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May the Low-Income Housing Be with You
Yeah, there was that day back in October when everyone and their aunt posted a mouse-shaped Death Star to their Facebook page. But George Lucas hasn't just been busy pledging to donate his $4.05 billion buckaroos from selling to Disney this year—he's also turned petulant/charitable locally, depending on whom you ask.
In April, Lucasfilm posted a strongly worded letter, stating that after 25 years, it was going to pull its application to build a film studio on Marin County's Grady Ranch. Citing bitterness and anger on the part of local neighborhood groups, Lucasfilm then announced that it would use the space to construct low-income housing, and the residents of Marin all clapped their hands, because 60 percent of the county's workforce commutes in due to Marin's exorbitantly high rent.
Kidding! No, what actually happened was a story ran in the New York Times where locals said the filmmaker's move was going to "incite class warfare" and turn the state's wealthiest county into Syria. In November, he became even more popular in the slow-growth region with plans to demolish a building from 1945 to make way for a park where statues of Indiana Jones and Yoda will be built. While he's at it, he should probably finance a Walmart, join the board of the Ross Valley Sanitary District and build a 10-story SmartMeter shaped like Jar Jar Binks in a designated wilderness or something.—Rachel Dovey
Walking Is Still Honest
Over 10 people were struck and killed by cars in Santa Rosa crosswalks in the last two years; many more were injured while walking or cycling. This is terrible and should stop, and is made even worse by the wonderful people who are getting mowed down by cars. One comes to mind: the eminently friendly Toraj Soltani from Mac's Deli, who was chased off the road and onto a golf course before being run over mid-fairway by an angry driver with a revoked license. Soltani isn't the only familiar face in downtown Santa Rosa to be hit by a car. Joseph von Merta, a longtime fixture on Fourth Street, was hit and killed on College Avenue in October. You don't know his name (he often spelled it differently when he talked to us), but you probably know his face, and it probably at one point or another asked you for change. Merta was homeless, in an almost proud defiance of normal life; every time I asked him if he'd found a place to live, he'd pat his sleeping pad and say, "I got it right here." Known variously as "Prince," "Siren" or "That Guy Sitting on the Fountain in Front of Ting Hao with the Puppet Stick," Merta was a quiet but reliable daily presence for over 15 years in Santa Rosa, asking for spare change and little else. Right before he died, he told me he'd just finished a job, was doing OK and planning to visit some family in the East Bay. A week later, he stumbled into the street at 5am and was killed, in the crosswalk, by a car.—Gabe Meline
Donkey Sauce & All
I shouldn't feel bad for a millionaire celebrity chef, but let's face it, Santa Rosa's own Guy Fieri had a really shitty year. First, his yellow Lamborghini was stolen from a garage in San Francisco. And by whom? A 17-year-old who was only caught because he reportedly shot a gun at two other teens in a fit of jealousy, leading authorities to discover his storage locker full of stolen goods, Fieri's Lambo among the loot. (So this kid, Max Wade, right, is sitting in jail the night before he's scheduled to be transferred, and his friends scale the barbed wire fence at the Marin jail, put a ladder beneath his window and try, unsuccessfully, to break the glass with a sledgehammer. In related news, Marin rappers Brilliant & Timbalias filmed a rap video, "Free Max Wade." Dude is his own franchise!)
Anyway, Fieri, who was Lambo-less for 10 whole months (I'm sure the insurance paperwork was a nightmare), opens a huge new Times Square restaurant, which seems to be a larger, more bombastic version of the establishments North Bay denizens are, for better or worse, familiar with. It gets unabashedly and hilariously shit on by the New York Times' Pete Wells, causing an uproar and official response by Fieri on The Today Show. "I stand by my food," he said, only semi-convincingly. "I stand by my team."—Nicolas Grizzle