Developers decry public input on growth
As the city looks to northwest Chico for future—and significant—residential growth, the battle over how that area will develop is just beginning. At the March 18 City Council meeting, a preview of that pending struggle was unveiled when developers and the new council majority sparred over how much public input will be allowed to influence how that area grows.

Both sides agree an outside consultant should be hired to oversee the creation of a plan for the area. But developers think they should choose and pay for the consultant because they know development best. The council majority argues the city should hire and pay for the consultant because it has the community’s best interests at heart. In the end the council majority did just that, voting 4-3 for the city to hire the consultant.

Property owners and developers, including Pete Giampaoli and Greg Webb, as well as Jim Mann, the director of the local chapter of the Building Industry Association, have already contacted a consulting firm from Sacramento named Wade Associates to help plan an area of 200 acres near Eaton Road and The Esplanade.

The need to circumvent that pesky public input is obviously recognized by Wade. In the response to the developers’ request-for-plan proposal, consultant David Wade wrote, “It is understood that he project will be controversial and the presentation materials will only be used when appropriate and according to a political strategy devised with the owners.”

Wade estimated it would cost $34,250 to develop the plan and then convince the council and Planning Commission to adopt it.

For a related story, see “Revisiting the Greenline” on page 12.

Nursing home hit with lawsuit
The corporate owner of a Chico nursing home already faces fines from the state for care that the regulators say resulted in patients’ deaths. Now, the family of at least one of those patients is suing.

The family of Francisco Flores filed a lawsuit last week against Albuquerque-based SunBridge Healthcare Corp., which owns Chico Creek Care & Rehabilitation. The suit alleges that SunBridge systematically puts profits ahead of care and, in Flores’ case, staffing shortages and other issues led to the Glenn County man’s being improperly tube-fed until, on March 27, 2002, he suffocated to death by breathing in tube formula. “In total, Mr. Flores received recklessly neglectful care and his dignity was ignored in violation of numerous resident’s rights,” states the suit, which alleges fraud, abuse of an elder, wrongful death and other damages.

The farm supervisor had been recovering from a stroke. “He was only 65,” said Joseph Earley, the Paradise attorney who filed the suit. “It is extremely reasonable to believe this man would have recovered to a [certain] extent.”

Because of how Flores died, the facility received a level A citation, the second-worst possible, from the state Department of Health Services on Dec. 30, 2002, and was fined $18,000, which SunBridge is appealing.

No cash cow: A.S. looks to tighten up
Chico State University’s budget woes are not sparing the Associated Students, the student-fee-funded auxiliary that is bracing itself for cuts to programs if enrollment drops as the economy continues to suffer.

At the March 25 meeting of the A.S. Governmental Affairs Committee, student leaders debated the merits of allowing a 3 percent increase—offset somewhat by closing the Re-entry Center—to CAVE, the Children’s Center and other programs funded under the Programmatic II category of the Activity Fee Fund.

The university as a whole is facing $18.6 million in budget cuts, but the A.S. has not yet begun to fully feel the pain.

The committee also reviewed a resolution, which will be voted on at the next meeting, opposing student fee hikes as high as the 25 percent Gov. Gray Davis has recommended in his budget.

Because the CSU is expected to take the governor’s suggestion, and because the 1998 fee increase came with an estimate of no further hikes until 2007, GAC members balked at a staff member’s suggestion that the A.S. consider raising the activity fee as early as 2004.