Sunday, April 29, 2007

A witch hunt

She was my brother's teacher. She was creative, and innovative, and something of a radical. She talked about saving the forests long before the treesitters and Redwood Summer. She introduced the concept of organic food, and had the kids making (and drinking) carrot juice, brought in xeroxed sheets of information on the formaldehyde in ice cream. She exemplified the back to the land, grow your own, live off the grid lifestyle. And we loved her.

One day, a kid brought a Playboy Magazine into class. When she discovered it in his desk, she did something very unusual. She took it out, and hung it on the bulletin board. And the class had a discussion about what it represented.

The kids knew it to be the right reaction. It was just. It wasn't over-reactive. It was real and it was honest. And they loved her.

But the parents didn't. She was far too radical. And soon she was gone.

And the kids knew - she was the victim of a witch hunt.

It seems ironic to me that her son is now becoming a victim of the same sort of narrow minded thinking - but with a major twist.

Her name was Irene Riley.

Her son's name is Scott Riley.

His proposal for an "eco-groovy" development in Manila has brought out the lynch mob.

Salzman and his "eco-groovy" cohorts kicked into full gear, sounding the clarion call for warm bodies to kill the proposal, promising all kinds of dire consequences if Riley is successful - calling it "a very dense subdivision," stating that The development could be precedent-setting county-wide in a number of harmful ways. They "organized a publicized walk ... so local residents could see for themselves how d-e-s-t-r-u-c-t-i-v-e this will be. They hope that dozens of concerned residents across the Humboldt Bay area will recognize the i-m-p-o-r-t-a-n-c-e of this meeting, and that we're able to pack the chambers with articulate voices of opposition. They claim "None of us are opposed to this property being "developed" as long as it matches the existing neighborhood's low density, and doesn't destroy any of the existing dunes.,, Aryay Kalaki said it would irretrievably change the community's rustic attributes that residents cherish. ”We would permanently lose the rural character,” said Kalaki." (Don't laugh!) (Channel 3 they claim, ran the "publicized walk" as a lead story that night. The Times Standard and The Lumberjack covered it as well - Guys, you might wanna check your sources.)

As Hank Sims details in his recent column, there are some problems with their story.

"...Pine trees. In his letter, (Michael) Fennell stated that Riley was "caught cutting mature beach pines on [his] property prior to submitting [his] development plan." The implication was that this was an illegal act, and in a follow-up call Fennell asserted that it was.

In fact, it was not. The tree-cutting incident was covered in the Arcata Eye at the time. The story from that paper described how officers from the county's code enforcement unit had been called to the scene and had issued a stop-work permit for "possible" violations, but had later determined that no law had been broken. The trees were not, in fact, "mature," at least by the definition adopted by the county. In our phone conversation, Fennell insisted that code enforcement had simply been too busy to prosecute Riley, but this is not the case. No law was broken.

Sand. In his letter, Fennell mentioned that the Riley plan involves "bulldoz[ing] the dunes (about 650 large dump-truck loads)." In fact, the great majority of the sand removed from building sites in the Riley proposal will be used to restore historic dunes on the property, according to engineering plans that have been submitted to the county. Only one "large dump-truck load" of sand is scheduled to be removed from the site.

Density. Fennell, speaking for the community, said: "We welcome any new housing that ... maintains the half-acre minimum standard." (Half-acre-minimum lots are standard for the area's zoning.)

Riley's plan calls for 17 homes on 8.5 acres, which pencils out to one home per half-acre. However, those proposed homes will be scrunched into one corner of the property so that the rest of the parcel, which consists of sensitive wetlands, may be protected as open space. This kind of thing is the purpose behind "planned unit developments." Trevor Eslow, a planner with the county's Community Development Services division, assured us Tuesday that these kind of trade-offs -- smaller lot sizes for preserved open space -- are not entirely uncommon.

In fact, just last year there was another Manila developer who did a somewhat analogous deal with the county. His name is Michael Fennell. Last year, Fennell wanted to subdivide 3.7 acres, 3 acres of which was wetlands or pine forest. Fennell built three homes on the other seven-tenths of an acre, with the county's blessing. According to Eslow, the lead planner on the project, one of the lots was only 15,000 square feet in size -- about .35 acres, well below the standard he sets for Riley's development..."

Riley's development is "green" - the kind of thing that should make these guys happy.

And, there's more to the story. Kalaki has a longstanding grudge against Riley (reportedly he wanted Riley's piece of property, but offered less than Riley, and so did not get it, and has been on a vendetta ever since. There's also some evidence that he uses the "Dunes Forum" to harass Riley.)

Another neighbor is Salzman's buddy, extremist, Paul Cienfuegos.

Why is Salzman suddenly so interested in all proposed development? It's not just that he likes to meddle in other people's business. It appears that he's an active force in Mark Lovelace's "Healthy Humboldt." You can expect activist tactics to be employed, viral email alerts, plaintive "My Word's" penned by people other than him, and Salzman's Orks armed with talking points attending community meetings and speaking against Riley. Riley's only real sin appears to be that he doesn't belong to the Club.

