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Will Caspar Become a Sustainable Village?

In August of 1997 I joined with my neighbors to form the Caspar Community. We shared our dreams of Caspar and our concerns for the land that was for sale here. My dream was simply to have a home in Caspar. I volunteered on the Caspar Community Board for two years.

We gathered and said that the Caspar Community included everyone, even those as far away as Iowa (where our coordinator was from). We said we wanted to buy and develop the land Oscar Smith was selling and develop our community's dream of Caspar. Our community came up with the dream of a sustainable village. Some said if only other coastal towns had been planned as we were planning. I still have videos of the crowds of people from all over that came together to vote on the final plan in 1998, after a year and half of meetings. We looked at minimal development in a way that would leave a lot of open space. And for the development to happen we had all agreed it needed to be developed as a whole, as the property contained a large well on the east side that would be necessary for the development to happen. This well was the water supply for the Caspar Cattle Company land east and west, and some homes are still using this well. Caspar is zoned as a village by the way.

It took nine evictions (approximately) in the small downtown area of Caspar, where I live, to make me angry. I had thought the renters in Caspar or anywhere were a part of our Caspar Community. Nine evictions is not news to print here in Caspar (the Caspar News). Nine evictions in a large downtown city might not seem like much. But nine evictions here in our downtown that is referred to as a ghost town? Sustainability? Diversity? Non verbally we are saying, Who lives in Caspar? 

By the way there has just been another eviction. Who is next?

July 11, 2001, when I came back on the Board I found out that we (the board) were just starting to look at developers. (?) I am referring to two developers to the board. There are two specialists in developing affordable housing.

Briefly here is some information I came across after five years of watching what some creative people have done in the Bay Area and other places.

1. One developer in particular created for their locals affordable live/work studios for low income artists and their families, 1, 2, and 3 bedrooms with high ceilings, rent $400 — $1000. Being an artist I can only think of the open studios that could happen. Low income for one person is less than about $30,000/year; two people, $32,500 etc.

2. Another developer created homes for sale in the pricey market of San Francisco — two blocks from Market: one bedroom with loft and off-street parking for example sold for $130,000 for low income first time buyers, creating a home for some who would never have that experience. And they would say here they can not do affordable housing on the coast because of the land prices. BS, in my opinion.

3. Also, another example: A recent article (June 2001) “Bolinas Bands Together” talks about a community banding together to created affordable housing. They purchased a bakery ($675,000). The sale to the Bolinas Community Land Trust involved a bank loan and a loan from Marin County that is expected to be converted into a grant. I can only think how creative they were.

4. And July 12, 2001, an article describes $2.3 million released for housing programs: “Department of Housing and Community Development has awarded grants totaling $2,489,000.” “I'm pleased to see these funds go to projects on the North Coast.” Assemblyperson Virginia Strom-Martin said in a news release. “These dollars will go a long way to make affordable housing and community improvements a reality for some on the North Coast's most disadvantaged areas.” Funny how we could think to ask for money for a viewshed, but not our sustainable village.

My point being, affordable housing is being done elsewhere. where land values are high. Funds are not being claimed here to create affordable homes or live/work studios for those who need it most. We live in an artist community. We say that with pride.

There is a Coastal Housing Crisis. What is our responsibility to low income artists and others? Is there a place here for them on the coast? There are funds we have not been applying for for four years now.

After four years My fear is that the dream of a sustainable village in Caspar is just that — a dream. And that by inaction and holding up planning and development of the community's wishes of a sustainable village, that the land will end up like a big popularity contest.

On a personal note — in 1997-8 I had been sold my house that I am now renting. I was already doing what needed to be done to buy and heard that the eldest son of my land lady wanted the house. Karmically for me I did not think it was right. I wanted the house. However, I am not someone to run over someone just because I can. What also helped me to decide at the time was that I, being on the board, had seen all the plans and development (40 homes approximately). I figured I would at least be able to buy or rent one of the affordable homes. I trusted my neighbors. Was I wrong? 

Recently, I had heard second hand that a community in Westport was donated some land for community use. They decided to use it to build some affordable homes for locals. Way to go Westport. This happened recently in my town too, and even though there were those at the meeting requesting, as usual, affordable housing, I heard we are using ours for a pet cemetery. (?)

Although I live with a chronic hidden illness, I'm now volunteering my time to the Caspar Board and the Coastal Housing Crisis. I would like to add to my dream of Caspar — that I wish to live in a town where a tinker is valued.

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