Fresh and sleazy

Great floods of the future, the ghosts of development deals past

One of the highlights of this past year for Bites was the opportunity to leave behind the sleaze and corruption of this capital city and hang out for a couple of days with one Leon Hunsaker of Hugo, Ore.

Hunsaker is a retired meteorologist and TV weatherman who has spent a good chunk of his long and accomplished life studying the Great Flood of 1862, which nearly wiped Sacramento off the map.

He thinks that something like the “Noachian deluge” of 1862 (after the Biblical Noah) or the ARkStorm (derived from “Atmospheric River 1,000” and is also a Noah reference, again) will return, and that Sacramento’s flood system just isn’t ready for it.

For reasons too complicated to go into here, hydrologists at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers think Hunsaker’s wrong (see “The weatherman,” SN&R Feature Story, June 21). He has challenged the Army Corps to debate him, but no luck. Couldn’t even wrangle a spot at the annual California Extreme Precipitation Symposium in Davis, even though the theme this year was the 150-year anniversary of the Great Flood.

Well, perhaps the weatherman can take some satisfaction in a big article due to appear in Scientific American next month, which offers some scary support to his hypothesis. In “The Coming Megafloods,” hydrologist Michael Dettinger and B. Lynn Ingram, a professor of Earth and planetary science and geography, detail new evidence gleaned from sediment layers around the Bay Area and Southern California that 1862-style storms have been routinely pounding the area every 100 to 200 years, and climate change could mean more.

Did Bites mention it’s the 150-year anniversary of California’s Great Flood?

After reading the early online version of the story, Bites wasn’t sure whether to call up Hunsaker and congratulate him on being ahead of the curve or to let him know that Bites is packing up the family and moving to Hugo.

California Musical Theatre is pulling the plug on the Cosmopolitan Cabaret after four years and an awful lot of city money. The Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency subsidized development of the building on 10th and K streets, originally an old Woolworth’s store, to the tune of about $10 million. Oh, and don’t forget the $3 million that the city spent buying up the property.

The project also included some dining and a nightclub, the whole package. But it was the theater that justified the city money; it was the bait for the big development subsidy. Now comes the switch, albeit four years later. Some other Paragary Restaurant Group joint will go in there. Fine, but not what the city paid for, not by a long shot. And no, it wasn’t intentional, but a bait and switch nonetheless. And now that the developers David Taylor and the CIM Group are getting ready to sell off that block for a profit, how much of its money is the city going to get back? Better be careful, or folks might start to grow a bit cynical about redevelopment. Not that anyone will remember after a couple of months. Bites will, for a little while. It’s not weird.

But is it weird that Bites thought recently again about that Fresh & Easy store on El Camino Avenue and Del Paso Boulevard in north Sacramento? You know, the one that’s just a parking lot and a concrete pad with some wires sticking out of it? Remember when the SHRA loaned the company $2 million to build the parking lot and other infrastructure for the much-needed grocery store, but then Fresh & Easy never built it? Remember? No?

The company kept building stores in other neighborhoods, but never got around to north Sac. Comes word now that F&E’s parent company, Tesco, which is like the British version of Walmart, is getting ready to sell off its Fresh & Easy stores. Tesco CEO Philip Clarke said that a strategic review of the chain reveals that “acceptable returns will take too long relative to other opportunities.”

Wonder if Clarke ever thought about getting into the redevelopment game?

Anyway, it looks like the completion date of the world’s slowest grocery-store construction project has been moved back to never. And that’s about when Bites expects the $2 million to be paid back to the city. No worries, soon forgotten.

Hey, someone should call up the neighborhood’s new city Councilman Allen Warren and tell him to straighten that grocery-store thing out. And hey, speaking of Allen Warren and redevelopment and a bunch of money that ought to be paid back … oh, never mind, no one remembers anyway.