The Big Story in Mack Town

From the April 25, 2012 edition, Opinion Page

Sometimes to biggest stories aren’t the sexiest stories. There’s no carnage, scandal or high drama. They don’t have screaming 60-point Helvetica Black headlines. They don’t make newspapers fly off the racks like stories about prostitution stings or massive grow house raids with mountains of nugs and stacks of cash.
In the case of McKinleyville, the biggest story taking place right now is spread out over a series of smaller articles, filled with bureaucratic acronyms like MCSD, HCAOG, LAFCO and McKMAC. On the surface, these individual articles might seem kind of boring – the McKinleyville Community Services has nominated one of its own board members for a seat on the Local Agency Formation Commission; the MCSD seeks a seat on the Humboldt County Association of Governments; Supervisor Ryan Sundberg wants to create a McKinleyville Community Advisory Committee.
Sounds like a snorefest. But put them together and you have a whopper of a story. McKinleyville wants to be in charge of McKinleyville, rather than be at the mercy of outside forces. It’s a sea change, and the Powers That Be are on board.
It’s like the unincorporated community was a gangly teenager just a few years ago, growing by leaps and bounds, but still under parental control, unable to make decisions for itself. Now McKinleyville is all grown up – an adult. And it doesn’t want to be told what to do anymore. It wants to be emancipated. It wants to be in charge of its own destiny.
But this is hampered because the town is unincorporated, and therefore at the mercy of the County of Humboldt when it comes to services like land use planning and road construction and maintenance.
The conventional wisdom is that incorporation is unfeasible. The rules governing incorporation make it financially impossible for the town to become a city.
So McKinleyville, lead by its Community Services District and supported by Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg, is taking a different tact.
If McKinleyville can’t be a city, then it should at least have as much influence as possible over the services provided by the county.
The MCSD has stepped up to the plate. It’s thrown off the shackles that, years ago, kept it from commenting on planning issues. Now it freely weighs in on the issues, as it did at its last meeting when the Board of Directors agreed to send a letter to the county regarding the hiring of a new interim planning director. At that same meeting, the board met in closed session to discuss its lawsuit against the county regarding rezoning of McKinleyville properties for high density development.
There’s an effort to get MCSD Director Helen Edwards on Humboldt’s Local Agency Formation Commission, which controls local government boundaries and annexations. The MCSD is trying to get a seat on the Humboldt County Association of Governments, which prioritizes transportation funding and decides on how much low-income housing communities must provide.
Next week the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote on the creation of a McKinleyville Municipal Advisory Committee (McKMAC.) This committee would give the town a stronger voice on issues like planning, roads and police protection.
Little by little, piece by piece, McKinleyville is assuming greater control over itself, and that’s a good thing.

‘Eat the rich’

While picking up my mail at the McKinleyville Post Office last week I ran into local cowboy Dennis Mayo. Since this town is kind of inching toward something resembling a city, I guess you could consider Dennis the Mayor of McKinleyville, being that he’s the President of the MCSD Board of Directors.
So McK Mayor Mayo has a story to tell me, but first we need to retrieve a beat-up old pickup truck that he’s trying to sell for $1,000 so he can pay some bills. He’s got it parked across the street with a “for sale” sign on it and needs to move it near Ramone’s, where a potential buyer will check it out.
The inside of truck is covered in mud and bits of hay. There are rusty horseshoes scattered on the floor and seat. The truck looks like hell, but it starts right up.
We drive across the street and Mayor Mayo tells his me about an incident that took place Saturday, April 14 at the Ingomar Club in Eureka. The Humboldt County Republicans held their annual dinner there, and Dennis was in attendance.
While the Republicans were dining inside, there were protesters outside. It was a small contingent of Occupy Eureka protesters who had meandered over from their encampment at the courthouse. They stood outside the gates of the landmark building, in the spot where all the tourists have their pictures taken.
Dennis decided he should bring them something to eat, so he went in the kitchen and retrieved a platter of shrimp.
“It was a beautiful platter of large Panko breaded shrimp,” Mayo said.
Outside he was greeted by a protester holding a sign that read “Eat the rich.” That left Dennis scratching his head. Would the rich be served as an appetizer or entree?
Another sign read “Arkleys out of Humboldt.” The Arkleys grew up here, but now they have to leave?
Most of the protesters, Dennis said, were polite and friendly, and some of them scarfed down the shrimp. But then Dennis had to face the infamous Kim “Verbana” Starr.
“Get the hell out of Humboldt County, you scumbag!” Starr yelled at Dennis, as he encouraged her to enjoy some delicious shrimp.
Dennis tried to engage Starr in a conversation, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with it. She let the F-words fly and Mayo was showered with one insult after another, only a few of which he deserved.
Eventually Mayo returned inside, where McKinleyville resident Rose Welsh was honored as the Humboldt County Republican Volunteer of the Year.



