SLO LIFE Magazine Apr/May 2013

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6 | SLO LIFE MAGAZINE APR/MAY 2013 SLOLIFE magazine April/May 2013 24 | Publisher’s Message | Info | In Box | Timeline | Q&A | Places | Meet Your Neighbor | The Way We Live | SLO City Real Estate | SLO County Real Estate | No Place Like Home | Choose Your Adventure 38 | To Your Health 40 | Music 42 | Special Feature 46 | On The Rise 48 | After Hours 50 | Recipe 52 | Community Calendar 20 36 | CONTENTS

All we need is Luv

Last month we decided to say “goodbye” to our 1993 Volkswagen Eurovan. She had been a trusty vehicle and a beloved member of our family, but, as they say, she had been getting “up in years.” So, my wife and I started browsing the used car section of Craigslist. When something looked good, we would contact the seller. Strangely, we always seemed to be too late.

It got to the point where we realized, if we did not take action within a few hours of a car being listed at a fair price with decent mileage, it was gone. The next great market bubble, as it turns out, is not in Dutch tulips or dotcom stocks, but in second-hand Honda Odysseys. The frenetic pace was unnerving. And we started feeling desperate.

So when a great listing popped up in San Diego, I called immediately. “Do you still have the van?” I asked. The reply came back, “Yes, but…” The man—his name was Sam—went into a very long, sad story about how the odometer had been fraudulently replaced by the guy he had bought the van from and that the actual mileage was about 70,000 more than it appeared. “Wow,” I thought, “What a story. And, what an honest guy for sharing it!” We went on to commiserate for nearly an hour over his misfortune.

Around the same time my wife found a van being sold by a guy named Luv. She liked his wheels so much that she sang the tune “All we need is Luv…” to me during the entire week of our shopping experience (she insisted that his van had good kharma similar to the VW). But, not entirely persuaded by her argument for vehicular kharma, I decided to go with Sam—besides he had a better price. I explained the decision to my wife, “Hey, I gave Luv a chance to reduce his price to match Sam’s, but he wouldn’t budge.”

Sam assured me that he would hold the van for us until we got there the next day, so I got off the phone and bought two one-way tickets to San Diego on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner (I was taking our eight-year-old son along for the experience and for the company). But, as I was stuffing granola bars and water bottles into our backpack late that night, I received a text message: “Hello sir this is Sam. I am VERY SORRY but the van is sold.” I was more than a little bit annoyed when some minivan kharma made an appearance. Literally, three minutes later, another text popped up from Luv, “Hi Tom, I talked with my wife and we have decided to accept your offer.”

We knew for sure that we found the right vehicle when Luv, his wife and two kids sent us a short video documenting their last drive together in their van. So, instead of heading to San Diego by train, we drove to Ventura. After assuring The Luv Bunch that the van was going to a good home, we completed the transaction. The next day—the first time our family all piled into the van together—we decided to make a video for The Bunch with the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” blaring in the background… but with our three kids, inexplicably doing the Gangnam Style dance. As always, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who had a hand in producing this issue of SLO LIFE Magazine and, most of all to our advertisers, who have made it possible.

Live the SLO Life!

Tom Franciskovich

SLO LIFE MAGAZINE APR/MAY 2013 | 9 1188 Los Osos Valley Road \\ Los Osos, CA 93402 \\ (805) 574-0777 \\ \\ Nursery open every day 9:00am - 5:00pm LANDSCAPE SERVICES Sustainable Landscape Design | Construction Maintenance | Habitat Restoration NURSERY, GARDENS & GIFTS California-Friendly Plants | Pottery | Fountains Statuary | Display Garden | Outdoor Furniture “You deserve to enjoy the beauty of the Central Coast in your own garden. Contact Sage today to create an environment conducive to relaxing and dining in your outdoor room.” - Todd M. Davidson, owner Sage Ecological Landscapes & Nursery

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Tom Franciskovich


Sheryl Disher


Jeanette Trompeter

Paden Hughes


Chris Bersbach

Brad Daane

Lance Kinney


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So many of the stories we publish come from our readers’ great leads. We are always looking for interesting homes to profile (see “The Way We Live” on page 24), have a recipe that your friends and family love? Share it with us! To get an idea, check out “Recipe” on page 50. Is there a band we should know about? Something we should investigate? Go to and click “Share Your Story.”

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Thoughts on the Feb/Mar Issue

Cover Story

Steve Kragenbrink’s article about himself was so interesting! I am 87 yrs old and wish I could have been so honest about myself as a young person. Everything was a secret back in the 1940’s and 50’s. I remember a darling girl who got pregnant (not me) and she got thrown out of school—not literally, but couldn’t stay. I hope everyone has saved the Feb-March issue and read it through. Great stuff any age would enjoy. Funny too!

>> Name Change

Shortly after we published the article about local band PK, they announced in a letter to their fans that they would be changing their name due to copyright infringement. Their new name: Night Riots. Says band member Nick Fontinakes, “We were able to choose a name that we felt represents us. We are stoked to share this with our fans.” Night Riots is touring for the first time with their new name and just completed a series of shows in San Francisco. More dates are expected to be announced soon.

>> Beer Money

Business continues to pick up for Brant Meyers and Dan Grimm of Arkeg as they head into their favorite time of year—beer festival season. Since publishing the article, the duo reports doing “the same amount of business in one week as they had been previously in three months.” And, they have been doing a lot of rental business, including weddings, corporate events, even bachelor parties. Meyers and Grimm are looking to expand soon and hire some additional help.

Field of Dreams

Really enjoyed reading “Plowing the field of dreams.” Being originally from the Midwest there is nothing like agricultural and appropriate use of the land. Let us not allow our city fathers to allow more growth in businesses we don’t need. Some stores downtown are in dire straights as it is and that is the heart of SLOtown. I love the ban on plastic bags. Why don’t people pick up after themselves? I seem to find trash just sitting around when they could easily have put it in a bin. Sometimes I’ll throw it away for them. My only concern is the generation of people who are so engaged in their ipad-iphone with their heads bent down that they have lost the ability to converse without it. I’m far from elderly but over time I feel there will be health challenges to these young people if they don’t learn the art of real conversation. I do all my shopping in local stores only.

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>> Readers fell head over heals with Steve & Julie Kragenbrink’s love story, which came just in time for Valentine’s Day. The most common word we heard was “sweet” in describing the story. Steve Kragenbrink seemed to be showing up everywhere after the last issue!

Good Read, Hard Read

I enjoy reading your magazine and wish every page were equally legible; I refer to page 42 in the current issue.

- Mary Frey

>> Hi Mary, Sorry about that! We heard from many readers who had similar trouble with page 42, the piece about Danielle Martinez (“New Heights”) in the last issue, so we have decided to reprint the text here…

Two years ago on Bishop Peak, Danielle Martinez was “scared and nervous” when she craned her neck back and took measure of the massive granite wall before her. It was her first exposure to rock climbing. Despite her fear, she found the experience to be oddly “both invigorating and calming at the same time.” Since then Martinez has been on a rock climbing mission, pursuing the sport during nearly all of her free time in places such as Joshua Tree, Pinnacles, and Yosemite (she stays in top form by practicing her technique at the

life—and I love being outdoors. There are just so many beautiful places to see. But, it’s an entirely different level of beauty when you are thousands of feet above the ground, it’s really difficult to describe.”

Update: Martinez continues to reach new heights having recently returned from two weeks in India where she participated in Rotary’s National Immunization Day. She represented her club, the Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo, where she administered vaccinations as part of Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio worldwide.

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Jeff and Jeremy in the Morning having fun with the Kragenbrink cover at the KZOZ studio.

SLO City Council, by a 4-0 vote, chooses to hold a special vote-by-mail election that will take place from May 20 to June 18 to finish the term of councilmember Andrew Carter, who has resigned to become the city administrator of Guadalupe. The council has allocated $100,000 from the general fund for the election.

After an emotionally charged meeting, the San Luis Coastal Unified School Board unanimously agrees to keep Teach Elementary School open. The decision comes with a catch: enrollment will be curtailed and an advisory committee will be formed to advise the board on a permanent solution. [You can learn more about this issue by turning to page 42]

Naked sunbathers vow to protest if things change much after the Board of Supervisors announces that Pirates Cove, a longtime nudist beach in Avila, will be added to the SLO County parks system. The news prompted one particularly fired-up sunbather to climb a nearby rock formation and shake his fist at the ocean while shouting, “They can take our clothes, but they can’t take our rights!”

