Sterling decision

They may not realize it now, and they probably never will, but the folks who rose up against the Sterling student apartment complex ended up with the best deal they could have hoped for, short of the property’s remaining orchard land. (See “'OK, build it,'” Newslines, page 8.) The only mitigation the Chico City Council failed to address in its approval of the complex was the “I don’t want to live next to a bunch of students” sentiment shared by some of the opponents. For its part, the Sterling company, which hails from Texas, listened to the neighbors’ concerns and agreed to a number of compromises and conditions. We’ve got to wonder if the council majority would have burdened a local developer with the same conditions. Let’s face it, three of those councilmembers—Rick Keene, Steve Bertagna and Larry Wahl—have never met a development they didn’t like. Sterling wasted its money in giving Keene and Bertagna $1,000 each in campaign contributions. After all, these guys OK’d the Brentwood Estates development on the Esplanade north of East Avenue, which critics have noted is just another run-of-the-mill project that fails to meet the spirit of the General Plan.

Sterling apparently made a positive impression on Councilmember Coleen Jarvis, who threw political caution to the wind and did what she thought best for the community. She could have played it safe and voted against the project and made a few people in Houston mad at her. Instead, she went against the wishes of the neighbors and angered a lot of people, including her fellow progressive, Supervisor Jane Dolan. Even during the meeting, before the decision was made, people in the audience were making extremely disparaging remarks about Jarvis, remarks I won’t repeat because it’s not fair to judge the neighborhood opposition based on the simple-minded and mean words spewed by these few folks. Just as it’s not fair to judge Chico State University students and say you don’t want to live next to them based on the obnoxious antics of a small minority who give all a bad name. That’s just not right.

Speaking of politics, remember when the City Council majority voted to deregulate waste hauling in the city? That was April 2001. Since then the matter sort of disappeared because the man who led the charge, Keene, has come to realize it just can’t be done—especially when you’re running for Assembly. Because of state demands to reduce the waste going into our landfills, waste hauling cannot operate without some regulation. This week the city’s Finance Committee, made up of Keene, Wahl and Dan Nguyen-Tan, finally took up the matter at the urging of Nguyen-Tan. The committee voted 3-0 to table efforts to deregulate at least until the city’s two haulers come before council to ask for a rate increase. That will rekindle efforts to deregulate. Since the haulers don’t want regulation, they are going to need a rate increase pretty badly before they ask for one, which means the city is still regulating the haulers.

Last week Barbara Vlamis, executive director of the Butte Environmental Council, was physically escorted by a Chico police officer, Abigail Madden, from Conference Room One in the Chico City Council building. Seems Vlamis crashed an agency meeting on cleanup efforts at the Humboldt Road Burn Dump. The meeting was called by Andy Kopania, the city’s hired consultant. Phil Woodward, of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the lead agency in the matter, ordered Vlamis removed from the meeting. Vlamis told Woodward she just wanted to sit and take notes. Vlamis was one of four people who helped hire Kopania as a consultant and has worked on the HRBD project for the past five years. Christy Strauch, a Stilson Canyon resident who notified this paper about Vlamis’ removal, also noted: "The offices where this meeting was held was paid for by public (community) funds. Mr. Woodward’s salary, as well as the salaries of city staff, consultants for the city, school representatives, other members of state agencies, employees of the city … and even the police officer summoned by Mr. Woodward, are all paid for by public (community) funds. The millions of dollars that have been spent already in preparation for this project, the millions of dollars that this project will eventually cost, plus the millions of dollars to monitor this site after the project is complete, are or will be paid for by public (community) funds. And what does the community get? They are treated with disrespect and condescension."