2011 began on a tragic note when rescue crews discovered the body of former Southern Humboldt resident Shawnte Willis at the Alpine Meadows ski area near Lake Tahoe. Willis was reported missing after becoming separated from friends while snowboarding. Although ground crews and a military helicopter equipped with infrared technology searched for her, they were hampered by severe winter weather including winds up to 100 mph.
The Humboldt County planning commission opened discussion on a possible county ordinance addressing medical marijuana land use issues. A draft ordinance proposed by staff would allow dispensaries in commercial zones and establish conditions for collectives that grow and sell medical marijuana. Speakers from SoHum objected to the county’s proposals and made several counterproposals. One was to form a “cannabis council” to assist the county in writing ordinances that would enhance the county’s economy rather than suppress what was described as “the main economic driver of the county.”
Two weeks later the Humboldt Medical Marijuana Advisory Panel (HumMAP) led a free-form discussion in Garberville about the proposed ordinance, which was attended by about 30 members of the public, as well as 2nd district supervisor Clif Clendenen and planning commissioner Mel Kreb.
Trustees of the Southern Humboldt Unified School District took steps toward recreating a middle school for SoHum students, a proposal that would reconfigure the South Fork High School campus for a distinct middle school with its own entrance and gathering area.
Garberville Sanitary District signed a lease agreement with Sanford Goldeen, a Bay Area developer, to lease 1.3 acres on his 80-acre parcel adjoining the Southern Humboldt Community Park, on which GSD planned to build its new drinking water treatment plant. Redway Community Services District awarded the contract for upgrades to its drinking water treatment plant to the lowest bidder, Mercer Fraser of Eureka.
Doug Green, Alden Akselsen, and Jackie Pantaleo were elected to the Mateel Community Center board of directors from a field of 13 candidates, defeating three incumbents after a contentious election process.
Using techniques he had been practicing and teaching for years, martial arts instructor Leland Salomon helped capture a suspect fleeing from sheriff’s deputies. The suspect, who had threatened workers at Calico’s Cafe, fled down Sprowel Creek Road past Dragon Heart Tang Soo Do, where Salomon saw him and sprang into action. Salomon used techniques from a discipline called Split Second Survival to subdue the suspect, who was armed with a knife and had already stabbed a deputy, until officers were able to handcuff the man.
Auditors declared the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District a “going concern,” for the first time in several years. The board approved a $1 per hour across-the-board pay raise for all district employees.
A multi-county coalition of fishermen, environmentalists, tribes, businesspeople, and local governments from the North Coast traveled to Sacramento to defend an alternative proposal to the state’s Marine Life Protection Plan.
The county planning commission continued hearing testimony and discussing a possible county medical marijuana ordinance. Even without an ordinance in place, they approved a dispensary in Myrtletown. Approval of Redwood Legacy’s application to open a dispensary in Garberville was on the agenda, but had to be continued to March due to lack of time.
At a later meeting, the commission also heard from many members of the public outraged by the proposed rezoning of various properties, including more than a dozen in SoHum, from single-family residential to multi-family. Properties in Redway ranked “at the bottom of the list,” planning staff said, due to such factors as owner willingness and access.
SHUSD trustees struggled with the knotty question of how best to begin spending $8 million in bond revenue. They agreed to go ahead with plans to re-establish a middle school on the existing South Fork High School campus, and their engineer told them construction could begin on that project as soon as the state architect signed off on the design.
The Salmonid Restoration Federation received a $278,000 grant from State Proposition 84 funds for development management plans for the Eel River and to continue efforts toward salmon recovery. Other restoration groups in Humboldt County also received funding, for a total of $1.23 million awarded county-wide.
Rebuilding of Phillipsville’s water system was 95% complete, and Garberville’s new wastewater treatment system was exceeding expectations after a month of operations. Both projects were funded by federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants.
After more than a month of dry weather, winter returned in full force, including enough snow for snowmen and snowball fights, snow struck around all morning even at low elevations.
A plan to railbank the defunct tracks from Humboldt Bay through the Eel River canyon drew over 70 people to the Winema Theater in Scotia for the first organizational meeting of the Eel River Trails Association. Alderpoint resident Chris Weston, who spearheaded the effort, had gathered several thousand signatures on a petition for support of the project at this point. More than a dozen panelists, including the mayors of Ferndale and Arcata, restorationists, recreationists, geologists, and others expressed their support.