February 5

February 20

February 27

February 14

February 23

After finding her abandoned horse in the Huasna Valley near her grandparent’s house, a massive search concludes for Mikayla Anderson. The missing 12-yearold Grover Beach resident is found by her father. The girl, who told investigators that she just wanted “to clear her head,” had spent the night in a tree.

San Luis Coastal Unified School District announces that a $6 million deficit may force it to trim 29 positions, which would include counselors and librarians. The district, which had already identified $2 million in cuts to reduce the shortfall arising from $80 million in expenses with $72 million in revenue, expects pink slips to mail out in May.


After 44 contestants vied for the opportunity to represent San Luis Obispo online, the City chooses Bentley Murdock as its first-ever social media ambassador. Murdock is a professional singer, who is known, appropriately, for his rendition of Bobby McFerrin’s 1988 hit song “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” [Get to know Murdock by turning to page 16]

A sea lion named “Doug” finally got fed up with seafood, so he left the beach, crossed Highway 1, and tried to order a burger at the

February 28 March 9

February 28 March 14

Seeing that it was a slow news day, Sheriff Ian Parkinson decides to shake things up by sending Vice President Joe Biden a letter affirming his support of the Second Amendment claiming that he “will not take firearms from law abiding citizens and turn law abiding citizens into criminals by enforcing gun control legislation that will not solve or prevent tragedy.” Local reaction is strong, but mixed.

March 5

Through a $600,000 grant from the state, with the City of SLO kicking in $350,000, it is announced that the ever-popular Bob Jones trail will be extended all the way through to Los Osos Valley Road. If the expansion trend continues at the same pace, experts estimate that the trail will reach Bakersfield by the year 2137 which will allow for easy access to both the beach and, well, uh, Bakersfield…

In a tough couple of months for Downtown SLO, Jim’s Campus Camera, Cold Stone Creamery, and Coalition all announce that they are closing up shop. To top it all off, the Downtown Association decides that it will no longer be producing its Taste of San Luis event. SLO LIFE


Bentley Murdock

In a unique experiment aimed at promoting tourism to the area via social media, the City of SLO’s Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) created a contest to select the City’s first-ever tourism ambassador. The competition attracted 44 applicants, each of whom submitted a short video that was then voted on by viewers. The top ten vote-getters were then interviewed by a panel of city officials and, at the end of that process, Bentley Murdock was awarded the year-long gig and a $50,000 contract (paid for by the 2% hotel occupancy tax). A devout Mormon who gained fluency in Spanish during his two-year mission in Mexico, Murdock is also a musician, a traveler, a longboard skateboarder, and an avid Facebook user who has maxed-out his personal account with 5,000 friends. Murdock, who goes by “Bent,” dropped by our office one day recently for a visit…

What exactly are you going to be doing as tourism ambassador?

It’s been said that I will be “barnstorming”—I had to look up that word, actually. [laughter] I will be going to all of the events in the County, and I will be representing the hotels and the businesses to bring tourism to the area. I will be creating a presence to help with the buzz, invite people; then I will document it, photograph it, video it, and put it online. Hopefully I will be able to bring people to the area who would not have come otherwise; and generate awareness about it and create a buzz about it that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Something I have always loved to do is to bring people together, and that’s what this is really about.

You know, it’s actually pretty risky for the City to make someone the face of SLO… Yes, definitely. The City is putting a lot of trust in one individual to represent them, and to be their face and to speak for them and it makes me feel very honored that they have that kind of trust in me. But, you won’t ever have to worry about me showing up tispy or hungover or what I might say at a public event if I were socially lubricated. [laughter] Since I don’t drink, when I go to a gathering, I just have some juice or water, but I am usually too busy mingling and socializing to drink anything anyway. I am all about trying to keep it fun, keep it light-hearted, family-friendly, keep it clean, keep it wholesome. And, I think that is what the City was after—they wanted to capture the character of SLO.

When did you first realize that you wanted to live here?

When you go to a new city or you travel to a different area, every once in a while someone will stand out. One person will stand out and you think, “Wow, that person totally made my day” or “That person really made me feel special.” And, this would just be some stranger, someone at a business, or at the bank, something like that. But, that happened so often here in SLO that, when I was away, it constantly reminded me about those people. And, I found myself saying, “I want to be more like that person I just met because they did this or said that,” and I knew that there are so many people like that here because it happens so frequently. It really impressed me. More than anything else, it was that—those random interactions— that kept bringing me back.

So, what brought you to San Luis Obispo in the first place? My family is from Utah. They live in Vegas currently. We have family in Utah, Vegas, and Hawaii. Those were always our checkpoints for our family, our roots. But, I had a brother who moved to Cambria when I was about twelve or thirteen-years-old. And I came along with him and kind of checked out the area. I totally fell in love with the Coast and, from there on out, I just kept coming back. And eventually I would stay for longer and longer. I’ve been here for about 18 years now. My brother and I were the only ones in our family here on the Coast, and he passed away and left a wife and four kids and I kind of stepped in to help out with the transition and all of that. And I just really fell in love with the people as they came together to help her during that time.

Can you tell us about the band you’re in?

It has always been about the passion and the love for the music. To help people feel happy, to feel good. That’s why I feel so at home here in SLO because that’s what it’s all about. And, regardless of whatever else was going on, it was always just about this passion, this happy-go-lucky, soul acoustic style. Whenever we perform as a band, we call ourselves Bentley Murdock & The Soul Purpose, which is a great name because the purpose behind the music is to help peoples’ souls feel more complete. All of our original music is positive, wholesome and feel-good.

Are you nervous about your new gig? Or are you just feeling positive?

I’m really stoked, actually. I feel very honored, and am so excited. I feel like I have been preparing for this role for a long time—for the past ten years I’ve actually had a personal toll free number so that anyone can reach me free of charge, which is 1-TOOSLO-CITY (1-866-756-2489).

I just have a huge passion for the character and the genuine nature of the people here in SLO and I want more than anything to show that, and for people outside of the area to see that and feel it. I want people to enjoy themselves so much when they come to visit that when they leave I want them to remember it and think about it. I want to exemplify that. I want to show people what that looks like on a daily basis and carry it outside of SLO and let it be the magnetism that will pull people to the Central Coast.

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SLO LIFE MAGAZINE APR/MAY 2013 | 17 805 541-1790 Call us today for your consultation Helping You Hear The Things You Love What did you say?! is is Ballet, not the folies. Who Said at?! You’ll hear everything better once you visit Karen Scott

Morro Bay Harbor

Experienced mariners will tell you that the entrance to the Morro Bay Harbor is among one of the most treacherous passages they will make, particularly during bad weather or a large swell. The US Coast Guard ranks it as one of the most dangerous nationally. Originally, Morro Rock was surrounded by water, but the US Army, starting in the late 1800’s, began building the breakwater that you see here using boulders mostly quarried from Morro Rock itself. On some days during the process they would blast the iconic granite plug with as much as 50 tons of dynamite at a time. Recently, during a particularly large swell on a stunning early spring day, Avila-based photographer, Lance Kinney, set up his telephoto lens to capture the images you see here. After each shot, Kinney had to turn away and wipe down his camera which had been peppered by salt water. The waves crashed down with such tremendous force that Kinney shared with us, “I really hope this doesn’t come off as psychobabble because that’s really not my thing, but it really makes you stop and think about how insignificant we are in the scheme of things.” SLO LIFE

On the other side of the jetty, looking back toward Los Osos, Kinney captured this Coast Guard tandem just as they were cresting a wave during their heavy seas training session.

Although he did not realize it while he was shooting, Kinney later found this woman in the photo. Apparently, she had been throwing her arms up in celebration of the awesome display Mother Nature brought that day.

Do you have an amazing photo to share? Email it to

Sonja Polk

In this installment of our “Meet Your Neighbor” series, SLO LIFE Magazine sits down for a conversation with Sonja Polk. She has recently begun speaking out about her troubled childhood. With the help of her Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) she found her way into a local foster home and turned her life around. Today, at 32, she has climbed her way into management at Diablo Canyon where she oversees the training of the security force that guards the nuclear facility. Against all odds, she maintains a positive outlook and shares that message with our local youth. Here is her story…

We like to take it from the top, Sonja. So, where are you are from? I am a fourth generation local. My great-grandmother and her sister moved from Colorado Springs to Shell Beach in the early 1900’s. ey lived in little farmhouses. ey had chicken coops as cupboards and actually used the nesting boxes as storage for dishes and other kitchen items. My great-grandmother’s husband passed away in the war, and she had a daughter with him, my grandma. So she and her sister, my great-aunt, just decided to start a new life and move out to California. ey came out here on their own, which was pretty unheard of in those days.

