OPAL Picnic, Rally to Include State Officials Lt. Governor Habib, Sen. Ranker to speak at July 12 housing rally

Wednesday, July 12, 5 p.m., Village Green

— from Judy Whiting for OPAL —

Lt. Governor Cyrus Habib and Sen. Kevin Ranker will join local leaders on the stage at the Village Green on Wednesday, July 12 in support of affordable housing, which remains Orcas Island’s most critical need.

“Let’s Hear It for Affordable Housing!” – a picnic and rally organized by OPAL Community Land Trust – begins at 5 p.m., with the program starting at 6 p.m.

“We invited the Lt. Governor and Senator to add their unique perspectives on the importance of economic diversity and the roles that affordable housing and local impact investing play in our community,” explained Lisa Byers, OPAL executive director.

Joining Habib and Ranker will be Councilman Rick Hughes; Jacob Linnes, co-manager of Island Market; and OPAL homeowner Monique Turner, who will be acting as celebrity participants in a special “Housing Jeopardy” game.

A picnic will be provided by the Orcas Village Store; cost is $5 per person or $20 per family. Other activities include music by the Turtleback Brass and booths where islanders can provide input, tell their stories and learn where their action and involvement are needed.

Afterward, walking tours of the proposed April’s Grove rental neighborhood on North Beach Road will be led by OPAL staff and trustees.

Sponsoring the picnic and rally are Island Market, the Orcas Village Store, San Juan Propane, Islanders Bank, Nickel Bros., San Juan Insurance, Washington Federal Bank and The Exchange/Orcas Recycling Services.

For more information, go to www.opalclt.org or call (360) 376-3191.

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OPAL Picnic, Rally to Include State Officials Lt. Governor Habib, Sen. Ranker to speak at July 12 housing rally — 25 Comments

  1. While I understand a need for affordable housing on the mainland and in our dense population centers throughout the country where industry and jobs exist and where resources, power grids, space and other infratructural requirements aren’t limited as they are on a small island, is increasing the profit and sales of businesses driving this? Is increasing the population of Orcas Island a truly desirable goal when jobs are limited as are almost all other aspects of small island living?

    I only ask for perspective and balance. What’s wrong with keeping Orcas’ rustic charm, its natural habitat in ecological balance and its scarce resources available for a population suited to its inherent limitations. That’s intelligent, rational living that’s produced so many amazing children who are now adults on Orcas. It’s been a winning formula.

    There seems to be a drive to want to make Orcas Island one more urban subdivision with an obssession for “afforable housing.” To what end? For someone’s or some few peoples’ profit by increasing sales through increased population?

    Living on Orcas Island is truly about living within our means, living sustainably. This requires serious vision, rational thought and policies to match.

    Overpopulation is human failure, literally!

    Increasing density and destroying carefully and intelligently thought out habitats is a thoughtless solution that piles one more failure onto so many others we see on the mainland.

    We’ve carved out a niche here out of necessity given the contraints inherent in island living. Let’s not stop being smart and forward thinking in how we continue to implement sustainable living practices going forward.

    Crowding this island physically, putting further strain on resources and planting more seeds and needs for a possible increase in homlessness and shelters, respectively, is actually the cruel result of undeveloped thinking (often by those with big hearts –a very good thing but best served with a matching amount of rational thought).

    Are you responding to a mini-crisis or getting ready to implement ideas that will fan the flames and increase a need that the island can’t answer and therefore merely increase the amount of people in shelters, on drugs and/or without employment? Where are the intelligent incentives for intelligent living?

    Distinguishing between exacerbating a need for housing and overpopulating this islnd and living sustainably (sanely) on Orcas with our permanently limited resources and physical space is the difference between success and failure not only here on Orcas but throughout the country and world.

    We can think globally but let’s at least act locally and continue getting it right here on Orcas…as this island has for many, many years—hence our attractiveness to all who would come to know us.

    Why do you think Orcas Island is the magnet it is? Because we’ve overpopulated it, built shelters and increased joblessness while augmenting our native drug addiction problem? These are the very opposite reasons why Orcas Island is a success. Let’s reward what we want, what’s sane and healthy and what has worked for decades. Let’s be thoughtful, not driven by emotion untethered to reason.

    Let’s hear it for rational behavior that stands a far better chance of translating into intelligent compassion than does political and economic short-sightedness and expediency that we all know too well has failed so many of our urban centers and is why so many of us came to Orcas in the first place.

