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[whitespace] Pacific Avenue, 1955
Covello & Covello Historical Photo Collection

Pacific Avenue, 1955: As old-timers know, all of our Downtown is built on a flood plain; this is but one example. We are looking directly at where the empty Rittenhouse lot now stands at Pacific and Church Streets. That professional photographer is the well-known George Lee.

Bruce Bratton

STORE-SIZE ORDINANCE. The current battle that greedy out-of-town developers and real estate dealers are waging to gain control over who decides the makeup of our downtown is the nastiest I've ever seen. City governments all over the U.S. are fighting the same fight against proliferating chain stores and the usual developers and real estate interests, only here it's more vicious, and they've decided to focus on the bookstore issue. We have fought developers over land-use issues from one end of the county to the other many times. It's the same issue: Who gets to say how the land is used--the developers or the people, actually the voting public? Now, it's the same problem, only it's our Downtown. Do we get to decide what businesses we want through our elected officials or do we give that right to the developers? I say it's our right to decide, and our City Council has been doing a magnificent job of keeping some logical perspective on the outrageous demands these greedy developers want.

STORE-SIZE ORDINANCE PART II. It was no accident that district elections were brought up several times in that City Council meeting during the discussion of the store-size ordinance. It's no accident that Rod Quartararo is spearheading district elections and is head of the Santa Cruz City Planning Commission. It must be an accident, though, that John Lisher has never remembered to tell folks that his Artisans store landlord on Pacific Avenue is Redtree. Why, too, did some employees of developer Barry Swenson not state who their boss was when they spoke at that meeting? Ever since the '89 quake, the council has been very involved in deciding who does business in our Downtown. What's odd is that those recent full-page Borders ads claim they have less book space than Bookshop Santa Cruz--so what's this baloney about all the increased selection we'll have?

UCSC ARTS & LECTURES & MUSIC DEPARTMENTS. Ali Akbar Khan's concert last week was certainly up to his genius level of performance. Ravel expert Gwendolyn Mok's concert was amazing; she even made Ravel sound like her close friend. Thursday (Oct. 20), Linda Burman-Hall will play some familiar and unusual Satie sarabandes and danses in the new Music Center Recital Hall. Call 459.2159 to see if there are any tickets left. Speaking of which, just about every UC campus department uses the new improved online campus calendar at www.events.ucsc.edu/calendar, so if you want to find out about any event up there, use it. Or you could call the calendar coordinator at 459.5390 to learn more. Or check Metro Santa Cruz's weekly concert listings. There are more than 1,000 events at UCSC yearly, so the new University Events office was created to make it easier to attend and more accessible to the general public.

QUESTIONS ON PACIFIC. While I was passing out Plaza literature on Pacific Avenue last Sunday, somebody asked me about the future of the old police building at City Hall. Mayor Beiers tells me that the city staff, i.e., the city manager and the city clerk, are moving in there, and so is the City Council. Somebody else asked if there was, or is now, an archeologist/Ohlone expert on-site while they're digging up the lot at Pacific and Church. This questioner stated that hundreds of antique bottles and other historical materials had been found at the "digs." We assume that somebody is looking into that.

MOVIE MURMURS. If you saw all those clever scenes in the trailers (formerly known as previews) for The Story of Us, you've seen all there is to see. Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer aren't very believable, and neither is the script. Wait and rent it. I liked Edward Norton and Brad Pitt in Fight Club a lot. Even though Fight Club is bloody and pulpy, it is a riveting, well-assembled film. But if you can't stand violence, forget it--they don't call it Fight Club for nothing. Terence Stamp is, as always, marvelous in The Limey. The film isn't that great, but he is. Go see it.

STORE-SIZE ORDINANCE PART III. Another large concern is that if the developers and Realtors are right and it becomes difficult to rent that 150,000 square feet of retail space downtown, who will be there to prevent Arby's, Little Caesars Pizza, Art n' Frame, Mailboxes Etc. and others from moving in? That's why the City Council needs to remain in charge. There is also a big trend among the big chains like Eddie Bauer and Wal-Mart to leave malls and create little stores in downtowns--and, of course, to continue to take all corporate profits out of town, which nobody seems to mention often enough.

GENE LEWIS CONCERT. There's a benefit concert for Gene being staged by some of his one million friends this Sunday (Oct. 24) at 2:30pm at Calvary Episcopal Church, 532 Center St., across from the Nickelodeon. To assist Gene in his battle against cancer, performers like the Renaissance Singers, Theo Paige, Shelley Phillips, Anne Cleveland, Mary Hoffer, Vicki Trent, Ivan Rosenblum, Kathleen Nitz and Susan Wagner (along with a new piano suite by Gene) will all be featured. Gene needs a lot of financial help, so bring donations as admittance.

THE DOWNTOWN PLAZA. The major new interest in having the Plaza at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Church Street is the enormous performing and visual-arts space it would provide. We are receiving wild and great ideas, such as having preview performances of Shakespeare Santa Cruz there, concerts by the Santa Cruz Symphony and the Cabrillo Music Festival, huge art shows and dance festivals of all kinds. With either a permanent (or temporary) stage against that south wall, architect Hugh Carter's team estimates we could seat 500-600 with ease and comfort. Having a beautiful performance space in the heart of Downtown would attract an audience of shoppers and families here like nothing else except First Night does. Ordinances, City Councils, street people and even bookstores will come and go. But the decision we make on whether or not to have a beautiful plaza or another five-story building where that empty lot is now will affect the future of our downtown forever.

MT. RUSHMORE II. Looking at those faux-Pliocene cement rock walls being erected on the mountain side of Highway 17, I had an idea and wanted to run it by you first. How about sculpting huge faces of our most notable county personalities along the wall at about car-window level? Then--and this is the great part--we sculpt them with their mouths wide open like the clown face at the Boardwalk's Carousel, but instead of tossing brass rings, we throw our trash in 'em? I could make a few suggestions for whose faces go there first, but I'll be polite.

HOLLYWOOD CABARET, ONE TIME ONLY! Some of our finest performers--Kathleen Nitz, Michelle Rivard, Ivan Rosenblum, Burr Nissen and Michael Strunk--are putting on A Night at the Movies, a Day in Hell: A Hollywood Cabaret. It happens only at 8pm on Friday (Oct. 29) at Kuumbwa Jazz Center. Songs by Noel Coward, William Bolcom, and even Andrew Lloyd Webber, plus slides, jokes, costumes and plenty of talent, make this one evening not to miss. Doors open at 7pm; advance tix at 21st Century Compact Disc, 126 Soquel Ave. or maybe at the door.

OXYMORONS AND FRACTURED FRENCH. Simon Kelly sent in a slew of oxymorons, which I'll dole out slowly. How about: Exact Estimate. Act Naturally. Found Missing. Resident Alien. Or Microsoft Works? Tim Seidl contributed some winners of a N.Y. Magazine contest for foreign-language definitions. Rigor Morris = The cat is dead. Ex Post Fucto = Lost in the Mail. Felix Navidad = Our cat has a boat. Tim closes with Monage à trois = I am 3 years old. That's why we never see Tim downtown anymore, I guess.


Bruce critiques films on KUSP 88.9 every other Thursday at 12:50pm. Reach Bruce at bbratton@metcruz.com or leave messages at 457.9000, #400.

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From the October 20-27, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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