Wednesday, October 7th
Powered by Safe Routes to School, a program of SLOCOG
Walk to School Day is an energizing event. It reminds adults and students alike of the simple joy of walking or bicycling to school, while building support for creating or improving safer walking and bicycling routes. Visit SLOSafeRoutes.org for more info.
Excecutive Director of San Luis Obispo’s Downtown Association, Dominic Tartaglia, reveals his vision for the future.
On the Rise
Lead by an obsession for art history and passion for social equality, Natalie Sada shares her young successes.
Out and About
With vineyard harvest in full-swing, Jeanette Trompeter takes us for an indepth tour of our Central Coast wineries.
Now Hear This
American indie rock band, Eager Seas, reveals the 90’s influence behind their music, as well as some insight into their name changing decision.
We take a close look at the potential development at Wild Cherry Canyon and pose some of the questions that will determine its future.
Bringing back a taste of classic Americana, Paden Hughes takes a trip to San Luis Obispo’s long-standing Sunset Drive-In Theater.
We searched far and wide to bring you a list of six plant superfoods that are more than just leafy greens.
American as apple pie, Jaime Lewis proves there’s good reason to enjoy the longtime favorite dessert of fall.
With a career in concrete work behind him, Jeff Wolcott and his wife, Cindy, share the lush escape they call home.
We crunch the numbers on year-to-date home sales around the Central Coast, including right in your neighborhood.
More than just comfort food, Chef Jessie Rivas shares his favorite lamb shank recipe.
Check out the calendar to discover the best events around the Central Coast in October and November.
The Last Word
Often going either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, Nicki Nysven shares her story of Lyme disease and its prevalence here on the Central Coast.
A Nigerian Prince sends you an email detailing his dire ﬁnancial situation (so much money, so few banks!), and three paragraphs in, you’re really starting to feel for the guy and his dethroned brethren. But when he signs off by asking you to give him your bank account number so he can wire you his entire family fortune... don’t.
As part of our routine, most mornings over the past seven years that we have lived in our San Luis Obispo neighborhood, we have walked our kids to school. It started when my daughter, who is the oldest of our three kids, went to her first day of kindergarten at Bishop’s Peak Elementary. Under the weight of a mostly empty oversized purple Care Bears backpack her tiny feet struggled to keep up.
About a quarter of the way to school at the base of a massive palm tree my daughter stopped and said, “Daddy, I’m tired. Can you carry me?” As I reached down to scoop her up, she pointed toward something on the ground and asked, “What’s that, Daddy?” I studied it for a minute, nudged it around a bit with the edge of my flip-flop, when I realized that it was an owl pellet. My wife, who was pregnant at the time, and I spent most of the rest of the walk fielding questions from my daughter and her three-year-old brother about “owl barf.”
Since that day we have made thousands of trips down that same path through the neighborhood on our way to school. Not always, but sometimes we would come across a little surprise consisting of hair, bones, claws, teeth—whatever could not be digested. We talked about owls quite a bit during those walks. I shared what little I knew of them and told stories about the ones I spotted on my grandparent’s ranch when I was around their age, and my wife relayed tales from her early camping trips. Seeing those pellets brought back a lot of memories that were long filed away.
This year, a couple of months ago, my wife and I walked our daughter to the bus stop for her first day at Laguna Middle School. Our little girl was now a seventh grader, and we had talked her into letting her parents come along just one last time. With her two little brothers, now in fifth and first grades, pedaling along side us, we were stopped in our tracks by an especially large grouping of pellets that day. “You know,” my wife said, “I told a friend about this, and she said that the owl is probably nearby. She told me to just ‘look up.’” My boys hopped off their bikes, and all five of us scanned the palm fronds overhead. There above, gazing down upon us with mysterious, dark eyes set deeply into a snow white, saucer-like face was the majestic little sentry that had been watching over us all along.
I’ve heard it said that we go through different chapters in life; some say it happens in cycles of seven years. With the kids growing up and heading off to school on their own now, it certainly feels that way to me. But, I know now—the old, wise moon-faced creature taught me—no matter how old you are, or which chapter you may find yourself in, it’s best to just keep looking up, because you never know what life may reveal next.
I would like to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to everyone who has had a hand in producing this issue of SLO LIFE Magazine and, most of all, to our advertisers and subscribers—we couldn’t do it without you.
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After getting the rundown on his interview, it seemed like basketball was a big part of his story. So, we decided to meet at a court in Arroyo Grande near his house. I talked a friend into joining me so that I could have some help with the reflector. When I’m working, I’m usually just focused on the photography, but at some point, I think I was changing a lens, I asked him about how he became the Hope Dealer. He’s such a straight-up guy in the way that he shares his story. There was just no b.s. with him at all. I think that’s why the kids he works with have so much respect for him.
BEHIND the scenes AWITH DAN KING
Afterward, we headed out to the beach, and he was a good sport about walking around the dunes in his basketball shoes. He then invited me to his house to meet his wife and check out a jam session with his kids. Jeremy could definitely handle the guitar and was really good on the drums, too. When he was playing with his kids, his personality really seemed to come out. At some point, I realized that all the shots I had taken were of him in the same black t-shirt. As I do in most shoots, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind changing so I can get some different looks. Thirty seconds later he came back out wearing a different black t-shirt. [laughter] It was definitely a what-you-seeis-what-you-get moment.
It was a bit of a challenge to get this shoot on the calendar. Jeremy is a busy guy who is traveling all over the place and likes to fully unplug and spend time with his family when he is home. When we finally coordinated, the conditions weren’t ideal for outdoor shooting. It was super bright out, but it seemed to be a metaphor for my subject. Jeremy was just positive and outgoing. You could tell that whatever life throws his way will somehow turn out positive.
You said it...
I am a lifetime fan of Ken Schwartz and found THE LAST WORD, San Luis Obispo Water article, fascinating. A few questions regarding how much water we need, is it 25,000 acre-feet? Where would I find a map that shows the proposed locations the SLO Engineering staff identified? Could you publish the map? I am a long time local, but have no idea where Yellow Hill, Bald Top would be and would only be guessing regarding the other locations. I would love to see that map. Also Schwartz did not mention Reservoir Canyon, which at one time provided SLO with more than enough water (1880ish?) and I wonder how many acre-feet that was and where it was.
In the IN BOX in the AUG/SEP issue of SLO LIFE there is a write-up about Dan Carpenter, our City Council Member. This article is not about the Dan Carpenter I have known since he was a very little boy and growing up through the years. He studies hard all the issues concerning San Luis Obispo and then represents us. He is fair and kind to all—friend or opponent. He walks every day among the people to see the real SLO, and he listens to all the concerns. Everyone gets equal treatment, which is so important for our city leaders. When we have a problem he explains all the parts and then acts on our behalf immediately. He is a gentleman, honest, and a good leader and good family man. I support him for County Supervisor in the coming election.— JEAN A. MARTIN, M.A.
I know it was the canyon by Cuesta Park and the water needs to flow to San Luis Creek. I have seen the water levels, but it still is a bit unclear as to who has rights to what water. I hear that this fall we will be getting more than enough water. I wonder if it will overflow at Lopez Lake like it did in the 70’s?
I look forward to hearing back from you and reading more issues. I live in Hanford now and like staying in touch with friends and family. After living in SLO County for 50 years, I know a few people.
Best wishes to you and yours. I laughed out load about the PUBLISHER’S MESSAGE , Chicken Train!!! It reminded me of road trips from my childhood and trips with my son as he was growing up. Thanks for publishing SLO LIFE.— ROSE SHAPLEY
The following are more questions than opinions regarding THE LAST WORD in the last issue. I knew that SLO opted out of the State water pipeline that runs essentially along SLO city to the north. Can we opt in? If so, what will it cost? Where does the water come from that goes through this pipeline?
I understand that all the wineries in our county keep going deeper with the wells – over 700 feet. Does this contribute to drying up the resident’s wells? Is there a limit how far they can go before they also will run out of water? How long will it take to replenish the reservoirs
and these wells even if we have wet winters each year?
Why does the city and county make decisions that limit our reserve of water? Why do they allow more water users when they know we have a limit of water? Should the media expose the greed that apparently influences the local politicians to make decisions that in the long run will hamper the community that they also live in?
Thank you for your article in SLO LIFE. It was very informative.— GREG SOMERS
Your mention of Cal Poly’s Arboretum motivated me to take a walk through it. As I walked, I imagined my dad, who once taught for the Horticulture Department, took his students through the Arboretum for Plant Identification and related “learn by doing” opportunities.
I don’t see how the Arboretum can be moved and saved at the same time. It adds insult to injury to suggest its location would be better suited for student or faculty housing (or anything else). I hope to goodness that friends of the Arboretum (existing students, faculty, staff, those in retirement, and alumni, etc) rally to a “Save the Arboretum” protest against Cal Poly’s Master Plan designs that would substitute buildings for the Arboretum. There is plenty of parking pavement below the Horse Barn for constructing whatever.
Cal Poly does not need campus housing for faculty. Faculty should be able to find affordable housing in town. And they could if existing neighborhoods designed for family workforce but now infiltrated by high-density student renters were taken back by the community of San Luis Obispo. Our “town-gown” activists and decision makers need to work together for that and preserve existing open space and agricultural values.
We hear you...
The information in the attached comment is fairly known in academia, but not widely known in the day-to-day world. I hope you decide to print it. Thank you.
Full-time faculty members in the CSU 1975 2008 11,614 12,019 (3.5% increase)
Rise of College Administrators”
Every fall, as Cal Poly students are returning to their studies— and probably because I have grandsons who will enter a university some time down the road—I think of the enormous cost a college education now represents. This was not always the case, otherwise I would never have been able to afford a bachelor’s degree, much less a Ph.D.
I was hired as an assistant professor by Cal Poly in 1975, and a couple decades later, I realized that the number of university administrators had increased dramatically, so I decided to find out by how much. I started by asking Human Relations and Payroll Services how many students, faculty and administrators there were in 1975 compared with today. Nobody knew. I was tossed from one office to another, and I finally gave up— which is what they wanted.
In 2011, Dr. Shapiro, a more persistent professor at Cal Poly Pomona, published the results of his own investigation:
Administrators in the CSU: 1975 2008 3,800 12,183 (221% increase)
This last phenomenal increase propelled the number of administrators past the number of faculty.
Student enrollment went from 361,904 in 1991 to 435,663 in 2008, a 20% increase that would have required the same increase in faculty if instructional spending had been the priority. Considering that administrators are paid significantly more than faculty, the discrepancy is even worse than it looks. You may wonder who pays for the administrative inflated salaries. As taxpayers, we all do, but the parents of students obviously bear most of the burden. Faculty members also suffer from this upside down system because more and more are not offered tenure track positions, and instead are hired as “adjunct faculty”—usually part-time positions with low salaries and no security. It is interesting to note that, in 1975, I had never heard of an “adjunct faculty.” According to Benjamin Ginsberg in his book The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the AllAdministrative University and Why It Matters, things may be even worse nationwide.