    Let’s not bring the mainland to Orcas. Let’s be what we are: a small island that strives to live within its mean intelligently where children can grow up with space that because of its very nature is also sacred in its pristine beauty. Where reason and common sense still hold power over bigotry and emotional and irrational nonsense. Where we maintain balance and learn problem solving techniques on the spot out of necessity, not luxury. Where ecology and nature instruct and most importantly where we listen and heed the import of its wisdom.

    Throw this away for the transitory politics of this fleeting moment? I think not.

  2. Personally, I find it difficult to agree with Chris on this issue. I’m as anti-growth as the next person and I applaud the efforts to retain the rural character of this beautiful place. Still, I would hate for Orcas Island to become another Nantucket where only the wealthy can afford to live. The reality is that we are experiencing a change in our demographics that some have described as the silver tsunami, the aging of our population. Realistically speaking, as we grow older, the need for trades and services increases as we find ourselves less able to do the things that we used to do ourselves when we were younger. Unfortunately, those trades and services are becoming prohibitively expensive for many of us. Not long ago, I paid $200 for an appliance service call. Last week I received a quote of $300 for labor to replace a damaged window. We are becoming increasingly dependent on the mainland with all the costs and inconveniences that that implies. Why? Because it is increasingly difficult for tradesmen and service providers to afford housing on the island. We are losing the young people who are increasingly needed by our aging population. Personally, I like the energy that young people bring and I hope that we can find a way to make Orcas Island a place that they can afford to enjoy along with the rest of us older folk.

  3. Deep gratitude to OPAL for pioneering new ways of providing more affordable housing options, especially rental housing – an increasingly precious thing as many rental properties shift to serving the tourist economy through vacation rentals.

    I also appreciate the thought OPAL is putting into making these new homes very energy efficient, and exploring electric vehicle charging stations and ride sharing approaches to meet transportation needs efficiently.

    Stakeholders interested in low income challenges in our county, including OPAL, participated in a low income needs assessment a couple years ago, and the dearth of affordable housing was rated by the participants, on a scale of 1 to 10, as an 11. For more on that report, see: https://www.opalco.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/2015-Needs-Assessment-Market-Profile.pdf

  4. My concern is with the law of unintended consequences.

    Technology is and will increase the rate by which jobs disappear on the mainland and here. Labor, supplies and materials always cost more on Orcas Island than elsewhere. A captive audience being the culprit.

    Let’s not create false straw-issue(s). Many young people who are adequately trained and educated can afford more home and can work remotely more so than you or I.

    Alls that I’m saying (asking) is:

    is there a better approach than filling an uncertain long-term need (affordable housing) that won’t materialize with the jobs realistically anticipted over the next 10-20 years?

    Do we need to risk destroying the magic of this island so that we have more than the needed amount of people on-island to clean my gutters? There are people born and raised here to do that work and also haul away debris via island ex or other similar businesses– that is, when we dont rely on our own resourcefulness and take it down to the burn pile ourselves and solve the problem.

    Again, lets practice the art of distinction. Increasing density brings more damage and harm than benefit. Though, it does makes some richer. Short term political and economic expediency based on yesterday’s failed models is my issue. That’s my complaint in a nutshell.

    For example, the other day I stopped to have my car serviced at Frontier Ford on the way to Seattle for necessities some would call luxuries but I call quality products. While waiting at the dealership I decided to check out what all the fuss was about at Amazon.com. I went online, found, and ordered a new Miele vacuum cleaner ($200 cheaper than at a
    retail outlet), and every other item on my list of 9 needs that I believed I had to travel to University Village in Seattle to purchase.

    Do I particularly like the fact that Amazon.com is erasing brick & mortar businesses? No. Like reading a book, many of life’s chores are 5-sense experiences. I like turning a page of faux parchment, smelling a book and enjoying its tactile experience in my hands in addition to its hopefully stimulating and thought provoking content. But, I’m a realist too. My list of 9 items were not only found at substantial discounts on-line and delivered to my door within the week, but I was able to enjoy local venues in Skagit county instead of spending all day on I-5 in traffic so that I could overpay for the same products.

    Again, times are changing and this island can and is finding younger people with good modern and clean jobs who can afford homes, stimulate growth with a responsible use of capital and add to, not drain, our very limited resources.

    Is there a better way forward that incorporates the economic realities unfolding before our very eyes?

    Obsessing over “affordable housing” responds to yesterday’s economic model and yesterday’s clear failure in this regard. Again, it’s why we left the mainland. Yesterday’s policies do not work.

    Food for thought.

  5. Chris, I apologize in advance if this is too blunt, but I think your shopping experience makes your point perfectly; sure, you could have chosen to spend a little bit more money to demonstrate that supporting (hopefully local) brick and mortar businesses is important, but why stand up for a cause when ultimately it is so much cheaper and more convenient for you to graze with the flock. The Orcas community has a long history of putting their money and time behind “inconvenient” and “expensive” causes because they felt it was the *good* thing to do.

