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Mendocino County Today: May 15, 2012

AN ITEM on this week’s Supervisor agenda, as the leadership convenes in Mendocino, is “The Mendocino Town Plan,” part of the “Coastal Element” of the County’s General Plan. Adopted in 1992 “to preserve the historical character of the Town and maintain the historic residential community character… maintaining “a balance between maintenance of the historic residential community with limited commercial services and the Coastal Act’s high priority placed on visitor-serving uses…”

ONE MIGHT WONDER why it’s taken 20 years to “review” and update the Plan. The answer to that one is right there in this week's agenda. “If there is general community consensus…” the Plan can be amended.

THERE WOULDN'T BE “'CONSENSUS” on a guarantee of eternal life from this gang, but the nut of the prob is “Visitor Serving Facilities.”

VSFs ARE DEFINED as hostels, hotels, inns, b&bs, motels, student/instructor temporary housing (at the Art Center), single unit rentals, and vacation home rentals, which pretty much covers most structures in Mendocino's pseudo-Victorian theme park. But the County collects bed tax on these little rental money machines so the County has a direct interest in knowing how many of them there are — ka-ching! ka-ching!

BUT, AS WE KNOW, Mendocino Village also contains among its small permanent population an overabundance of pickers of microscopic nits. These people will spend hours on how thick an asphalt patch on a sidewalk should be and what color to paint a window frame, never mind something as daunting as defining a “rental unit.”

SO ASKING THESE PEOPLE to reach “general community consensus” on which units are B&Bs and which are vacation home rentals and which are some petty chiseler's spare bedroom that he occasionally rents out to touri is like trying to get Bill Clinton to define a sex act.

AN EARNEST YOUNG WOMAN out of the Fort Bragg Planning Office tried to inventory Mendocino's rentals a few years ago and was roundly denounced by nearly everyone at the first Supes meeting when the poor thing presented the fruit of her labor.

A PROVISION in the 1992 Town Plan says, “The total number of rental units allowable, 234, shall remain fixed until the plan is further reviewed and a plan amendment is approved and certified by the California Coastal Commission.”

SO WHAT do people do who want to rent out their garage or that extra bedroom when the number of rooms has been fixed at 234 since 1992? They rent it anyway but they don’t list it, which means the County gets no bed tax.

THE MENDO Grand Jury wrote the County up back in 2008 for failing to update its Town Plan, the Fort Bragg planner’s valiant attempt to enumerate rentals having gone nowhere. The Grand Jury's 40-page report was called “Byzantium By The Bay,” that title nicely summarizing the prevailing reality. The GJ went on to say that its investigation had found that “the County of Mendocino has failed, since 2001, to administer licensing of Vacation Home Rentals and Single Unit Rentals in the Town of Mendocino as required by the Mendocino Town Plan.” In other words, a whole lotta people were renting off the books.

THE COUNTY asked the same Fort Bragg planner to respond to the Grand Jury's criticism, but not being much of a writer, she ended up making things murkier.

NOW A NEW BOARD OF SUPERVISORS has decided to take another whack at the Mendocino Town Plan. We suggest that all of Mendocino Village become a “Visitor Serving Facility” with every third structure designated a visitor serving facility.

ANOTHER OPTION might be to urge the Town of Mendocino to incorporate, thus relieving the rest of us of responsibility for endless discussions of definitions, thereby ensuring in perpetuity an objectively crazy dispute that only the town's residents enjoy.

MENDOCINO FILM FESTIVAL Kicks Off Take 7 — Celebrate Mendocino Film Festival’s seventh year of bringing independent films to the Mendocino Coast at our Kickoff Party on Wednesday, May 23 from 5 to 8pm at the MacCallum House Restaurant and Bar in Mendocino. We expect festival tickets to sell out and this is your chance to purchase tickets to the Film Festival before the box office opens. We are counting down to the Mendocino Film Festival, June 1 through June 3, in Crown Hall, Arena Theater, and Coast Cinemas. Film Festival board of directors, programmers, and friends want to celebrate the best Festival ever—with you. Join us in the Bar & Cafe for drinks and casual cafe dining or in the dining room for a gourmet dinner — all exquisitely presented and prepared by Executive Chef Alan Kantor. All proceeds benefit the Mendocino Film Festival and help bring films and filmmakers to the coast. For dinner reservations call 937-0289 or visit Bar opens at 5pm. Dinner is served 5:30 to 8:30pm. For more information about the Mendocino Film Festival selections visit

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