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Bruce Bratton

[whitespace] Greyhound Bus Dept, 1964
Covello & Covello Historical Photo Collection

Greyhound Bus Dept, 1964: Few folks will remember that the old Southern Pacific Depot, once located over by Lighthouse Liquors, was the Greyhound Bus Depot for a short time. I don't think this photo of the depot as a bus station has been printed since 1964. Some few folks still think the fire that destroyed this historic structure a few years ago was really a case of arson.

OUR DOWNTOWN PLAZA. Scott Kennedy summed up four often-expressed concerns about the proposed downtown plaza at Church and Pacific in the Sentinel last Sunday. (1) Not talking to the property owner soon enough. We met with the owner as soon as we had collected 2,500 signatures and had determined there was enormous community support; we waited until we had some input from the community as to what their concerns were and what was wanted in the plaza. That was all conveyed to the owner at that meeting with the mayor. (2) The plaza was not in the downtown recovery plan, and we don't know how much support the plaza enjoys in the community.We agree with Scott's statement that it is time to revisit the 10-year-old plan. Not much of what our downtown is shaping up to be is in that plan, and let's revise it. The collecting of 2,500 signatures in a very few days and hearing first-hand what old and new locals and visitors had to say about a plaza at that site convinced us the plaza was actually a necessity, if we are going to have a downtown that has any sense of place or of pride. (3) Unknown costs. Yes, the costs are unknown, and as a volunteer committee we can't possibly describe the costs to purchase, develop, maintain and program a plaza. Developers are able to do that because they have the money necessary, but as Scott knows only too well, that's the city staff's responsibility once the City Council directs them. We do know any costs necessary to have a plaza are nothing compared to the costs of supplying another office building with water and utilities, and handling more parking and more traffic--yes, even after any new taxes are created. (4) The social problem. That's the one we hear the most, and if we don't hear it, it's the one people are the most embarrassed to bring up. That's why we like architect Hugh Carter's idea of having a Downtown Host office within the plaza--but not just the Downtown Hosts or the police but also a Chamber of Commerce tourist office and a visitor center with the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Downtown Association involved. There's talk, too, of having a central box office with tickets and information for all our events. The presence of this activity and the constant coming and going of hundreds of people would eliminate "The Social Problem" here as it has in plazas all over the world. It's exactly the same situation we had at the Town Clock New Year's celebrations, but the problem was solved immediately once First Night brought crowds of families and had lots of planned activities.

MOVIES FROM THE LAST MILLENNIUM. I saw
Cradle Will Rock whilst down in L.A. Being a long time Orson Welles and John Houseman fan, I was disappointed in director Tim Robbins' humorous treatment of the entire plot. However, seeing Ruben Blades as Diego Rivera is well worth the price of admission. Oliver Stone's hymn to professional football, Any Given Sunday, featuring Cameron Diaz and Al Pacino, is only worth seeing if you can't get enough football on the telly. I thought it was hokey, corny, predictable and not up to Stone's usual standard. On the other hand, if you ever watched William Shatner's Star Trek in the '60s or the reruns or enjoy science fiction films, Galaxy Quest is great fun and plenty of laughs from start to finish. The Talented Mr. Ripley with Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon is a nice film; no Oscars here, but it is well done all the same. If you're busy, you could wait and rent it. Spanish director Almodóvar's newest, All About My Mother, has film critics nationwide giving it their very best awards and it is probably his best to date.

BORDERS 2000. Speaking of ghosts of Future Christmases, anyone else have nightmares about the corporate Borders chain deciding to sell off the lease to our downtown store so then we have "Books to Go," then when that goes belly up, we get "99 Cents 'R' Us" junk books in its place? That's junk books, not used books. We certainly can't say yes to one book chain, then say no when they sell out to another book chain. I'm sure there's some clause in that deal with Doug Ley preventing that from happening--right? But it does happen other places.

KAZU AND KUSP. Dr. Mark Bernhard, president of KUSP's board of directors, says he thinks the possible linkage between KUSP and KAZU would definitely be a positive thing. He believes merging the stations makes economical and aesthetic sense, and that the ball is in their court. The KAZU board members might make a decision Thursday (Jan. 6), but they might take longer. Instead of two stations competing for basically the same audience, each station would be freed up to create the format best suited to its area. We'll find out soon.

OTHER FILMS, OTHER SOURCES. The Independent Film Channel and HBO both ran Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai the same night a while back. What was amazing is that they both showed the complete four-hour version, which I didn't even know existed. To see the entire film is to see it for the first time, and it's infinitely better than even the original shortened version, which is a recognized masterpiece.

MORE ABOUT THE DOWNTOWN PLAZA. Scott Kennedy also said in that Sentinel article that the Pacific and Cooper street location was a poor site because of the lack of sun. Noted architect, planner and educator William H. Whyte says in his video The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (which, I hope, the City Council will watch before its Jan. 18 meeting), "The sun is not important--but light is." He then goes on to show in great detail how plazas succeed when they have plenty of places to sit and are located where lots of people walk by, or as he says, "where the city comes together" in a natural path from one place to another. The other locations suggested around downtown Santa Cruz would be great as parks, places to look at or sculpture gardens. What Santa Cruz needs is a vibrant, active event-oriented meeting place and lunch spot in the center of heavy pedestrian traffic, and that's only the corner of Pacific and Church streets--and this is our last chance to have a community plaza where it will work. Don't forget that the City Council will discuss the Downtown Plaza Tuesday night, Jan. 18; plan on being there to show them how much we want this heart of the city as a plaza.

2000 AND BEYOND. Get tickets now for the Miami String Quartet, which will perform at the UCSC Music Center Jan. 13. The group will play some Mozart, Schumann and Ginastera. Pianist Jon Nakamatsu, a winner of the Van Cliburn competition, will join the quartet in the Schumann piece. UCSC Arts and Lectures is presenting the San Francisco theater troupe Word for Word Jan. 14 on the Mainstage. The group acts out short stories and novellas word for word. Call 459.2159 for tickets or do the http://events.ucsc.edu/artslecs/tickets.html thing.


Bruce critiques films every other Thursday at 12:50pm on KUSP (88.9FM). Reach Bruce at bratton@cruzio.com or at 457.9000, ext. 400.

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From the January 5-12, 2000 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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