The facts indicate college education has been hijacked by bureaucracy. We cannot expect administrators to control themselves because, on the contrary, administrators are known to make work for each other. Therefore, parents, students and faculty must join their forces to turn the tide if a college education is to remain within the financial reach of most people. I am glad to see various politicians struggling with proposals to solve the $1.2 trillion student debt problem, but I would really like to see them look at the elephant in the room. Setting a maximum ratio administration to faculty (for example, one administrator for three faculty members) in all the public colleges and universities would go a long way in helping solve the problem.— ODILE AYRAL PROFESSOR EMERITA CAL POLY
MANHATTAN, NEW YORK
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Hauntingly FamiliarPHOTOGRAPHY BY TRINI SCHULTZ
The path between San Francisco and her home in Orange County became well-worn during the few years that she accompanied her husband on his business road trips. And because the couple brought their dog along for the ride, they had to be strategic when it came to their stops. It just so happens that the dog park at Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo was almost exactly midway.
It was a late October afternoon, and a gentle but brisk wind was ushering in the night, when the photographer dropped down to her knees to rub her dog’s belly. Something in the distance caught her eye, and she looked up to see an expansive, seemingly never-ending meadow. An idea sprang forth, and she ran to the car where she scooped up her Canon 5D Mark II, a tripod, a black cocktail dress, and a sheer bit of black fabric. “I went into the bathroom there and quickly changed into my dress because the light was just perfect,” she chuckles at the memory. After a quick set up, she began posing, snapping away with a remote control hidden in her right hand. To get the shot she was hoping to capture, she enlisted the help of her husband who held the black fabric draped around her face and head into the wind. Schultz shot as quickly as she could in a race against the darkness.
Although she was not exactly sure how the end product would turn out, Schultz, who specializes in surrealism—her art is typically identified by long, flowing fabric—had an idea for how to make it special. It was not until she sat down at her computer and powered up her Photoshop software that she realized that the fabric could be made to morph into smoke. After many hours painstakingly combining the two elements, she came up with the piece you see here, which she titles, “Spirits in the Black Mist.” The spookiness of the composition certainly does lend itself to this time of the year when trick-or-treaters commandeer the streets of the Central Coast in search of Kit-Kats and Butterfingers, but for Schultz it represents a completion of a round trip artistic journey. “I started off as a painter, my grandfather was a painter, but then I took a photography class in college. This was before digital. I loved it so much that we built a darkroom at my house,” she explains. “But, when I look at my work now, it’s familiar in some odd way from the days when I was painting; and I’ve realized recently that I took this big trip, but now I’m right back to where I started.”
It was a late October afternoon, and a gentle but brisk wind was ushering in the night...
Around the County AUGUST
Wearing no more than a Speedo, a swim cap, and a pair of goggles, San Luis Obispo resident Dave Van Mouwerik became the first person on record to swim across the Estero Bay. Beginning in China Harbor, north of Cayucos, the 57-year-old arrived in Montaña de Oro’s Spooner’s Cove just over eight hours later to a round of applause from family and friends. A boat, the Bonnie Marietta, had accompanied Van Mouwerik for the 14.4-mile journey, and his sons, Adam, 21, and Kyle, 24, dove in to swim alongside their dad for the final stretch.
Motorists passing over the Cuesta Grade called in to report three separate fires burning at the side of the road. A swift initial response including ten fire engines, four aircraft, and two bulldozers, played a role in limiting the damage. After parts of Santa Margarita were evacuated, the 2,500-acre fire was finally extinguished two weeks later with the round-the-clock efforts of nearly 2,000 firefighters. It was later determined that the source of the fire was a chain dragging from behind a trailer.
Cal Poly announced that it had finally settled its case with a bankruptcy attorney over the sign hanging above the scoreboard at its football stadium. Under the terms of the agreement, the university must return $480,000 of the $625,000 it had received from Al Moriarty, who was convicted in 2014 of defrauding over 170 local investors out of $22 million in an illicit Ponzi scheme. The presence of the signage had been a source of ongoing friction between the community and the university.
In a move that no one saw coming, HomeFed, a Carslbad-based developer, terminated its agreement with the Port San Luis Harbor District to construct the highly anticipated Harbor Terrace campground project. Stating in a letter that the soils at the site were unfavorable—despite having possession of the soils reports prior to bidding on the job—the unexpected move leaves many questions for HomeFed’s nearby Wild Cherry Canyon property [turn to page 62 for more]. Later that same week, the Harbor District’s Board of Commissioners, by a 3-2 vote, opted to not renew its contract with Harbor Manager Steve McGrath
The San Luis Obispo Planning Commission began reviewing plans for Avila Ranch, a 700-home development on the south end of town, near the airport between Buckley Road and Vachell Lane. Along with housing, the 150-acre area will also feature 35,000 square feet of commercial space. Opponents argue that the already congested Broad Street and South Higuera corridors cannot handle existing traffic, let alone the massive additional demands that will come as a result of the new development. The environmental impact report, which will also research probable traffic impacts, will be released later this year.
Elinor Dempsey of Los Osos was sitting in the water waiting for a wave at Atascadero Beach (or “A-Beach” as it is known to locals) just north of Morro Rock when a great white shark came along and took a 14-inch bite out of her surfboard. The shark—later estimated between 13 and 15 feet long—was the latest of a summer filled with encounters by Central Coast surfers. The 54-year-old Dempsey, who briefly received international media attention following the attack, returned to the water a month later with a brand new board.
In the latest update of its Master Plan, Cal Poly revealed that it had dropped the idea of building an on-campus hotel and conference center, postponed the decision on year-round school, and opted to leave the arboretum in place. The university also said that it will not develop any of the agricultural land around the Highland Drive entrance. Although Cal Poly President Jeff Armstrong continues to envision growing the student body to 25,000—up from current enrollment of 20,xxx—he revealed that the university’s goal is to house 65% of them on campus. Since there are just 7,500 beds on campus now, the total will have to more than double to meet that objective.
9/11 . 9/16 . 9/18
A string of brutal attacks took place in September near the Cal Poly campus. On the 11th, Derrick Moore, 25, of Atascadero randomly attacked a 20-year-old woman by first attempting to disable her with a Taser while entering her apartment on Foothill Boulevard. The woman then fought him off with a small knife attached to her key chain. Moore was later apprehended on suspicion of attempted murder. On Wednesday night, the 16th, a 21-year-old student was able to fight off an assailant who jumped from the bushes and attempted to pin her down on the sidewalk as she was walking to her home on Fredericks Street. Then, that Friday the 18th, Jay Hernandez, a student at Cuesta College from the Central Valley, stabbed two Cal Poly students in front of Mustang Village following a party.
Pozo-based organic farmer Eric Michielssen announced his candidacy for the County Board of Supervisors. Identifying himself as a “moderate, middle-of-the-road guy,” Michielssen explained that it was Debbie Arnold’s vote in favor of the Las Pilitas rock quarry—despite widespread public uproar—that motivated him to throw his hat in the ring. The race for the 5th District, a geographically massive although mostly rural area, is expected to be hotly contested for which the outcome will likely have significant implications for the county.
Following the firing of Police Chief Steve Gesell in May, the revolving door at San Luis Obispo’s City Hall continues to turn as City Clerk Anthony Mejia announced that he is leaving after just two years in that role. His predecessor, Maeve Grimes, lasted less than a year. The news came shortly after the resignation of Finance Director Wayne Padilla, who began his tenure in January 2013. Padilla was the third person in as many years to fill the role. City staff reports indicate that the trend is accelerating: in the ten years from 2001 to 2011, the attrition rate was 8.5%. It rose to 10% in 2012; 19% in 2013; and 32% in 2014. SLO LIFE
Downtown with Dom
Two years ago, DOMINIC TARTAGLIA was installed as the new Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo Downtown Association following several years of volunteer service to the organization. We spent one recent afternoon getting to know him…
Tell us about yourself, Dom. Well, I’m fifth generation here in San Luis Obispo. Tartaglia is a Swiss-Italian name. Our family has had a ranch off Stenner Creek Road since before Cal Poly was out there. My upbringing has always been about ranch life. So, growing up as a kid it was all about raising animals and hauling hay and driving trucks and hunting. When I was a student at Cal Poly I could literally just hop the fence and be right there on campus and to class. It definitely wasn’t the typical college experience.
How does having those long-time roots affect your perspective? I feel like it gives me more responsibility to be a good steward of the community, and to ensure we remember where San Luis came from; and never forgetting that, because that is what makes the character of our town so special. I’ve listened to the stories from the days when we had a dairy on our ranch and my dad would drive the truck in with my great-grandmother to deliver the milk to The Creamery on Higuera, back when it was actually a creamery where they made butter. I look at those buildings now, and it’s just totally different, but in some ways the culture, the spirit, is still the same.
You’ve always been active in community service. Where does that come from? I had a really traumatic car accident when I was in high school that totally changed my life. I was 17 and we were on a ski trip through the YMCA, on our way up to Tahoe. We were in an 8-passenger van that was sideswiped about an hour north of Kettleman City on I-5. The guy, we learned later, was under the influence and going 110-miles-per-hour while trying to pass us on the median. He overcorrected and hit us. I lost two of my friends. I was the only person to walk away from the accident. Everyone else was in the hospital. That will really change a person’s life. It will really teach you to appreciate every moment. I guess that’s why I tend to gravitate more toward extreme sports—rock climbing and mountain biking, right now I’m training for a 100-mile ultramarathon—in all those sports
you really have to be in that moment. But, mostly it’s taught me a lot about giving back to other people.
How do you look back on the accident?
I’ve always believed that there’s a higher purpose to life. Since then, I’ve been active in volunteering and also with search and rescue. Any time there is an opportunity to help somebody, that’s what I want to do. I think that came from being there with the first responders at that accident; I’ve never met them and never seen them since, but they were there helping. How they treated me made a lasting impression in my life. I stayed conscious through the entire accident, so I could feel the van rolling and flipping and the triage afterward. It was horrible and I’ll never forget it, but I’ve tried to find the good in it. Service to people is what I think I’m supposed to do. I always think back to the Rotary motto, “Service above self.”