Later in the month, 25 proponents of the railbank/trails plan addressed the directors of the North Coast Rail Authority when it met in Eureka. A large number of persons also spoke in opposition, including supporters of re-instituting rail service and landowners along the tracks concerned about impacts to their property.
The Redwood Legacy and Grass Nursery Collective received the planning commission’s approval, making them the first legal dispensary in SoHum and the second in unincorporated Humboldt County. Planning commission chair Mary Gearheart called the planned site in the industrial-zoned area north of Garberville “ideal.”
About 30 SoHum residents met at the Vets Hall to discuss the possibility of creating an incorporated city in this area. Although this idea has been rejected as financially infeasible in the past, the growing likelihood of the legalization of marijuana increased chances of success, proponents Jim Lamport, Dan Glaser, and Andy Caffrey told the participants.
The newly appointed interim president of College of the Redwoods came to Garberville to solicit input from the community on best uses of CR’s new instructional site in Garberville, but he also cautioned residents about financial constraints.
SHUSD trustees pondered the painful necessity of eliminating classes and extracurricular activities, as well closing some schools in response to the economic recession. The board also met in closed session and chose not to renew Superintendent Michael McAllister’s employment with the district.
Neighbors who rushed to the assistance of friends attacked at a residence in Kettenpom became victims themselves. James Gund was able to disarm the attacker, who fled the area. The suspect was killed when he crashed his car as he was chased by Mendocino County Sheriff’s deputies. Norma Gund was hospitalized in serious but stable condition. The original victims, Kristine Constantino and Christopher Richardson, were killed by their assailant before help arrived.
The much-traveled Briceland Road was closed when two large redwood trees crashed over the roadway within the John B. DeWitt preserve west of Redway. County road crews came to the rescue, cutting away the debris and opening the road to one-way traffic with stop signs. Because that section of the road is within the state park system, state parks then took responsibility for keeping the road open and for further repair.
But even this event paled in comparison with the complete closure of Highway 101 a mile north of Redway when a gigantic chunk of hillside cut loose and slid across the pavement on the morning of March 29.
Caltrans and its contractor, J. F. Shea, had one lane of traffic open within five days of the slide, and within another day they had two lanes open 24 hours a day.
County planning staff proposed to revise the recommendations for multi-family zoning so that only properties with willing owners would be rezoned, a suggestion quickly agreed to by the planning commission.
SoHum and its largest cash crop were featured in a travel article in the New York Times Style magazine. The writer extolled the redwoods, then turned his attention to the local product: “If Humboldt’s large-scale cannabis industry has a factory town, it’s Garberville.”
South Fork students met with SHUSD trustees, discussing everything from bullying, vandalism, and drug abuse to how best to use the district’s bond revenue. Trustees looked at the viability of the outlying schools – Ettersburg, Whitethorn, Casterlin, and Agnes Johnson in Weott. The trustees finally determined not to close any schools for at least another year.
Ticket holders for the cancelled 2010 Reggae Rising were asking for refunds as the chances of a 2011 event diminished. The organizers had promised that 2010 tickets could be used for a “bigger and better” festival in 2011, but as of mid-April no application for the event permit had been submitted, and time was running out.
Humboldt County supervisors faced hard choices as they were presented with a draft of a recession-impacted county budget. “For the last three years we pulled rabbits out of hats,” the County Administrative Officer said. “Now there are no more hats left.”
The North Coast Rail Authority board postponed a decision on railbanking, pending further legal research.
The Redway Community Services District approved a new tiered water rate structure, based on increases in the per-unit rate as usage increased. Their action triggered the public notification process required by California Proposition 218.
Garberville resident Robert Firestone, age 82, disappeared from his residence on Locust Street. The Southern Humboldt Technical Rescue Team, sheriff’s deputies, the county Search and Rescue team, and many individual citizens searched with no results. Firestone, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, liked to walk around town and was well known in the community.
Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District continued its recruitment efforts for one or two community-based physicians. In spite of criticism from some community members, the district was in good financial condition with a net fund balance of $1.5 million, compared to a negative balance two years earlier.
School superintendent Michael McAllister was placed on paid administrative leave. The superintendent’s duties would be shared by SFHS principal Jim Stewart and Redway School principal Julie Johansen.