  6. Good point.

    I’m just making distinctions and suggesting that despite economic realities, which will not be held at bay, we can use our skill to better navigate the near future and and not throw our hands in air in despair.

    There’s a way to chart this course mindfully where we avoid the intentional destabilization of Orcas Island’s ecological delicate balance.

    Increasing density on a small island is indefensible no matter the inconvenience to homeowners. The trade-off is disasterous and destroys the very reasons that made Orcas Island desirable in the first place–its natural bounty–doing this is textbook short-sightedness and usually involves financial gain for unseen players. Let’s be blunt.

    The nature of work is changing. Take the good, leave the bad and use our age-old refined skill that has served our species well for over 7.5 million years–discriminate and choose wisely.

    Discrimination is not a bad word. It’s why we’re here having this coversation. Bad motives are what’s bad. Again, distinctions matter.

    Think longer term. Progress and rearranging the concepts of work do not necessarily equate to the destruction of natural habitats by overburdening our structurally limited small island resources.

    Only bad and short sighted human made policies do this. We can and must do better. Yesterday’s solutions on the mainland have failed miserably. Why on earth do we want to import the failure of yesterday?

    I cant help but see this for what it is: disguised failed politics of mandating some form of equality. Its top down imposition of form over substance and it directly contradicts human nature. It will always fail for this very reason.

    There’s no short cut to excellence or quality. Let’s not learn that the hard, irreversible way.

  7. There is an expression that I frequently hear, “It is the beauty that brings people to this island, but it is the people who convince us to stay.” Personally, I like to fill my building and supply needs at Island Supply where I know the people and I know that they stand behind what they sell. I enjoy grocery shopping at Island Market (at least during the winter months) where I run into people who I know and a 15 min shopping trip turns into an hour of pleasant conversations with my neighbors and friends. There are over 100 non-profits for those who are active in the community, not to mention the innumerable clubs. Something for everyone. Our biggest problem is how to serve our aging seniors, especially when they can no longer drive, but if you haven’t noticed, the Senior Center and Lahari are working to solve that problem. These same seniors may shop on Amazon, but when they need someone to repair an appliance, replace a rotting deck, or so many of life’s day to day maintenance issues, it is hard to find a tradesman or service worker. Likewise, we have a continuing problem meeting our health care needs because medical staff are finding it increasingly difficult to find housing. Have you considered what will happen when you need a care giver? Will you be able to afford it? Will you be forced to move to the mainland, leaving your friends and this island behind?

    Yes, there are people who are carefully considering these problems including the folks at OPAL who have been doing an amazing job of providing housing for some of our workers. Did you know that not a single OPAL homeowner defaulted during the Great Recession? If you have not read up on what a community land trust is, I suggest that you do so in order to understand how this organization deserves our support. They are part of what keeps this a special place.

  8. Thank you, Paul. I’ll read up on it.

    Personally, we belong to the coop where we shop for our food as well as the black dog farm and maple rock. We only use on-island contractors for building, excavation and other handy-man needs. We find that the quality of Orcas home-grown talent is worth the extra cost. We don’t mind paying a bit more for orcas island tradesmen and women because we want quality and we want to support their livelihood and pay them a decent wage that can help support their families and family dreams; in truth, we find real value in their services.

    We spend a good part our time on Orcas but also in the most diverse city of the world where we’re always in the minority. We see and experience first hand what many only read about or understand in the abstract when it comes to diversity and the benefits of same. When i ride a subway car no less than 190 countries can be represented on the same set of cars with me at any given moment. I’ve lived diversity my whole life and have been enriched by it in ways most only imagine in the comfort of their homogeneous environments.

    I speak from both practice and have had the time over many years in many parts of the developing world as well as here in the States to make observations based on prevailing theories.

    Unfortunately, many have no idea what reconciliation of differences and acceptance of others really means in a serious and challenged up-close way. They live in bubbles yet speak as though they know what true diversity means…the up close and often confrontational type. I’ve found peace in the real world village.

    So when I offer fellow Orcansinians my viewpoints I do so knowingly, not innocently, or with a naiveté that invites human error based on inexperience and misunderstanding of what’s at stake.

    I’ll research the land trust some more. Thanks for your suggestion.

  9. Also, keep in mind that this is an off the grid island.

    At some point reason needs to dictate the best course of action for each senior based on hos
    or her required level of care.

