So who is going to document Asa's downtown art installations? If you don't know what I'm talking about, Asa is the gentleman responsible for the prayer flags, signs, madonnas in trees, hand-lettered signs, and so forth. Asa's work reminds me of the Chagall exhibit. No, he's not a Chagall, but his art has that same caressing intimacy, exuberance, and gentle eccentricity of a young Chagall, newly in love.
Ripped from the headlines, here are the following materials from the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council meeting of September 2003...
Remember, I am providing these unofficially, since you can't get them anywhere else online at present. I know it's not my job, but if we don't make this information available to the community at large, we let the terrorists win!
For current events and goings-on in the Point, be sure to visit David Moore's excellent site, at http://www.pointrichmond.com/. (David would never let the terrorists win!)
PNRC September 24, 2003
The Un-Minutes from My Point
Note: you can get the official newsletter by e-mail: contact Fred Frye at email@example.com. (At this month's meeting, Fred told me he's backed up on entering e-mail addresses.)
I counted 43 in the audience, plus board members and the beat officers.
I have some additional materials, including an aerial photo of the traffic corner in front of the Plunge; I'll upload them in a separate entry later this week.
The meeting began with extensive review and discussion of the minutes for the previous month; this concluded at 7:48, only after Jay Bett requested a change to the minutes regarding “spot zoning,” which he insisted he wasn’t doing; he said only one person had objected to his plans. This is technically correct if you account for the fact, as I reported, that I was not acknowledged when I asked to be recognized to comment, and I also joined that one other person in the vote.
It was reported that the wigwag money would be used to manage the wigwags. Good call! Now if we could get the federal government to use our tax dollars to provide services, we'd be in like Flynn.
Officer Lawson’s report
Officer Lawson is turning into a fine young police officer. He brought statistics and provided an excellent report. He noted that service calls were down, continuing a two-month trend.
On September 12, there was an incident on Scenic Ave I am completely clueless about, but it has something to do with local residents firing a gun in response to someone attempting to steal a car. Officer Joe Silva reported on this event. Some applauded, some castigated the vigilantes, and I sat with mouth open wondering about line of sight to our condo from the scene of the action.
Officer Lawson deserves style points for intoning, “You can replace a car, but you cannot replace a life." After an 8-year stint in the Air Force, few things scare me more than civilians with loaded pistols. Nothing more dangerous than camera phones should be hanging from the belt loops of local Dockers.
Note: need to contact Officer Silva? He informed us his cell phone is 510-774-6592. Thanks to Tom Butt, Officer Silva will soon be esconced near Starbucks—the other side of the olde-tyme jail. (Psst, Joe: Santa Fe Market carries nice donuts!)
Officer Silva is fed up with double-talking double-parking excuses. He “will not listen to a second one," nor should he. Whether in car or on foot, maneuvering around the Point during our version of "rush hour" is hairy enough without trying to crawl around double-parked cars.
The Safety Committee reported that October 15 , 7 p.m. is the next REACT meeting—7 p.m.—they are still looking for a meeting location. They asked me why I didn’t cover their activities! I apologized for my uneven reporting and encouraged them to submit more information. But y'know, folks, these aren't the official minutes, and this isn't the New York Times, either. It's just My Point.
At some point in the evening we voted on a consent agenda! Still, better than average observance of the protocol. I've heard complaints after several meetings that so-and-so wasn't qualified to vote, and to settle this issue, at some point the PRNC might think about something like name badges or simple paper ballots to ensure that everyone present is a legitimate voting member.
On the actual details of what the plan is and what we voted on, I would like to see the PRNC's minutes, because it was confusing. I agree we need to straighten up the traffic nightmare in front of the Plunge, and the plan sounds good. We would gain 33 parking places, net, from this plan, it would preserve the wigwags, and straighten out the traffic mess in that part of town.
If the crowd was hesitant, it's partly because we didn't know what we were voting on and partly because some of us were concerned about delegating too much decision-making to the city. As the board prez said, “we’re troubled by the fact that what you refer to as ‘details’ loom big for us.”
I did glean that the city of Richmond placed a historical designation on the wigwags; Burlington Northern challenged the designation in superior court; the city filed with the court of appeals; and the Richmond city attorney knows a lot more.
In the midst of the confusion, the crowd laughed when the attorney commented, "As for the particulars, perhaps it would have been nice to have the drawing here today.”
Still, whatever we voted for--and I'd love to see folks tell us what that was--received 21 for, 4 against, 5 abstentions. So help me, I voted for it.
Note: the discussions about aggregate and the Port were tabled for a month.