While Garberville Sanitary District remained happy with the performance of the wastewater treatment plant, prospects for funding the new drinking water treatment plant dimmed as the state looked at budget cuts in the coming fiscal year. The California Department of Public Health did agree to fund an 8” pipeline to the Kimtu subdivision so Kimtu residents could have reliable water service.
Sheriff Mike Downey announced the possible closure of the Garberville substation due to budget constraints at a special meeting with the Garberville-Redway Chamber of Commerce. Downey said his department was looking at a $3 million reduction in their budget.
Planning staff found only four sites in SoHum eligible for voluntary multi-family rezoning, three in Redway and one in Phillipsville.
After four-and-a-half hours of public testimony and discussion of several different proposals amid a “backdrop of legal haziness,” the planning commission put the idea of a county medical marijuana ordinance on hold. Recent federal crackdowns on supposedly legal operations in Oakland and Isleton stirred concerns that adopting an ordinance would make the county vulnerable to federal prosecution.
Proponents for incorporating a large piece of SoHum into “Emerald City” met at the Beginnings Octagon to hear LAFCo staff outline the lengthy procedure needed to legally become a city. The first step would be an Initial Fiscal Feasibility Study to determine if the proposed city could support itself, which LAFCo staff offered to do for $7,500.
RCSD office staff reported some negative responses to their announcement of the change to a tiered water rate structure, which would increase the fees paid by those who use the most water. RCSD field staff was frustrated by the contractor’s slow start on the water treatment improvement project.
Opponents to Caltrans’ controversial Richardson Grove realignment project filed an injunction in federal court in San Francisco, which would prevent work on the project until further analysis of impacts to redwoods could be completed.
Briceland Volunteer Fire Department announced it would circulate petitions to expand its boundaries and create a Fire Protection District, making it a government agency able to assess a parcel tax to stabilize its revenue.
Syd Lehman was chosen as grand marshal of the 54th Annual Garberville Rodeo Parade. A 50-year resident of SoHum businessman, Rotarian, and former president of the Chamber of Commerce, Lehman was battling pancreatic cancer, to which he succumbed in November.
Costs of GSD’s proposed drinking water project were revised to $5.5 million as potential state funding continued to look shaky.
With the help of local county public works crews, State Parks began repaving the section of Briceland Road damaged in March by falling trees.
Only a few people attended three meetings with county planning staff that were held in Redway to discuss housing issues.
Emerald City proponents presented their proposal to Rotary, emphasizing local control over changes to the economy that may result from the legalization of marijuana.
RCSD postponed implementation of its proposed tiered rate system after receiving protest letters from 115 residents, representing approximately 20 percent of water connections. Directors agreed to look at making some adjustments to address the concerns of the protestors.
Two Weott residents were held at gunpoint during a home invasion robbery. Suspects entered their home at 6:15 a.m., held them at gunpoint and then tied them up with duct tape before getting away with electronics, a rifle, and other items. By the time deputies could be called, the suspects fled.
Trustees of the Southern Humboldt Unified School District approved layoffs of the food service supervisor and the educational counselor/in-school detention supervisor at South Fork High School, using the savings to offer more classes in Spanish, life science, music, drama, and art.
Briceland, Fruitland Ridge, Palo Verde, and Bridgeville Volunteer Fire Departments were collecting signatures for petitions to the Local Agency Formation Commission to become Fire Protection Districts.
Garberville Grass, the first legal medical marijuana dispensary in SoHum, opened for business, offering cannabis products including seedlings for those who wish to grow their own medicine to patients with valid Prop. 215 recommendations.
A U.S. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction to stop Caltrans from proceeding with its Richardson Grove realignment project pending outcome of a lawsuit by environmental groups and individuals. In the meantime, a different group of activists, Richardson Grove Action Now, wrote letters to potential contractors, threatening them with active opposition and “a PR nightmare” should they become involved with the project.
By a narrow 3-2 vote, the county planning commission recommended non-approval of the proposed low-income multi-family rezoning plan presented by staff, even though this could mean a building moratorium under state housing law. The issue was sent to the board of supervisors for a final decision.
The supervisors did, however, approve continuing with the county’s General Plan Update, which is on a separate track from the proposed Housing Element that included the rezone proposal.
A second marijuana dispensary was proposed for SoHum, this one for downtown Garberville in the building occupied by the Redwood Times. Scott’s Humboldt Exchange was planned as a full-service healing center, including many types of herbal remedies as well as cannabis, massage therapy, and yoga.