What did they do when they got here?

My great-grandma’s sister opened a restaurant in San Luis called Pop’s Place, or Dad’s Place. It was on Higuera near the high school. ey both bought homes in Shell Beach, a block away from each other. ey raised their families. My great-grandmother lived in that house until she passed. My grandma was raised in that house in Shell Beach; she actually su ered from some di erent things, anxiety and depression. I’m sure that my great-grandmother just wanted to provide a good, solid, stable life for her, but my grandma had issues that were a little neglected. Back then, if people had some kind of chemical imbalance, it was shunned and not really dealt with. My grandmother was a beautiful woman and she found love. She ended up pregnant with my mom, but was divorced six months into the pregnancy. My mother did not know her biological father because she was raised with another man who she assumed was her dad.

Did she ever nd out the truth?

When my mom was ten years old, she was walking home from school and her stepfather, who she thought was her dad—she was daddy’s little girl— he drove up next to her and told her that he wasn’t her real daddy and that he couldn’t see her anymore, but that he would always love her. And that was absolutely heartbreaking to her because she was so close to him. She

got into a system of looking for that fatherly love. And she looked for love in all the wrong places. I know that’s cliché, but that’s what happened. What form did that take?

She wanted no part of society, really. She decided to run away from home. She got pregnant very young and moved out into the middle of nowhere outside of Grass Valley. She lived in a commune-type environment with mountain men, hippies, and bikers and became heavily involved in drugs and alcohol. She had two kids with one guy. He ended up passing away from a drug overdose. en she was with my father, and he ended up passing away from a drug overdose. And she ended up having a fourth child with my dad’s best friend, and he passed away. So, she had four kids by the time she was twenty-one and was addicted to drugs and alcohol. But, even worse, she was addicted to abusive men. So, we dealt with a lot of abuse. Growing up it was physical, emotional, psychological; it was just the whole gamut. Most of the guys she dated were on disability, so they stayed home all day, cracked open a beer for breakfast and drank all day. By the time we got home from school it was a bad situation. Lots of violence. We had the living snot beat out of us when we were kids. Almost daily. It was crazy. Crazy. Just completely unacceptable. Complete nonsense.

is is all so hard to believe… you are just so positive and well-adjusted. I remember stealing cans out of our cupboards and taking them to the canned food drive at school because I was thinking about the children in Africa who were su ering. Of course, I didn’t realize that those cans were coming right back to us. [laughter] It’s true, they would go to the food bank then back to us. Honestly, you can look back at my pictures as a child and, no matter what was happening, I always had a smile from ear-to-ear. We were forced to play outside all day and I was just so happy to be outside. We got really good at climbing trees and getting up on our roof to get away from my mother’s boyfriends. But, no matter what, I was just so happy


constantly. I’ve just always been a happy-go-lucky person. And I have always thought outside of myself and wanted to help others. Plus, we didn’t know any better when we were younger. I realize that I have a lot going for me now, but I also realize that it can be gone tomorrow. But, I am still going to be the same person inside. That’s really all that matters.

So, when did things start to turn around?

When I was eight years old, my grandfather—my mother’s birthfather— came back into the picture. He decided to teach us kids how to swim. None of us had ever learned how to swim. My mom never learned how to swim, so she never taught us. He was taking us out to the Avila Hot Springs every weekend during the summer. And one day he took us swimming, and we never went back home. He kept the four of us at his house. And he told my mom that she was not allowed to see us until she got clean. I guess she cleaned up her act right away, and still is clean to this day. That was serious enough for her, to have all of her four kids taken away, to straighten up. We ended up split-up and traded and shuffled amongst family members and friends. A few of us ended up moving into foster homes. I moved to a group home in San Luis, and that’s where I was assigned a CASA. I was thirteen and I hadn’t talked to my mom in five years. I didn’t realize that she was clean, but I hadn’t really forgiven her for everything at that point. I just wanted to forget and move on.

What happened next?

I was placed in a foster home here in San Luis with the people who would become my mom and dad, Susan and Jim Polk. The experience was shocking to me because there was so much structure. There were schedules. Every Wednesday I had to make dinner for the whole family—they wanted to teach their children how to cook. We all had chores. We had boards. We had graphs. We had charts. We had diagrams. We had schedules for everything. After school we had this,

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above right Sonja with her adoptive parents, Susan and Jim Polk.

middle Sonja as a child in Shell Beach.

bottom Sonja’s grandmother (the young girl looking at the camera) with her aunt and an unknown child standing in front of her uncle’s airplane after he landed it at Pismo Beach.

this, and that. It was not even close to what I had experienced before. It was absolutely shocking. My mom will tell you that I am the prodigal child. They always say that I was one of their worst children. [laughter] That I was off-the-charts difficult, but that I came back and changed my life.

I think people can understand why you went through a “difficult” period...

I think I just had to… well, I rebelled. That’s what I did. I rebelled against the whole system. But they didn’t let me go. They loved me unconditionally. And no matter what I did, they still saw potential in me and wanted to help me. They taught me how to talk problems out—how to communicate—instead of just yelling and fighting. That was shocking to me. We communicated, we talked, we discussed things. We made plans, we made memories. It was really, really good. It was just very instrumental and life-changing. They sent me to private school. They sent me to finishing school to learn to be a proper lady. [laughter] They set me up with dance lessons, and softball, and I had school pictures for the first time. It was just a completely different lifestyle that they exposed me to. They traveled, they were educated, they were cultured. They appreciated politics and economics and taught me a lot of things that I never learned and had never been exposed to before. But, I did, I rebelled at first. Then I grew up.

And how are things now that you are all grown up?

My parents have a tradition in their family, that when their foster children grow up and turn thirty-years-old, they adopt them. So, two years ago they made it official and adopted me into the Polk Family. It’s really great, I love it. It’s so silly, it’s so random, but it’s so great. I guess I had proven myself by this point that I’m a good child. [laughter] We had a baby shower, and they gave me a baby book. It’s not something I have ever had before. They had pink cupcakes with babies. We played baby shower games. It was so silly and so funny, but it was just so great. They just completely open their home and their lives. They want to give back. They realize that there are so many kids out there that are struggling. And they have really embraced that concept. My mom, Susan, is one of the co-founders of CASA here in San Luis. She brought it here back in the day realizing that our community was lacking in programs that helped children in abuse or neglect situations.

And, what about your birth mother? Are you in contact with her now? I was encouraged to call my birth mother on Mother’s Day. So after not speaking to her for years, I got in contact with her again. She had gotten herself together and back on her feet. I have completely forgiven her—she is such a sweetheart, but drugs and alcohol just change people. You just never know what people go through. You never know what influences them to make different choices. And I know that I am not one to judge. I don’t have the right to judge anybody. I just want to help people. I talk to my birth mom probably once a week now.

And, your birth grandmother? What became of her? Well, we hadn’t seen her in fifteen years and I was driving down the street one day and I saw a homeless woman who looked just like my grandma, at least how I remembered her. I thought, “I should have stopped, I should have helped her out, I should have offered.” But, I told myself that if I saw this woman again, I was going to stop to see if it was really her and see what I could do because she was obviously in a bad situation. So, I was driving together with my birth sisters about two weeks later. I was actually right in the middle of telling them the story about how I spotted this woman two weeks prior, who looked just like our grandma. I had just finished telling my sisters how I had promised to stop if I ever saw that woman again and how I was going to offer her help. And, sure enough, right at that moment I look over my shoulder and there she is.

I tried to suppress all of these things for so long, that now talking about it, sharing those things, and seeing how other people are benefitting is so healing.

What did you do?

So, I stopped. And we all get out of the car. Sure enough, it was grandma. She was drunk or high or something. I introduced myself and she remembered us. We loaded her up in my car and I had her stay at my house for a few months. Then my sister had her stay at her house for a few months. I tried to set her up with help through the system, Social Security and all of the programs that we have here. I also offered to help her get a job, but she wasn’t interested in anything. Then she disappeared for a few months and we couldn’t find her. Finally, one day the police showed up at my sister’s house and told her that they had found her body. She had committed suicide. I felt that we tried to help. It was hard. She actually had a house, all the bills were paid but she was still dealing with the depression plus drinking and decided to hang out on the streets. Wow. That’s intense.

