Terra Bella lives

With Judge Steven Howell’s order last week that the city “immediately set aside and vacate your decision to impose a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report on the property commonly known as the ‘Terra Bella Subdivision,’ “ developer Andrew Meghdadi says he is moving forward. The Chico City Council ordered Meghdadi to stop working on the project in April when it learned he had cut down more trees than the Planning Department said it had allowed. Meghdadi was also ordered to do a supplemental EIR because the project’s terrain had changed drastically with the tree removal, and the new EIR would serve as a punishment to Meghdadi and a warning to other developers. Meghdadi filed a lawsuit in July challenging the City Council’s actions, and Howell made his initial ruling. Howell also said Meghdadi “may pursue subdivision and development of the property during the pendency of this lawsuit,” but that he can’t cut any more trees or remove those he’s already taken down without the city’s permission. The city must now show Howell why Meghdadi should be required to do the supplemental EIR. The burden of proof has been shifted from us to the city to prove we are guilty,” said Meghdadi. He said would now submit his subdivision plan to the Planning Department. “They may drag their feet, but we have someone watching every step to make sure we are treated the same as any other developer,” Meghdadi said. He added that he has no plans to take down any more trees.

“The judge made it clear that, while [Meghdadi] can continue to try to subdivide, he proceeds at his own risk,” said City Attorney Dave Frank. Meghdadi says his attorney, William Warne of Sacramento, suggests Frank has neither the legal background nor the time to represent the city properly in this matter, and as a result the city will have to hire outside counsel. A settlement meeting is set for Aug. 21 in Frank’s office. “We are going to demand restitution for time and money lost and the way the city smeared my name,” Meghdadi said.

For months rumors of the slow but impending death of the Towne Lounge were making their way through Chico’s other drinking establishments, or so I’ve heard. The Lounge was established in 1966, when, according to local folklore, its founder, Charlie Cuthbertson, literally uprooted the bar from its old location as part of Gene Fong‘s Chinese restaurant on the corner of Fourth and Main streets. The bar was located where Duffy’s Tavern currently sits. Anyway, the story goes that Cuthbertson and Fong had a falling out one night, and Cuthbertson ripped up the bar, carried it two doors up Main, bolted it in place, and the Lounge was born. But the Lounge, which is every bit as much of a Chico landmark as the Thunderbird Motel sign, was on its deathbed financially, we heard. That is, until Woody Sjostrom, owner of Woody’s Bar on Park Avenue, became an investor. The place was closed a few days, scrubbed and painted, and the nicotine film was scraped off the tile ceiling. Sjostrom says a lot of people have complained because he is enforcing the city’s and the state’s no-smoking laws—the old Lounge was known as a haven for smokers. “It might not have smoking, but at least it’s still open,” Sjostrom said. “The place was going to close.”

Rep. Wally Herger checked in this week with his "Reports from Washington" newsletter, in which he says neither the Endangered Species Act nor the nation’s forest management are based on "sound science," which means science that will back your particular political slant on a matter. The gas and oil companies say "sound science" does not support the theory of global warming caused by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. "Sound science" says logging companies should be allowed to harvest on our national forests in order to protect them from fire. I suppose "unsound science" says doing so only increases the risk of fire because it opens up the forest canopy, allowing more sunlight to reach the forest floor, causing vegetative buildup (fire fuel), and the slag left behind such timber harvests adds to the fuel buildup. Herger asked this question on his last report: "Would you support Forest Service administrative policies that allow increased timber harvesting and thinning aimed at reducing forest fuels and better protecting communities and species from catastrophic wildfires?" That is like asking "Do support placing furry little kitties in good homes where they will be loved or should we gut them for their tiny pelts?"