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17 responses to “The Big Story in Mack Town

  1. Anonymous

    Meanwhile, in the real world, nobody gives an f-word about these guys or who they are but that somehow new (and dense) construction is blowing up the town uncontested. In ten years it will look like little eureka. HEY! I know just what McKinleyville needs! A new gas station! How about right on central ave, across the street from…another gas station! and right down the street from…two more gas stations! Business as usual in america…

  2. Mr. McMack McCullough

    Doesn’t everyone gas up at Costco and use local stations only for emergency partial fills? I guess not.

    I didn’t move to McKinleyville for its beauty. I understand that it’s butt ugly and those in power want to keep it butt ugly. I did the smart thing and bought a house near a highway on-ramp. Mack Town is a bedroom community. We not only work in other cities, but we do most of our recreation there, too.

  3. jackdurham

    The gas station is opening in a location that used to be a gas station. Even if someone is against the project, there’s no way to contest it. The property is zoned for that type of use. It’s kind of like the Wal-Mart in Eureka. A retail store is opening in a location zoned for retail uses. We can’t discriminate against individual projects if they comply with the zoning. If I wanted to, I could lease all the vacant retail space in McKinleyville and open 50 bong shops. People would complain, but what are they going to do?

    The key is to have a good general plan. McKinleyville grew in a willy nilly fashion, but now it has a pretty good plan, despite the county’s efforts to sabotage it. New subdivisions have trails and bike lanes and parks. Eventually there will be a trail, much like the Hammond Trail, running right through the center of town, from Murray Road to School Road. Right now, the trail runs from behind Mack High to Railroad.

    • "Henchman Of Justice"

      At least the site does not look abandoned, even though another gas station w/restaraunt/cafe is less desireable….but ya know what, that is why the customer can choose to do business there or not. Chevron must feel it is gonna take market share away from Shell…and I bet it does because of the location being a bit better for traffic flows…..

      Where did Muddy Waters(?) go?


  4. Anonymous

    I’m very fond of the trail planning, but I don’t see rezoning the greater area for dense infrastructure being a good plan at all. It’s a horrible plan, and it’s coupled with new dense subdivisions along the more rural roads that are now forest, like murray etc. I also don’t see stamping out a trail in a field near several new multiplex subdivisions (traffic/trash/vandalism/noise) that used to all be open space a good trade for the community either. The ‘go big’ builders need to be put in check.

  5. Anonymous

    Mr. Mack, I agree, I love the “bedroom community” aspect of this town. Some people don’t understand, that doesn’t mean it has to be a “three-story bunk-bedroom community”. It can be a comfortable place for everybody to have a bedroom instead. Since somebody is insisting on building new infrastructure whether we like it or not, it’s a crime they’re not building more genuinely affordable houses, as opposed to all the plex-style apartment subdivisions that came out of nowhere over the last 5 years. The intention is obvoius: more people (more individual “units”) = a whole lot more money for the proprietors of the land, and they use that fortune to buy more land and build more plex-style subdivisions. Comfort of living isn’t the priority among those calling the shots. The existing construction and future plans for density contradict that, and all the rezoning shows somebody’s grabbing at easy money by increasing the population as much as possible around everybody who already lives (and works) here.

    • jackdurham

      The interesting thing is that the pro-development folks and the smart growth folks both oppose the proposal to create higher densities. It’s interesting to note that the developers have opposed the county’s efforts to force higher densities in their subdivisions. For reasons I don’t fully understand, these higher densities are not necessarily an economic advantage for developers. They prefer developments like the Heartwood subdivision. Maybe some familiar with the economics can explain.

