Density’s child

This week the Chico City Council resumed its discussion on how and where Chico should grow in the next 10 years. There are two sides here. One is the developers, who’ve expressed concern that the city is running out of available land for building and within five years we’ll have nowhere else to put homes. The other side says that’s only true because these builders refuse to change their habits and will not build homes in higher-average densities. The city planning staff presented the council with 12 areas around Chico that could be considered for development—above and beyond what the General Plan includes. Those areas run as far north as the Chico Municipal Airport and as far south as Neal Road, west to the Dayton Road area and east up Highway 32 beyond California Park. There was a parade of public input, with builders saying make more land available and most everyone else calling for more innovative design to allow for greater efficiency. Rabble-rouser Kelly Meagher suggested to the council majority, which fancies itself as fiscally conservative, that it would be wise to consider the fiscal impacts of building on some of the more far-flung proposals.

Meagher referred to a report from the local chapter of the Building Industry Association as a “house of cards. There’s nothing really there.” Then he challenged the conservatives. “How about instead of an environmental review, do a fiscal-impact analysis on the real cost of bulking up these areas to be developed?” Councilmember Maureen Kirk made a motion to study six of the 12 areas presented, avoiding those to the south, one east of the airport and one on Dayton Road that would challenge the Greenline. But her motion failed, and Councilmember Rick Keene made a motion to look at all 12 and do an environmental-impact report. Councilmember Dan Nguyen-Tan tried to get the option of considering both five-unit-per-acre densities and seven-unit-per-acre densities in the report for comparison purposes. Keene and fellow Councilmembers Larry Wahl, Steve Bertagna and Mayor Dan Herbert balked at the higher density, noting existing neighbors would never go for it. Maybe, but the fact is, the existing builders, most of whom helped fund the elections of the four conservative candidates, are the ones who really object to the higher densities.

Last week I wrote that a Butte County Republican had lamented to me that the Enterprise-Record and the Paradise Post were somewhat complicit in the fact that Kim Yamaguchi beat Len Fulton in last year’s Supervisor’s race. The lamenter accused the editors of those papers of not telling the public that Yamaguchi had broken down and cried at each paper in the middle of an interview while on his quest to win each paper’s endorsement. He won neither. So I get a message last week from David Little, editor of the E-R, telling me that indeed the paper told of Yamaguchi’s teary emotional outbreak. The paper did so in its endorsement editorial just before the election. Little said he thought the editorial held up pretty well after a year. Yeah, maybe, except for the part where they endorsed Supervisor Bob Beeler, who along with Supervisor Curt Josiassen, serves as one of the three pistons in Yamaguchi’s whining political engine, which has just got to be about to break down in a puff of blue smoke on the side of some lonely country road.

A few days before Little contacted me, I was talking with Linda Meilink, editor of the Post and I mentioned my column and the disgruntled Republican. She promptly told me that her paper had also revealed Yamaguchi’s water works display during their interview. Meilink even went so far as to calling "The 49er Speakereasy," her paper’s version of "Tell it to the E-R," to let the world know she was in no way responsible for Yamaguchi’s election. I guess this all goes to show that you can’t trust Republicans. (I sort of stole that joke from Little, which I mention here so he doesn’t come after me, again.)