Stockton songs, down at the bar

Edward Bonilla writes:

“My band Radical Times recently won Fan Favorite in the Stockton song contest. Brandon James won first prize. However, I really kinda fell in love with Ron Gibbs song. He did not come close to winning but check it out:”

“The production is bad, but he is really talented. He also turns out to be a really nice guy. … He loves Prince and Jesus. He just sang the National Anthem to open a Ports game.

“Ron has never performed with a full band before. So Radical Times is learning his song. We are performing it with him Saturday at the Deliberation Room downtown. Brandon James is learning it and will play with us as well, so it is a 3-fer. We will then play our Stockton song. Brandon James will play his Stockton song as well.  …

“Exciting collaboration! It will be an all-Stockton night!”

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Attorney: Centrale was “delinquent”

Gabriel Porras writes:

Heated emotions: Centrale chef Lupie Trejo in 2016.

“Upon reading your last blog entry regarding Centrale, I would like to point out what Christopher’s attorney (Anthony Vignolo) told me in an exclusive statement:

“Regarding the posted liquor license notice, I have not yet had an opportunity to discuss it with my client, but I can tell you that since January 2017 my client has been in discussions with Centrale – who my client contends has been delinquent on rental payments and occupying the property under a month-to-month tenancy since the expiration of its lease several years ago – to transition the property to a new tenant.”

“My client confirmed that the liquor license application by the new tenant has been in the works for quite some time, as has Centrale’s application to transfer its license to a new March Lane location.”

Porras added, “When asked how many tenants were on month-to-month tenancies, he confirmed what was shared on FaceBook as all but one being on month-to-month tenancies.”

Though I blogged a letter from an angry Centrale employee, I have not raised Centrale’s displacement as an issue in my reportage. If a landlord wants to replace one tenant with another, that’s … business. Emotions are running high right now, but that should not blind us to a landlord’s valid prerogatives.

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“The most unprofessional and slumlord way”

Christa Johnson of Centrale Kitchen and Bar writes:

Carlos Villapudua in Central in happier times.

“Thank you for your article (“Fighting Fire with a Hammer,” 6/8).

“To set the record straight. We were moving because Kit (Building owner Christopher “Kit” Bennitt) pushed us out. He supposedly signed a lease with a new tenant…. which we only found out about through town gossip. He refused to renew with us. Like many in his building we were on a month to month lease.

“People told us he had plans to move other tenants in to our location. We started to receive mail addressed to the new tenants… and found out they had purchased a liquor license for our location.”


“We did not choose to leave the Miracle Mile. We were forced to find another location, as Kit ceased contact with us.

“This bomb from the fire department unbeknownst to any of his tenants, just pushed us out earlier. Please take note we fixed all citations given when the Fire depart did annual checks of our establishment i.e.: replace exit sign battery and secure CO2 tanks. Kit did not inform any of us and neither did the city of the extent of his violations or that he had been in violation since 2012.

“It was a shock to all of us and devastating to our families , neighbors, coworkers and loyal customers. Please take note we have relocated out of necessity due to the landlord’s negligence but also because he wanted us out and did it in the most unprofessional and slumlord way possible. May our neighbors be as blessed to have another location to reopen to in the swiftest was possible so they may support their families and cater to their local clientele. We will be moving to Brookside.”

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Another photo of Captain Dave

We eulogized him last week.

Dave "Captain Dave" Gumbaro

The photo captures Gumbaro’s glower, his fondness for things military and his growing hoard. When I visited his house, the overflowing collection of exotica, military items and plain weird objects was so fascinating you could sell admission tickets … except only one person at at time could squeeze through the pathways between heaps.

One of a kind.

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The “swindler” behind Lemuria and “Mu”

Anonymous writes:

Mt. Shasta

“Growing up in the town of Mount Shasta in the 40’s and 50’s, I gained some insight into the myths about connections to Mu and Lemurians.  Your article about the local hoax of 1934 reminded me of a possible source for the basis of the hoax.

“In 1930 Guy Ballard started publishing articles and lecturing about his purported experiences meeting Saint Germain on the upper slopes of Mt. Shasta and being taken to various places and times in the remote past, including Mu.  These formed the basis of Ballard’s founding of a “new”religion, the Saint Germain Foundation.

