No environment. No impact. No problem.
Mission accomplished: Officials at the Capitol Area Development Authority (CADA) say there is absolutely no connection between its decision three weeks ago to bulldoze the Ron Mandella Community Garden and the fact that the agency recently was court-ordered to study the environmental consequences of replacing the garden with 119 apartments.
Readers will recall that CADA recently was found to have illegally approved the Freemont Mews housing project on the garden site because CADA didn’t perform an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as required by California law. The ruling revived activists’ flagging hopes that the garden could be saved. They had hoped CADA would hold off on removing contaminated soil from the site until the EIR was done, once and for all. But CADA officials felt that, after 30 years, it was high time for the contaminated dirt to go.
Of course, it might be hard to rally people to “Save the Garden,” now that the garden is gone. But in any case, there’s no connection, CADA says.
In another completely unrelated development, Mandella-garden board members say CADA has been making threatening noises suggesting that it might take individual activists to court for some $88,000 in attorney’s fees. So far, the agency has been unsuccessful in getting much money from the Mandella board, because the organization is flat broke.
But suing the board members individually, though highly unorthodox, might allow CADA to squeeze some money out of the gardeners by garnishing their wages or going after other assets, like people’s homes.
Gardeners may find it very difficult to fend off a lawsuit from CADA and use the environmental-review process to save the garden at the exact same time (not that there is a garden to save, mind you). And the gardeners’ attorney, Kelly Smith, says the threat of litigation has had a “chilling effect” on some of the activists already. CADA Director John Danberg would not comment on the possibility of litigation. But Bites figures it must just be another one of those crazy coincidences.
Day for Knight: When the Legislature reconvened last Tuesday, Senator Pete Knight, R-Palmdale, was upstairs in his Capitol office celebrating his 74th birthday. At lunchtime, he sat at his desk with a big birthday cake in front of him, surrounded by friends and staff. Screened onto the cake, Bites noticed, was an old photo of Knight wearing a flight suit. Behind him in the photo was the X-15 rocket plane he flew back in 1967 when he left the Earth’s atmosphere to set a world speed record (Mach 6.7, or about 4,500 mph) that still stands today.
These days, however, the former Air Force colonel is better known as the author of the controversial Knight Initiative, a gay-marriage ban approved by voters in 2000.
This year, Knight was peeved when Gray Davis signed Assembly Bill 205 by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, granting same-sex couples many of the same rights and privileges as married couples. Now, Knight is leading a legal effort to block the law from taking effect.
So, maybe it was unfortunate for Knight that his birthday festivities had to be marred by last week’s huge gay-rights victory regarding same-sex marriage in Massachusetts.
As Senate President John Burton gaveled the upper house into a special session, he acknowledged the birthday boy and couldn’t let the irony pass without comment.
“I can think of no better birthday present,” Burton said from atop the dais, “than that which the Massachusetts Supreme Court gave.” The Senate erupted in laughter.
The ruling, however, was a great present for Knight’s nemesis, Goldberg, a lesbian gay-rights crusader who just happened to be turning 49 that day.
Leaving the Capitol that night, Bites happened to step into an elevator with Senator Knight.
“Happy birthday, Senator,” Bites said.
“Thank you,” Knight replied, smiling.
“Did you know that you have the same birthday as Jackie Goldberg?”
"Oh, God," Knight said, rolling his head as if wounded. "No, I didn’t. I wish you hadn’t told me."