidence of this is obvious enough that the burden of proof would be to show these individuals were NOT in the Pattons’ pocket, not vice versa (of course, Macdonald fails to even mention the name of the developers in his article). For anyone with even a marginally functioning BS detector, much less the ability to ask questions of the players involved and do a little basic research, that is a given. Instead we get Macdonald’s insane scribbling on his yellow legal pad during a public meeting, and then turning these illegible rants into a cheap sensationalist article for the AVA. Crazy yellow journalism at its finest.

    Macdonald has made it clear he cannot distance himself from inside connections to city hall in order to accurately report on their machinations, with recent revelations that he coached the mayor’s son in baseball and “participated in (possibly two) semester length community college level courses with Linda Ruffing’s son.” Coupled with his apparent ignorance of the CEQA process, and his lazy and cowardly reporting, we don’t get the reality of what is really happening to our town. If the Hare Creek Strip Mall is built, perhaps the city’s corrupt haut monde will place a plaque in Macdonald’s honor.

    And by the way, the deadline for public comment on environmental issues caused by this town-ruining strip mall is October 19th, not September 30th as Malcolm has falsely reported.

    . . .

  4. malcolmlorne Reply

    September 29, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    In an earlier response to Mr. Gurney I made clear all of the near and remote connections I have with Fort Bragg’s City Council and City staff, not because I can’t distance myself from any and all of the personalities, but to fully disclose those connections.
    Mr. Gurney’s estimation of Oct. 19th as the written comment deadline concerning the Hare Creek EIR may well be correct. Mr. Gurney is incorrect in stating that I coached Dave Turner’s son, Packie, in baseball. I clearly wrote that I coached him in basketball in the Mendocino County Today section of Sept. 21st. That player/coach relationship has no bearing on how I perceive Dave Turner’s performance as a city council member or mayor. I try to address Dave Turner, other council members and city staff as civilly as possible even when bringing up contentious points at civic meetings. I sometimes engage these same people in conversation during breaks at said same meetings. Away from city government the only staff or council member I have a social relationship with is Lindy Peters. I have known him for some years, have attended Giants games with him (always paying for my own ticket) and other social functions as well as visiting at his home and he at mine. When it comes to council matters I mostly agree with Lindy, but neither of us expects that to always be true. I respect Lindy’s right to vote differently on certain matters than I might. In general I try to stick to simply recording his stated positions on important issues. His demeanor at City Council (or committee) meetings has never been such that I would consider the behavior to be more of a story than the issues at hand. That is true of Councilmen Deitz and Cimolino as well. At times I’ve made minor reference to Mayor Turner’s reactions to folk like Rex Gressett and I have also written, once or twice, about Councilman Hammerstrom’s body language as well as absence excuses. Hammerstrom’s public behavioral transgressions pale alongside those of Mr. Gurney.
    The City of Fort Bragg has updated their security, meaning police presence, at some Town Hall meetings in large part as a result of Mr. Gurney’s past performances at Planning Commission and/or City Council meetings.
    Mr. Gurney can be an effective communicator at times. Readers who missed it should look at his assessment of the Coast Democratic club (may have the exact title off a bit) in the August 31st print edition of the AVA. Spot on.
    However, Mr. Gurney seems to feel that he is entitled to screaming tirades at public functions as part of his first amendment rights. His mean spirited ranting at the unpaid members of the Fort Bragg Planning Commission in 2015 was inexcusable. Mr. Gressett’s behavior falls into a slightly different category, but it, at times, can go beyond what is socially or ethically acceptable.
    In short, Mr. Gurney cares about what Mr. Gurney cares about. Often he behaves in a manner that not only undermines the validity of his own position, but, in addition, displays a complete disregard for the well-being of others.
    Malcolm Macdonald

  5. Alice Chouteau Reply

    September 29, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    When it comes to writing a thorough, balanced report of a meeting, Mr Gurney outclasses MM complete and cinsistently. I wish the AVA would stop publishing the misleading works of MM, find somebody better, like Gurney. We deserve better.

  6. David Gurney Reply

    September 30, 2016 at 11:08 am

    “Behavioral transgressions” “screaming tirades” “mean spirited ranting” Malcolm Macdonald is a milk-toast in person, but a self-aggrandizing little bully in print, who thinks nothing of engaging in libel and character assassination with those who disagree. Like all bullies, he despises someone who has the temerity to answer back.

    Mr. Macdonald’s false personal accusations have nothing to do with reality of the story he’s supposedly reporting on. For some reason, this self-righteous goober thinks it’s his duty to report on other peoples body language, demeanor and behavior, thinking his judgement of other people’s style or tone of voice is “the story” if he deems it so. Granny Malcolm’s blaming me personally for the oppressive police presence at a public meeting on a highly contentious project that’s faced overwhelming and emotional public opposition by literally hundreds of people is not only false, but displays the “complete disregard for the well-being of others” that this hypocrite preaches on. His new revelation of a close personal relationship with city council member Lindy Peters does nothing to burnish his already dim credentials. As they say, birds of a feather…

    Malcolm Macdonald’s reporting is biased, inaccurate, “mean spirited”, truthless, lifeless and humorless. His myopic critiques of the “behavioral transgressions” of members of the public have crossed into the realm of disturbing weirdness, not to mention the total distraction from the “issue at hand” – the terrible idea of putting a strip mall on the western incline of Highway 1 at the southern gate to the city.

    . . .

  7. Susie de Castro Reply

    September 30, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    I had a great working relationship with CALTRANS, during the five years I worked at the Boatyard Shopping Center. I can see that relationship continuing, into the future, across the street.

    • David Gurney Reply

      September 30, 2016 at 4:09 pm

      Hopefully I won’t have to watch you eat crow, when you’re cussin’ your head off with road rage, stuck in a traffic jam on Hare Creek Bridge.

      And hopefully no one (else) gets killed on that narrow, dilapidated, unsafe bridge, if they are unwise enough install another unwanted, unneeded strip-mall in the worst of all possible locations.

      This here serves notice.

      . . .

  8. Susie de Castro Reply

    October 1, 2016 at 6:55 am

    Have you had a moment to reflect upon the billions of dollars generated and donated to charities and community organizations (Food Bank, Senior Center, Children’s Community Fund) and community events by the tenants at the Boatyard and DMV Shopping Centers ?

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