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[whitespace] Paperwork: Architect Susan Tam and First and Main streets resident Don "on the front line" Webber review proposed luxury hotel plan for La Bahia.


Nüz

Spanish Inquisition

'It's too huge," said Beach Hill resident Gary Robert. "You're going to create a wall on First Street, amplifying sound. With people and traffic, we won't be able to live. And we're not going to get any sunshine."

That was a typical reaction to Barry Swenson Builder's Nov. 15 pitch to local residents to convert the current Seaside Company-owned La Bahia apartment building on Beach Street into a plush 119-room resort hotel--the latest of dozens of proposals to convert the dilapidated historic property into a moneymaking operation, while purportedly improving the area.

The new design is scaled down from the city's ambitious 1998 plan, which called for a 300-room hotel/conference center on 91,000 square feet of land or a 120-300 room hotel.

"We tried to blend it into the existing Spanish-colonial style, with towers and balconies," said Susan Tam of Swenson's architectural firm, Overway Larsson Pederson of San Francisco, presenting a series of sketches of the proposed three-story hotel.

But despite generous free servings of wine, chocolate brownie mousse and cheesecake at Ideal Restaurant, some residents weren't convinced. "It's way too high. You are taking away from our ocean view," said First Street resident Dan Alper. "We will look out from our living room 20 feet across to a whole mass of hotel rooms. And you know what goes on there--they party all night with loud televisions. The impact will be incredible on Beach Hill. The service entrance would be right in front of us. Try sleeping past 5:30am."

"With people, limousines, prostitutes, and commercial traffic up and down First Street, we won't be able to live," said Robert. "You're going to destroy everything on First, Second and Third streets from the overflow. I am dead set against it. It's beautiful, but where it needs to go is near the Casino."

Some residents sought a compromise, suggesting Swenson scale back on hotel size as well as relieve traffic by routing delivery trucks onto Beach Street, and using valet parking and the Seaside Company's parking lots instead of an on-site underground parking garage.

"Underground parking would further raise La Bahia building and block the view even more," said Alper, "but planners say hotel residents don't like valet parking."

If the plan, which is now headed for preliminary discussions with the city, becomes bricks and mortar, the 100 students currently housed in La Bahia's 49 rooms would be evicted to make way for what investors hope will be a four-star hotel. As one irate resident told Nüz, "This isn't a great use of land, given the horrible housing shortage here."

Zinn Zen

Howard Zinn is the only historian who can fill the Civic Auditorium--and have audiences begging for more. Speaking Nov. 14, the silver-haired historian argued that the United States should stop bombing Afghanistan and become a more modest humanitarian superpower.

"History shows that when the president decides we should go to war, then the famous system of checks and balances goes away and Congress suddenly reacts like sheep," said Zinn, noting that it's OK to have free speech, but not in a time of war, which, he added, is "exactly when you need it."

"People who dissent now are not the danger: Bush is, by taking actions that are making us more vulnerable and insecure in the guise of making us more secure."

If we learn anything from Sept. 11, said the author of A People 's History of the United States, "and we should, because people died and we can't undo that, and if we don't learn, it'll happen again and again," it's that terrorism and indiscriminate killing have been going on for years.

"In many cases, the United States has been responsible," said Zinn, pointing out that "getting and killing bin Laden won't bring an end to terrorism, because there are terrorist cells all over the world."

Bombing Afghanistan is not only impractical but also unacceptable from a moral POV, argued Zinn. "War by its nature is unjust. Always, a good cause is presented, but it doesn't matter what the initial good cause is, because once you go in, good disappears, and evil means take over."

Noting that heightening security at airports won't solve the problem, "because it's the nature of terrorism to get around devices," Zinn said that usually some grievance is at the root of terrorism, "a grievance not held just by terrorists, but by millions of others."

Force doesn't solve terrorism, because force does not address underpinning grievances--and terrorists are encouraged, not deterred by violence, said Zinn, adding that it's up to the American people to insist the current grievances--U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, sanctions against Iraq, the Israel/Palestine conflict--be addressed.

"Of our $340 billion military budget, a portion would solve some fundamental problems," said Zinn, clarifying that "patriotism is not the support of the government, but of the people of the United States and the principles for which the United States stands."

Zero Acquisition

If Nüz heard any criticism from enthusiastic Zinners, it was that he didn't share enough of his experience, especially in the strategies for fighting blind patriotism department. Answered Zinn when asked, "There are no miraculous devices, but all sorts of tactics--like teach-ins, demonstrations, rallies."

And street theater.

With only a month to Christmas, street theater group Art and Revolution Convergence invites us to observe International Buy Nothing Day on Friday (Nov. 23) to challenge the idea that shopping and consuming is good for America.

Says Art and Revolution co-founder Grant Wilson, "Patriotic consumerism is a pretty superficial message, considering that our large appetite has in part got us into problems: inequality and injustice make for a fertile ground for terrorism."

To celebrate the 10th international 24-hour moratorium on spending, Art and Revolution will provide street theater on Pacific Avenue between 1 and 3pm, using giant 10-foot puppets, superconsumers on stilts, prayers, healing and a 12-step meeting of Shopaholics Anonymous.

"People go downtown to hang out in local cafes, not to be confronted by social issues," admits Wilson, "but for us that's an opportunity. People are more willing to engage with humorous provocation than with petition signing."

And, no, they don't need a permit, Wilson told Nüz. "We've very mobile. We don't stay in one place. Art and Revolution applies therapy to society and ourselves, by helping remedy the feeling that we're victims and pawns."

Art and Revolution's Buy Nothing Day starts at noon in the Logos parking lot; call 426.2292 for information.

King Krohn?

We're getting a new mayor next week, but though Chris Krohn is currently vice mayor that doesn't mean he'll automatically inherit Tim Fitzmaurice's crown. As council watchers tell Nüz, the tradition of taking turns no longer prevails. Instead, the mayor is elected by a council vote that takes place during the largely ceremonial Nov. 27 evening session.

How councilmembers canvass other councilmembers for mayoral votes makes for an interesting tap dance. Under the Brown Act, which governs meetings conducted by city councils, any congregation of a majority of a legislative body to discuss, deliberate or acquire information on an issue must be open to and available for public scrutiny.

What that means for our seven-member City Council is that would-be-king Krohn can only lobby votes from two councilmembers at a time. "The Brown act also prohibits a daisy-chain effect, wherein Tim Fitzmaurice and Keith Sugar talk to Emily Reilly on Krohn's behalf," says City Attorney John Barisone, adding that emails could also be a problem. But as Barisone admits, "It's easy to inadvertently violate the act by hitting the send button."

If all goes according to how insiders think it's going to go, we'll wake up Nov. 28 with Krohn as mayor and Emily "It's in the yeast" Reilly as vice.

Paradise Eight

Camp founder Larry Templeton has retained Matthew Williamson, a high-profile criminal attorney from Monterey, to avoid conflict of interest as the Camp Paradise Eight go to court Nov. 19. Says Paradise lawyer Paul Sanford, "This gives us two shots at making objections and cross-examining police officers involved."

McPherson Service

Hunter McPherson, son of state Senator Bruce McPherson, (R-Santa Cruz), was fatally shot early Saturday (Nov. 17) during a robbery near his Potrero Hill home in San Francisco. A funeral service for Hunter McPherson will take place Wednesday (Nov. 21) at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos.

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From the November 21-28, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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