Opinion » Street Talk

Land, ho!


If I'm not here next week, it probably means I got the job.

The Downtown Association, whose leaders I gather were delighted with our recent cover story on them, recently put up an ad for a new Downtown Brown--that furry, kid-hugging mascot who works the Thursday Farmers' Market. Here are the requirements: "Must have spirit ability to wear mascot uniform including a fully concealed head/mask for two hour periods of time."

What better job for Ol' Shred? A person with spirit who prefers to work anonymously? And the pay is $11.25 an hour! Course, you're right to not trust the ellipses--they always hide the good stuff, and so if I am here next week it means they wrongly put the emphasis on the other attributes mentioned in the ad, which include "happy personality, outgoing, responsible and dependable. Must enjoy working with people, especially children."

In my interview--I wore my own bear head--I told them I'd add some teeth to the bear. I'm pretty sure they liked that idea, but the eye holes didn't exactly match up so I can't be sure.

All that aside, have you ever been thinking about somebody you haven't seen in a long time, like years and years, and then that person--boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, former cellmate, whoever--turns a corner and practically runs into you? That happens to me with freaky regularity, and I have the bruises to prove it. It's painfully uncanny.

Just the other day, I was thinking about former Board of Supervisors bigwig Mike Ryan, whose name hasn't graced these pages or my gray matter in quite some time. I was just wondering what he was up to these days. Real estate, I hear, or something like that. I try to keep track of everyone I used to jab at, but I cast my net pretty wide and I'm just one Shredder. Sometimes I can't keep up.

But lo and behold, the man himself made an appearance at the Dec. 4 Board of Supervisors meeting to appeal a decision by the ominous-sounding Subdivision Review Board. (Cue crash of thunder.)

It seems that a couple of years back, Mike acquired some land--13,000 square feet or so, to be exact--and the Department of Planning and Building says that there's just one teensy problem with it: The lot was never technically created as a legal parcel in the first place. They cited deeds and easements and other development-related intricacies that date back to when John F. Kennedy was still alive.

Now, I'm no good with history, and I'm worse with math, but as best as I could figure, it's just a simple matter of some

lines reshuffled on a map and paperwork filed with the county and everything's

good to go.

Some conflict apparently came about, though, because Mike wanted to combine the property in question with another and break it all up into smaller bits than the department folks thought he should be able to. Apparently I'm no good with grammar, either, because I just ended a sentence with a preposition.

Undaunted by Mike's desires, the subdivision staffers recommended legalizing the land on the condition of not allowing it to be cut up into pieces that were too small--sort of like the Goldilocks of parcel sizes--and Mike decided to appeal. He still wants to legalize the land, I'm sure, but on his terms, smaller lots and all. (Cue crash of thunder.) I'm not going to bore you with any more specifics, because the details include more development-ese jargon, like "merger," "lot line," "adjoining," "standards," "minimum," and "land."

I will note that staffers responded to his appeal by saying that their requirement "does not take anything away from the applicant. It simply does not reward the applicant for purchasing an illegal lot with an additional legal developable lot."

County staffers ultimately recommended that Mike's appeal be denied, which, if you've been paying attention lately, should give you a good indication as to what came next. I'll give you $50 if you can tell me what happened before I actually say it. Are you ready? The clock is ticking time's up. Aw, too bad. I didn't have $50 anyway. In fact, could you spot me for lunch this week? I'll pay you back soon. I promise.

In case you didn't see it coming, supervisors Jerry Lenthall, Harry Ovitt, and Katcho Achadjian together bucked their staff's opinion and just told Mike to go ahead with the project the way he wanted to. (Cue crash of thunder.) They said it more officially and procedurally than I did just now, but aw shucks, he was one of them not too long ago, and they'll be him someday. And someday whoever takes their places will shoo them along through the process with minimal fuss.

I suppose that real estate and property dealings in San Luis Obispo County never happen with "minimal fuss," but it sure helps to have friends in high places. I've got a couple high friends in places, but nothing like Mike's got. Maybe that's my problem.

Or maybe my problem is that I'm willing to believe that the board's Big Three did all this as a favor for one of their own. If I were less gullible and less na've, I'd go back and check the records to see how many times they've ignored their staff's recommendations in favor of other people, other developers. It's not like a planning commissioner's word carries any weight these days. You'd get more affirmations by pitching new sitcoms to Hollywood execs during the writers' strike.

Fortunately, however, I am gullible, and I am na've, and I do have a hard time keeping track of people. After this little blip on the county development radar, I'm sure Mike Ryan will sink back into the obscurity of history for me, as will--someday--Jerry, Harry, and Katcho. Ah, I can hardly wait.

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