Looking back at her old pictures and everything, she was gorgeous and had so much going for her and had so much potential. It’s interesting to see how someone ends up like that. But, on a lighter note, when we cleaned out her house, I got hundreds and hundreds of pictures of the area and my family and my great-grandmother’s grandma. It went way back generations and generations. My mom had always kind of been a hippie and never kept any material possessions, so we had no history. No family photos. Those pictures were a positive that came out of the whole situation.

You always point out the positive side of a bad situation.

Last fall was the first time I had spoke at a CASA event. And all of these things have been things I have tried to overcome and forget. My past is not something I’ve talked about beyond just a shallow conversation over wine with my girlfriends. They’ve never heard all of the details. But, all of these things that I have tried to overcome and forget and leave behind… now I realize that so many people can benefit by the struggles and the experiences that I went through, so I want to open up. I mean, in every speech I cry—just like I’m crying right now, sorry—thinking about the children in the community that are still going through these things. It’s unacceptable. And, just reaching out, we can change those lives. But, it’s kind of interesting because I tried to suppress all of these things for so long, that now talking about it, sharing those things, and seeing how other people are benefitting is so healing.

You’ve definitely taken charge of your life and created your own path. We hear you’ve got a pretty important job out there at Diablo Canyon...

I’m blazing the trail. I’m the first female we have ever had in security training. And I’m the youngest person in that role. I do everything from computer classes to compliance and ethics to tactics and firearms. We’re all certified in all of our weapons. I’m not a firearms specialist, but I’ve always felt there is no limit to what you can do or what you can learn other than those limitations that you set for yourself.

Has anyone ever tried to set limitations for you?

I actually had a guy tell me that “the fall of our nation came with women’s liberation” and that “women should not be in the workplace” and “they should not be supervisors,” and that he was going to do everything possible to stop me from promoting into management. I’ve always been the type of person where I don’t fight back. I understand that everyone goes through different things and may have been raised a certain way that makes them how they are. And he may have been exposed to things growing up; I know it was a different generation. And he was a more experienced guy, he’s older. I understand, but I told him, “Well, this is happening, so it’s just something you’re going to have to get over.” [laughter]

For someone who doesn’t fight back, you seem pretty feisty.

Like I said, I don’t like to fight. I don’t like confrontation. But, I do feel that I have the potential and I have the drive to pursue anything that I am interested in. I don’t think that other people should limit what I am capable of accomplishing. And I think that our world is changing, and I want to be a part of that. I want to teach people that there is a different way, there are different options, that there are dreams that you can achieve. It just takes a plan. And you have to take that plan step-by-step and follow through.

Okay, what sort of plans are in your future? Marriage? Kids? That is the area that my parents cannot stand. I’m 32, not married, and I do not have kids. Every time I go there my mom says, “I just want grandkids from you.” I’m like, “You already have a bunch of grandkids!” She just wants grandkids from me. I would like to find someone, but it’s hard in San Luis; living in a college town is interesting. It’s not the easiest place to be single in your thirties. I’m sure it will happen one day, and I’ve always said that if I end up married with children I am going to be 100% happy. And if I end up alone at 70 with fourteen cats, I am going to be happy. I don’t even like cats. [laughter] But life is so good—I am going to have a good time no matter what. I’m going to enjoy it because it’s a blessing.

Indeed. Sonja, thank you very much for visiting with us today—your story and your outlook are an inspiration. And, we wish you the best of luck as you continue to reach out to local kids. Thanks so much; that is very kind of you to say. It was great talking with you, as well. SLO LIFE



Off to the left of the home’s entrance, a once dark sitting room gets a clean, vibrant makeover with new flooring and a nautical inspired décor.

When Kit Spellerberg talks about her home on 1211 Pismo Street she often mentions the previous owners, Al and Mary Nunes. “I feel like I know them,” Spellerberg confides, with her pronunciation of the word “know” revealing an unmistakable Minnesota accent. “I want to respect and honor them; they must have loved this place, especially the yard.”

And, deference to the couple, who passed away in 2009, two months apart, after 67 years of marriage, is apparent throughout the thoughtful remodel. Spellerberg, who works at Idler’s Kitchen & Bath as a designer, acted as the general contractor on the remodel a year ago, and was able to keep the original look and feel of the house, while also incorporating many modern conveniences.

In an effort to maintain the home’s charm and keep a consistent character, the front of the house, which was originally built in 1906, remained mostly unchanged. The original windows were kept in-tact. There were some dry rot issues that had to be addressed, including removing and repairing the two support pillars framing the wraparound front porch. The exterior was cleaned up and repainted with colors that matched photos that were found of the home during the 1950’s.

The interior, on the other hand, required some major updating. And during the remodel, which included a bedroom addition, Spellerberg and her husband Ray, lived through the three-month-long construction project in a makeshift bedroom consisting of four plastic-sheets in the middle of the house. Walls were moved, subfloors were exposed, windows were replaced, even the fireplace—which has since found a second life in the backyard—was removed. But, it was Spellerberg’s experience as a kitchen designer where



Standing in the kitchen, the view to the entryway went from dark and dingy to bright and beautiful with the help of wide plank hardwood flooring and buttery yellow paint.

the small details start to add up. Toe kick lighting adds a nice touch below the kitchen cabinets, as does a fully enclosed charging station to hide the cell phones and their unsightly cords. A warming tray is used often during entertaining and a toaster is hidden from view in an enclosed roll-out drawer.

But, the crown jewel of the remodel is the “L-shaped” master bedroom and walk-in closet addition off the back of the home with French doors leading to the garden. The whole thing expanded the building’s footprint modestly (it went from 1,120 to 1,650 square feet), but because of the abundant windows it feels as though the indoors and outdoors have melded into one. The master bathroom, which doubles as the pass-through to the walk-in closet, is smartly appointed and highly functional with lots of thoughtful features. The shower has been plumbed for steam, but has not yet been used for that purpose—it is one of the last remaining steps of the remodel yet to be completed.

Photos of happy times with their four now-grown children are found throughout the living room. And, clearly, the guest rooms were designed to entice them back for frequent visits. A small statue of the mythological David stands guard in one of the rooms and serves as a reminder to the 28-years he spent watching over Spellerberg’s parents’ Greek restaurant in Minnesota; and a built-in dressing table fits tastefully into the wall of another.

The Spellerbergs, who moved to San Luis Obispo to be closer to their kids, which includes professional snowboarder and Olympian, Mason Aguirre (daughter Molly Aguirre was also on the pro tour for ten years), share a story told to a friend shortly after they moved: “It wasn’t until I lived here that I understood the charm, the essence and the beauty of San Luis. Like a flower or a fine wine that has a fragrance to it that reminds you of something, San Luis has a very nice fragrance to it.”



If you can avoid it, do not go all the way to the ceiling with your kitchen cabinets. This will give the room a larger, more open feel to it. If that is not possible, go with fewer cabinets so the room does not feel overwhelmed by them.


The use of open shelving and glass doors helps to give your kitchen a more spacious feel and communicate your personal taste and sense of style through the items displayed.


All of the electronic gadgets—smart phones, tablets, laptops—seem to end up charging in the kitchen. Create a space for them. It can be as simple as an outlet hidden in the back of a drawer or a cabinet.


It’s cool, it’s hip, it’s different and, best of all, it’s inexpensive. This will set your kitchen apart and provide great conversation fodder when the guests arrive.


This is a must-have for entertaining. Keep the hors d’oeuvres hot while your friends mingle. Also, it’s great for Thankgiving dinners and multicourse meals.


4 3 5 1
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Reengineering the fireplace opened up this dark living room and created a smooth flow while thoughtfully placed furniture keeps a sense of separation from the dining area. And, it’s worth noting, the fireplace seen below was repurposed for use outdoors.


A warm color pallette, dark woods, plenty of lighting and unique furnishings combine to create an inviting master bedroom with easy access to the garden.