Planning: Or So They Claim
Fred Arm reported about 130 Scenic, about a neighbor who brought an issue to the City Council regarding building on substandard lots. The gist of it had to do with poor notification, and that's not a new story. Good for Fred to pursue this issue. I'm hoping Fred shares his own thoughts with the Point.
The Environmental Justice Committee addressed the issue of Chevron taking over Point Molate.
Neighbors on East Scenic reported they were notified at 3 p.m. about street closings that day. They were encouraged to call Sergeant Silver, and to also call the Code Office, though at the second suggestion, at least two people sitting near me immediately muttered "good luck." It was noted that Tom Butt will be aware of this problem when he arrives home from vacation and can’t get to his house. Note: have a similar problem? Call Rich McCoy in Public Works, 620-6538.
The Safety Committee met in early September. Of interest: 2 fires on Nicholl Knob in the last two weeks; 2 incidents at Chevron; people called Chevron hotline and were told they couldn’t talk, there was a fire, and hung up. The REACT Web site has been updated, and can be accessed from http://www.pointrichmond.com. For incidents, tune in to 740 AM KCBS. A Safety Information Folder will be set up at West Branch Library.
It was now 9:30, and I couldn't keep my eyes open, so I left. I looked back to see light spilling on the dwindling group of citizens, watching over our needs, keeping the faith.
Some People's Kids
I caught a flight 4 hours earlier than planned, and was able to arrive at the meeting just minutes after it started, in time to hear Jay Betts complain about last month's minutes. Seems he feels the minutes suggest more than one person breathed anything less than positive about Jay's new project at 217 West Richmond. Give it a rest, buddy; several of us raised eyebrows over the clearly inadequate parking, several people commented that spot zoning is an issue we should heed, and all two of us voted against your building. You won, so why insist on rewriting history?
But Wait, There's More!
More in a few days, from the further adventures of Officer Silva to vigilantism in the Point. The proposed presentations about aggregate and the Port were postponed, but we heard a lot about wigwags, and after some powerful head-scratching, we all voted to... well, I'm still not even sure. The Safety Committee has been busy, TRAC is on track, and ye who double-park, stop whining and pay the ticket. Kudos to Fred Arm for his dogged pursuit of irregularities from the Planning Board, and no, we're not even surprised.
Great turnout, at least through the report on the yahoo contractors who had blocked East Scenic without due warning. Point Richmond can be a crucible of untrammeled greed...
I will be unable to attend the PRNC this Wednesday. Believe it or not, I really do enjoy attending these meetings, and mourn the inability to be there this month due to my Pedagogical Duties. If any of you out there in Blogland can cover any of the meeting and fill me in, I'd be most appreciative. If you can barely stand the thought of sitting through the entire meeting, even attending part of it would be great. (Just close your eyes and think of Point Richmond...)
I'll be there next month... with bells on!
Taco Mike nearly doubled the space for Rosamaria's by taking over the office space previously used by Tom McGowan. The result is an airy, lusciously yellow-mellow restaurant that adds sass and flavor to Point Richmond prandial offerings.
Sandy and I stopped in for take-out orders on the inaugural evening, but we were so grubby from cleaning our rugs that we ordered out rather than defile the pure air of the new digs. My burrito was terrific, as always, but Sandy's quesadilla was so good she had to stab my hand with her fork to stop me from stealing her dinner. I've heard the salads are really good, but I don't go to Rosamaria's for nuts and berries; about the lightest thing I've ever ordered there is a Mexican mocha.
The new space is gorgeous. It's filled with light, and small prints punctuate the walls. The rough wood tables are perfect. Rosamaria's is comfortable and fashionable, without the strained over-authenticity of (do we bring up the S-word again?) Starbucks.
I'd like to see Mike extend his reach beyond the burrito/quesadilla/salad repetoire; I have a weakness for New Mexican cuisine, and would be thrilled to see a carne adovado on the menu, not to mention a big ol' bowl of posole in the heart of winter. (Menudo? Oh, I better get real. Pointers are too foofy for tripe.) But Mike knows what sells, and his offerings are delightful. (Mike, if you want to walk on the wild side, drop me a line.)
Congrats, Mike; another star in our firmament!
Highlights of the August 2003 Neighborhood Council Meeting
Police-Community Luv-Fest; Let's Bury the Wires and Trim the Trees; Chevron Oils the Wheels; General Chemical Tidies Up; We R Rubes; Mini-Parks Imminent; Wig-Wag Ahoy; Jay Betts puts the squeeze on downtown PR
The Anti-Minutes: Our Erstwhile Cub Reporter's Take on the Neighborhood Council Meeting of 8-17-03
Approximately 45 people were present at the height of the meeting, which ended rather abruptly at 9:30. Continuing a trend from last month, most members of the Design and Land Use Committee were AWOL, leaving one member to present the report (see Betts, below). I can empathize; they must be exhausted from the rigors of urbanizing Point Richmond and squeezing new buildings onto tiny handkerchief plots.
