Monday, September 29, 2008

Economic woes, and budding success

I've been visiting family on the East Coast as the financial crisis unfolds. These are "interesting times" unlike anything my baby-boomer generation has ever seen. It's quite unsettling.

But having a little distance on Amador County is also a good reminder of this often-forgotten fact: Amador County's economy is tied to regional, state, national and global economies. We don't exist in an economic vacuum.

That's important to remember as people look to Gold Rush to "save" Sutter Creek and a new committee looks at revitalizing downtown Jackson. Things are tough all over, not only in our small towns.

I picked up some information in my home town that I plan to share with the Jackson committee. The downtown here, which was thriving when I was a child in the 1960s, started to die with the birth of malls in the 1970s. Efforts to make it more mall-like simply sped its demise.

Now, after years of decline, and subsequent years of effort to revitalize the historic business district, downtown is coming back to life. People are revamping the beautiful historic buildings. There are new small businesses, professional offices, a brewpub, ethnic restaurants, new housing, and night life for the first time in years. And the group heading the effort has just finished market studies intended to help determine which businesses are needed to make the downtown even more of a go-to (and live-in) destination for locals.

It didn't happen by accident, and it didn't happen without some missteps. But people have persevered, and it appears they're on the road to success. I don't see any reason we can't do the same in our small towns. But it may take a while, especially in these interesting times.

Monday, September 15, 2008

More on Gold Rush Ranch

On September 2, the Amador Ledger-Dispatch published an op-ed I wrote for the Foothill Conservancy regarding how Gold Rush Ranch has sold itself to the public.

You can also see a rebuttal letter from Ben Klotz on the Ledger's website. Among other things, Mr. Klotz takes issue with my using "Fourteen thousand cars" instead of "car trips" to describe the traffic Gold Rush Ranch will bring to the Sutter Hill-Martell-Sutter Creek area. He's right: Car trip is the correct term and I should have used it (mea culpa). But whether it's 14,000 cars driving once a day or 1,400 cars taking 10 trips a day, Gold Rush will still create traffic jams and gridlock.

Mr. Klotz and I do agree about this: People should focus on the facts when discussing Gold Rush Ranch.

For more facts about Gold Rush-related traffic, just take a look at the traffic section in the draft EIR and judge for yourself. You can see the vehicle trip per unit data on page 5-17 (remember -- there are nearly 1,350 homes) and read more about what that means to road capacity and traffic flow.

You can also read the Amador County Transportation Commission and CalTrans comments on the traffic analysis in the DEIR. Both agencies take issue with that analysis. At the same time, they point out that Gold Rush will cause significant traffic problems.

I respect the local residents who support Gold Rush Ranch. They're entitled to their opinions.

I just don't believe a suburban-style golf-course subdivision that will use huge amounts of water, export wastewater rather than being a disposal solution, jam roads and highways, crowd local schools, not build a single sports field for more than 450 resident kids, and destroy more than 13,000 trees -- including nearly 2,000 heritage oaks -- is worth it.

I'm not alone. The Sutter Creek Planning Commission hasn't voted on the EIR or the project, but its members seem quite concerned. Local residents are speaking up, too. If you'd like to join the growing number of Sutter Creek residents who oppose Gold Rush Ranch as currently proposed, call Preserve Historic Sutter Creek at 209-559-3685.