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the numbers

laguna lake

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

tank farm

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

cal poly area

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

2012 8 521,238 496,187 96.37 118

2013 11 580,091 575,818 99.55 101

+/62.50% 11.29% 16.05% 3.18% -14.41%

2012 5 500,980 483,200 96.42 74

2013 2 737,000 732,250 99.23 12

+/-60.00% 47.11% 51.54% 2.81% -83.78%

2012 4 499,500 467,500 93.23 91

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market

2012 0 n/a n/a n/a n/a

2013 3 536,000 513,333 95.34 20

+/-25.00% 7.31% 9.80% 2.11% -78.02%

2013 5 869,000 859,600 98.7 108

Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market


+/n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a

2011 3 541,667 541,667 100.00 42

2012 5 633,190 619,600 98.08 75

+/66.67% 16.90% 14.39% -1.92% 78.57%

2012 8 583,856 567,187 97.35 57

2013 4 616,725 597,825 97.35 90 blvd




+/-50.00% 5.63% 5.40% 0.00% 57.89%

+/75.00% 13.76% 17.33% 3.67% -60.71%

SOURCE: San Luis Obispo Association of REALTORS®

country club
Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market
Total Homes Sold Average Asking Price Average Selling Price Sales Price as a % of Asking Price Average # of Days on the Market
2012 4 516,375 496,000 95.77 56 ave *Comparing 1/1/12 — 3/20/12 to
2013 7 587,414 581,946 99.44 22 —
SLO LIFE MAGAZINE APR/MAY 2013 | 31 Bruce Freeberg • Realtor # 01771947 444 Higuera Street, 3rd Floor • San Luis Obispo • CA 93401 (805) 748-0161 • Relax. Let us do the work. For the best Real Estate Search Site look here. Ask me how using the new Statewide Multiple Listing Service will help you. I am one of the few Realtors that can give you that edge. There has to be a better way! (And there is.) If you are involved in a dispute and you are seeking an objective evaluation of the potential consequences to you, please contact me. I am always available to the disputing parties to explain the benefits of timely Mediation to facilate prompt affordable closure. There is no fee for both telephone and/or inital consultation; this opportunity is calculated to save both time and expense to all participants in an informal setting. 6018 Pebble Beach Way, San Luis Obispo 93401 cell (805) 801-9302 // office (805) 545.9000 website // email “ ” Robert J. Federman mediator/arbitrator/attorney

429,500 305,000 610,000 570,000 778,500 410,000 307,000 312,500 382,500 381,000 222,950 557,500 302,500 217,000 294,500 320,000 483,000 256,750 415,000 359,900

473,000 364,250 745,000 465,000 495,000 n/a 349,000 327,500 385,000 457,000 327,000 590,000 320,000 225,000 251,450 430,000 592,000 299,900 490,000 405,000

by the numbers 2012 56
14 14 13 48 6 19 471 2013 57
13 18 20 48 5 15 512 REGION NUMBER OF HOMES SOLD
MEDIAN SELLING PRICE SOURCE: San Luis Obispo Association of REALTORS ® *Comparing 1/1/12 — 3/20/12 to 1/1/13 — 3/20/13 lighting | furniture | art | rugs patio & garden | jewelry Zoey’s home consignments 3566 s. higuera street san luis obispo 805.596.0288 Open Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm • Residential • Commercial • Management • Sales DRE #01138936 805.544.1244
Arroyo Grande Atascadero Avila Beach Cambria/San Simeon Cayucos Creston Grover Beach Los Osos Morro Bay Nipomo Oceano Pismo Beach Paso (Inside City Limits) Paso (North 46 - East 101) Paso (North 46 - West 101) Paso (South 46 - East 101) San Luis Obispo Santa Margarita Templeton Countywide
56 1 25 10 4 20 33 20 28 10 20 74
68 3 23 9 0 27 28 24 38 10 30 76
2012 122 115 373 119 166 268 97 94 125 119 143 140 106 103 99 235 86 61 181 119 2013 83 84 10 103 124 n/a 81 72 58 114 71 103 51 61 131 79 83 52 58 81

The Old Cayucos Tavern

Most communities along the Central Coast have them. Most locals have been to them. They all have a few things in common: booze, a bar, and a chance that you are going to feel like family the minute you walk in the door. Such is the case with the Old Cayucos Tavern.

Interestingly, the the name of the rustic old watering hole along the main drag of downtown Cayucos seems up for debate. The Cayucos Saloon? The Cayucos Tavern? The Old Cayucos Tavern? “It’s whatever you want it to be,” says owner, Andrea Pulaski. “You know, it is!”

Known as “The Tavern” by most locals, its establishment dates back to at least 1904. “There were twelve bars in this town at one time,” says Pulaski. It was a time when this dairy-heavy community was a main trading port. Today, it’s more of a tourist town, and The Tavern is one of the only original bars left. It’s the California Coastal version of Cheers, “I would say a little more Cheers than Cheers is!” Pulaski laughs.

And, she’s not kidding—from the banter that happens to belly up at the bar, to the fact it’s hard to walk in undetected; it serves as a comfortable home away from home for regulars. “It’s kind of like our big old living room. We don’t have to mess up each other’s houses, we just come into The Tavern and we have fun here,” laughs Linda Brannock, a Tavern regular.

Bartender Liliann Hernandez admits she’ll usually have regulars’ drinks served up and waiting for them on the bar by the time they take a seat. “Um, they don’t really switch it up that often. They kind of know what they want. So once I see them through the windows here, I just have it ready for them.”

The Cheers factor to The Tavern doesn’t stop there. One of the regulars who keeps things entertaining at the end of the bar is Norman “Norm” Kurth. Yes, Norm! “Feels like home,”

Kurth says, “And, yes, they do yell ‘Norm!’ every now and then when I walk in.”

Pulaski says The Tavern crowd really has outCheered, Cheers. The Tavern has been under Pulaski’s ownership for almost 20 years now, but she has been there for much longer than that. And it’s why she has been hesitant to make many changes to the place. That doesn’t seem to bother too many people. It’s kind of the Wild Wild West of our coastal community. “Yeah, it’s a cowboy coastal town. So you get fisherman and cowboys and bikers and rockers and everything—every kind of people in here,” says Pulaski, “And even out-of-towners can end up regulars. San Francisco, Sacramento, Los Angeles, even overseas, they come back. And, you know, they’re tourists, but they’re friends because they come back.”

It’s a hot spot for winding down and catching up on local gossip come quittin’ time, but after dark, things can get wound up a bit, especially back in the card room with a game of Texas Hold ‘Em. Like most Old West saloons, gambling has been a part of the history here since before it become legal in 1984. And two nights a week, the card room gets busy, and so does business up front.

“Friday and Saturday nights there’s live music and it’s hopping and fun with live bands. People will be dancing in every little spot they can find in here,” says Hernandez.

It’s different every day and every time of the day. But you’re always sure to find a colorful cast of new friends if you hang around long enough. So does what happen at The Tavern, stay at The Tavern, I ask? “No!” says Kurth immediately.

“The stories get bigger and better!” adds Brannock. And it’s more proof, there’s No Place Like Home.

Jeanette Trompeter, KSBY News anchor and reporter, hosts the “No Place Like Home” series every Tuesday evening at 6pm.

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Inspired by the possibility of combining two popular trails, a coalition of Central Coast residents have come together to make it happen.

[ ]

It’s springtime on the Central Coast. The dew on the hills gleam green in the sunshine, birds cheerfully serenade any soul within earshot, pink and white buds bring a softness to stark branches. It’s that time of year when you hear the phrase, “Love is in the air.” Spring’s magic is in the freshness of the breeze, and warmth of the days that fill me with a desire to enjoy the beautiful weather and experience something new.

If you are also looking for something new, I suggest exploring the most recent addition to the San Luis Obispo trail network—the Froom Canyon Johnson Ranch trail.

The recent marriage of two popular trails overlooking SLO thrills hikers and mountain bikers alike. The 3.7-mile Johnson Ranch Loop explores the municipal open space, which is dominated by rolling grassy hills and accented by serpentine rocks. A shortcut can be used to trim the hike to 2.5 miles. There is 200 feet of total elevation between the high and low points of the hike, a distance that is repeated several times over the meandering loop. Froom Canyon also offers a beautiful trail that starts inside the canyon, peaks its head out for a panoramic view of San Luis Obispo’s most prominent morros—Bishop Peak and Cerro San Luis—and then loops back to the beginning.

City park rangers along with volunteers from such groups as Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers, The SLO Stewards, and Central Coast Hiking Group saw the potential for combining these two loops and bonded together through events called Trailwerks to build a new connector trail between Froom Canyon and Johnson Ranch on behalf of the SLO City Parks and Recreation Department. The connector path runs from a dirt road in the Froom Creek area, over a chaparral-covered ridge and along another dirt road before it drops down to Johnson Ranch from an oak-covered hill. After months of digging, clearing, and grading, locals have been gifted with this new trail, which is perfect for a long family hike or group mountain biking adventure.





