What the County's Talking About This Week



Vandalism means new bases for SLO's trout

They've had their eyes ripped off and paintbrushes ripped out of their fins. They've been knocked over and had their noses broken. They've been yanked around until their bases broke.

In all, about one-quarter of the 26 giant steelhead trout sculptures that dot San Luis Obispo have been damaged in one way or another, prompting city officials to replace the bases that attach the fish to the pavement.

Betsy Kiser, the city administrator who's coordinating the public art, said the new stands will have the same low-profile shape as the current sculptures, but they'll be made of black powder-coated steel. They'll also have a stronger, reinforced joint where the poles that hold the fish up attach to the base.

The new bases will cost about $285 each- at a more than $7,000 total cost to the city - and will be replaced over the course of the next week.

Will they keep the fish safer? "Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully," Kiser said. "We're so saddened by the amount of vandalism. I think people get too much to drink and it's late at night and they come out and do dumb things."

-Abraham Hyatt

Copelands' Chinatown project adds condos, shopping

As the Court Street shopping center nears completion, the Copelands team is looking ahead to the development of Chinatown, an elaborate block of shops, restaurants, and condos between Palm, Monterey, Morro, and Chorro streets in downtown San Luis Obispo.

Mark Rawson, who's been working with the Copelands for well over a decade as the architect of the Downtown Centre, Court Street, and Chinatown projects, has reason to be proud of his contributions to the downtown landscape.

"We're pretty excited to see it coming together," he said. "We all felt there were better uses for surface parking lots in our downtown."

Copeland Properties first presented the Chinatown project to the city in 1999, as part of a larger plan to develop three blocks of Monterey Street. With the opening of Court Street later this month and the completion of a new parking structure next to the city library, they're ready to begin their next phase of construction.

The only significant change in the Chinatown project from its original proposal is the addition of about 40 condominiums. Initially, the mixed-use plan included 24 residential units above the ground floor restaurants and retail units. The revised plan includes about 65 units, ranging from 800-2,400 square feet, with 1-3 bedrooms.

The city has been very supportive of this mixed use, Rawson said. "We've seen nothing but positive desire to see housing."

With Chinatown, the architect expects to see a similar blend of small, mom-and-pop stores alongside national chain stores as they have brought to Court Street and the Downtown Center. The shop fronts will vary in size from 1,500-5,000 square feet.

Rawson also emphasized the fact that none of the existing businesses on that block would be disrupted. The only buildings to be razed are the vacant old Palindromes building and the City Public Works offices behind Kinko's. The Palm Theater, Moondoggies, Full Circle, the HempShak, and other businesses will all remain intact.

The Court Street Center will celebrate its grand opening on June 10 with the arrival of Chico's and Pottery Barn, but Abercrombie and Fitch and Banana Republic are expected to open before the end of May. These national stores will operate alongside local businesses like Straight Down, Giuseppe's, and Salon Lux.

"That mix of local and national stores is what really makes [downtown SLO] more successful," Rawson said, "more than just a suburban mall you'll find anywhere else."

-Jeff Hornaday


Land Conservancy vies for creek property

The Land Conservancy announced plans to purchase 18 acres of agricultural land that will someday extend the Bob Jones City to Sea bike trail - allowing it to stretch all the way from Avila Beach to SLO.

The Land Conservancy has protected over a mile of the existing trail route, and completion of the project depends on such parcels as this one. The property is located south of San Luis Bay Drive and east of Highway 101. It's part of the greater San Luis Obispo floodplain, which the Land Conservancy had been working to preserve.

Ownership of the 18-acre lot is not a sure thing, though. $100,000 has been pledged for the $400,000 project, but $30,000 is still needed. Brian Stark, executive director at the Land Conservancy, said the property is as important to preserving the creek and its steelhead population as it is for the eventual completion of the City to Sea bike path.

A recent study completed study found that 65 percent of the steelhead in the county are downstream of the city. This parcel surrounds part of that stretch of the creek.

Once protected, the property will remain active agriculture land, Stark said. "When we get these opportunities, I like to take advantage of them." Those interested in supporting the project are encouraged to contact Brian Stark at the Land Conservancy.

-John Peabody


Alice B. Toklas' adventures in E.R. land

In an age of skyrocketing health care costs and plummeting medical services, some pranksters would rather spend their lives in a drug-induced stupor than grapple with the true social crises that lie before them. Last month, on the afternoon of April 20, 12 employees of Sierra Vista Medical Center in San Luis Obispo confronted this scourge of moral decay head on when they unknowingly consumed a plateful of dope-laden brownies.

For some unsuspecting victims, the experience was a shocking journey into an uncharted realm of ultra-vibrant sights and sounds, while seasoned cannabis consumers handled the situation more comfortably, sailing into the Technicolor sunset of 4/20.

April 20, as any junior high school student, retired Dead Head, or online dictionary of urban slang can tell you, is a day of great marijuana-related merriment, a day of joking, smoking, and midnight toking.

Ron Yukelson, spokesman for Sierra Vista, who was not exposed to the psychotropic snacks, acknowledged that this unprecedented incident was in fact a practical joke. "But we certainly don't think it's funny," he said.

In testament to the product's potency, some nurses ended up passed out in the hospital's emergency room. Others stayed on duty, smiling from ear to ear, floating from cloud to cloud. Within half an hour after eating, employees who had indulged in the tainted treats reported feelings of dizziness and euphoria, and a sense of moving in slow motion.

Depending on the quality and quantity of the active ingredient, the effects of ganja food can last up to several hours and are generally enhanced by the use of beanbags, blacklights, and side two of Eat A Peach by The Allman Brothers Band.

When hospital officials became suspicious of food tampering, they contacted the SLO Police Department. Detectives rushed to the scene to question witnesses and seize the remaining pot brownies as evidence. They are currently conducting an investigation
and may file charges.

Yukelson explained that an employee's relative delivered the treats. The perpetrator could not be identified, but it's widely believed that he's an uninsured, aging hippie who just wanted to show the staff a good time. ³

-Jeff Hornaday

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