Before we let you go, talk to us about the Vision Plan recently completed for the Thursday Night Farmers’ Market. What sort of changes can we expect to see? One of the big concepts we’re exploring and thinking about as a solution in light of crowding at the Market is to expand on the side streets to relieve some congestion and create new attractions. Instead of having everything on Higuera Street, we can have it there as it always has been, plus we can utilize the side streets. Currently, we’re testing the concept once a month on Garden Street as it turns into “STEAM Alley” where we feature exhibits and activities focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. By keeping everything going down Higuera Street only, we’re not really utilizing the square footage that we have to work with. Instead of creating a space where people get stuck and end up feeling claustrophobic, if we can spread it out a little bit and create a little more room, I think it will make for a better experience. We’re working on it piece by piece. It will be an iterative process, but that is where the vision is taking us.
to hear what they have to say.
Mother loved me best.
It was a turbulent childhood that led JEREMY BATES down a familiar path, but it all came crashing down in an instant. In that moment he made a choice to not repeat the cycle, and a period of intense self-reflection followed. He now travels the world sharing his story, and teaching others how to change their own patterns. Recently, Bates and his wife, Shannon, along with their two sons, Jordan, 14, and Justus, 8, have returned to the Central Coast after two years of travel and have planted roots in Arroyo Grande. Here is his story…PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAN KING
o, Jeremy, tell us where you’re from. I grew up in Long Beach. For the first nearly 12 years of my life I was pretty much in my mom’s care once her and my dad split up. My mom had kids when she was 16 and 18 and never had any education or job experience. She just went down this crazy path of self-destruction and using these crutches that she learned early on to deal with the baggage that she had. So, growing up in that life while she’s trying to provide some sort of stability, you’re in all these crazy situations, you know; which was six different elementary schools in seven years while she followed her addiction around. And her relationships were unhealthy, abusive in a lot of different ways. When I was eleven-and-a-half, I got moved up to Los Osos to be with my dad.
How did the move affect you? She blamed us for the trouble that she was in. So, I’ve got trust issues; I’ve got abandonment issues; selfworth issues—wondering am I the problem in all this? But the saving grace once I moved was sports and music. So, when I moved up here, life started to become kind of normal because of my stepmom, who is a family and marriage therapist. When I was in middle school in Los Osos—I’ll never forget it—a man named John Alston came and spoke at our school for a leadership program and he told me, “I see something special in you. I don’t know what it is, but you have a gift.” Ironically, years later I got my first big break doing a keynote address because John had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor and I was asked to fill in for him at the last minute.
get my kid to run through a wall when I can’t even get him to clean his room?” I don’t know where it comes from. We had a bunch of kids that I kind of used the medium of what they love, which happened to be basketball, to teach life skills that I thought were important. So we talked about communication, discipline, teamwork, commitment, you know, and so, when I look back at the idea of inspiring people, that’s really where it started. It was more like, “Let me teach you about life through this thing that we love.” So, I did that for seven years.
It must have been around this time that you met your wife. Actually, Shannon and I went to high school together at Morro Bay, but we didn’t really hang out in the same group. But we both started working for the City of Morro Bay. I always thought she was just fake. I’d say to myself, “Nobody’s that nice, she’s just fake.” So when we worked together, we would be friendly toward each other but I thought she was a fake and she thought I was an ass. [laughter] And then one day it was her birthday and she commented that nobody had ever taken her to a nice dinner. Out of the blue, I said, “I’ll take you.” So, we sat down at dinner and talked for something like three or four hours straight. I remember after leaving the restaurant and saying to myself, “Dang, maybe I was wrong about this girl.”
So, what happened? She came into my life during the perfect storm in my world that changed everything. I would not have described myself as an honorable man at this point. I had a girlfriend then, and I was dating my boss’ secretary, and had another girl that I was with. And they all found out about one another, so they called each other and set-up a firing squad meeting, like an intervention, for me to walk into. Afterward I booked an appointment with a psychologist, but he said I was just suffering from depression and that he wanted to put me on Paxil. I was like, “No, I don’t believe in using Western medicine in that way. I’m not going to. I’m going to get to the root cause of this. I’m going to do the work.” So, I quit seeing him and would go to work, come home and read and contemplate; read and contemplate. I started doing a lot of writing. I did a lot of songwriting, too. But the biggest thing to come out of it was that I made a commitment to not lie to myself any more. I realized that while I was growing up, telling people—including myself—what they wanted to hear was a great tool, a great survival mechanism.
So, in essence, you hunkered down and started studying yourself? Yes, exactly. I went through a very intensive due diligence process trying to find out who I was, and why I was acting in this way. I kind of did that soul searching that nobody wants to do because it’s so painful. My behavior did not extend to drugs or alcohol, instead it had manifested in my personal relationships, which meant cheating on the girlfriends that I had. I realized during this process that here I am, wanting something different than where I came from, but I’m doing everything that was going to put me on exactly the same path as my mom. During this time, I came across one of my favorite quotes: “I live in a place that everybody hates, yet nobody seems to leave.”
What answers did you find? I already knew all the answers. I just didn’t incorporate them into my world. I tell young people all the
So, what did you want to do with your life? I wanted to be a college basketball coach. So, I started coaching high school basketball after I graduated. I became the head freshman coach at Morro Bay High when I was 19, and was the varsity coach at 21. It consumed so much of my life that I dropped out of college at Cal Poly. But, we won our first championship in 25 years. Even as a young kid, as I was going through my own issues, I’d have these parents say to me, “How can you
time, “If you lie to me, that’s no big deal because I’m going to find out; but if you lie to yourself, that’s a serious issue.” But I do know that when we’re closed off and we cover our heart up and we walk around with this image of who we’re supposed to be, it is very difficult to find your true path. And the more that I can strip down that façade in life, the more it becomes apparent where I’m supposed to be and how I’m supposed to be. So, when my mind would want to make-up excuses
I tell young people all the time, “If you lie to me, that’s no big deal because I’m going to find out; but if you lie to yourself, that’s a serious issue.”
about why I was doing this stuff. I would say, “No, that’s an excuse.” And the minute that you start to get weak is the minute you have to sit there another hour in silence. Deep down I wanted to take pride again. There were certainly things that I was proud of through my coaching and all that stuff. But character-wise, I wanted to be proud of myself, proud of me as a man. I wanted to do this and I wanted to do it for me, by me. I wanted to experience this in a way that when I looked back, I could say, “You know what? I had courage to change, and I didn’t run.”
What was it like coming out on the other side? I had just gone through all this, and began spending time with Shannon. I was just bleeding my heart out. I’m like, “Listen, I know what I’ve done and this is how I want it to be.” And she would look at me and be like, “Try to sell this stuff to someone else.” I’ve always had that gift of knowing how it’s supposed to be, but I never really had the courage to live it. That had changed. She was the person that I was so lucky to encounter at that time in my life. And I was incredibly fortunate that she was kind enough to give me a chance. But, when we first started seeing each other people would say, “Girl, why are you with this guy? You know what’s going to happen.” Her dad was a lieutenant at the Morro Bay Police Department at the time, and when he found out that we were dating he pulled me aside and said, “When you hurt my daughter, I will come find you. Not if. But when you do this, I will find you.”
Eventually you proved yourself. You were married, had kids… When we had our first child on the way, frankly, I needed to make more money. I got a job in drug and alcohol prevention. By the time I was 28, I was running a school-based drug and alcohol prevention program called Friday Night Live. My son was two-and-a-half, and I started to realize that I was being a hypocrite. Here I was promoting education to all these young people when I hadn’t finished college myself. So, I went back to Cal Poly and asked the Dean of Liberal Arts, “How do I get back in?” They let me enroll under academic probation. I had to get a 3.75 GPA or higher, which I had never done before. I took my family with me for a summer immersion program in Mexico and came back with the idea to write a manifesto for evolution in our country. My senior project adviser said, “It’s too big. Focus on something you know.” So, I wrote a paper on revolutionizing the way that we deal with drug and alcohol prevention. After I graduated, I started presenting the paper around the state through my job and people were telling me, “Wow, this is amazing! I love the content. I love the way you present.” So, I started thinking to myself that maybe I can go out and, you know, shake the world in this way.
That was the beginning? Yes, that’s how it started. I started my own business, Revolution Speak. When I got out there, people started seeing how much different it was when I was presenting than other people, because it’s not preachy. I have kids all the time that will come up afterward and just be like, “I feel like you’re a friend up there that’s talking and I just want to keep listening to for hours.” There’s no judgment behind it. It was never my place to come in and try and be like, “If you’re living this way, let me show you the right way.” Instead it was, “Let’s just have a conversation about the way that you roll and see if you think it’s going to get you to the place that you want be. And if not, then let’s have an honest conversation about some of those things that you want to change because you’re either going to have to change your expectation for where you want to end up, or you’re going to have to change your behaviors.” With that approach my business just blew up right away.
What is it that you think resonates so well with young people? It’s more of this holistic message. Instead of scaring you into making
different choices, I’m there to help you rethink the way that you see yourself; and maybe help you realize that the way that you do look at yourself is based on some perceptions that you have that somebody’s passed on to you that aren’t true; maybe it’s based on the baggage that we carry from home. It’s a brief opportunity to change your perception before we send you back home to the same craziness that you came from; otherwise there is no space for them to see any other path. And so, I try with my programs just to create an environment that doesn’t exist outside those little walls of wherever you are, and just try to strip things down in a way where I can challenge you deeply, those most deeply held beliefs about who you are, and the potential that you have, or the way life is. And hopefully in an hour, get you to start to wash away some of those things. And help you realize that the only thing that we have to go off of, is the current state of who we are—not the past, not the future—just right now.
But, how does this stuff work? Okay, sure. You have a reticular activating system whose sole function is to find things in your environment to reinforce what you believe to be true. So, if I want to have a certain perspective of, say, “Oh, that guy Tom is an ass.” Any time I see you, my brain is going to be looking for things to support what I believe to be true. So the question becomes, “How do I become better than my brain?” I can at least
be more intentful when I start to process between stimulus and response. They say that’s where greatness happens—that little space between stimulus and response. Instead of doing what comes naturally and just reacting with your biases, you can say to yourself, “Wait, hold-up!” and make a choice with some intent. If you want to start to make changes in your life there’s a science behind it that you cannot get around.