With five police officers and a DA present, it was a vastly different story than last month's experience. This month, under the watchful eye of Police Chief Bennett (who made rather pointed comments about readiness for promotion), a humbled and contrite Officer Lawson, the PR swing shift beat officer who showed up empty-handed for several months in a row, brought statistics and handed out business cards.
Bennett also spoke at length about the RPD's commitment to open substations throughout Richmond, including the Point, though they are hoping for a free or low-cost location. Officer Joe Silva (our big-boned, no-nonsense beat officer) would staff our substation. (WigWag David suggested manning the substation with “community volunteers,” as was done in El Sobrante; Bennett heard him out, but thankfully did not commit to this. Let's save the volunteers for mini-parks and blood drives.)
Bennett added, “[We are] in the process of reorganizing the police department. ... The operative word is service, service, service. ... This is going to be a community-involved police department." If this wasn't enough, Lt Cleveland Brown, president of the RPD's Management Association and watch manager for the swing shift, emphasized that the RPD is “dedicated and committed to providing the service you deserve.”
(At one point, Spencer got up to speak--he's the bald-headed guy who got a hair up his fanny and tore down posters all over town--and a small dog who had been quietly curled near his master's feet, occasionally nosing my shoes and thumping his tail, began growling so loudly he had to be removed from the building for a time-out.)
Officer Berry updated us on the storage facility banner issue discussed last month. Mr. Butler, the manager of the storage facility posting that huge and illegal advertisement near the 580 offramp, ran an end run around Berry by applying for a zoning variance, ensuring that nothing will happen until his case is heard at the October 8 Planning Board meeting. “I’ve been scammed,” Berry admitted with a rueful smile. Butler should drive and park very carefully for the indefinite future--Berry looks like a man who is going to get his quarry sooner or later!
Let's Bury the Wires and Trim the Trees
These entries don't appear in this order in the Agenda, but it makes sense to treat them in the same discussion. If your view is blocked by phone poles or overgrown trees, take note. A committee has been revived to look into burying power wires, and a community member has begun the process of establishing an ordinance on tree management. Ed Gingrich is in charge of the committee to bury the wires, and Jose Corral is investigating the tree issue. Kudos to both of them from a Point resident who has been quietly praying for a storm to take out three trees and a power pole currently standing between her and a potentially spectacular view of her beloved hometown. (Think you can just talk this stuff through with neighbors? Not if your neighbor is an absentee landlord, the City, or does not play well with others.)
Don't Hold Your Breath (But Don't Breathe That Stuff In, Either)
The day of this meeting, the EPA loosened the rules under which plants that burn coal and gas operate. Walt Gill, the Chevron flack, reported that the Bay Area Air Quality Management has a limit on emissions that they cannot exceed, despite the relaxation of rules. Uh huh. At any rate, Gill debunked the story that Chevron is for sale (that would make one heckuva large Starbucks--after the EPA gets through cleaning up what may be the ultimate urban brownfield from hell).
Speaking of community involvement, for about ten years Chevron had a Community Advisory Panel— which was suspended in September 2002. The current thrust is getting reps to the neighborhood councils--which Chevron has been doing--but it's interesting that input to Chevron is now limited to a reactive, public mode.
Note that if you smell something funny or see fireballs shoot out of the top of Chevron, you should call Chevron Fire Dispatch at 242-4200.
There was a discussion about what the recent alarm, called at this meeting The Incident. Gill said that “our track record until recently has been pretty good.” That's true if they mean Point Richmond hasn't been blown to Hawaii or burned down to its foundations, but let's not pretend that the rest of the Bay Area is routinely diving for cover while large plants blow whistles for real emergencies.
New plant manager for General Chemical
It feels strange complimenting General Chemical (even the name has a vague Love Canal feel to it), but my own career experience tells me that if he's doing half of what he says he's doing, we can rest much easier knowing that Larry Manfry has been working there since November of 2002. If you've every worked in an organization with a guy who really loved his safety checklist, you know Larry; he's an archetype. He's been bustling through a list of 56 action items, created from a 54-item safety evaluation report commissioned by the city and the county.
According to Manfry, GC has implemented over 80% of the action items, which focus on safety, including human factors (the human-equipment interface), the "safety culture," and similar topics.
Someone who had viewed the site recently said you can eat off the floor; despite all we've heard, I strongly discourage this behavior. If GC is working on a 56-item action list, ask yourself what the place was like before he got there.
