Letters for July 22, 2004

Say no to Fresno’s mistakes

Re “Extreme makeover” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, July 15):

The discussions about the future of downtown Sacramento bring to mind a similar debate that took place in a Central Valley city of comparable size during the last decade: Fresno.

For a good eight years, Fresno toyed with a plan to build a baseball stadium at the end of its fledgling Fulton Street pedestrian mall. The stadium was seen as the way to resurrect its moribund downtown core by attracting folks from suburban north Fresno and Clovis to Grizzlies baseball games and music concerts.

The stadium opened in 2002, to great hopes and fanfare. The sad truth is that downtown Fresno remains a ghost town most evenings and doesn’t have much appeal even during the day.

Fresno made the erroneous assumption that a $46 million stadium would be the salvation of its downtown. Fresno is just now beginning to realize that the way to revitalize its downtown is to house people downtown. Once you have the people in place, commercial development will have a much more sustainable base to grow from.

Another city of comparable size, just north of the U.S. border, has over 50,000 residents living in its downtown area—a figure that is expected to double over the next 20 years. Because of the development of high-density housing downtown, Vancouver, British Columbia, is considered one of the most livable cities on the planet. It has become a vibrant, eclectic 24-hour urban core with sidewalk cafes, boutiques, neighborhood grocery stores, nightclubs, art galleries, lively street scenes and public spaces. Many of the living spaces in downtown Vancouver are mixed-use developments, where you have apartments and condo towers sitting on three- to five-story base structures containing retail, offices and parking.

The vision advocated by Greg Taylor and Ron Vrilakas is much more realistic and would indeed give downtown true character and soul. The K Street corridor, as well as other parts of downtown, could see more authentic development taking place. Adaptive reuse of older buildings, such as the one on the corner of 16th and J streets, as well as new context-sensitive mixed-use development would offer the regional appeal that the mayor is seeking. In addition, the feedback received from the latest regional blueprint planning workshop showed a preference for higher-density housing development in the central city.

An arena may not give downtown Sacramento the regional appeal that Mayor Fargo and the “Fargo Four” are seeking. Moreover, it would only serve to exacerbate the already bad parking and traffic problems that exist in the area. Not even light rail could offer sufficient mitigation in that regard. The bottom line is that the city would not receive as much return on investment with an arena as it would with housing for all income levels.

Just look at Fresno.

Rick J. Williams

Reinventing the Sammies wheel

Re “Don’t call it luck” by Jackson Griffith and Christian Kiefer (SN&R Arts&culture, July 15):

I wanted to write and express my disappointment at this year’s Sammies award show [held at the Crest Theatre on July 14].

In past years, I have always enjoyed the show and found it a great venue for exposure to local bands. As I understand it, the primary objective of the show is to promote local bands and nightlife, and up until this year, it has done the job very well. In the past five years, I have discovered a number of bands that I now follow enthusiastically, attending their live shows and purchasing their CDs. The format of the show then allowed for many bands to play and for audiences to hear a selection of their songs. I liked the somewhat frenetic pace, as well, as one had to move between two possible stages to hear the different bands.

So, I was very dismayed to discover that this year, the producers had decided to reinvent the wheel. The second stage had been eliminated, and each band was allowed only one song. Jackie Greene, the show’s opening act, and, I assume, top draw, played exactly at 7 p.m. and played one song. If you were five minutes late, you would have missed him. It was as though the producers were running a sprint. There were what are probably some good new bands, but I wasn’t really afforded the opportunity to appreciate their potential, because they were limited to a single song. I would have loved to hear some more from Seventy, for instance. But one catchy tune, and bam, they were gone. I heard the same sentiment from a number of other attendees.

In the end, we saw fewer bands and little of the ones we did see. It is doubtful that I will return to the Sammies in their current form. The producers should return to the old format that was both popular and exciting. If it ain’t broke …

Patrick Eady

Punks with walkers

Re “Rock ’n’ roll survivor” by Jackson Griffith (SN&R Cover, July 8):

I have a question for you: Is anybody under the age of 50 making good music in Sacramento? It seems like every article concerning music in your publication highlights aging rock musicians (Kevin Seconds, Mike Farrell, the Knockoffs).

Is it true that the members of every good punk band in Sac are either married, have children or use walkers? That’s what it seems like to me when I see the punk bands nominated for the Sammies. I know that these older bands are a very important part of Sacramento’s music scene, but isn’t the core of punk rock and rock ’n’ roll a youthful, rebellious spirit?

I know there are good young bands out there. I saw Diddley Squat play at the concert in the park a couple of months ago, and it was fantastic. Not as musically perfect or experienced as older Sac bands, but it was refreshing to see high-school aged kids playing original music. The same goes for a band called the Nasty that I recently saw.

Maybe you could give these younger bands a chance in your paper sometime. It might keep me awake.

Jon Galloway

He’s a tandoor man

Re “Hooray for Bollywood” by Kate Washington (SN&R Dish, July 15):

I was delighted to read your review of Sher-e-Punjab in your July 15 issue. I agree entirely with the reviewer, but not reviewing its lunch buffet separately is a travesty.

The lunch buffet always has in the neighborhood of 30 items, well over half of them vegetarian, which is definitely the restaurant’s strong point. The staff also brings as much free, straight-out-of-the-tandoor naan as you want and offers huge pieces of incredibly juicy tandoori chicken. Because of the way the tandoor cooks, really hot and really fast, shrimp must be the hardest to cook well, which is probably why it seemed tough.

Anyone who likes Indian food slightly will not be disappointed by the lunch buffet.

Daniel Westover

Private solutions for education

Re “College—where the elite meet” (SN&R Editorial, June 24):

You’re right on target in stating that “higher education is crucial to the financial engine of the state.” Further, as you point out, forced enrollment cutbacks in the University of California and California State University systems will deter many qualified young Californians from completing their degrees. This is a sad trend that indeed represents false (and only short-term) savings for a state that has long provided access to college education for the qualified and willing.

However, your editorial suggests that only the “elite” can afford to attend private schools, leaving public institutions as the only option for most students. Many private colleges have substantial financial aid available for well-qualified traditional-aged entering undergraduates. Furthermore, there are other private nonprofit accredited institutions—several that offer programs in the Sacramento area—that focus on higher education for working adults.

Recognizing the financial challenges that now work against so many adults, Golden Gate University has recently established a large number of Academic Excellence Scholarships designed to enable experienced adults to complete a degree in business or technology. Students who attend school part time while working may find that such financial aid makes the total cost of completing a degree little more than at a state university.

I encourage your readers to look at all opportunities—not just public institutions—when considering their plans for higher education.

Anthony Branch
regional dean, Golden Gate University, Sacramento