Okay… So, you put all that stuff together and you happen to be a kid trying to do great things in your life, but you’re hopeless because of the situation you come from. Your dad has been telling you that you’re not worth anything your whole life and your mom left you for some other family, so your reticular activating system, the seat of consciousness in your brain, is reinforcing for you how much the world doesn’t care about you. So you find those negative relationships, you surround yourself with the wrong kinds of people. It’s this thing where your baggage creates habits, which then creates environments. In other words, the baggage that you carry creates your habits, which then finds environments that are conducive to carrying around those bags. So wherever you are in life, you look at the environment you’re in currently, and it was created by the habits that you’ve had which was created by the baggage you carry. This all sounds good, Jeremy, but can you give us a real-world >>
example? We carry around this computer that is so powerful. It can harm us or help us. So it becomes a matter of becoming disciplined enough to want to do the work to catch yourself in those moments between stimulus and response. But, okay, here’s an example: When my wife goes to Las Vegas with her girlfriends and doesn’t pick up the phone when I call her, the very first thing I think is, “Oh, she went to Vegas because she’s cheating on me. I knew it! I knew it! I’m not worth it to her. I knew it!” But then before I get all crazy and start sending her frantic text messages, I say to myself, “Hold-up, hold-up! No, this is not that woman. I have to make a different choice.” And in that moment I have chosen to not repeat the cycle that was brought on by my baggage. The other option is to be like my mom who has been married four times and lost contact with both of her kids and doesn’t know any of her grandkids.
people are seeking. I think the world is screaming for authenticity, which is why I tell my story. And the more I do that, the more people realize that they’re not alone. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts that we can give people. But what do we do? We try to pretend that it’s not happening. We get on Facebook and present something that is not true, not real. We look for ways to promote ourselves in some way that’s not really honest a lot of the times, and it comes at the expense of losing out on real conversations and gaining real knowledge and experiences based on peoples’ lives that we try to pretend never happened. I tell kids all the time that life will always change as long as you give it a chance to. That’s why I’m just as vulnerable as I would ask them to be, and I’ll be as authentic as I can be in sharing my story and shortcomings of who I am and how I’m trying to change. And if you judge me, I can’t control that. And maybe that’s inspiring enough
Okay, I’m with you. But how do you get his message across to a teenager? By being real, by being authentic. Look, I spent the first 24 years of my life worrying about being judged, and the minute that I lost that fear and started to show people who I really was, that’s when, all of a sudden, the light came on and I realized that this is what
for a kid to say, “I want to be a little more like that.” I ask people all the time, “Do you hear me or do you feel me?” And if you just hear me, then we have problems. Nine times out of ten they’ll say, “No, I feel you because it’s not just something you’re saying. This is something of who you are—this
is real.” SLO LIFE
I think the world is screaming for authenticity, which is why I tell my story. And the more I do that, the more people realize that they’re not alone. I think that’s one of the greatest gifts that we can give people.
Sixteen-year-old San Luis Obispo High School junior, NATALIE SADA, shares her passion for gymnastics and social equality.
What sort of extra-curricular activities are you involved in? I am a member of the National Honors Society, the San Luis Obispo High School Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), and the Large Hydron Collider physics club. I also have competed on the Central Coast Acrobatics Team for five years, which is a competitive traveling acrobatic gymnastics program based out of Central Coast Gymnastics. I volunteer at the San Luis Obispo Public Library, and recently finished a volunteer Madrichim (teacher’s helper) Program at Congregation Beth David last spring.
What recognition have you received? I received the Mayor’s award for eighty hours of community service last year. In 2014, my trio won first place at State, Regionals, and eventually Nationals in Louisville, Kentucky for Level 7 of Acrobatic Gymnastics. Last year, I placed first at State and fourth at Nationals for Level 7 at Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. I also received the Golden Tiger award from SLO High for recognition in Honors English and for being in the top ten of my class my freshman and sophomore year.
What are your interests? My sophomore year, I took an art history class at the high school, which helped me discover my passion for the subject. I am now considering a career path involving art history, and would like to pursue it, whether as a major or minor, in college. I also dedicate around thirteen hours a week to acrobatic gymnastics.
What do you want people to know about you? I am passionate about social justice, and being a part of the GSA has influenced me to try to educate others about those who are often silenced and unable to speak up for themselves. I am a member of the Jewish Congregation Beth David, which advocates tikkun olam, or literally, humanity’s duty to heal and repair the world through community service and social action.
If you could go back in history and meet anyone, who would it be? I would love to meet Walter Gropius, leader of the Bauhaus art movement. Bauhaus is a minimalistic, functional art style that unites creativity with mass production. It is one of my favorite periods of art history, and Gropius had such a vision and direction in his artistic movement that makes it still relevant today.
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Hopefully, I will have received my bachelor’s and master’s in art history, and either be curating a major national or international art museum or doing art research and restoration for the impressionist and post-impressionist eras.
What do you dislike the most? I dislike arrogance and laziness. I think that it is very important to remain humble and even more important to stay motivated and optimistic about life.
What is going on with you now? Right now I am juggling four AP classes with the beginning of our new season of acrobatic gymnastics, as well as starting a club called Philanthropists of Wall Street. I am also applying to an internship for art history at the Smithsonian next summer and still actively participating in the GSA.
What schools are you considering for college? I mainly am looking at public schools in California, and currently, my top choice is UCLA. I love the campus, culture of the school, and the city of Los Angeles itself.
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I’ve been called a summer girl. I love summertime. I love the long evenings, the days at the lake, beach or any body of water. I love pretty much everything about summer. But as much as I embrace the season of sunshine, I think fall could be my favorite. Especially on the Central Coast.BY JEANETTE TROMPETER
The signs of the season here may not be as obvious as other areas of the country, but they’re out there, and they’re worth taking notice. If you venture out to any winery in the area, it’s obvious when fall is in full swing. Harvest season means growers are hustling to get grapes off the vine at just the right time. And with each varietal hitting peak at different times, it means they’re busy for weeks.
“So, we started on August 20th and will go until about November 15th, depending on the temperatures,” says Paul Hoover, owner of StillWater Vineyards in the El Pomar region. “Our latest varietal that we harvest here is our Cabernet Franc, and my wife usually wants it harvested before Thanksgiving. I try, but the weather makes that decision. It does look like this year we may get it done in time for her to be happy.”
Hoover likes to let Mother Nature handle refrigeration during harvest. That means taking advantage of cool nights and getting grapes to bins long before sun-up. Afternoons are spent
pressing grapes and preparing the vines that will be picked the next day. They do that by clearing leaves so crews are picking only ripe and ready fruit in the dark wee hours of the morning.
“And then we have just grapes going into the trays, into the bins and into the wine. So that way we don’t have any leaves coming into the winery. No leaves in the wine, ‘cuz it changes the flavor,” says Hoover.
It is a labor of love for local vintners like Hoover, which is why Harvest Wine Weekend in October is such a big deal to them. “It’s our celebration about everything about the vine. About this entire year that has been spent on this vintage,” says Christopher Taranto of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.
“Especially to the personality of that winery,” says Taranto. “So if they’re into cars, or if they’re really into education, then they’re going to let those things shine out of their personalities.”
And harvest doesn’t end when the grapes are off the vines. Farmers will be picking olives through Christmastime. They’re work may not be quite done, but barring a curve ball from Mother Nature, they have a pretty good sense of what the 2015 vintage will bring.
“The quality of this year is good. The problem is the quantity,” says Hoover. Because of the drought, sustainable growers like Hoover cut back a lot of their production, so what they do produce is healthy. Hoover says Cabernet and Syrahs are probably 50% light in most wine grape-growing regions. He says it’s pretty much the situation statewide this year, and so what is harvested this year is in high demand. “Everybody is scrambling to get what fruit is available, and what we have to offer is good.”
StillWater will join about 150 other wineries hosting events October 16-18 designed to draw you out to pay a visit throughout Paso Robles’ Wine Country. Barbecues, grape stomps, educational seminars, sit-down dinners—unique opportunities at each stop.
Fall on the Central Coast, it’s a little more subtle than other places in the country, but it’s pretty spectacular. So find a place to park yourself and take note, whether that’s soaking up the sunshine in a beautiful open space, cooling down in the shade of ancient oak trees, or heading to the beach to watch the diamonds of sunshine from the low hanging sun over the water. There are magic moments to be savored in the weeks ahead, so take full advantage.
No Bars. No Springs. No Sagging
748 Marsh Street @ Garden Street | Downtown SLO SanLuisTraditions.com | 805.541.8500
Centuries after Shakespeare’s Juliet pondered, “What’s in a name?” local band Eager Seas is considering the same question.BY DAWN JANKE
FAfter ten years together, the members of Eager Seas are looking forward to the new, but they’re also holding fast to the old. “Our biggest influence right now is the music we grew up with,” says Roberts. Guitarist Jacob Wick adds, “There is a sense of nostalgia to the new music we have been writing—something familiar and reminiscent.” Roberts explains, “Jeremy keeps going back to his punk roots with Green Day and Bad Religion. On our new album, we’re referencing alternative ‘90s stuff like Weezer, the Rentals, Jimmy Eat World. ” He continues, “Realistically we don’t listen to those bands anymore, but they’re a big part of our story, and we really want to harness that moment and put it into our new music.”
or the past ten years, Eager Seas has performed as Lakes. They released albums, toured, gained a fan base, and created a name for themselves locally and beyond. But recently, that name began to cause confusion. Lead singer Seth Roberts explains, “We were on tour last year, and we realized that there were a lot of other bands coming out with the name Lakes or variations of it. At South by Southwest, for example, there were three bands named Lakes.” “We wrestled with what to do,” he continues, “and long-term it just made the most sense to change our name.”
Eager Seas plans to re-release their three Lakes albums under the new name. They’re also recording a new album at 20 West Studios in Paso Robles with a release date in early 2016. Roberts says, “We’re taking time off from live shows and focusing on the album. We want it to be, by far, better than anything we’ve done before.”
What does it mean for Eager Seas to record an album that’s better than anything they’ve done before? “Well, we changed our name,” says Roberts, “so in some ways we have already begun re-defining ourselves. Now, we’re trying to look at our music differently, too. The new album will have more rock energy—it’s a little more experimental. We’re breaking some of the rules that we’ve defined for ourselves throughout the past ten years.” Bassist Jeremy Wells adds, “A lot of bands talk about how they look forward to their new album. We are no different.”
The Eager Seas story began well before the band formed in 2005. All four members grew up together in the local music community. “The local music scene in the late ‘90s and early 2000s was really cool,” says Roberts. “Before social media,” he continues, “we all came together through music. We would decide on Monday to play a show on Friday, and there would be like 400 kids there. It was just what everyone did.”
And while things have changed in the music industry since they were younger, one thing has not changed for the members of Eager Seas: their bond. “When we were younger,” says Roberts, “we had these dreams and goals of making it big, and I think that at this point we are more excited that we can just play music together as best friends.” Drummer Teddy Ramirez agrees, “It’s an honor playing, working, and writing with some of my best friends.” Wick adds, “These guys are like brothers to me. We have a loyalty to each other that is very hard to find. We have all been through a lot together, and it’s proving to have a strong impact on the outcome of how we write music.”
Roberts concludes, “We’ve seen so many people who have stopped playing music, who have stopped pursuing what they love. It’s given us perspective.” Keyboardist Matt Covington says, “As life keeps getting busier and more complicated, we keep making time to get together and create new music.” “For us,” says Roberts, “it’s all about continuing to have a creative outlet and making music that feels fresh and new. But at this point, we really don’t have goals of major success—we’ve already succeeded because we keep doing what we love, and we keep doing it together.”