By the way, Manfry reported you get a newsletter if you live within one mile of the plant. That's terrific! I take that to mean that no effluent from GC can go farther than a mile. Right? Right?
Hayseed in our Teeth
Can we please bring our meetings into the 21st century? Manfry did great with his extemporaneous talk, but he walked into an organization fifteen years behind the one he works in. He had a laptop and Powerpoint--for cryin' out loud, the guy's a manager, why wouldn't he?--and you could see him wilt when he realized that the height of technology in Point Richmond is hand-waving (and outside of buildings, posting flyers on power poles, or in Spencer's case, "deleting" the flyers). Here we are in the Web-savvy Bay Area, looking like rubes. We should have a laptop, projector, and hot connection available at every meeting.
September 17 is the CAP (Community Advisory Council), which Rod Satre will attend. Perhaps he will come back bearing tales of brilliant new technologies.
Wigwag David invited General Chemical to the Business Association.
As far as I can tell, REACT is an acronym for We No Longer Offer This Information Online. At least that's my experience (and Tom Butt's as well) in attempting to track down the local Community Guide to Emergency Preparedness.
PRAM announced its 8/30 blood drive; a noble effort. (How much blood can you get from a small child, anyway?) The recent Red Cross guidelines for blood donations have become so strict that they really need donations from those who are eligible. I used to love to give blood (if you have met me, you may wonder if I meet the size guidelines; hey, I can squeeze out a pint if the nurse sits on me for a few minutes), but my overseas tours in the Air Force mean I can't do that any more. Mad Cow, don't you know?
PRAM has contacted the city about the renovation of the community center; PRAM has money to help with refurbishing.
Rod Satre reported that the city continues to negotiate with the Navy.
Wig-Wag David said there was a formal offer from the railroad; the offer includes that the wigwags will become the possession of the city of Richmond, and the road will provide easements for maintenance. It was suggested that Wig-Wag funds be reserved for this maintenance.
Design Review Highlight: 217 West Richmond
(Note: during this discussion, I tried to present a motion to extend, which was ignored.)
Jay Betts presented his design for a 3-story building two doors over from the renovated bank building, on West Richmond and Santa Fe. The building looks attractive enough (at least it's not a concrete block with windows, like that thing now facing 580 on Tewksbury), but it only has 2 parking spaces. It was explained that commercial property under 5000 square feet doesn’t require parking.
Jay Betts said this building would be his last tour de force, and implied that somehow, in building this little cash cow, he is doing Point Richmond a favor. If he really wanted to do us a favor, he would do the right thing and create enough parking to support the additional traffic.
Only two people (including me) voted against the zoning change. I don't have anything against new construction, in theory, and the building seems fine in the abstract if you don't consider people actually using it, but I question the mindless me-tooing of any new construction when we have a really bad and surely prescient combination of empty storefronts and no parking. If people don't have places to put their cars when the economy is in such a slump that many nights we could roll bowling balls through any Point restaurant and not hit a customer or waiter, what are we going to do when the economy recovers? Oh, I know--we'll let the cash-poor city of Richmond pick up the tab for dealing with the problem! (Am I being anti-progress, or is everyone else a Stepford wife? Use the comment feature and tell me!)
Flares: Trust Me, They're Cool
Walt Gill told me far more than I wanted to know about flares (only "far more" because we'd been in a meeting for two hours, and I had lost the ability to focus on complex thoughts), and in a future posting I'll talk about flares, monitoring, Chevron, and anything else I can think up. I spent two years as a director for a library in the EPA (East Coast), and I can bring this topic home to y'all.
As I write this, I hear the fog horns lowing, San Francisco is hugged with fog, and I can sniff cold water off the Bay at night. It's still the Point, and it's still beautiful. Take a bag of crumbs to the Miller Knox and share it with the ducks and geese, then turn back and look at our world. What do you want it to look like in twenty years? The decisions we make today will affect that. We can't stop change, but we can manage it with wisdom and concern.
Talk! Kvetch! Correct! Complain!
According to the SF Chronicle, last night's Level 3 Alarm from Chevron was caused by a "small fire," not by the 4.1 earthquake that shook the Bay Area. While I can't personally confirm that and haven't called Chevron, I was walking around the Miller Knox at that time and saw the smoke (I didn't feel a thing, maybe because I was walking with a fast, bouncy gait).
It does leave me wondering how well Chevron or General Chemical are prepared to handle multiple emergencies. And for that matter, how about the rest of us? (And for that matter, what are we supposed to do if a Level 3 alarm sounds while we're out gamboling with our families or getting a daily constitutional? Stuff leaves in our nostrils and hide behind a tree?)