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[whitespace] 'For Sale on eBay'
Icon of a Shifting Market: eBay's failure to sell Youngman's at Sea suggests that the days when the market alone will sell a property for its owner are over.


Apocalypse, Now?

Walking along Pacific Avenue on the first day of PG&E's rolling blackouts two weeks ago, Nüz detected an almost partylike spirit, as workers and shop owners poured out of darkened buildings and into the winter sunshine. Nüz even overheard one temporarily freed-from-his-cubicle worker gloat, "This feels futuristic. Hell, maybe blackouts will stop the dotcom invasion."

Or slow down the runaway housing market.

Says local Realtor Tom Brezsny, "Last year, about 25 percent of single-family homes in Santa Cruz County were listed at over $900,000, but prices peaked in August and are slowly dropping."

"Slowly" being the operative word, what with the median price of a single-family home currently hovering between $490,000 and $480,000. As Brezsny explains, "Unlike the stock market, a plunge in real estate value takes longer, because it's a battle between buyers and sellers that's fought house by house."

In Brezsny's opinion, Youngman's at Sea, the beige building on the corner of Seabright Avenue overlooking Castle Beach, "is an icon of a shifting market." Last year, the building, made up of turn-of-the-century bungalows occupied largely by artists, was put up for online auction on eBay by owners the Clanton family for a staggering $6 million cash.

Says Bonnie Loya, a Youngman's resident of 14 years, "The Clanton's grandfather was the first auctioneer in Santa Clara valley, and their dad was an auctioneer, too. So when he passed away, they auctioned the building in honor of him."

Either way, eBay got no bites, a fact that doesn't surprise Brezsny.

"eBay got greedy to start with and didn't listen to the feedback. With very few offers, and none at the starting minimum, this was a loud statement that the days where the market sells the property for you are over."

Though Youngman's has an incredible location, at 95 years old it doesn't have the best use factors for a prospective buyer. Recent changes to CEQA mean that any modification to, or demolition of, structures older than 50 years will require an EIR. Also, in the event of demolitions, a new owner would need to provide replacement housing for any low-income tenants.

All of which makes Youngman's current crop of residents feel a teeny bit better about their chances of staying on.

"This place is almost a historic landmark. People can't just come in from Silicon Valley and wipe it out," says Loya, as she stands in the midst of Youngman's inner courtyard. Decorated with shells, sea-smoothed glass and pink flamingos, and home to bicycles, skateboards, a hammock and the occasional marmalade cat, the courtyard is testament to a tight-knit community, where nightly BBQs are common, and everybody knows everyone else. As Loya puts it, "This place is the closest thing you can find to a commune."

Energy Czars

"One of the dumbest things we could do would be to acquire debt-laden PG&E," smiled a clearly pissed-off Willie Brown, when asked on Saturday by Tim Redmond, executive editor of the Bay Guardian, whether he would consider buying up San Francisco's beleaguered energy provider--a plan the Bay Guardian has been pushing for the past 11 years. Instead, Brown, who was speaking to a gathering of alternative journalists at their annual West Coast convention, proposed that San Francisco build its own Municipal Utility District and that California appoint an energy czar. "This state is in need of an incredible fix. Suspend all rules. Give a czar the state checkbook," Brown said.

Meanwhile, here in Santa Cruz, the elusive Ron Lau, owner of the Courtyard Commons at 1547 Pacific Ave.--that as-yet-unredeveloped plot next to Lulu Carpenter's--hand-delivered to Nüz a three-page document describing, you guessed it, a plan for a locally owned and controlled Municipal Utility District. In the document, Lau discusses the idea of "distributed" power, by which he means, "the independent generation of power at local residential, commercial and industrial sites." This "distributed" concept, writes Lau, "combined with conservation/recycling is the heart of the Solar Demonstration Project proposed for Courtyard Commons at 1547 Pacific Ave."

Now, this particular Nüz reporter considers the cobblestone courtyard between Asian Rose, Oswald's and the now-defunct downtown Kelly's French Pastry as her own personal piece of Zen. Sitting in the Commons' flower-filled courtyard, contemplating a pack of pigeons swooping in on a neighbor's unguarded slice of cake against the backdrop of Lau's weed-filled lot, Nüz was always sweetly but gently reminded of the temporality of life .

When Nüz confessed that she had become inordinately fond of his site's bombed-out look, Lau said, "That's why it's important that what we build there not be just another commercial building."

Creech Stir

A year after the enactment of the 1996 church rule that prohibits clergy from conducting same-sex marriages, Methodist pastor Jimmy Creech performed a wedding ceremony for two women in Omaha. Two years later, he joined two men in marriage in North Carolina. "I had recognized their love for each other as a gift of God and their commitment to one another as a sacred union," he explains.

A subsequent church trial, a procedure that the Methodist church reserves "as an expedient of last resort" for transgressions such as crime, heresy or sexual harassment, misconduct or abuse," found him guilty of "disobedience to the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church." They defrocked him, ending his 29-year career as a reverend.

These days Creech is the chairperson of Soulforce Inc., an interreligious movement that adheres to the principles of Gandhi-style nonviolent resistance in facing the violent attitudes of religious institutions towards homosexuality. He is also writing and touring the country and will be a featured speaker at the Interfaith Conference at the First Congregational Church on Feb. 3, from 8:30am to 3pm. Creech will also preach on Feb. 4 at First United Methodist Church at 11am, followed by a Q&A. At 7pm, the Resource Center for Nonviolence will host a roundtable discussion with the Creechster.

Witness Demand

Sergeant Tom Bailey, Traffic Section Supervisor for the Santa Cruz Police Department, assures Nüz that Shawn Duncan's case (see Nüz Jan. 24) is still under investigation. Meanwhile, the police has told Duncan to supply them with handwritten and signed statements from witnesses.

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From the January 31-February 7, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. MetroActive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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