The Killing of a Community
by Kathleen Hire – Concerned Citizen’s of Phillipsville
The community of Phillipsville may disappear like so many of the Avenue of the Giants businesses have over the last 25 years or so. In 2000 the County adopted the Avenue of the Giants Community Plan. In doing so, they designated most of the town of Phillipsville as Open Space. The few residents who were aware of the changes attended the meetings and voiced their concerns. Many believe that had a Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) been established as recommended in the current General Plan, more people would have been involved and Phillipsville would not likely be designated as Open Space.
However, the Farm Bureau, led in large part by John LaBoyteaux of Redcrest, was able to convince the Board of Supervisors that much of Phillipsville should be designated as Open Space. That designation is absolutely contrary to the adopted Community Vision established for Phillipsville by the residents of Phillipsville.
The Community Vision states: In the future, the Phillipsville community will continue to be an attractive southern gateway to the Avenue of the Giants. There will be community meeting, recreation and social facilities for local residents and visitors as well as a reliable water system and a completed Fire Hall. Successful cottage industries will employ adults and youth in the community. Affordable housing and improved low-income housing will be available and property values will be comparable to similar areas.
Ten years later as part of the General Plan Update, the County is still recommending that much of Phillipsville continue to be designated as Conservation Flood (CF), an Open Space designation. According to the General Plan the CF designation is: “Applied to the channels of river and streams, including the areas which carry normal flood waters or the between existing or planned levees, dykes or other such flood control features, and in which conditions for recreational uses are favorable.” It’s obvious that the designation should be limited to the river channel and areas which carry normal flood waters, like it is in other parts of the County. Areas that carry normal flood waters are those areas within the 10 year flood plain.
In early 2009, in response to the current General Plan Update, the resident’s of Phillipsville formed the Concerned Citizen’s of Phillipsville (CCOP) committee. According to Tom McBride, owner of the Deerhorn Market “The purpose of the committee is to carry-out the Community Vision and make Phillipsville a vibrant, attractive community with visitor serving facilities, affordable housing and cottage industry opportunities.”
According to County Planner Tom Hofweber, the CF designation allows property owners to build a home or rebuild a home that may be destroyed with a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). However, that’s not what he told a local property owner in 2006. Mr. Hofweber told that property owner they would not be able to get a building permit for their parcel. In any event, it appears there are a few problems with Mr. Hofweber’s opinion. First, the discretionary CUP process costs approximately $3,000 not including Fish and Game’s $2,000 impact fee and it takes about six months to process. Second, according to the proposed General Plan Update, allowable residential use types in the CF designation includes a “Caretaker’s Residence” and “Subordinate Residential”. These use types require that the residential uses be subordinate and ancillary to other uses. This is a finding that cannot be made in Phillipsville. Third, pursuant to Section 65560 (b) of the California Government Code (CGC), Open-Space land is any parcel or area of land or water which is “…essentially unimproved and devoted to an open space use…” Furthermore, development must be consistent with the provisions of Government Code Section 65567 which prohibits the issuance of a building permit if the proposed construction is inconsistent with the local open-space plan. This provision is also found in the General Plan Update, Section 10.2.2 of the Open Space Element. Fourth, Seth Litchne with the State Office of Planning and Research (OPR) when contacted about the Open Space designation believes approval of a CUP for a house in Phillipsville is questionable at best and possibly not legally defensible. In fact, he too was puzzled why an existing community would be designated as Open Space.
The question the entire Phillipsville community wants answered is: Why is Phillipsville designated differently than other communities subject to flooding or tsunami’s? Other communities, including portions of Benbow, Garberville, Redway, Eel Rock, Shively, Holmes, Larabee, Pepperwood, Stafford, McCann, Metropolitan, Alton, Ferndale, Arlynda Corners, Hydesville, Carlotta, Swains Flat, Petrolia, King Salmon, Fairhaven, Samoa, Manila, Humboldt Hill, Elk River, Freshwater, Bayside/Jacoby Creek, portions of the Arcata bottoms and Blue Lake are not required to go through a timely and costly CUP process to build or rebuild a home or a Special Permit (SP) process for additions. This question has been asked on numerous occasions, but the County has not provided any answers to the community. The community has also asked Supervisor Clendenen to help find answers to their question. As of this writing, nothing has changed.
Phillipsville is in the process of undertaking a 2 million dollar upgrade to their water system. Should a flood, fire or earthquake occur and people’s homes are damaged or destroyed and residents are not allowed to rebuild their homes, much of those improvements and the costs associated with them may have been for not. Furthermore, if that’s the case, many property owners would likely be forced to default on their loans. A potential nightmare for the owners and lenders.
The CCOP committee has gathered signatures from almost 100% of the property owners in support of changing the designation from CF to another designation which would allow homes to be built, rebuilt or additions with a simple building permit subject to the Flood Elevation requirements. Just as it was before the 2000 Avenue of the Giants Community Plan was adopted.
Obesity a Factor of Place or Pocketbook?
As Humboldt County grinds its way to the General Plan rewrite, we see the push to restrict rural residential opportunities and to force new development into already existing communities. One of the reasons given for this development bias is that living in town is healthier than living in a rural area. We all recall the presentations by Dr. Anne Lindsay of a study showing exactly that, albeit with little data to support the basic premise that rural life is unhealthy. Well, a December 23rd article in the Sacramento Bee does call into question Dr. Lindsay’s study conclusions.
As a data analyst, I found that income has a much more direct relationship to health than where you live and the Sacramento Bee article seems to verify that conclusion. They talk about school districts within Sacramento that serve neighborhoods of very different incomes. Healthy weight is a measurement criteria reported to the state as part of a school district’s required physical performance testing. At Dyer Kelley Elementary School, which has a very high poverty rate, 64 percent of fifth grade students had an unhealthy weight and only 17 percent passed the State physical performance test. Dyer Kelley Elementary School is in downtown Sacramento and is in an urban area.
Conversely, at the Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Roseville, which has a very low poverty rate, only 3.6 percent of its students had an unhealthy weight. Roseville has a population over 100,000 and is an urban area. This data seems to support the link between poverty and poor health.
But, then there are Newcastle Charter and Newcastle Elementary Schools in Auburn who have all of their students passing the physical performance test with only 6 and 7 percent respectively determined to be of unhealthy weight. We can ask how can this be? We have a poor area that is as poor as Dyer Kelley Elementary School, but we have significantly fewer students with unhealthy weight. What is the difference? The most significant difference is that Auburn, with a population of about 25,000, is a much more rural area. This data tends to show that being more rural is healthier, contrary to Dr. Lindsay’s study’s conclusions.
By comparison, Kidsdata.org shows the data for Humboldt County indicates that less than 40 percent of our 5th grade students have an unhealthy weight. Eureka City Schools show that 66% of its 5th graders have a healthy weight while Cutten Elementary and McKinleyville have 74 percent of their students with a healthy weight. We can say that Cutten and McKinleyville are more rural than Eureka City. Eureka with 59% has the highest number of students qualifying for free and reduced lunches, McKinleyville has 47% and Cutten has 35%. The level of poverty is higher in McKinleyville than Cutten but they have the same percent of 5th grade students with healthy weight.
A review of this data can lead one to conclude that there is a relationship between poverty and health, but it seems to point to the urbanization of poor being the most significant negative health impact. I think this is an important fact for our decision makers to consider as they work to reshape where we can live in Humboldt County. Reshaping our communities should be an effort by our communities based on facts from our communities.