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Photograph by Frans Lanting

Glow With the Flow: One of the photographs from 'Extreme Hawaii,' Frans Lanting's benefit show for the Museum of Natural History Feb. 5 at the Rio. Lanting has been doing an annual benefit for the museum for 15 years.


Rush Job

Remember LENNY KRAVITZ singing, "But baby, it ain't over 'til it's over"? Luckily, Nüz loves Kravitz's heartfelt wistful refrain, because it's been rattling around our brain nonstop ever since the City Council narrowly voted to approve the Coast Hotel project last week after hours and hours of hearings.

Sure, Mayor MIKE ROTKIN and Councilmembers CYNTHIA MATHEWS, RYAN COONERTY and TONY MADRIGAL agreed to a list of so-called friendly amendments before green-lighting the project, but it's hard not to wonder why this foursome refused to agree to a six-week delay, a requested by EMILY REILLY, TIM FITZMAURICE and ED PORTER, who were the three councilmembers who voted against the project at this point.

And it's hard not to suspect that there are more unpalatable aspects to this project than have so far been addressed, when the Senile runs "We must build this NOW, or the sky will fall"-style editorials day after day, opinion pieces in which Progressive equals Obstructionist equals the F-word.

So, what would it take for city residents, who're going to pay for and live with the outcome of this project, to stop this steamroller from crashing forward and crushing all dissent?

Reached by cell phone, Councilmember TIM FITZMAURICE said that around 4,000 signatures, or 10 percent of city voters, would get the project on the ballot (which means that 5,000 signatures are probably needed, since not all turn out to be valid).

While this sounds doable, time is also of extreme essence. As Fitzmaurice explains, "People have a month after our second reading of the ordinance on Feb. 8 to collect the signatures. If they do that, we can either rescind the action or we have 88 days to call a special election."

Reiterating his belief that the current plan is "too big for the site, the money is too risky for the community, and neither the traffic nor the neighborhood concerns have been worked out," Fitzmaurice says there's been a lot of passion and good intentions on both sides of the discussion--and no good reason not to continue talking to both sides for a while.

"But it's been the catechism of this project that to delay it is to destroy it," says Fitzmaurice, who predicts problems with the CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION over the project as it currently stands.

Admitting that voting "no" was "a difficult position to take because I have many friends on the other side of issue,' Fitzmaurice adds, "You wouldn't believe the phone calls I've had from community members who said, 'Thanks for trying to slow it down.' So, my feeling is, it's not over yet."

Emily the Embarrassed

Meanwhile, Councilmember Emily Reilly confirms that she talked to BOB SUITS, who represents the NORTHWEST HOSPITALITY GROUP that is set to develop the project, and that he was OK with the idea of a six-week delay.

"I told him that this was not a maneuver to kill the project," Reilly explains, adding, "I think that I made a big mistake in not working harder to collaborate with the community. Former Mayor SCOTT KENNEDY is right in saying these discussions should have happened a year ago."

Noting that "the hotel people have done their job well; they've protected their interests, but they've also been accommodating and reasonable," Reilly says, "The truth is that hotel owner BOB LYONS came to us asking to do a remodel and we were the ones who said, 'How about knocking it down altogether and doing something else?' So, I'm embarrassed and it's troubling, but I didn't make a lot of the connections when I was looking at the spreadsheets. But I'm OK about admitting that and working hard to make things better now."

As for the Senile's ongoing progressive bashing, Reilly asks, "So, had we built all these things in the past that we said no to, wouldn't we still be under pressure to build more now?"

That said, she also notes, "Most proponents of the project did not come forward and say, 'This is a goddamn beautiful building! This is what we've always wanted!' Instead, they said, 'This is about the money,' in which case, it's worth considering that when you subtract the debt service, the project only brings in about $500,000 a year."

With the council having so far certified the project's EIR, read the first ordinance and changed the local coastal plan, plus a couple of zoning ordinances, Reilly says that if the California Coastal Commission doesn't accept the coastal plan amendments, "the whole thing goes away."

If not, and people want to put it on the ballot, they need to decide whether the referendum is on one, two or all three of the ordinances. And as Reilly notes, thanks to recent charter amendments, a mail-in special election would be possible this time around.

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Extreme Hawaii

Aside from its natural beauty and heated political discussions, Santa Cruz is famous for great artists. One of them is none other than National Geographic photographer-in-residence FRANS LANTING, whose work has graced countless magazines, books and museum walls. And now, he's holding his 15th annual fundraising benefit show for the MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY on Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Rio Theatre.

Titled Extreme Hawaii, Lanting's show takes audiences on the wild side of a lesser known Hawaii--a Hawaii of red-hot volcanic craters on the Big Island, seldom-explored hanging valleys and cloud-forest-topped summits on Kauai and Maui, and remote islets and atolls, known as the Hawaiian Leeward Islands, where tens and millions of seabirds live, and where Lanting spent months documenting the life history of albatrosses. The result? Lanting ties together a story of primeval Hawaii that few of us would otherwise have the fortune to witness.

Always breathtakingly original, spectacularly beautiful and intensely entertaining, Lanting's shows are well worth the admission price of $20 ($15 for seniors, $10 for museum members) but tickets sell fast, so call the museum at 831.420.6115 or register online at www.santacruzmuseums.org. for his two shows, 3pm and 7pm, Feb. 5 at the Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.

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From the February 2-9, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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