One thing is for certain: whether as Lakes or Eager Seas, the band will continue to sound as sweet, especially because they do what they love and love what they do.
Not one to sit and wait around, Jeff Wolcott built his retreat for the life he wanted.
n 2002, around the time that his general contractor was called to another job never to return, Jeff Wolcott was working full-time as a concrete contractor by day and building his dream home by night. When friends would stop by to check on his progress, Wolcott, who had been divorced two years prior, quipped wryly, “I’m building a nest; I just don’t know who my mama bird will be.”
Mama bird, as it turns out, would be a long-time friend, who had been widowed four years earlier. “Life was pretty crazy,” remembers Wolcott. “I was working my tail off and then I threw all of my emotions in there by falling in love in the middle of it.” It’s a good thing, too, because the nest needed a woman’s touch, as the interior was “three shades of white” before Cindy flew in.
Seemingly overnight, everything about the home, as well as the bachelor’s life, went from monochrome to Technicolor just like the old Wizard of Oz movie. The couple’s first date was in August, where Jeff ruminated over buying a particular sink (she convinced him to do it), by December they were engaged, and married by May. “One of my longtime friends said, ‘Don’t you want to wait and see
what sort of baggage he has?’ I just laughed and told her, ‘I’ve known him for 30 years, so I kind of know what his baggage is.’”
The couple had decided to tie the knot midway through an Alaskan cruise. During one of the stops, they were picked up by a limo and taken to a garden where nuptials were exchanged. Afterward, they asked the
limo driver to take them to the “funkiest dive bar in town.” That night The Red Dog Saloon, and its unsuspecting patrons—most of them burly Alaskan backwoodsmen— hosted the Wolcotts for their first night out during what is now a twelve-year marriage. Cindy describes the scene, “I walk in with a blue wedding dress, and Jeff was in a tux. There is sawdust on the floor; the music >>
stops, and everyone turns and just stares at us. We ended up having the best time.” Jeff rubs his chin and offers, “I figured that if she could handle that, we were going to get long just fine.”
Slowly but surely, the Wolcott’s house became a home. Jeff, who had spent his
career bringing concrete to life in many of the Central Coast’s finest buildings, took mental notes along the way. Soon his own home was filled with museum-quality stained and polished concrete floors. And, the walk-in shower he had come across during one job was replicated in the master bathroom. Despite the luxurious touches
here and there, the home is warm and comfortable, both figuratively and literally. Underfoot upstairs, embedded within a two-inch layer of concrete, winds an intricate webbing of plastic hot water tubing that makes up the radiant floor heating system. Since it is set at 69 degrees throughout the year, it automatically kicks on during a
chilly morning. And, clerestory windows— architecture-speak for windows placed above eyelevel—effectively serve as an air conditioning system. During most days, the windows are opened with a special pole and the rising warm air is vacuumed out, which creates a gentle, almost imperceptible interior breeze as the heat transfers from floor to ceiling. Best of all, the entire system
costs less than $100 per month to operate with the Wolcott’s natural gas bill averaging $50 and another $40 for electricity. And, water for the garden comes courtesy of a 1,200-gallon tank in the backyard that anchors the rain catchment system. All the water that falls on to the metal roof, as well as the driveway, becomes irrigation, so the water bill is also microscopic.
The two-story home features 950 square feet upstairs and 1,100 square feet downstairs— mostly comprised of a guest suite and Jeff’s office. The living space, for the most part, is upstairs. And, it really does feel like a nest, as thoughtful placement of windows encircle the unusually shaped custom home (the perimeter was dictated by the setback requirements of the odd-sized lot), and looks
out onto a wide diversity of trees and vines found throughout the quarter-acre property. Because of its seclusion, the home off Ella
Street adjacent to French Hospital in San Luis Obispo, it would be difficult to know that it is just five blocks from downtown. Wildlife abounds, and, Jeff, an avid bow hunter and outdoorsman, has trapped and relocated a “dozen-and-a-
half” raccoons “during the past couple of years alone” only to find them return to partake of more of their dog’s kibble. “I’ve set them out as far as Price Canyon, but they always return,” Jeff marvels as he shares the photographic evidence to prove it. “I put one out in Santa Margarita and he turned around and started running toward San Luis. He just about beat me home.”
It’s not just the raccoons that want to be home. “Each morning before we headed off to work, we’d say, ‘Okay, have a good day. I’ll meet you at the chiminea at 4 o’clock,’” Cindy points across the patio. Mrs. Wolcott,
who had worked at MidState/Rabobank for 32 years, retired this summer in tandem with her husband. As the couple prepares their 5th wheel trailer for an extended stay in the Boulder, Colorado area where all five of their grandchildren now live, Cindy, an avid bird lover shares, “It’s not for everybody, because the house is small. But, we get 50 or 60 friends upstairs once a year, all gathered around the butcher block island in the kitchen to make chili, and it’s perfect.” She pauses to gather her thoughts, as a pair of dove huddled in the aviary behind her coo contentedly. “Plus, I heard somewhere once that ‘As big as your heart, so is your house.’”
There’s a new firm in town.
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
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
2014 44 601,807 590,104 98.29 44
2015 48 663,063 649,744 98.22 62
2014 21 752,364 742,495 98.75 43
2015 21 731,229 725,442 99.30 60
+/9.09% 10.18% 10.11% -0.07% 40.91%
+/0.00% -2.81% -2.30% 0.55% 39.53%
2014 20 634,938 622,816 98.32 36
2014 12 1,012,750 981,131 96.92 72
2015 29 571,628 550,968 97.45 97.45
+/45.00% -9.97% -11.54% -0.87% 170.69%
2015 6 930,500 865,000 94.28 28
+/-50.00% -8.12% -11.84% -2.64% -61.11%
2014 35 761,737 745,445 98.32 42
2014 49 683,002 669,772 98.03 39
2015 18 713,489 724,244 102.53 23
+/-48.57% -6.33% -2.84% 4.21% -45.24%
2015 37 741,635 730,809 100.11 28
+/-24.49% 8.58% 9.11% 2.08% -28.21%
2014 19 688,853 668,202 97.12 65
2015 37 648,524 632,857 97.61 33 johnson ave *Comparing 1/1/14 - 9/20/14 to 1/1/15 - 9/20/15
+/94.74% -5.85% -5.29% 0.49% -49.23%
SOURCE: San Luis Obispo Association of REALTORS®
579,000 435,000 800,000 575,000 775,000 589,000 405,000 439,000 499,250 499,000 386,000 715,000 380,000 320,000 325,000 394,450 655,000 409,775 521,500 476,950
455,000 866,500 599,000 867,500 498,750 459,950 462,500 570,000 534,000 386,450 795,000 416,000 322,500 405,000 419,000 667,883 421,750 510,000 515,000
HOW WILD CHERRY CANYON
MAY BE THE ONLY WAY FORWARDBY TOM FRANCISKOVICH
made it out to Avila Beach with my family just once this past summer. As I maneuvered the minivan through the handful of streets that make up its downtown, I was presented with a visual, real-time representation of demand outstripping supply. Sunscreen slathered beachgoers were everywhere, heading back-and-forth to the sand with umbrellas and boogie boards in-hand. After making another
hopeful pass through town in search of parking, I decided to drop off the family near the pier and then head out by myself to find a spot for the car farther away. I had no idea how much farther away “farther away” would mean. My search led me through the town’s one stoplight, where it took three cycles to get through. Once back out onto Avila Beach Drive, I passed what I estimated to be about a half-mile line of cars parked on either side of the road. So, I headed the other direction, toward Port San Luis where, again, a long procession of cars and RV’s framed the ocean view. As my search was nearing the thirty-minute mark, I passed the gate leading to the lighthouse trolley tours and said to myself. “This is where they want to build 1,500 new homes?” And the whole thing got me thinking…
The Irish Hills are a fascinating place. At the base of the north side of the coastal range sits what is arguably the quintessential manifestation of modern-day consumerism: Costco. On the other side can be found
unspoiled, virgin land that has been seldom touched and lightly tread upon since the day Cabrillo first laid eyes upon it from the deck of the San Salvador in 1542. And, in the middle of it all is an antiquated power facility dutifully splitting atoms around the clock as it sits precariously above three separate fault lines. Now, to further the intrigue, a New York City conglomerate, through its Carlsbad-based subsidiary, is looking to develop a massive swath of the oak-studded hillside, perhaps tripling the population of Avila Beach in the process.
It is a murky story, just how Leucadia National Corporation was able to get its hands on the Spanish land grant territory, and there appears to be no cut-and-dried accounting of it; but, by piecing together the fragment, it seems to go something like this: In the 1960’s, the property owner, PG&E, through its subsidiary, Eureka Energy, signed a long-term lease, which included the development rights, to a local group that had formed under the name “Pacho Limited Partnership.” As the territory in question is part of what is known as the
Pecho Coast, it was explained that when the entity was formed, a government clerk had committed a typo when keying the official documentation. Therefore, “Pecho” became “Pacho.” The lease effectively gave the partnership full control of the land, as it included a 99-year term with an option to renew for an additional 99 years. For all intents and purposes, there are about 150 years remaining before control of the land reverts to PG&E. Somewhere along the line, the Pacho Partners needed capital and began seeking investors. And, they found one in Manhattan that liked what they had to say.
Leucadia National Corporation is sometimes referred to as “Baby Berkshire” for its similarity to Warren Buffett’s holding company, Berkshire Hathaway. Through its founder, Joseph Steinberg, the publicly traded conglomerate has diversified into mining, drilling, development, manufacturing, and banking, among other things. It has been phenomenally successful at making money for its investors, and today it is worth about $7.5 billion. So, when the Pacho partners explained that they controlled 2,400 acres of one of the most beautiful parts of the California Coast, a place in San Luis Obispo County called Wild Cherry Canyon, the deal was a slam dunk. Through the years, as Leucadia grew and continued acquiring smaller companies, it shuffled assets around its balance sheet to keep Wall Street happy. Somewhere along the line, 65%—a controlling interest—of a real estate development company in Southern California called HomeFed was purchased. Over time, Leucadia continued to buy out its Pacho partners, thereby increasing its interest in the land to the point where it was calling the shots. These transactions occurred within a private partnership at the time, so there is no way of knowing exactly how much Leucadia paid for its stake, and, therefore, the land, although it has been estimated at $5 million. Today, after transferring the leasehold asset to HomeFed, Leucadia carries the present value of Wild Cherry Canyon on its balance sheet at $17 million.
