Report from the Badlands

El Rancho Orange Acres

The DMB developers who want to build a brand new city of perhaps as many as 5,000 to 8,000 new homes off of Highway 25, next to the border of the Republic of Gilroy (that’s such a snazzy phrase, coined by my colleague Doug Meier), are dazzling the bejeezus out of nearly everyone in this community with their plans.

You got to hand it to them. For two years they’ve been acclimating us all to the inevitability of this brave new world, hosting open forums, sending out pricey slick brochures to every mailbox in the fiefdom, and now, by whisking away 25 of us last weekend on a whirlwind tour of their clone community “Verrado” in Arizona. Where not a blade of treated grass is out of place.

And everyone loves it. Me included! Well, almost everyone. There’s a few of you naysayers out there who won’t get into the cattle car.

Here in the toxic polluted watershed of the defunct New Idria Mercury Mine ghost town, we’ve been trying to create a massive new subdivision for years. Until DMB came along, we couldn’t even give away the project. We envision 5,000 brand new refrigerator boxes (spackled in stucco and California Mission style motifs, of course) lining the ridgetops and banks of the orange acid mine drainage coursing down the San Carlos Creek. It’s called El Rancho Orange Acres.

People laughed at us. Well, no more. We’ve been quietly holding focus groups with people from Panoche Valley and its environs to “listen” to what the community wants. We were never so happy as when the new board of San Benito supervisors contrived a way to get rid of that smart-growth planning director Rob Mendiola. Our first hurdle conquered! We could split up lots into 12 square feet if we wanted! Who’s to stop us?

Following DMB’s brilliant methods, we’ve been taking folks on whirlwind tours of a mock Orange Acres set-up we created here. Last Saturday we herded 20 San Benito residents from the neighboring Ashurst Ranch onto a flatbed pulled by brother Kemp’s backhoe, and headed up the road. The trip normally is about five miles, but we took, shall we say, a more scenic route. You see, there’s no need for our prospective customers to behold the filthy orange creek or any other eyesores this unique landscape has to offer – like the dead car graveyard.

“To your left! To your left folks is the quaint Adobe schoolhouse outfitted with state-of-the-art learning tools,” I bellowed with my bullhorn over the heads of our captive audience. “By summer it might have a real floor.”

“Wasn’t that used as a whorehouse in the old mercury mining days?” asked a troublemaker.

“Folks, that’s just propaganda you’re gonna hear from the likes of commie pinkos from the Historical Society,” I pattered back. “Now over here you’ll see the Cotton Tree Park we created where the little ones can have a ball.”

A brown swirling cloud hung and buzzed among the trees.

“What’s that big undulating mass?” asked another troublemaker.

“Oh, uh, you see, we’re using modern scientific techniques – in this case seeded rain clouds! – to green up this already picture-perfect landscape,” I replied.

The brown “cloud” swarmed toward the tractor-trailer and in an instant a gazillion flying capsid beetles covered the group head to toe.

“Har har,” I quipped. “That’s just the welcoming committee. Lunch time, everyone! Have some crackers and cheese logs.”

The tractor chugged along a circuitous route, carefully avoiding the dead 1971 Cadillac DeVille up on blocks and the abandoned outhouses we plan to use as guard kiosks when we gate the ends of this utopian community.

“Hey, why does the water in the creek look like lava?” shouted another troublemaker as he spat capsids out of his mouth.

“Don’t look at that!” I hissed. “I mean, here at El Rancho Orange Acres, we feel our community should blend into the landscape with the cinnabar and arsenic earth tones of this little patch of heaven – you know, Frank Lloyd Wright style. We dyed the water! The hovels, or homes, that is, are the same rustic color! Isn’t that nice?”

I didn’t get a response to that. As we moved on, all the pensioner dogs – the New Idrian welfare bums – waited for our approach for their cue to start their rollicking play in the fenced patches of foxtails (more parks). As we passed Molly the Dog, she was pooping. I guess she couldn’t wait. So much for show biz.

We arrived at the Community Wreck Room Trailer, many in the group still holding their noses. As we approached, my sister Mel was trying to madly roll away all the dead tires that have accumulated around the dilapidated shelter.

“Here’s the Community Club House!” I announced.

“Looks like white trash hell,” said a troublemaker.

“And so it is white!” I quipped. Kemp had just swirled some white paint on the front door to cover the “graffiti” left behind by our trusty mayor Orange the Cat.

Meanwhile, back up north …

Ignacio Velazquez, who is running for the 28th Assembly District, apparently is on a new leg of his campaign. He has bypassed the primary for the Republican nomination and started attacking the Democratic opponent Anna Caballero of Salinas, claiming in a press release she hasn’t done ANYTHING about “Gangs, gangs, gangs!” Boy, that’s what I call a keen sense of political savvy. Sheeeeesh.

The topper was when Orange hopped onto the trailer bed with the tour group and started spraying everyone like a territorial madman.

“You’ll find politics around here quite lively!” I giggled.

The group ran for their lives.

“Hey, wait!” I hollered. “We haven’t done the focus group. At least fill out the survey, for Dog’s sake!”

San Carlos Creek Update: OK. I guess we need to brush up on this tour-public input thing. We’ve decided to hold some more focus groups to see what color folks really want the creek to be. I’m thinking neon-green or purple.

In our research for this project, we did get ONE break when we called the city of Hollister to get some demographic numbers. One of the few government bureaucrats in this area who turns out to be a real human is Billy Avera, Hollister’s Development Services Director. No “I’ll get back to you,” no Freedom of Information Act hassle, just a quick forthcoming of public information we’re all entitled to. Heck, he even picked up the call when we rang his office up. I nominate him for the “Anti-Bureaucrat of the Year” Award.

Actually, we’re going to try to hire him for the El Rancho Orange Acres development team. What about it Billy?

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