      • "Henchman Of Justice"

        More rules for safety and general welfare when you pack ’em in like a can of sardines…..which is why more ground surface (more land, less TIGHT density to get to a certain # of units until that nexus point of diminishing returns…..that government law makers UNDERSTAND as their economic kill zone to loot a developer of all profits and lose money on the overall project by forcing demands of location to build…..just to be a forced guinea pig to do the dirty work for government to subsidize housing for the less fortunate folks who can’t seem to understand that government is much of the blame for the games being so economically punishing to those who will never make as much money as they shall need to to buy any home that has not endured some sort of non- free market subsidy!

        The easiest way to own a home on a tight budget…….buy small because to big, you fail!


    • "Henchman Of Justice"

      Overall – after about no less than a seven to ten year period, government makes out like thieving bandits with the tax bases, service charges for usages, etc… as compared to developer profits on one time sales……until the tax roll must be reconciled downward because the speculative market values plummeted on the bag holders……On the bright side, homes become MORE AFFORDABLE…….having nothing to do with any affordable housing ordinance that IS flawed and tainted with politcal corruption!

      Sarcasm from that tv series – Ya can’t have one without the otherrrrrrrrr… and marriage, love and marriage. just like a white horse and a gown and carriage,……


  6. Anonymous

    “The interesting thing is that the pro-development folks and the smart growth folks both oppose the proposal to create higher densities.”

    You can look at anybody who supported rezoning areas of eureka-mckinleyville to accomodate all this new (and dense) construction as being in favor of it, despite what they might be actually saying to the press.

    • "Henchman Of Justice"

      So true,

      blogs are becoming non-transparent hit pieces for local political manipulators using the blog site for reverse psychology methods….get ya thinking one direction when in reality, the thoughts are from a different direction….

  7. Anonymous

    “Maybe some familiar with the economics can explain.”

    C’mon, it’s obvious. A half acre with two “units” (houses) for rent @ $1,500 each vs. a half acre with 10 “units” on it for rent @ $1,000 each. Condos same deal, one genuine house for sale on the same lot that X number of condos go up for sale. The people being left out of the deal are the people who would live there and all their existing neighbors.

    • jackdurham

      Sounds logical, but why did the original developer of Central Estates fight like hell when the county tried to amend his development plan to include more units? Also, why are the developers fighting the high density zoning? Why has the MCSD voted unanimously to fight the zoning in court? (There are directors on the MCSD who are sympathetic to developer interests.)

      If the high density projects were good for developers, you’d expect them, at the very least, to stay neutral. (Actually, in my experience the development community almost always fights for what in its best economic interests.)

      • jackdurham

        Unless I’m mistaken, it has to do with what’s marketable and profitable. With the original developer of Central Estates, there was more profit and easier sales by developing regular size lots compared to condo/apartments.

        On the flip side, the developer of San Pointe wanted smaller lots (but NOT condos). I think the idea was that lots of smaller, ocean view lots would be more profitable. He lost that battle and got fewer lots.

    • "Henchman Of Justice"

      Provided the developer KEEPS THE DEVELOPMENT FOR RENT? Seems to me the numbers defy the logic when based upon WHOM would profit….surely, attached government agencies make their doughs….even MCSD won’t lose money…they’ll just raise service charges and the next bag holder owner or renter will have to find an affordable job!

      Affordable housing, what is that…gotta have affordable jobs before being afforded the opportunity to own a home without losing it to debt schemes.


  8. Anonymous

    I’m not saying I know what “they” are doing whatsoever, just that there’s a whole lot more plexes in town than five years ago, and from the look of things lots more on their way, especially once mckinleyville ave connects to school road, they will no doubt kick into high gear. Already a redundant gas station coming up, already subdivisions being planned around the golf course. Somebody’s putting their name on it, and somebody’s okay with it all going on.

  9. Anonymous

    …regarding the MCSD fighting the rezoning, that’s fantastic that they’re doing that. I understand their reasoning and it makes perfect sense: don’t strain the resources, natural and financial, that are already dwindling. Why build what’s inevitably going to be strained, especially if it’s going to further strain what’s already here. Assuming members of the MCSD also live in mckinleyville, they’ve got just as much right to a say in their quality of life per urbanization as anybody.

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