The county planning commission voted 4 to 1 against approving a draft medical marijuana ordinance written with input from dispensary owners and advocacy groups because it did not cover outdoor grows.
Mandatory redistricting of federal, state, and county voter districts loomed. Humboldt County Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich gave a series of workshops in which she described the process and took community input
College of the Redwoods announced it was looking for community partners to lease space in the Sprowel Creek Road building. Expected funding for the instruction center was down due to state budget cuts.
Redway Community Services District held two special meetings to discuss their revised rate structure. After hearing public comment and experimenting with interactive spreadsheets, the board tentatively chose a tiered-rate scenario with less extreme differences between rates to high and low users than their original proposal.
A body found in the Eel River near Dyerville Loop Road was identified as that of a Santa Rosa man, possibly the victim of homicide. The victim had been staying with a relative in Blocksburg. He disappeared following an argument with another person in the area.
SHUSD trustees accepted a mediated solution to its contract dispute over health care benefits with the Southern Humboldt Teachers Association. The district agreed to increase teachers’ salaries by the difference between their contracted contribution to health insurance and the actual cost of premiums, but that amount would then be automatically deducted from paychecks as the teachers’ contribution to health care costs.
County supervisors postponed a decision on the controversial multi-family rezoning proposal amid quarrels over the accuracy of the inventory of land available for affordable housing, which meant that the Housing Element was still out of compliance with state law.
Because of plans to use its former location for a medical marijuana dispensary and healing center, the Redwood Times moved to a new office at the south end of Garberville.
RCSD also moved to more spacious quarters in the Meadows Business Park, following a rent increase at its old location.
The Eureka Times-Standard ceased home delivery to SoHum, but promised to make the daily newspaper available at Ray’s Food Place in Garberville.
The U.S. Department of Justice stated that Eureka’s city medical marijuana ordinance is not legal under federal law and threatened the city with legal action. The county planning commission held another hearing on a proposed county ordinance, including a presentation by Mendocino sheriff Mike Allman on Mendocino’s ordinance.
Throughout SoHum, residents expressed their opposition to the U.S. Postal Services plan to close several small-town post offices as a cost-savings measure. USPS representatives heard from the public at a series of meetings in Blocksburg, Weott, Phillipsville, Honeydew, and other locations where closure is proposed.
The Garberville Sanitary District board of directors continued to support the River Ranch property as the best site for their proposed new water treatment plant, following a presentation on alternative sites by their engineer and extensive discussion with members of the public opposed to the site. GSD had been asked to do a more thorough survey of alternative sites as part of their grant/loan application to the California Department of Public Health.
The Humboldt Local Agency Formation Commission withheld approval of GSD’s request to add existing connections to the new pipeline meant to serve the Kimtu subdivision until GSD completed a required municipal service review.
At the same meeting, LAFCo also withheld approval of four volunteer fire districts’ application to become Fire Protection Districts, asking for clarification of the impacts of special taxes on residents and how these taxes would be determined and collected.
Parents and teachers from Agnes Johnson School in Weott urged the SHUSD trustees not to cut one of three teaching positions at their school so the district could afford another teacher to reduce class sizes at Redway Elementary. In the end the board approved the proposed change, citing extreme overcrowding in Redway.
Due to lack of funding, the Veterans for Peace decided to give up responsibility for maintaining Jim DeMulling Veterans Park at the north end of Garberville. The Garberville-Redway Chamber of Commerce met with the vets’ group, law enforcement officers, and county staff to consider solutions for problems associated with use of the park by transients.
County supervisors approved a redistricting plan, choosing the alternative with the least amount of change, although a chunk of the second district including Weott and Scotia was moved to the first district.
Former KMUD news director Estelle Fennell announced her candidacy for second district supervisor, the seat currently held by Clif Clendenen, in the forthcoming 2012 election.
A rash of shoplifting plagued Garberville businesses, which many business owners attributed to the increased numbers of homeless and transient persons in the area. John Casali, founder of Eel River Clean-up, and homeless advocate Paul Encimer co-sponsored a town hall meeting for open discussion of these issues. Dozens of speakers from all segments of the community aired their thoughts at what turned out to be the first of three such gatherings in 2011.
Hundreds of SoHum landowners received letters from the county planning department informing them that parcels they own are “shaded,” meaning the legal status of their property is uncertain. The mailing was part of the county’s effort to resolve some of these decades-old issues.