“The first collection of articles is called “Unveiled Mysteries”, available now on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents.  Google Guy Ballard  and Saint Germain Foundation for sanitized introductions to him and it, presumably written by members (who are called I Ams).

“Doing more reading as a teenager, I got a less favorable view of Ballard.  My personal assessment was that Ballard was just a clever swindler.  He had been a gambler on ocean liners and had been involved with various property swindles that got him put in prison.  There he had time to learn enough about theology and theosophy and history to put together a convincing sort of religion.

“People who joined in gave the Foundation their life savings and many came to live together in the old Shasta Springs resort (the original source of the natural “Shasta Water”).  It seemed like a very convenient coincidence that most members were wealthy widows, so the foundation flourished.  I don’t know much about his personal life, but I heard that he died of cirrhosis of the liver.”

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To change cities, change parking

Robert E. Oakes forwards an article on parking — yes, parking — from Public Square: “It challenged some of my assumptions and gave me inspiration about how to move Stockton forward.”

The idea is that parking is a hidden-in-plain sight component of urbanism that can be easily changed with great results.

“First, charge the right price for curb parking so there are always one or two open spaces on every block,” says one of the contributors.

“Second, spend that revenue to pay for added public services on the metered blocks so that the stakeholders benefit from these metered spots. Some cities use the money to provide free wi-fi to everybody on the street. They pressure wash the sidewalks frequently, plant new street trees, and remove graffiti every night. Investing the money back into the metered street creates the political will to charge the right price for on-street parking.

“And third, remove off-street parking requirements because nobody can say there’s a shortage of parking if drivers can always see one or two empty spaces on every block. Removing off-street parking requirements can have a big effect, even in the short run, because it allows the adaptive re-use of older buildings.”

Of course, we’re being wonkish, and nobody’s going to think you’re cool at parties because you have fresh insights about parking. But Stockton took a nosedive in the 60s precisely because Stocktonians failed to understand the forces affecting American cities. So get some savvy here.

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Machado: N/S bullet train goes wrong direction


Hanford resident and high-speed rail opponent Aaron Fukuda poses in front of his home.

Former State Senator Mike Machado writes:

“I read with interest your unabashed enthusiasm for the bullet train. Some additional background.

“Fresno was chosen as the sight for initial construction not so much for its geography as for the political considerations to re elect a philandering congressman who was in a tight race because of his escapades. Then Speaker Pelosi supported Fresno as a plum the congressman could bring home and support his re election.

“As for the bullet train itself, the original route was to come up the spine of the valley and divert to the Bay Area. However as planning progressed, it was recognized that going through the Altamont was going to be expensive and it was decided to veer from Los Banos through Pacheco Pass into San Jose. As that was proposed, there was not a definitive route to Stockton. That was added after those of us who represented Northern California argued that the bullet train should include Stockton and Sacramento. Those discussions were prior to the bond going to the ballot.

“What was ignored was that the transportation problem is not going North to South or South to North; daily traffic both in Southern California and here in Northern California moves East to West and back … every day, creating pollution, gridlock, frustration and a lot of wasted time. How many Stocktonians want to go to Fresno or Bakersfield but would like a faster more efficient, car free way to go from the valley to the Bay Area?

“Yes, there may be jobs from the Bullet Train, but a more efficient transportation system going from the valley to the Bay Area would also create jobs and provide a better quality of life to many more (much to practical for politicians who spend our money!). The question has been asked but not answered, in this era of climate change, how much pollution will the Bullet Train reduce … truck traffic up and down highway 99 and 5 will not be eliminated. What could a better transportation system from the valley to the coast do in reducing local pollution?

“I doubt you and I will live long enough to enjoy the Bullet Train to Bakersfield (so much to do and see there!) But, our children and grandchildren will pay for our folly.”

Far be it from me to argue with a man who graduated from Stanford with a degree in economics. So I will merely confess to placing a certain amount of faith in the bullet train beyond the support I base on studying reports on the system.

Machado omits to mention that the system will also — and primarily — run down the coast. So the question to my mind is not just whether the North-South orientation of the system underserves Stockton but whether Valley residents really want to see their tax dollars help to build a 21st-century high-speed rail system for the more prosperous coastal regions and leave the Valley out.


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Tracy’s appalling daily Exodus

Tracy commuters seen from Hansen Road overpass.