In 2000, Leucadia’s executives were watching very closely as San Luis Obispo County voters overwhelmingly passed the DREAM Initiative. Although it was not a binding action, widespread support of DREAM—Diablo Resources Advisory Measure—was an
eye-opener. The legislation was, in essence, a symbolic proclamation of the people stating that, “At such time when the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant closes, the land should be acquired for public use and recreation.” Seeing the writing on the wall, and, just as importantly, an opportunity to monetize their investment, a local representative, Denis Sullivan, called the author of the DREAM Initiative legislation, Sam Blakeslee, to talk. It turns out that Leucadia was warming to a conservation deal. After hanging up, Blakeslee picked up the phone again to call Kara Woodruff, his wife at the time, to pass along the interesting news. Within a day or two, Woodruff, who was working as a land conservation advocate for the Nature Conservancy, was out walking the property, taking in stunning ocean views, with Sullivan. After a few months hashing out the particulars, the Nature Conservancy put down a deposit and entered into an agreement to purchase Wild Cherry Canyon. By 2003, the Nature Conservancy failed to raise the funds, and the deal died.
authorized. Plans were underway to charter buses full of San Luis Obispo County supporters to attend the meeting when Woodruff’s phone rang. Her heart sank as she learned that the vote would not be put on the agenda after all. It turns out that Governor Schwarzenegger did not like how Sam Blakeslee, then a State Senator, and her husband at the time, had voted on a particular budget bill. To teach the Republican a lesson in party loyalty, the governor terminated the Wild Cherry Canyon deal.
Woodruff, who at this point had been working on preserving the 2,400-acre property for nearly 15 years, remained hopeful. It appeared that Jerry Brown, a progressive Democrat who had spoken favorably on the subject of conservation during his campaign, looked as if he would be back for another stint in Sacramento. But, by the time Governor Brown was sworn in, the economy continued to implode, and California state deficit was forcing draconian cuts. Against a backdrop of teacher layoffs, conservation suddenly became a luxurious line item that had to go. Still, there was one last brief shot at pulling it together at the eleventh hour by sneaking the deal through while funds were still allocated. All of the parties returned to the table for one more attempt. It was during this period, however, that Senator Sam Blakeslee appeared as a guest on the Rachel Maddow Show where he openly questioned the chummy relationship between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and PG&E as it related to public safety, particularly with the fault lines found around Diablo Canyon. Shortly thereafter ALC’s phone calls began going unanswered as PG&E dragged its feet; the final paperwork languished on various executives’ desks in perpetuity, which again derailed the Wild Cherry Canyon conservation deal.
Two years later, in 2005, Woodruff was then working at the American Land Conservancy (ALC), when she heard from Sullivan again—the partnership was ready to explore another conservation deal. This time, however, the State of California told the ALC that, to receive any funds from the state, they would have to also purchase the underlying fee title from PG&E. In other words, the ALC could not just acquire the lease to fully control the property for the next 150 years, they also had to own it outright before then donating it back to the state, so that it could be operated and maintained by State Parks. By this decree, PG&E, through its entity, Eureka Energy, would also have to come to the table if Wild Cherry Canyon were to be preserved. The land at the time was appraised at $24 million, and the American Land Conservancy had raised $21 million when, in an ironic twist of fate, the Great Recession caused the real estate market to collapse and, according to the new appraisal, the land was now worth $21 million. With 100% of the necessary funds accounted for, the final hurdle facing the ALC was the Public Works Board hearing where the formality of allocating $6.5 million of State Parks funds—the last piece of the puzzle—would be
Leucadia needed a Plan B, so it tasked HomeFed with envisioning a new destiny for the property: high-end estate homes. To test the waters, a senior vice president from HomeFed, Kent Aden, and their local frontman, a consultant named Tom Blessent, invited Woodruff out for a cup of coffee in downtown San Luis Obispo. After some pleasantries, the pair carefully moved the cups and saucers from the table and unfurled a set of oversized papers, flipping through them slowly, one page at a time. “They showed me very detailed plans,” Woodruff recalls, “descriptions and pictures of Mediterranean-style houses, landscaping, and other buildings. I told them immediately that I most definitely did not think that it was a good idea.” Despite Woodruff’s unambiguous response, HomeFed decided to share their idea at a special Avila Valley Advisory Council meeting. Although they never unveiled the detailed plans featuring the exquisite Italianate architecture of stately homes overlooking the Pacific, they did go on record explaining that they were looking at developing “as many as 1,500 homes” to help alleviate some of the pressure felt by “the lack of affordable housing” in the area. The energy in the room was tense, and although the crowd was polite, it was clear that if it had come to a vote, it would have fallen somewhere between “No” and “Hell no.”
But, HomeFed was undeterred. It had experience with large-scale development, and suspected that it could slowly win over the natives. Maybe it could be “greenwashed” by building the much talked about trail connecting Avila Beach to Montaña de Oro. If only it had a foothold in the community so that it could begin to foster relationships with local politicians. That foothold came in the form of the Harbor Terrace Project, which HomeFed bid on and won. Curiously, it was unlike any of its previous developments, and
Under a provision in San Luis Obispo County zoning ordinances, a developer can group or “cluster” homes more closely together and net more total homes, thereby increasing his or her potential for profits, on land that has been designated for agriculture. The intention of the code is to incentivize the developer to preserve the largest amount of farmland in a given area as is possible.
Huge profits are made when land is purchased under one particular land-use designation, but is changed to another. For example, relatively low-cost farmland designated for agriculture is acquired by a developer, who then lobbies for a zoning change to residential or commercial, which provides a dramatic increase in value. Often, this is the realm of speculators, who will then immediately sell, or “flip,” the land to a developer.
This is a term describes the practice of deceptively promoting a product or practice under the perception that it is environmentally friendly. Perhaps the most classic example of this concept is the renaming of “Clean Coal” in the energy industry. In the area of land-use, greenwashing shows up in the form of a developer proposing small, but highly visible public benefits in exchange for wide-scale development.
was much smaller in scale to boot. But, the little campground-by-the-sea was a nearly universally supported project and would serve as the perfect market entry for HomeFed. Plus, their point man, Blessent, could move up to the Central Coast and start engaging in a more meaningful way as an Avila local. The whole thing made sense, until it didn’t. In a surprise move, this past August, HomeFed announced that it was pulling out of the Harbor Terrace deal, making a vague reference to unfavorable soils at the site. The rationale was immediately questioned, as the soils had been tested ad infinitum prior to the bid request. In other words, HomeFed knew what they were digging into. But, somewhere along the way they changed their mind. If Harbor Terrace was just a small, token project to generate some goodwill—something they officially deny—then it would not make sense that they would drop it in such a hasty and undignified manner, unless the calculus had changed.
By all accounts, Tom Blessent is a “really nice guy.” And there is an unmistakable sincerity in his voice when he talks about wanting to be a “good partner,” but you get the distinct feeling that there are a group of suits somewhere in some far off conference room who may not be giving him the full story. And why would they? Perhaps the real play here is a bluff. Maybe, by pushing hard for wide-scale development, they are
instead posturing for another conservation deal. As it stands now, the land is zoned for 50 homes, and as many as 65 if it were designed as an “ag cluster.” In order to clear the way for 1,500 units the zoning would have to change, which means that it would have to get the green light from the County Planning Department and then, most likely, through appeal with the Board of Supervisors. Although the political winds are always subject to change, current Supervisor Adam Hill, who represents the 3rd District, which includes Wild Cherry Canyon, intimated that, “I have yet to meet someone who feels that this [development] is a good idea.” And, even if it does pass muster with the planners and receives the blessing of the supervisors, it still has to endure the scrutiny of Cal Fire, which insiders suggest would be a very tough sell, especially after this past fire season. And, it is unclear as to whether the Coastal Commission would weigh in, as the development’s entrance would be along the Port San Luis shoreline. Even if all of the ducks line up, Leucadia and its various entities would be looking at a minimum of eight years and millions of dollars before a bulldozer fells the first Coast Live Oak. This realization has provided comfort to some, and concern for others.
The downside to the many obstacles facing the development of Wild Cherry Canyon is that citizens become complacent. A company like Leucadia has the resources to forge ahead while everyone else goes on with their lives, when suddenly, one day, tides turn, zoning changes, and the project is rubber stamped. Denise Allen, a local doctor and Avila Beach resident, is hoping to change the way the game is played in the future. In 2000, the SOAR Initiative in San Luis Obispo was proposed but ultimately failed with county voters. The legislation, which stood for Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources, has been adopted in various forms in an increasing number of communities nationwide, including in Ventura County where it was designed to put rezoning matters before a vote of the people, effectively ending the practice of developers buying up agricultural land then pushing the planning department to rezone, or “upzone,” for a much more valuable residential or commercial use designation. As of now, the initiative Allen is currently contemplating would cover just the Irish Hills. It remains to be seen if it will end up on the ballot.
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It can be reasoned that it is the zero-sum quality of large-scale development that stirs the emotions on either side. Just the fact that we have an “either side” makes it selfevident that when one of those sides wins, the other loses. And vice versa. But, maybe Wild Cherry Canyon is setting up to become one of those elusive “win-win” deals that self-help gurus all seem to talk about. Conservation appears to be the only way forward. On the one hand, Leucadia stands to hit a home run now with the real estate market recovering. Instead of the land value coming in at $21 million as it did in the last appraisal, it is likely now in the $24 to $25 million range. Considering an initial purchase price of around $5 million, that’s a pretty sweet profit. And, for “we the people” of the Central Coast, gaining access to a natural preserve in the form a state park that connects Avila Beach to Montaña de Oro with a 20-mile trail is a unique opportunity to affect many current, as well as future, lives. And, it appears that a deal is within reach, as Sacramento is now running surpluses, and the guy who would personally oversee the process, Secretary of Resources John Laird, who, incidentally, in 2010 was bested by Sam Blakeslee for a seat in the state senate, has shared privately that, “the State wants to do this.” The only question now remaining is, “Do we want to do this?” SLO LIFE
MOVIE NIGHT under the stars
With the sun setting earlier and the days feeling shorter, it opens up many autumn evening date possibilities. One of the very best San Luis Obispo has to offer is a Sunset Drive-In move night.BY PADEN HUGHES
omantic. Youthful. Nostalgic. Who doesn’t want to snuggle under the stars in the back of a truck with your date, or bring out the lawn chairs with blankets and sit outside drinking your homemade hot coco? Low cost, outside, under stars, snuggled up together to watch the newest blockbuster hit—dinner and a movie just got cozzier.
Built in 1950, theSunset Drive-In brings historical charm to
San Luis Obispo. It’s such a notable venue that in 2014 Trip Advisor listed Sunset Drive-In as one of America’s Top Ten best drive-in theaters. Once again our city makes it to the top of the charts for being charming and wonderful. It’s one of the main reasons we continue to support the drive-in. We view it as supporting a tradition—saluting the bygone days.