If you have a young family and plan to hike the trail, it may be a good idea to park a car at Johnson Ranch before starting at Froom Canyon. That way if the kids get tired, you can adjust your plans to a one-way trip instead of completing the loop. Also, beware of mountain bikers who may surprise you around blind corners.


Coconut Oil

Once ostracized for its saturated fat content, coconut oil has made its way back into the limelight as a healthful oil. Check out the list below to see how you can improve your overall health by picking up a jar of the good stuff.


Part of what makes coconut oil so healthy is its high lauric acid content—and it stands at the top of the list as the most plentiful source, with lauric acid making up about 50 percent of its saturated fat content. And it’s the unique set of health-promoting properties that make lauric acid so special—your body converts it into monolaurin, which has antivirus, antifungal and antibacterial qualities. Research is supporting its use in treating everything from acne to HIV/AIDS.


The saturated fats in coconut oil have anti-bacterial properties that help control parasites and fungi that cause indigestion and other digestion related problems such as irritable bowel syndrome. The fat in coconut oil also aids in the absorption of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, making the healthy foods you eat that much more potent.

Coconut oil has been proven


metabolism, improve thyroid function, and escalate energy levels—all of which help decrease your unwanted fat—while increasing muscle. Sign

me up!

Coconut oil works wonders as a moisturizer for all skin types, especially dry skin and aging skin. The fat in the oil helps reduce the appearance of wrinkles and it can help with skin problems like psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin conditions.

Rub a little coconut oil through your hair to reduce protein loss and treat dandruff. And, if you ever get brought down by a case of head lice you might want to try some— according to a 2010 study published in the European Journal of Pediatrics, a coconut and anise spray was “significantly more successful” than the permethin lotion (a commonly prescribed pediculicide for treating head lice) in curing infestation.

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Comprised of four friends with a mutual passion for musical exploration, JD Project is a thirteen-year experiment in the making. And it seems that nothing is off-limits: blues, rock, country, punk, reggae, even rap, have been twisted and molded into a unique, distinguishable JD sound. The band started off with four members who had names that each began with a “J” or a “D.” Today, three of the four “J’s” and “D’s” remain: Jon Scholl (bass and vocals); Dan Ernst (guitar and vocals); and Doug Groshart (lead vocals and keyboard).

While the group is difficult to classify into a particular genre, they have been likened to familiar acts such as the Allman Brothers, The Band, and the Zac Brown Band; but a case could also be made for Led Zeppelin, and even Hank Williams Jr. Their unique sound was solidified five years ago with the addition of drummer David LaCaro who grew up in the Northern California punk music scene. Aside from putting another “D” in “JD,” he is also a rare find as a percussionist, his bandmates point out, in that he can play the ukulele and has an understanding of chords.

Aside from their unique sound, it’s their great showmanship that continues to thrill Central Coast crowds and has led to gigs opening for notable bands passing through, such as Blues Traveler, the Fixx, Band of Heathens, Taylor Hicks (of American Idol fame), Nicki Bluhm, and Jackie Greene. But, it is the intimate local venues—wineries in particular—where JD Project really shows its personality. While at the piano, Groshart loves to improvise the lyrics when something or someone catches his eye in the crowd, which leads to all kinds of comedy and mischief.

Aside from having fun with cover songs and playfully engaging the crowd, the band has a slew of originals that have made their mark locally. Some of the fan favorites include Ursula, Brakelights, and Radio Song. “We describe it as ‘California Roots Rock’ because it’s a little bit of everything, the mountains and the beach,” explains Scholl. “For example, we might take a reggae song and play it backwards just to see what happens.” If something does happen, and the music piques their interest, the group collaborates, twists and tweaks, until it comes up with something that has been sufficiently “JD-ified,” as they call the process.

Their song, Brakelights, is a great example of that sort of experimentation. Ernst wrote the chords, Groshart wrote the verses, and Scholl wrote the chorus. The song was inspired while being stuck in the middle of heavy Los Angles traffic while trying to get back home to San Luis Obispo. “Watching the brakelights, on the interstate is like… staring through a garden gate at the rows and rows of roses growing along the frozen road.” The song according to Groshart, “is about things that keep us from being where we want to be.” Which, judging from how much fun the band and their fans seem to be having, does not seem to happen often with JD Project.

left to right Dan Ernst, Jon Scholl, Doug Groshart, and David LaCaro

Sum Total

Before I get into this article, I would like to make a full disclosure: Two of my three kids go to Bishop’s Peak Elementary, my youngest will soon, but he is still in preschool. Bishop’s Peak is our neighborhood school and we decided to live where we do specifically because of the school. We had done our research before moving to town and Bishop’s Peak, as we learned, was a highly respected school. And, when we found out that Teach School, an optional accelerated learning program for 4th –6th graders, was also on campus, it was icing on the cake. Our daughter, who is our oldest child, is now in the fourth grade. Last year, when she was eight-years-old, we had to make a decision about whether or not she would continue to attend Bishop’s Peak or move over to Teach where many of her friends had applied. I will admit that the decision was not free of conflict and, ultimately, we supported our daughter’s choice, which was to remain at Bishop’s Peak. In the spirit of this full disclosure, I will share that going through that process felt strange and arbitrary and unsettling—as kids who had been in class together since kindergarten were asked to pledge their allegiance to one school or another. While my wife and I both strongly support the notion of accelerated learning— we benefitted personally as childen growing up in the G.A.T.E. (gifted and talented education) program—it appears that the way we are addressing the needs of our students can certainly be improved. So, when the controversy surrounding Teach School erupted recently, I decided to look into it further. While I care deeply about the outcome for my kids and their friends who share a campus, I do not have a prescription for the cure and am not advocating one particular outcome or another. I, like you, and all of the people who have shared their thoughts for this article, want the best possible result for everyone concerned. Hopefully, the following will help you come to your own conclusions…

The month of August is always a nervous time for administrators at the San Luis Coastal Unified School District. Since the district has an open enrollment policy, any student can transfer to any school with few limitations.

Students—as is the case with most other school districts nationwide—are not required to attend their neighborhood school. And, at San Luis Coastal, there is no destination more popular for local 4th graders than Teach School.

Dan Block, the much-lauded principal of both Bishop’s Peak and Teach Elementary Schools, settled into his desk early one August morning to catch up on some work. The school year was still a few weeks away, so the halls of the shared campus were quiet. Nothing else was calling for his attention, except for the blinking cursor on his spreadsheet. But as Block, who resembles NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, clicked the “Sum” button he was convinced that the numbers were wrong. “I kept looking at the bottom line, and it was showing growth of 50 kids for Bishop’s Peak alone,” he explains. “The growth rate was alarming and it was not going to be sustainable.”

Much like Commissioner Goodell, who is dealing with major problems concerning concussions and player safety, Principal Block had a major problem of his own. In some ways, he was becoming a victim of his own success, as Bishop’s Peak and Teach have become two of the most desirable schools to transfer into via the district’s open enrollment process. But, there were other dynamics at play. Recently, there had been a lot more young families moving

into the neighborhood around the campus, making Bishop’s Peak their default destination for elementary school. It appears, in part, that Cal Poly’s efforts to bring more students to live back on campus has created more opportunities for local families to buy or rent homes in the neighborhood that sits not far from the college. Whatever the case, there were more neighborhood kids feeding into Bishop’s Peak than had been expected.

The campus that houses both Bishop’s Peak and Teach School was determined by a study commissioned in 2005 to have a maximum capacity of 525 students. The final number at the bottom of Block’s screen read “522.” Although it would take some doing, he figured he could make it work this school year, but if the trend continued there would be what he characterized in his letter to the school board as “an enrollment crisis” next year. Block, after double and triple checking the numbers on his screen, took a deep breath, picked up the phone and dialed Superintendent Eric Prater down at the district office.

It is no secret that Prater is an unabashed supporter of neighborhood schools, who has since the beginning of his tenure been uncomfortable with the concept of Teach School—at least in the form it existed when he took over almost 3 years ago—citing concerns of fairness having to do with access and equality. So, when Block began explaining the situation, he found a sympathetic audience on the other end of the line. Prater, a middleaged Clark Kent look-a-like, is known by those who work with him for his bounding energy and unshakable optimism, saw the impending enrollment crisis as an opportunity. “Dan and I talked it over and decided to look at this in a positive way, thinking that some real good could come out of it,” reveals Prater. “Perhaps something that could have a wider impact throughout the district.”

