Letters + Opinion » The Town Dandy

Old business



We're going to take a quick spin in the Wayback Machine this week, going back in time one year. Spring, 2006. Heady times. If you remember rightly, there was a lot going on back then. What we want to know today is: What ever became of that?

A couple of months prior to our target date, back in December 2005, there had been a little cultural flare-up over what to do with a vacant piece of land located next to Eureka's waterfront Wharfinger building, a piece of land owned by the city's redevelopment agency. Proponents of an alternative energy demonstration center and hostelry - commonly known as "The Ecohostel" - had thought they had a lock on the parcel, only to see a proposal centered on an upscale Hampton Suites hotel swoop in and snatch it up at the last minute. The discussion at City Council centered on which of the projects would contribute more to the city, and also which was more viable, and Hampton got the nod. It all ended happily, though - places were eventually found for both projects. And those places have sat vacant and dusty for the last 12 months, with no news forthcoming.

Shortly after the Hampton-hostel contretemps, Cherie Arkley unveiled her plans for a 37-acre site across the street from the Wharfinger, the so-called Balloon Track. She projected that her large development, which would be dubbed "Marina Center," would include two "big box" stores, a Home Depot and a Best Buy, as well as assorted office, retail and housing space. Opposition organized immediately, decrying the big box aspect of the development and its possible effects on Old Town. The plan was shifted somewhat - a large green space was added to the proposed design, and suddenly no one much talked about the Best Buy anymore. Marina Center served as something of a rallying cry on both sides in the Eureka city elections in November 2006. Then, for four months - nothing.

On April 14, 2006, after a two-hour standoff, a Eureka Police Department SWAT team broke into the downtown apartment of Cheri Lyn Moore, a 49-year-old mentally disturbed woman who possessed a flare gun and had been making threats. Moore allegedly brandished the flare gun at officers, and she was shot dead. A task force composed of representatives of various local law enforcement agencies investigated the shooting, and a public inquest into the events of the day was convened by Coroner Frank Jager. Two items remained unresolved: whether or not District Attorney Paul Gallegos would file criminal charges against officers involved in the incident, and whether or not Moore's relatives would file a lawsuit against the city. And unresolved they've stayed, with no action taken on either for several months. (See two earlier Journal stories for background: "Scenes from a Shooting," April 27, 2006, and "Cause of Death," Sept. 21, 2006.)

We'll take them in order.

Hampton Suites/Ecohostel:The first of these is the more mysterious. According to Eureka Community Development Services Director Kevin Hamblin, to his knowledge there has been no movement forward whatsoever on the Hampton Suites Inn project, which was the successful bidder for the parcel in contention. Hamblin said that the Pierson Company, the firm that had proposed the project, has filed no paperwork with his office to date - no building application, no request for environmental review. It was a bit out of the ordinary, he said. "If you were in southern California, it's not unusual for a large development or an environmental document to take years," Hamblin said. "But for here, yeah - if they were moving forward on a project, it wouldn't usually take a year to get it to us." The Pierson Company's Sharon Pierson could not be reached by deadline.

The Ecohostel's story is a bit more clear, though the project itself is not much more speedy. After coming up short in the bidding war over the Wharfinger site, the hostel's backers were given another piece of land on the waterfront, down east near Halvorsen Park. But groundbreaking, if it ever comes, is still a whole long ways away, according to the hostel's main man, Arcata's Lew Litzky. At this stage, Litzky said, the project is looking to eke out a few more grants, and also to raise funds from the public, in order to afford the necessary environmental review, and to develop some new visions for the project's design. Then it will be on to the major fundraising phase - to the big foundations and such - in order to find the money to actually build the thing. "It's a lot slower than I would have wanted," Litzky said. "You wait for these grants and you try to put them together. But it is moving along."

Marina Center:Security National, the business backing the Marina Center project, sent out a press release Tuesday stating that the company would undertake to upgrade the roads that cross the 37-acre site. The press release stated that the work comes at the request of the Eureka Police Department and the Eureka Fire Department, who wanted to be certain that their emergency vehicles could traverse the roads. A few months ago, in response to another request, Security National put up a security fence around the site, effectively cleaning out the homeless encampments there.

But what of the Marina Center project itself? Hamblin said that it is proceeding apace; that the massive amount of paperwork that will be required for the project to go forward is slowly being chipped away. Security National is preparing its own environmental impact report for the project, which will then be reviewed by an independent third party. Final, detailed blueprints for the project have not yet been drawn up. In all, Hamblin said, he didn't expect the Marina Center to be back in the public eye before late summer.

Cheri Lyn Moore: Last September, shortly after the coroner's inquest and five full months after the incident itself, Gallegos told the Times-Standard that "There's no intention to delay." An announcement about whether or not criminal charges would be filed would be made when his investigation was complete. It is unknown what, then, has delayed the investigation - the facts of the case, or the applicable law. An e-mail to the DA asking this question, as well as when a decision might be made, went unanswered.

Meanwhile, Gordon Kaupp, the attorney that represents Moore's family, said this week that he had no immediate updates about whether or not the threatened wrongful death lawsuit against the city would proceed. "We haven't spoken with the family for a little bit of time now," Kaupp said. "We're not really sure where they're at with the suit." He did acknowledge that the deadline for such an action was looming - if the family wishes to file suit in state court, under the state law governing wrongful death cases, it must do so by mid-May.

But Kaupp, who works with famed San Francisco civil rights attorney Dennis Cunningham, said that state court was not the only option. "We tend to emphasize the federal aspect of it anyway," Kaupp said. A suit based on violation of Moore's constitutional rights doesn't have to adhere to the state's timeline - Moore's family has up to two years from the incident (April 2008) to decide whether it wishes to file suit in federal court.

Quick Note: Remember to tune in this week to "The Humboldt Review," Thursday at 6 p.m. on radio station KHUM. I'm not gonna plug the program every week in this space, but this week is special - we'll be talking with Garr Nielsen, Eureka's new chief of police, and we'll be taking your calls and questions.

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