Once an iconic statement of the 1950’s social scene, drive-in movie theaters are disappearing quickly around the United States. The original drive-in movie theater opened in New Jersey in 1933 and by the 1950’s there were over 4,000 operating in the country. In 2012 the New York Times wrote an article about the dwindling location count of this classic American tradition stating only 368 drive-in movie theaters remain active in America.
Part of the decline of drive-in movie theaters is attributed to several compounding factors. Viewership dropped in the 1960’s, likely as a result of daylight savings. This time change hurt the drive-in culture as the new “clock” pushed back movie times later and later. Another financial hardship for owners has been paying for newer technology in order to keep up with emerging digital technology so they can continue to screen new box office hits. Finally, it’s hard to continue to say, “No,” to land developers willing to offer cash for what was once just farmland.
All of this historical context truly makes me love and appreciate the owners of Sunset Drive-In who, despite the changing times, have continued to keep showing modern, new movies to the families and couples of San Luis Obispo.
The more of us who pay a visit, the more likely our kids will be able to enjoy shows like Pixar’s Inside Out on the main screen. While you can’t imagine overhead to be too expensive to maintain, you can imagine it getting harder to resist land purchase offers as San Luis Obispo becomes more and more populated.
Typically, in summer, the first showing doesn’t start until almost 9pm, now, in the fall, we see more family-friendly times with movies starting around 7:30pm. At only $7 per person for a double feature, and $3 for children, this is certainly a cost-effective way to make any Friday night a memorable experience. You can also pack in your own chairs, even couches, coolers, and take out.
Set up your drive-in experience with all the items you and your date like, to make it a personalized movie night under the stars. And remember, each time you visit, it’s one more local voting to keep a remnant of a bygone era and continue to put San Luis Obispo on the map for staying one of the best places to live and work in the world.
SIX PLANTS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT
Throughout history, in every pocket of the world, people have used plants to boost their health and wellbeing—from the first practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine to today’s functional medicine doctors. And, with good reason. Plants are healers. They revitalize. Here are six storied power plants you can start working into your modern lifestyle… right now.
>ROSE HIPS GENUS: ROSA
Rose hips—the fruit of the wild rose bush—just sounds so much more romantic than your everyday produce, evoking images of lush, overgrown gardens. But it’s also a straight-up superfood, packed with more vitamin C than oranges.
HOLY BASIL GENUS: OCIMUM
Holy basil is a sacred herb within Ayurveda—the centuries-old medicinal practice from India—and has been called upon for thousands of years to help combat stress. Nowadays, we understand that it works by lowering cortisol levels in the body, says acupuncturist Jill Blakeway, director of the YinOva Center in New York City.
“Holy basil is often used in Ayurvedic medicine as an adaptogen—a class of herbs that help your body deal with stressors,” she continues. Which is what helps make “tulsi”—the Hindu name for holy basil— Ayurveda’s perfect antidote to the hectic pace of the modern world.
But holy basil’s benefits don’t stop at stress-busting. “I’ve also seen it pretty widely used to treat common ailments like an upset stomach or even a seasonal cold,” says celeb nutritionist and beauty-foods evangelist Kim Snyder. “It’s thought to work because the chemical compounds it’s comprised of can help decrease inflammation and pain.”
Holy basil has a more peppery, clove-like taste than its familiar Western counterpart, sweet basil, though the two are closely related. And like sweet basil, it can be used to flavor all types of savory dishes—just think more along the lines of spicy soups than Italian pasta sauces.
But the herb may be at the height of its stress-squashing abilities when it is enjoyed slowly, as part of a relaxing daily tea ritual. There are plenty of ready-made blends available online or in health food stores, or you can brew your own by steeping fresh or dried leaves. Then simply sip. Breathe. Repeat.
“In the UK, during the Second World War [when citrus was scarce], people made rose hip syrup from the fresh hips to supplement their vitamin C levels and help keep them healthy,” says Tipper Lewis, lead herbalist at the famed British natural health emporium, Neal’s Yards Remedies.
Blakeway goes on to explain that rose hips are also a known inflammation-buster, so much so that they’ve been used to help treat rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic inflammatory disorder). “Research has shown [rose hip] to be helpful at reducing the pain, inflammation, and swelling associated with the joints,” echoes Lewis.
“It’s thought to be a substance called ‘GOPO’—a galactolipid—that has the main effect, so if you’re buying rose hips [for inflammation], make sure they contain this substance.” Meaning buy it in whole or pure dried forms.
The fruit itself can taste a bit sour, so Lewis recommends trying it in tea, which is “tart and sweet at the same time.” Infuse fresh or dried hips in hot water, just like you would any tea, Lewis recommends. Or for a refreshing summertime tonic, soak rose hips in cold water overnight, then sip, letting the anti-inflammatory benefits wash right through you.
ELDERBERRY GENUS: SAMBUCUS
Elderberries look a whole lot like blueberries, and while they’re nowhere near as wellknown, they enjoy a comparable reputation as a superfood among nutrition insiders.
That’s because the small, dark berries are immune-boosting powerhouses, high in “health-giving” antioxidants, like flavonoids (which have serious anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial properties), explains Lewis—as well as anthocyanin.
The latter is “what gives them their lovely dark purple color,” adds Blakeway—and makes them a potent anti-viral (some very promising studies suggest they can help fight the flu).
Elderberries have longer-term benefits as well. “[They] are also great for promoting healthy blood circulation, because the anthocyanins protect the inner layer of blood vessels from oxidative stress and
inflammation,” says Blakeaway—two of the biggest culprits when it comes to so many chronic diseases.
These berries don’t taste all that great raw, so many people sip them like tea, explains Lewis, or as a sweet-tasting elderberry syrup. You take a dose of the syrup straight-up, much like you’d take traditional cold or flu medicine… or use it on top of pancakes or frozen yogurt.
“But consistency is key,” she says. “Herbal remedies work best when used regularly” so up your intake throughout the cold and flu season.
NETTLE GENUS: URTICA
Don’t be put off by its painfulsounding name; nettle, or stinging nettle as it is often called, has a long history as a super healing herb. We’re talking goes-all-the-way-back-tomedieval-Europe long, when it was widely used as a diuretic and to fight joint pain.
Nettle definitely can sting if you brush up against it, because it’s covered in fine hairs that pierce the skin and release irritating chemicals. If, however, you’re careful with how you handle it (more on that below), nettle has lots of modern-day applications, says Lewis.
First off, it’s a natural upper. “Nettle is mineral and nutrient rich; it acts as a tonic for the body helping general vitality if you’re feeling run down,” Lewis says.
Plus, nettle has antihistamine properties, which means it can really help cut down on the sniffling and
sneezing that accompany allergies and hay fever. (Important note: Lewis says you have to start sipping nettle tea before the start of allergy season to help prevent symptoms before they begin.)
And nettle is often used in cleanses (score one for the medieval Europeans!) because it’s a diuretic, which Lewis says can help clear up skin and detox the body. That explains why the UK has embraced it as an ingredient in many of its juice bars, Lewis says.
To work nettle into your home wellness routine, try sipping it as a tea. It can have kind of a grassy taste, Lewis warns, so if that’s not your thing, look for blends with peppermint.
“You can also blanch the young, fresh leaves in boiling water to remove the stingers and eat nettle as greens,” Lewis says. “It makes a delicious ingredient in soups, too!”
Burdock may look like a lowly weed, because, well, it is—albeit one that produces a rad-looking spindly purple flower. Health gurus dig it—literally— for its roots, and they have for ages,
“Burdock root is used in herbal medicine all over the world, because it’s high in antioxidants and has a powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect,” explains Blakeway. “In Japan, it’s eaten as a vegetable and throughout Asia, it has been used for thousands of years in combination with other herbs to treat sore throats, tonsillitis, colds, and even measles.”
Burdock root is also used to help treat skin problems, like psoriasis and eczema, she says, though experts still aren’t exactly sure which of its active ingredients make it so darn healing.
“You can also apply it puréed directly to a problem area on the skin,” says Snyder. “Since it treats so many varying issues,” she says, “people should figure out if it’s personally right for them.”
COCONUT GENUS: COCOS
Coconut oil, often cold-pressed from the fruit, has been the indisputable breakout ingredient in the nutrition and beauty worlds for the last few years, winning fans who adore it for being a total wellness multi-tasker.
“People used to think coconut oil was unhealthy, because it contains saturated fats, but now we know that these saturated fats are different to those found in fatty meat,” says Blakeway. “Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are metabolized differently in the body and are a great source of energy.”
MCTs have even been shown to increase energy expenditure in the body, she says, which means coconut oil can aid in
And proponents of the macrobiotic diet say that it can help metabolize fat, so it’s served as a weight-management veggie. You can chow down on the roots—which look a lot like white carrots or turnips— much like you’d eat any other root vegetable (perhaps roasted or pickled), or take it in supplement form (burdock often comes as a dried powder or in herbal tinctures).
But a word of caution to anyone contemplating jumping on the burdock bandwagon: Snyder says that people who suffer from ragweed allergies could potentially have a hard time with it, so check with your doctor before you eat or apply this powerful root. “It also has a diuretic effect, so you need to be careful to stay hydrated if you’re using it medicinally,” Blakeway says.
weight loss. Plus, the oil contains something called auric acid, which gives it antimicrobial properties, Blakeway says, “making it a good plant to ward off infections.”
From a culinary perspective, coconut oil makes an awesome alternative to olive oil because it can handle up to 450 degrees of heat, giving it a high smoke point (i.e., the point at which the good compounds in an oil begin to break down and potentially problematic ones can begin to form). Try it in stir-frys, or to pan sear lean proteins. It also comes in handy in everything from baked goods to bulletproof-style coffee.
And beauty aficionados are enamored with it. “Coconut oil is by far my favorite beauty product, and I use it wherever I can,” says Snyder. Who should use it? “Everyone, everywhere,” she raves. It’s also a hair conditioner, star makeup remover, lip balm, and body scrub (when mixed with sugar or salt). No wonder so many wellness gurus love to use and recommend coconut oil.
Apple Pie Fall’s Hardest Working Dessert
Of all the dishes and desserts to capture the essence of fall, is any more iconic than apple pie? Found on family tables from September through Christmas, this humble concoction of crisp apples and earthy spices baked into a flakey crust signifies more than just a weather change—it means comfort, warmth, and human affection. In other words, we ask a lot of our pie.BY JAIME LEWIS
ur pie asks a lot of us, too, as I learned from a recent tasting with friends of several locally-made samples. In speaking with three benchmark San Luis Obispo bakeries, I learned that crafting an apple pie is no mean feat, requiring everything from a scientist’s tenacity to a clairvoyant’s foresight to ensure that the pie filling showcases the apples (without going gooey), is
adequately spiced (without overpowering the fruit), and comes together in a perfectly golden crust (that’s neither pasty nor tough). So much for basic.