The result of the conversation was that Block would be hosting a series of public forums on campus to alert stakeholders—parents, teachers, neighbors—of the impending enrollment crisis and to get input for possible solutions.

• • •
This revelation has caused some parents to ask the question:
If the classroom programs at Teach are so effective, why aren’t they being implemented district-wide?
“ ”

There is not much more important to parents than their child’s education. And with the shared campus of San Luis Coastal Unified’s Bishop’s Peak and Teach Elementary bursting at the seams, the topic has garnered a lot of attention lately, and for good reason…

Things went well at first and since the campus, which happens to be the smallest one in the district, was already bursting at the seams with its current headcount, no one was surprised to hear the news. Most took it in stride and a cooperative, collegial dialogue ensued. Thoughtful suggestions were made, despite the palpable anxiety hanging overhead. But, that all changed one chilly October evening when it became clear that, in the face of an $8 million deficit, there were not going to be any easy answers. Many of the Teach School parents realized that the most attractive option to the cash-strapped district might, in fact, be to close the school. In that moment the tone and tenor of those meetings went from calm, rational question and answer sessions to a British Parliament-style outpouring of objection, and a “Save Teach School” movement was born.

• • •

When Sputnik was taking its first victory lap around the planet, American lawmakers realized that we had lost significant ground to the Soviets and that our kids were going to have to become a lot smarter to keep up. In 1957 the Cold War was raging and any advantage gained by our communist antagonists was dealt with swiftly and immediately. So, the counterpunch to this particular issue was handled by Congress, who passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), which allocated $1 billion (in those days this was an unprecedented expenditure) to bolster science, math, and technology in public education. The goal, though not expressly stated, was to create our own generation of rocket scientists who would be smarter than our commie foes. The plan worked as expected and our kids got smarter, but, as it turns out, you only need so many really smart scientists to build an ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile). After that, the United States turned its attention away from accelerated learning and toward the arms race. Who cares how smart we are? As long as we have more nukes than the other guy, we’re good.

By 1983, the fact that we had taken our eye off the ball was beginning to show. And an eighteen-month-long study called “A Nation at Risk” was published showing that, not only had

our students fallen behind the Soviets, they had also fallen behind most of the other developed countries—even kids in places like Sweden were outperforming our children. Around this same time, especially in California, a program called G.A.T.E. was introduced as a supplement to standard classroom curriculum. Children tested into the program and were given more challenging work to stretch them academically while also meeting the needs of their mainstream friends. In 1980, San Luis Obispo was already ahead of the curve having taken G.A.T.E. to its next logical conclusion, as a group of parents persuaded the school board to create an entire standalone optional accelerated learning program for 4th, 5th, and 6th graders at the “Old Pacheco” campus on Grand Avenue. By 1987, the program had grown to the point where it needed more space, so it was moved to the current Pacheco School location and five years later assumed the name “Charles E. Teach School Alternative Program.” In 1993 the school board came to the conclusion that describing the program as “alternative” was “creating confusion and/or a sense of elitism among certain members in the community,” so they changed the name to “Charles E. Teach School.” Attendance at Teach peaked in 2001 with around 175 students then declined throughout the decade until 2011 when it enjoyed a resurgence of popularity. Today, Teach is not technically considered a G.A.T.E. program, as enrollment is not based on aptitude, however, it is designed for accelerated learning.

• • •

One does not have to look far—the other end of Foothill Boulevard, actually—to find another highly successful education institution with a close kinship to Teach: Cal Poly. With historical roots as a hands-on technical school, Cal Poly has rocketed to the top of the many “Best Colleges” lists that are published each year mostly by focusing on one relatively simple concept: “learn by doing.” Although Teach began its existence as a collection of G.A.T.E. kids who took on an advanced curriculum, the program has evolved into what it is today by embracing that same “learn by doing” philosophy, which in academic circles is referred to as “constructivism.” This form of learning,


Attendance at Teach dropped to just 66 students during the 2006/2007 school year. This year it’s at 156. And it would have been a lot more if it weren’t for the lottery.

which has its theoretical underpinnings with Maria Montessori, manifests itself at Teach with heavy parental involvement, hands-on learning, including some extraordinary field trips. For example, the fourth graders at Teach go to space camp for three days, which contrasts with their Bishop’s Peak counterparts who take a day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

And, aside from the G.A.T.E. students, who commonly have a lot of support from academically inclined parents at home, some of the greatest beneficiaries of the Teach School program have been kids that were struggling in a traditional classroom setting and may have “slipped through the cracks” at other elementary schools. The classroom environment, with its highly interactive curriculum, has been able to reach many of those students who are now thriving academically. In Principal Block’s report to the school board outlining the impending enrollment crisis, he included a stack of letters from Teach parents, many of whom detailed this phenomenon claiming that their child is thriving at Teach where they had not elsewhere. This revelation has caused some parents to ask the question: “If the classroom programs at Teach are so effective, why aren’t they being implemented district-wide?”

As the school board held public forums recently to openly discuss the fate of Teach School, it became clear that they had run head-long into a buzz saw of parent opposition. Yet, equally energized, but much less vocal, were the neighbors living in the homes on Craig Way and Jaycee Drive which provide the narrow passage to idling cars during pick-up and drop-off. They described being blocked in their driveways by distracted, multi-tasking soccer moms flying around blind corners in 6,000 pound SUV’s. The Bishop’s Peak contingent, for the most part, focused on the anxiety caused by splitting up the fourth graders (last year 37% of Teach School was fed by Bishop’s Peak transfers, making it, by far, the largest source of students), as well as the impact of having to give up campus resources to Teach. There is also a complaint that is not often vocalized—one that popped up in the 90’s, but is still alive today— that Teach school carries a certain elitism that harms the morale on campus, which can undeniably be the perception to a nine-year-old kid when their neighborhood friends are away at space camp while they are on a bus heading north to look at jelly fish.

• • •

No one knows for certain the fate of Teach School. For now the school board has elected to punt—having decided to keep the status quo for the next school year, albeit capping the number of new enrollees. This school year, for the first time, admission was limited by lottery—in other words, random chance. Going forward, however, it is likely that Teach’s future will be determined by a recently convened advisory committee, which has been comprised of 17 locals who are not affiliated with the school board. Their findings are expected to be shared in November. The simple solution, of course, would be to move Teach elsewhere. Many of the letters submitted by Teach parents suggest the Old Pacheco School location. There’s only one problem with this: the charter schools currently renting the location from the district are generating $400,000 per year in revenue. And during a time when deficits are in the $6 - $8 million range, that is significant. Not to mention the cost for a separate principal, janitors, and so on. As Block says, “The solutions are easy. They just all require money, and a lot of it.” Another popular proposed option is to add portable classrooms to the current campus. The cost to do that, even if they did somehow get permission, as well as a blessing from the neighbors, to exceed the 525 student enrollment cap, is a cool million.

Despite the deficits, despite the lack of options, you get the feeling from talking with Prater, who plainly states, “This whole matter isn’t going to go away,” that he is just a phone booth visit away from transforming into Superman and solving this issue with a single bound. In fact, he takes it one step further, as he explained during a reflective conversation to critique his own handling of the “Save Teach” movement, that “despite some of the emotions, I do believe we’re going to be a better district because of it.” Prater, who readily admits to “mistakes of communication” is quick to point out that he is the superintendent of all the schools in the district and wants the “most good for the most kids.” He remains hopeful that the success Teach has had over the years can be spread district-wide—perhaps adopting a similar program in each of the neighborhood schools— enticing parents to keep their children at the school down the street from where they live, thereby making it and their own neighborhood better and stronger. Yet, while in theory it sounds great, there’s just one thing—they don’t make phone booths anymore.

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Lia Guy

Name: Aurelia Adrianna Guy is named after her great-grandfather who emigrated from Italy, but she goes by Lia.

Stats: Lia is a 16 year-old Junior at San Luis Obispo High School.

Sports: This girl loves to run! She participates on the track team as a sprinter, and runs the 100, the 200, and the 4 x 1.

Clubs: Lia stays involved in extracurricular activities including the Latin Club, Youth in Government, and the International Club.

Pets: An animal lover, Lia talks fondly of her 13-year old cat, Tigi, and her golden doodle dog named Mochi.