GSD directors concluded that the district should focus on continued improvement in water and wastewater services rather than taking on new responsibilities at a “visioning” session to help them plan for the future.
SHUSD trustees voted to demolish the old Miranda Junior High School facility after a long and difficult discussion. In the meantime, improvements to other schools were moving ahead slowly. The board put off a decision about whether or not to close Agnes Johnson School.
Proponents of Emerald City presented three different boundary scenarios for a proposed incorporated city in SoHum. The smallest option included a strip along the South Fork Eel from Dean Creek to south of Benbow, the largest included Weott, Whitethorn, Pratt Mountain, and went south to the Mendocino county line, while the medium-sized option’s northern boundary was Miranda and its western boundary coincided with Briceland VFD.
Vermont police arrested a second suspect in the 2008 murder of a San Francisco man whose body was found near Alderpoint on Dyerville Loop Road. The officers in Vermont made the arrest following evidence supplied by Sgt. Wayne Hansen and Detective Cheryl Franco of the Humboldt County sheriff’s office.
SHCHD staff and board members met and interviewed Dr. Angel Parker, a leading candidate for the position of community-based physician in Garberville on Oct. 31, when Dr. Parker came to town for an on-site interview and a full tour of the clinic and hospital.
Americans for Safe Access filed a lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that efforts to crack down on California dispensaries overstep constitutional authority. The advocacy group claimed that federal enforcement efforts fail to recognize the state’s right to make its own law governing medical marijuana distribution, which is “an unlawful assault on state sovereignty,” according to the group’s counsel.
Sheriff’s deputies cleared out illegal encampments occupied by homeless and transient persons in the Garberville-Redway area. They first made contact with the campers, giving them two days to remove their belongings and vacate before officers and the sheriff’s SWAP team entered the camps and removed everything left behind.
RCSD’s contractors completed improvements to Redway’s drinking water intake system, including removing a sandstone mound that was obstructing the intake pipes, which resulted in mandatory water conservation during the dry seasons of 2009 and 2010.
School board trustees continued to grapple with best use of the initial $8 million in bond revenues while they anticipated a second sale of $8 million in bonds. The state architect approved a relocatable building for Whitethorn School but the district was still waiting for his approval of plans for improvements to Redway Elementary School.
A building moratorium in Garberville officially ended when the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board finally lifted its cease and desist order, following nearly a year of successful operation of GSD’s newly rebuilt wastewater treatment plant.
The Mateel Community Center reported a highly successful year at its annual membership meeting. Finances improved so much over the past year that the MCC announced it was lowering membership rates and decreasing hall rental charges. Eight candidates, including both incumbents, were nominated to fill the two open board seats.
Possibly the happiest news of the year was the re-opening of Highway 101 to four lanes after more than six months of work clearing debris and repairing damage done by the March 30 slide north of Redway.
Following a year of dramatic improvement in SHCHD’s financial condition and completion of a state-mandated earthquake retrofit, among other projects, the governing board renewed administrator Harry Jasper’s contract. The new contract included a large pay increase that stirred criticism from some members of the public. Jasper reported that the district was making a formal offer to Dr. Angel Parker.
SoHum landowners learned that the state will impose a $150 parcel tax to support CalFire’s fire prevention programs. At the same time, several local volunteer fire departments received approval to continue the process of becoming Fire Protection Districts, which would allow them to also charge a special tax to help fund their operations.
The GSD board decided to shrink its sphere of influence, the area planned for possible future expansion of services, deleting some areas where development is not allowed by the county but including the entire River Ranch, community park, and Kimtu areas. GSD also announced rate increases for both water and sewer services beginning in January, but the increases are lower than anticipated.
RCSD also approved its revised tiered water rate structure, which will go into effect in February 2012. Under this new structure, low water users will get smaller bills but large users’ rates will increase.
SoHum resident Scott Bliss successfully received a new set of lungs at Stanford University Hospital just days after 600 friends and neighbors attended a fundraiser to help with his expenses.
The county board of supervisors, concerned about crackdowns by the federal government, approved a temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. The moratorium, which will not affect dispensaries already approved, such as Garberville Grass, will be in effect for 45 days, after which it may be extended or not by the supervisors. Seven current applications for dispensaries will remain pending and no new applications will be accepted.
Redway business owner and community activist Greg Pfau was chosen as the Garberville-Redway Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year. He will be feted at the chamber’s annual dinner on Jan. 21.