Carl Sagan famously said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” The next step? Locate the best apples.
e use Washington Granny Smiths to fall back on, but I’ll often go out to get local apples myself from SLO Creek Farms,” said The Apple Farm’s longtime Executive Pastry Chef, Willie Vey, who grew up on a farm herself and inherited the pie-making gene from her mother. The Apple Farm recipe includes a filling of whichever seasonal apples are available, spiced with an earthy blend of
cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice, as well as cornstarch, sugar, and a little salt. The crust is simply made with flour, vegetable shortening, salt and water. “We make massive amounts of crusts,” said Vey, sharing that the Apple Farm employs one person full-time to make 20 to 35 pies per day, as well as others during Thanksgiving week when the bakery pumps out 1,200 pies. >>
t the Madonna Inn, I met Bakery Manager Amber Russell and was reminded that the bakery there has a very proud—if slightly overshadowed by towering cakes—pie history. “Pie orders have gone up steadily for the past several years,” says Russell, who was hired by Alex Madonna himself and takes pride in carrying on the Inn’s long-standing tradition of producing beautiful baked goods. “We have a lot of locals
with repeat orders, banquets, and traffic from the freeway,” she said. Each day, the Madonna Inn bakes about 22 pies for the store, in addition to special orders. Like at the Apple Farm, Russell uses Washington Granny Smith apples for her pies with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash of lemon. Her crust, however, was the only one we tasted that included some amount of butter “for flavor and color,” said Russell. >>
TURNED ON ITS HEAD
San Luis Obispo County excels at deconstructing apple pie, as I discovered in my search. A few standout dishes:
The Apple Farm’s Willie Vey makes a killer Upside-Down Pecan Apple Pie that won our tasting party over for its decadence and creativity.
Ember Restaurant in Arroyo Grande offers a seasonal Apple Tarte Tatin with Vanilla Shortbread, Sea Salt Caramel, Brown Sugar Oat Crumble & Crème Fraiche Ice Cream
Artisan Restaurant in Paso Robles sources local apples from Windrose Farms for its Baked Apple and Tart Cherry Crumble with Rum Raisin Ice Cream
nlike the Apple Farm and Madonna Inn, the Avila Valley Barn is a working farm that grows most of the apples used in its pies. When I asked what it’s like to have control from tree to pie plate, owner Debbie Smith laughed and cited the many factors that have diminished See Canyon apple production to 15 percent of normal this year. “Control?” she quipped. “There is no control!”
Smith started baking pies 27 years ago when the farm-produced more fruit than the farm stand
could sell. “Our recipe has changed a lot over time,” she shared. “We started with a full-butter crust, then a half-butter and half-shortening crust, and finally we decided to cut all butter out. It just makes the crust too bread-dough-y for this level of production.” And what level of production is that? A whopping 100 pies per day, average, and more on weekends.
Smith’s apple pies are beautiful to behold, piled high and covered with a golden crust that’s scalloped around the edge like a cartoon
pie, set out to cool on a window sill. They also taste spectacular, particularly those made with a blend of apples from the Avila Valley Barn or Gopher Glen, a property in See Canyon planted to over 100 apple varieties that the Smith’s purchased six years ago. “We use a ‘harvest blend’ for our apple fillings,” said Smith. “Especially Jonagolds and Braeburns. We like balance—not too soft or too crunchy.” When asked how she spices her pies, Smith raised a proprietary baker’s eyebrow and giggled. “I can’t tell!”
HERB CRUSTED LAMB SHANKS
WITH CREAMY POLENTA
Just in time for fall, Chef Jessie Rivas shares his version of classic, sophisticated, comfort food. Pair this dish with roasted root vegetables and a hearty red wine such as Syrah or red Rhone blend, which echoes the meaty character of the lamb and provides complementary notes of pepper and spice.BY CHEF JESSIE RIVAS
¼ cup olive oil 4-6 cloves garlic, minced ¼ cup mixed dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, and lavender) 2 tsp Spanish paprika ½ tsp fresh grated nutmeg 1 tsp ground cumin kosher salt crushed black pepper 4 large lamb shanks ½ cup red wine 1 ½ cup beef stock
1. Mix all dry ingredients together in a small bowl. 2. Stir together
minced garlic and olive oil and rub on the meat of the shank.
3. Season the meat with the dry ingredient rub.
4. In a dry, hot sauté pan, sear the shanks on all sides, about 5 minutes per side.
5. Transfer shanks to a shallow braising pan. Add wine and stock and bring to a boil.
6. Reduce to a simmer and cover for one hour or until fork tender.
7. To finish, pull shanks from pan juices and reduce the juices to desired thickness and adjust to taste with salt and pepper.
Downtown Paso’s Studios on the Park welcomes artist Erin Hanson for her fourth annual October exhibition. Hanson’s anticipated 30-piece collection focuses on the diverse and magnificent landscapes found across California’ wondrous wine country.
October 1 – 25 // studiosonthepark.org
GRAND OPERA DUO
Enjoy a fun and relaxing getaway on the California coast in October. Hundreds of whimsical scarecrows are on display throughout the seaside villages of Cambria and San Simeon. October 1 – 31 // cambriascarecrows.com
Opera San Luis Obispo presents the Citywide Arts Collaboration Grand Opera Duo Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci featuring Central Coast Children’s Choir, Civic Ballet San Luis Obispo, Deyo Dances, Opera San Luis Obispo, Resonance Vocal Ensemble, and Ryan’s American Dance. October 10 – 11 // pacslo.org
CITY TO THE SEA
The City to the Sea half marathon course is a point-to-point race that starts in downtown San Luis Obispo. The course winds through the city, takes runners along scenic backroads, and ends alongside the Pacific Ocean in the coastal community of Pismo Beach.
October 11 // citytothesea.org
Enjoy food, games, activities, and a parade around Meadow Park. All participants are asked to donate a can of food to the Food Bank Coalition of SLO County. Concluding the night, enjoy a kid-friendly movie on the park lawn under the stars.
October 23 // slocity.org
HARVEST ON THE COAST
Enjoy a winemaker’s dinner along with the Grand Tasting and Wine Auction. And on Slider Sunday, each tasting room will feature their take on the “slider” paired up with wines, music, and wine specials.
November 6 – 8 // slowine.com
A NIGHT IN HAVANA
Enjoy an evening of Cuban costumes, music, food, drinks and film. Proceeds benefit the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.
November 21 // slofilmfest.org
MORRO BAY TRIATHLON
Swim the bay, ride historic Highway 1, and run on the hard-packed sand on the beach, boardwalk, dirt roads, and paved roads. Come out and enjoy some of the finest multi-sport terrain on the West Coast!
November 8 // morrobaytri.com
WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING
A compelling family saga that takes us back and forth in time from one generation to another, from 1959 to 2039, from London to Australia. With four generations of fathers and sons, their mothers, lovers and wives, the play is epic in its scope, yet at the same time extraordinarily intimate.
November 20 – 21 // slolittletheatre.org
The quintessential backstage musical comedy classic, 42nd Street is the age-old tale of a starry-eyed chorus girl who becomes a star—a song and dance fable of Broadway with an American Dream story.
November 30 // pacslo.org
A mother shares her journey in diagnosing Lyme diseaseBY NICKI NYSVEN
Lyme disease awareness has become crucial to me. I am the mother of two children, and we live in San Luis Obispo. My 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed Center for Disease Control (CDC) positive for Lyme disease in April 2014. My 17-year-old son was diagnosed with Babesia, a co-infection of Lyme disease, in April 2015. I have become an advocate for my children and for other people who suffer from these diseases.
It all started when my daughter, who was four-and-a-half at the time, told me her back was hurting. As time went on, she started to complain that her neck also hurt, and she felt tingly feelings on her arms and legs; she said it felt like lady bugs were crawling on her. She had trouble bending over and could only reach as far as her knees.
Symptoms continued, and when she was in 4th grade, her knees hurt so much she was no longer able to participate in sports. She had loved playing soccer, but I had to pull her from the last game of a tournament because of her pain. It was devastating for her. The pain became so unbearable, she was even unable to participate in school recesses.
I promised her that I would never give up trying to find out what was causing her so much pain. There had to be a reason, and I wasn’t going to stop until we had an answer.
For six-and-a-half years we had hundreds of doctor appointments, volumes of blood work, MRI’s, CAT Scans, and specialist after specialist, including a team of physicians at a children’s hospital within a major California university. We were told that they could not find anything wrong with her other than a vague diagnosis of Reactive Arthritis. They said she would have to live with the pain and learn pain management for the rest of her life.
Then, I took her to a naturopathic doctor (ND) who ran more extensive lab tests, and when they came back, they showed CDC Positive for Lyme disease. We finally had the answer that I promised my daughter.
Looking back, I now believe my son contracted Babesia around the same time frame that my daughter contracted Lyme. With all that I have learned about the diseases this past year I now recognize that he had the symptoms all along, but was able to function. The symptoms were subtle enough at first that he felt it was normal for him. His insomnia, stomach pain, migraines, and random body extremity pain
seemed like everyday life to him. The beginning of this year things got worse, which led him to miss more and more school. He was having frequent migraines, extreme insomnia, air hunger (respiratory distress), rib pain, light-headedness, and severe stomach pain—all symptoms of Babesia. He ended up on home instruction the last few months of his junior year.
My son has been an avid, dedicated, and disciplined soccer player since elementary school and played the club scene along with being on the varsity team since his freshman year of high school. Now he is uncertain whether he will be able to play this year, his senior year, or in college. He was good enough that there was a realistic hope that he could be awarded a college scholarship.
I didn’t want to wait six-and-a-half more years to get a diagnosis, so I took him to the ND to rule out Lyme and other co-infections, even though I was sure he had it. Sure enough, his tests came back positive for Babesia.
Overall, I have done a massive amount of research, not only to educate myself but also family and friends. I wanted them to understand the severity of these diseases.
I hike the hills along with many people here who do not know that Lyme exists right here on the Central Coast, and do not know how to prevent it. Many believe, wrongly so, that it is only contracted on the East Coast. I believe it is likely that 99% of our local population does not know the facts. Additionally, most of our medical doctors on the Central Coast do not appear to know that Lyme exists here, but it does. And I am on a mission to spread the word.
I want to thank my husband for being so supportive through all this. If it weren’t for him, I would not have been able to help our children and help others by spreading awareness. Please—all of you who read this—please help me spread the word. These websites, limediseasechallenge.org and ilads.org, are two great resources that provide vital information about the disease and, most importantly, how to prevent it.NICKI NYSVEN