Interests: Forget watching TV, Lia spends her downtime researching medicine and studying the sciences.

Hopes and dreams: Lia wants to help people in third world countries with limited access to medical care.

Cool stuff: She’s been volunteering at the hospital and shadowing different doctors and has even seen surgery on a meniscus tear.

Noteworthy: Lia, along with her friends Alec Stallman and Rebecca Teng, started SLO Clinicare. Together they have raised $5,000 toward the purchase of a $6,500 refurbished autoclave machine, which will sterilize surgical equipment for a hospital in Fiji.

What’s happening now: Lia is set to travel to Fiji with local doctors through the Loloma Foundation where she will be volunteering at the hospital that her fundraising efforts are benefitting.

What she most wants people to know about: SLO Clinicare will be hosting a fundraising carnival for local elementary school kids on Saturday, May 18th from 4pm to 7pm at the SLO High School track.

Her future career prediction: Lia hopes to attend medical school and become a neurosurgeon.

Her biggest influence: Family is on the top of the list of important things in Lia’s life, and in a nod to her big sister, Malie, who is away at UC Berkeley, Lia reveals she’s most strongly influenced by their relationship. She says Malie is very supportive, but also pushes her to keep her priorities straight, and often reminds her to keep her eye on the big picture.

Her college hopefuls: UCLA, UC Berkeley, or Stanford top the list for Lia.

In her free time: Lia stays active and loves to swim. SLO LIFE Know a student on the rise? Tell us about them at

SLO LIFE MAGAZINE APR/MAY 2013 | 47 285 Prado Road, Suite A | San Luis Obispo 805.542.9400 | | merry maids Relax. It’s Done. ® Receive $50.00 OFF when you mention this SLO LIFE Ad!

sweet ride

When your garage is bigger than your home, it’s a pretty good sign that you have an affinity for wheels...

A love affair with antique bicycles started early for Jonathan Jurgens. “My brother and I used to hang around dad’s shop and watch him fix cars, so we started fixing old bicycles. And it just snowballed from there,” he explains. Jurgens’ father, Peter, was a racecar driver in England who moved to San Luis Obispo on a whim the day after he was married in 1980. On the day after that, he opened his shop on Marsh Street, British Sports Cars, where it still stands today. Jurgens, having inherited his father’s passion for automobiles, started a shop of his own, Broad Street Automotive, where he spends his days fixing cars. But in the evening, he retreats into his 1,300 square foot garage—which he sheepishly admits is larger than his house—to restore his menagerie of rare bicycles and automobiles. A few dozen of the bicycles from the collection he shares with his brother, Justin, who works with their father, can be found hanging in the rafters of their father’s shop. As kids, the brothers, who are identical twins, would often barter their labor doing odd jobs for people in exchange for “old, ratty bicycles.” One guy, who Jurgens refers to as “Willie from See Canyon,” supplied many of their early two-wheeled treasures, which they have since restored and still ride to this day.

What do you do after work? Tell us about it at

Jonathan Jurgens sits atop his 1915 Chief.
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Coconut milk


A highly popular Thai soup, Tom Kha Gai, is known for its intense, aromatic flavors and its rich, creamy coconut-infused broth. Its name translates to “galangal chicken.” Galangal looks similar to ginger and is related to it, but has a more peppery and pungent flavor. This is a quick and easy soup to make, but there is nothing simple about the deliciously complex flavors. Enjoy!

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken cut into bite-sized pieces

4 cups of chicken stock

1 1/2 cups coconut milk

3 shallots, peeled and sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 red chilies, whole or sliced and deseeded for your spice preference

2 sticks lemongrass, cut into shorter pieces and hammered with the back of a cleaver to release flavor

1 1/2 inch ginger or galangal root, peeled and thinly sliced

4 kaffir lime leaves

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Juice from two limes

4 ounces shitake mushrooms, sliced Fresh cilantro for garnish

1. Heat chicken stock. Once boiling, reduce heat and add coconut milk, shallots, garlic, chilies, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, ginger or galangal root, and coriander. Simmer for 15 minutes.

2. After 15 minutes, add chicken, mushrooms, fish sauce and lime juice. Leave to simmer until the chicken is cooked—about 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.

*If you have leftover SLO Roasted Chicken [see “Recipe” Oct/Nov 2012], this is the perfect way to turn it into another delicious meal.

Heat it up and cool it down with these two favorites from the SLO LIFE kitchen!


Chia seeds have gotten a lot of healthy buzz lately—they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, contain alpha-linoleic acid and pack a protein, fiber and antioxidant-rich punch. When used in a pudding, the tiny little seeds absorb a lot of liquid and turn gelatinous, reminding us a bit of tapioca. Their neutral flavor makes them easy to use, and what’s more, our recipe for chia seed pudding is gluten and dairy free!

1 1/2 cups coconut milk

tablespoons maple syrup

For a chocolate version, simply add 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Have a recipe to share? Go to to tell us about it.

1 tablespoon vanilla extract 1/3 cup chia seeds 1/2 cup berries 1. Whisk coconut milk, maple syrup, and vanilla extract until smooth. 2. Stir in chia seeds. 3. Divide mixture evenly between 4 glasses. 4. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 5. Serve with berries.
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Alice in Wonderland

April 6 – 7

Alex & Faye Spanos Theatre

Follow Alice down the rabbit hole as her journey takes her to Wonderland. The Civic Ballet of SLO presents a contemporary retelling of the Lewis Carroll classic. The performance will also include the world premiere of a haunting new ballet, “Mourn” by guest choreographer Ryan Lawrence.

Enchanted April April 12 – May 5

SLO Little Theatre

When two frustrated London housewives decide to rent a villa in Italy for a holiday away from their bleak marriages, they recruit two very different English women to share the cost and the experience. There, among the wisteria blossoms and Mediterranean sunshine, all four bloom again—rediscovering themselves in ways that they—and we—could never have expected.

The Magic Flute April 11 – 13

Alex & Faye Spanos Theatre

The “co-opera” collaborative venture between Cal Poly’s Student Opera Theatre and Opera San Luis Obispo continues this year with a complete production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Outstanding student singers in several key roles perform side by side with internationally acclaimed opera singers. Student musicians will perform with OperaSLO’s professional orchestra.

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Wine 4 Paws

April 13 – 14 San Luis Obispo County

Join us in our fifth year as we raise funds for Woods Humane Society. Choose from over 70 wineries throughout SLO County and enjoy our beautiful wine region while supporting a great cause. Pet loving wine drinkers can help our four-legged friends by visiting any of the participating wineries throughout the weekend when a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Woods Humane Society.

Earth Day Food & Wine Festival

April 19 – 21 San Luis Obispo County Kick

for a weekend celebrating the very best of the Central Coast. The feature event is Saturday afternoon at scenic Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery where over 200 growers, vintners, and chefs come together to serve out-of-this-world pairings. And the fun doesn’t stop there—the entire weekend is packed full of events.

Miracle Miles for Kids

April 27

Morro Rock to Cayucos Pier

This run takes place on the water’s edge, from Morro Bay to Cayucos Pier. Your participation in Miracle Miles for Kids helps Family Care Network make a difference in the lives of those it serves, helping to meet needs such as: housing, clothing, mentoring, life skills development, extra-curricular activities and therapeutic services, of the over 1,400 children, youth, and families served annually.

and join
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• Interactive design trend displays • Professional home design seminars • Show giveaways • Free admission and parking SLOHOMEIMPROVEMENT.COM 805.772.4600 The Company You Can Trust in Your Home and Business! Air Conditioning Heating Refrigeration Healthy Air Systems ALEX MADONNA EXPO CENTER Commitment to excellence SAT MAY 4 10AM 5PM SUN MAY 5 10AM 4PM Headquartered in SLO, Advantage Answering Plus offers live and local telephone reception service for businesses large and small. Having important business calls answered professionally around the clock will: Improve customer satisfaction Increase operational efficiency Capture additional business opportunities Reduce business costs Let’s talk about how we can make a positive difference in your business, today. To learn more, go to or call us at 805.545.8282
56 SLO LIFE MAGAZINE APR/MAY 2013 Our approach to real estate is about much more than property... it’s about people. 962 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo, California 93401 Gavin Payne 805-550-3918 Jed Damschroder 805-550-7960 Kate Hendrickson 805-801-1979 Chris Engelskirger 805-235-2070 The Payne Team The Payne Team
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