It tells you that these guys are not really in it for "green" reasons. It's about power and control and you can't appease these guys.

The Humboldt County Planning Commission will consider Riley's development at its regular meeting on Thursday, May 3.

Paul Cienfuegos wants you to "share YOUR concerns with the various public officials who will be involved in this decision.
* Michael Wheeler, Humboldt County Planner
* Bob Merrill, CA Coastal Commission
* CA Dept of Fish and Game
* Your local Board of Supes, especially John Woolley"

Will they take the time to check their sources?

Manila takes second look at Riley development, fluoride
Manila rejects wetland donation from developer


  1. Lets be sure to help save the rustic nature of this community. The shit holes these folks inhabit are for the most part eye sore,health hazards,and third worldish. Kaylaki(not his real name) is the self professed comrad(Marshal) of the area, running around like a KGB thought policeman making sure everyone toes the party line. He himself lives across the street from the proposed development in a sub-standard dwelling with code violations on the record. This rustic setting has lots of meth dealers and just down the road a week or so ago a meth head was forceably removed by sheriffs as he threatned to kill. What a great rustic place. The new sub-division will bring nice families,a safer neighbor hood and enhanced tax base. Good,Good,Good.

  2. It's quite possible that the Manila Comm.Service Dst. is in a Brown Act violation. How many directors meet at the public meetings and walk abouts? Denying to take a legal wetland from Riely and taking one from Fennel shows a bias that also seems like a violation of public policy requirements. When you are a member of a board it's not a chance to help your pals. This stinks to high heaven. Someone should contact the AG

  3. I drove through Manila today, and I wonder how many of the existing "rustic" houses are on 1/4 to 1/2 acre lots. Not alot.

  4. Many of the little housing clusters are not even 10Ft apart.are on sand dunes that haven't been taken down to hard surface . They've been occupied for around a hundred years. Good communities,till the druggies and hippie types. Getting more clean developments with good families seems like a real plus. Riely seems a creative fellow with a great green vision. The community won't fall into disarry,it will be enhanced.

  5. Let me see if I've got this straight. One guy does a planned unit development in the town with the blessing of the council. He tries to buy another property next by to do the same thing but another person buys the property first. OK so far? The secound person then tries to do a PUD and the first person with the first PUD cries foul. OK so far. The original PUD developer then gets the blessing of the councile to oppose the new PUD development. OK so far. Am I missing something here? I also understand that the districts Supervisor is a close person friend to the first PUD developer. If so this is really a very bad situation. Gloria

  6. Many of us got sucked into helping this crowd clean up trash at the beach. Little did we know that they were so radical and would be trying to tell us all how to wipe our butts. They are not nice people.

  7. Can't build a house in a sand dune. Funny, but this crowd just bought a house in the biggest dune in Manila. Good for the goose just not the gander.

  8. It's interesting to me how this all happens. A few vocal people cook up a doomsday scenario, drum up support from the neighbors by scaring them with it - they are very media savvy, and they call up the papers, and the TV stations and appear to be sincere and ultra-cooperative, and the media eats it up. What then gets in the paper, they use to show that what they cooked up in the first place is true, because why? Well, look here, the Times Standard said they are going to move 650 dumptruck loads of sand out of the Dunes...

    If Hank had not looked beyond the rhetoric, and asked questions, the truth would not have seen the light of day.

    Riley might have pled his case to the media and the public, but his image was already set into the public consciousness by the terms these guys used to characterize him - and nothing he said, no proof he offered would have mattered.

    Riley didn't need any propaganda machine, he just needed someone to look at the facts. Well. Not just look, but report.

  9. When we first came to Humboldt Manila was our biggest shock. Anywhere else it would be prime real estate, with the best, most expensive houses in the county. Not Humboldt. Here, it's a pit. What a metaphor for the whole county.

  10. Does this sound familar? centralization of authority,suppression of opposition through censorship,dictatorial control,belligerent nationalism (localism). This is Fasism my friends any way you wrap the package.

  11. Yes but they call it smart growth.

  12. How eco-groovy,Comrade. Don't forget to come to the "witch hunt"xxxxxxx, sorry!, the community meeting tonight.

  13. I think we should all chip in and buy Cheri Moore a nice 10K house in Manila.

  14. You mean Marjorie Burgess?

  15. KIEM owes a followup report, with accurate info this time. No?

  16. The participants in this witch hunt howl about dumptruck loads of sand being moved. In their rhetoric this is a catastrophe, because it is a tool to stop Riley. Yet some of these same "Dunes advocates" fully support the complete bulldozing at Clam Beach in the politically-correct effort to eradicate European Beach Grass.

    The dunes are fluid, subject to the vagaries of wind, rain and waves. They shift, move, are sometimes swept away, then rebuilt in vast coastal expanses.

    In both cases, they will recover.



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