” … a big problem right now in Tracy is that most of its community spends several hours commuting each day for work. Local jobs often do not compensate people enough to afford Tracy, which is on the outer edge of the Bay Area’s real estate crunch,” says a KQED story.

“About 70 percent of our resident workforce (italics mine) actually commutes out of Tracy every day,” (Shelley) Burcham (Tracy’s economic development manager) said. Where do they go? To better-paying jobs in Fremont, San Jose and San Francisco.

“Tracy’s City Council wanted to know how much a job would have to pay for someone to afford to live in the city. They called this a “head-of-household job.” After crunching the numbers on real estate prices and cost of living, they arrived at a figure of $72,000 a year. Most jobs at a distribution center don’t pay that much.”

Wow. I didn’t realize what a huge disconnect Tracy has between city wages and housing costs. Of course city leaders want to attract higher-paying jobs, as they say in the story. But how about building more affordable homes? Just because San Francisco is too conflicted to rectify its housing crisis, Tracy needn’t be.

The wealth of San Francisco — a family of four with an income of $105,350 per year is now considered “low income” in San Francisco — has subordinated what historian Raymond Hillman called “a dusty, windblown railroad town … evolved through a fortunate set of circumstances to a major agricultural and industrial community” into a bedroom community for people who live half their waking lives over the Altamont. That’s just weird.

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High-speed rail means Valley jobs

And a “share of California’s bounty” for the San Joaquin Valley.

Lathrop-based Con-Fab of California is already getting lucrative contracts to build girders for High-Sped Rail infrastructure.

“That’s not a boondoggle. That’s fair,” says the Sacramento Bee in an outsanding editorial.

The Bee points out that “At last count, 380 small businesses had a piece of the project … more than $1 billion in construction invoices for work between Madera and Shafter had been approved. In time, $6 billion will have been spent in and around Fresno.”

Making it Fresno’s largest public works project ever. But the economic boon is not a one-off. “The $20 billion Central Valley to Silicon Valley leg won’t carry commuters until 2025, give or take. But once it does, the forgotten part of California that coastal residents fly over or zip past en route to Yosemite will become connected to the rest of the state and gain their share of California’s bounty,” writes the Bee.

In other words High-Speed Rail could spark a lasting economic upgrade to the always-lagging SJ Valley.

Not to mention the primary benefits, ranging from access to cheaper housing for Bay Area residents to eased gridlock for drivers. But the primary benefit in my view is better economic parity between the Valley and California’s more prosperous regions. This is why I supported HSR from day one, and why all Valley residents who like the idea of a more prosperous economy should, too.

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Why home-building is stalled in Stockton

Holding back home-building? A homicide scene on West Acacia Street in April.

Former Mayor Anthony Silva, prodded by developers, persuaded the Council to reduce Stockton’s building fees. The idea was to spur home-building, which around here is flatter than syrup on a pancake.

It didn’t work.

Surrounding cities, meanwhile, are seeing brisk home-building.


I asked John Beckman, head of the Building Industry association of the Greater Valley. Beckman’s reply:

“Over the last 12 months (as of late May) here are the number of used homes that were sold in each local area along with the average sales price for those homes.  New homes on average command about a 50% premium over the average price of used homes.  The cost of labor, materials and infrastructure in every jurisdiction is about the same.  The three most important variables that developers look at are:  1) What can I sell the end product for, 2) What are the fees, and 3) How much does the land cost.”

City # Sales Avg. Price
Mountain House
























“What you can sell your product for in Stockton is significantly lower than anywhere else.  The fees in Stockton are temporarily reasonable but that will change soon so you can only count on that for another year.  Unless you get the land a lot cheaper than you can buy it anywhere else, Stockton isn’t worth the risk.

“Some say, if you build it, they will come.  It doesn’t work the same way with entitlements.  You can entitle 20,000 units but unless there’s a market for those units they will never be built.  The risk reward factor for Stockton is still very risky compared to the surrounding communities.”

Beckman’s convincing answer raises a follow-up question: Why are home values so low in Stockton?

“What’s depressing home values in Stockton?” Beckman responded.

“1)    Lack of good paying jobs

“2)    Higher crime rate than surrounding area

“3)    Lower education levels than surrounding area.”

So according to Beckman, the torpor of Stockton’s housing sector is not due to regulations or fees. It’s due to depressive effect on home values of the city’s weak economy and social problems. Which, in turn, suggests where policy makers should put there efforts.

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    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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