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Covello & Covello Historical Photo Collection

Thirty-Eight Years Ago: This picture was taken Jan. 29, 1963. Old-timers can see that this is the corner of Pacific and Cathcart. J.C. Penney's is on the right where Taqueria Vallarta and the University Town Centre are now. Santa Cruz Bowling became the Catalyst in April of 1975. Johnny's Sporting Goods and the Tampico Kitchen are still with us. If you look closely, you'll see that that ugly and still-neglected space next to Johnny's was once a discount shoe store.

Bruce Bratton

OUR DOWNTOWN PLAZA. Now we've seen the latest drawings for the four-story building the property owner wants to build at Pacific Avenue and Church streets. Remember, that's all they are, drawings, or "eyewash" as architects call drawings. In the almost 12 years the property has sat there growing weeds since the earthquake, all we've seen are drawings, no signed-on tenants, no building, not even any clearing of the land or an attempt to make it look nicer. The Plaza Committee has submitted drawings and several interesting concepts for plaza designs. Throughout the county, land-use issues usually begin when a property owner files drawings. All that the drawing means is that we can see what that corner of Pacific and Church would look like with a four-story building. Soon our City Council will meet to prioritize a list of projects. The Downtown Plaza Committee is hoping that the council will place the creating of a plaza at or near the top of that list. I've mentioned many times that our committee gathered more than 3,000 signatures in just a few weekends, and we could have gathered thousands more, because both tourists and locals alike see the many reasons why a plaza or park would mean more to our downtown than a four-story office building. The Plaza Committee isn't asking much, just an official study and inquiry as to the community benefits and problems of creating a plaza at that location. There have been a couple of meetings with the property owner and some unofficial proposals discussed, but to date nothing seriously dedicated to studying the plaza project at that location has been undertaken. Would 9,000 or 15,000 more signatures saying we want a plaza at that corner accomplish anything? Probably not. What we have here is a property owner who so far has remained "unwilling to sell." What we need is a City Council that sees the reasons for a plaza outweighing the dwindling needs for an office building combined with some off-label department store.

SEMIDARK PLEASURES. My not being able to sit in theaters has meant a return to videos, and that's not all bad. Seeing Roman Polanski and Gerard Depardieu in A Pure Formality is a must for fans of great films. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, who did Cinema Paradiso, this 1994 film is amazing, with a plot that could not be more shocking or better acted. I hadn't seen Luis Valdes' Zoot Suit for years and had forgotten just how good a dramatic musical it is. Some serious film student should do a thesis on the role that Edward James Olmos plays in Zoot Suit. That character is one of the most unusual in cinema history. I rented my copies of the above at Westside Video. One friend tells me Westside has 12,000 videos, and I found at least 20 I hadn't seen before.

READING HOLOCAUST LITERATURE. That's the title of an international symposium and literary conference happening Feb. 23, from 9:45am to 4pm, in Room 159 at Kresge College at UCSC. The conference "is a conversation with critic David Grossman about the impact of Holocaust literature on the contemporary reader." David is one of Israel's most important contemporary writers. The conference is free and open to the public. I'm mentioning it well ahead of time because there are several participating writers and scholars taking part and you'll be sorry if you can't get in. It's being presented by A Traveling Jewish Theatre, which will perform See Under: Love, which is based on Grossman's novel. The play is at Project Artaud in San Francisco; it runs from Feb. 15 through March 15. You need to reserve a seat for the symposium by calling 459.1225 or by emailing ehilberm@cats.ucsc.edu.

DOWNTOWN PLAZA AGAIN. It's odd when you think about it, but the battles against developers in the county have been much more successful than those within the city limits. Think about stopping PG&E and their nuclear power plant in Davenport and the Wingspread Conference Center across from Cabrilho College; remember stopping the Hollywood Turf Club and Marine Land from developing 10,000 homes on Wilder Ranch--and triumphs like the acquisition of Gray Whale Ranch and Coast Land and Dairies property near Davenport. Each of those victories for our environment and for the betterment of our larger community took years of negotiations, planning, dealing and just plain battling. Our county is better off because of those battles. Our City of Santa Cruz hasn't done as well. We've lost to Costco and Gateway Plaza; we lost the original Cooper House, the McHugh-Bianchi Building and many more. Now there's one empty space left in our downtown area where a plaza/square would work (according to some experts' preliminary concepts). Will we watch our council bury the Downtown Plaza project again? Will they see the plaza at Pacific Avenue and Church Street as a significant and positive legacy to our future generations? Will they be as willing as our county supervisors have been in the past to work out or even oppose "an unwilling seller" in the interests of the community? We'll see, won't we?

DRIVING DURING POWER OUTAGES. Yes, I agree (and previously stated) that common sense should take over when the power stops stoplights from working. I repeat: if you drive at all, you have to have noticed the crazed and helpless looks on the other drivers' faces at a powerless four-way intersection. Bob Tanner of Boulder Creek has a great idea: Why not have a special page of emergency instructions, including intersection laws, in the DMV handout book? That way we'd all be on the same page when that time comes again; thanks Bob. After receiving several other ideas about intersection law, a caller with a nasty attitude problem left a snide message saying we can already find info about traffic-signal blackout law in the 2000 DMV rule book on pages 14 and 15. Now we just need to get everybody to read the DMV handbook--when was the last time you looked at one? How about maybe they send out a page of emergency-type laws with our license renewals or wintertime PG&E bills?

HISTORICAL PHOTO DEVELOPMENTS. Don Passerino informed me that the Bank of Italy did not become the Bank of California--it became the Bank of America. The Bank of America building at Pacific and Soquel, of course, became the New Leaf Market. Dan Haifley, ex-director of O'Neill's Sea Odyssey, sez that was a 1963 Ford Fairlane parked in front of Leask's Department store in last week's photo. Not only did I forget to mention that the oddly angled building that is nowadays referred to as the Bear Building used to be called the Flatiron Building, but I neglected to remind folks who care that the second floor of that building, which held the Tea Cup Restaurant, also held our county records until 1867, when the two-story brick courthouse was built on Cooper Street next to the Octagon Building.

BUMPER STICKERS AND OTHER SAYINGS. Deborah Hayes of the Ivy Clinic Wellness Center sez she saw this one right near her office: "I'm Out of Estrogen, and I have a Gun!" Kate Minott sent in these pithy quotes, which are nearly unforgettable: "Don't squat with your spurs on" and "Never test the depth of the water with both feet." Plus one that requires framing: "Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me either. Just leave me alone."


Bruce will continue critiquing films every other Thursday on KUSP's Prime Time (88.9FM) at 12:50pm. as soon as he's up and around. Reach Bruce at bratton@cruzio.com or call 457.5814.

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From the January 31-February 7, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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