    At some point it becomes a selfish act to change the core nature of living on an isolated island such as Orcas, which in and of itself is its special quality, simply because you want to age into the nineties without local family support and yet expect the full range of services and care found on the mainland.

    Is that not selfish?

    Where’s the unselfish perspective for all the future generations who would like to experience what our current seniors have experienced most of their healthier and younger adult lives here on a ecologically sound pristine and not over-populated Orcas Island?

    Seriously, there’s more to it than providing services for seniors. Let’s be honest.

    Let’s allow future generations to have the same Orcas Island their grandparents and parents did. If you polled them all, I believe most would agree with my sentiments.

  10. Wow, what a discussion. It agitated me a bit. Chris, I urge you to think about what life on the island would be like without OPAL. There’s a map on the wall at the OPAL office showing where OPAL residents work – a total of 175 different jobs. Over the years numerous children have grown up in OPAL’s stable and affordable housing (generally between 10 and 15% of the public school population).

    Think about our community without OPAL. A community that could slowly start to lose its heart and soul, its younger families and its children.  Think about a community where some of our best citizens, if they decide to stay, live in drafty, sometimes pest infested, sub-standard, yet often quite expensive housing. And think about a community where some of our elders with moderate resources are forced to leave an island they love because they can’t find “aging in place” homes they can afford.

    I know some people in the islands say if you can’t afford to live here then you should go elsewhere. If that were the case we could soon begin a slide where there are no cashiers in our groceries and other stores, no nurses in our clinics, no waitstaff in our restaurants, no road crews to maintain our roads, no volunteers in our fire department and heaven forbid no drivers for the UPS and FedEx trucks.

    I know this is a bit exaggerated but the core truth remains. Without OPAL and the 3 other Community Land Trusts in San Juan County, this county would be a lesser place to live in and would be much further down the road to becoming a gated community, only for “well off” seniors. 

    Please feel free to call me if you would like to discuss any of these themes in greater detail. I’m at 376-4656.

    Bob Gamble

  11. Thanks Bob.

    I’ll take a closer look at Opal and the Land Trust. Paul’s (above) replies, too, have given me cause to hit the pause button on some of my specific concerns as it relates to Opal’s mission.

    As my first comment states, I actually do find Opal’s housing attractive and certainly preferable to substandard housing or living conditions first and foremost because of the effect substandard housing has on those living in it and by extension the effect it would have on Orcas’ larger community.

    As a resident, I’d certainly want to avoid creating a “slum” or in any way support a “slum-lord” as it were– a form of abuse that deliberately degrades humanity when choice exists but self-interest pretends otherwise. This is particularly galling when resources exist to offer living conditions which allow for a dignified life but greed stands between doing what’s right or making greater profits as to something as basic as housing. One of my jobs is defending the defenseless in subsidized housing on scales that dwarf what most can imagine. I’ve seen where the trails begin. A concern of mine is that many don’t see where they end until it’s too late. If your descriptions of Opal Housing’s purpose and proven accomplishments are correct, then I’d like to know this.

    My overarching concerns are that we work with the knowns, the facts and keep them uppermost in our minds. Specifically, that we recognize the hard limitations of small island living, its limited resources. That certain “social” goals better suited for the mainland’s urban and suburban communities not be used as a template for communities who chose specifically to leave the “grid,” leave the “comfort” of the mainland where much more is available in terms of resources, infrastructure and support. That we not turn Orcas Island into a “social laboratory” or “Martha’s Vineyard.” That we respect its delicate habitat first! That we respect the reality that we’re living somewhat off the grid second. That we enact policies that bare these realities in mind and not force-fit a “social” goal onto a small off-the-grid island where the assumption from day one is that if you choose to live here, you choose to alter your expectations about what “comfort” and “convenience” mean because sometimes they distract from what many consider more important knowledge to acquire about this experiment called being alive, awake, and being conscious.

    Being on an island in the pacific north west like Orcas awakens and questions much of the thinking that’s prevalent on the mainland and that’s, honestly, very derivative (and therefore not original, creative or inspiring); it’s derivative of mainland human-made circumstances and conditions that reflect an overall lower common denominator in human in achievement, understanding and awareness.

    Overpopulation and density build up contribute directly to this type of dumbing-down effect of a deteriorating human habitat. This is what many of us left behind when we chose to come to Orcas. It bothers me that many would like to simply transfer the mediocrity of the mainland over to these beautiful islands in the name of “doing good.” There’s a lack of vision and deeper understanding in this thinking.

    Again, what I see is the beginning of a trail that I recognize and have seen time and time again. It’s a trail that springs from subpar derivative, uninspired, short-sighted mainland thinking; it is failure incarnate. My alarm bells relate to this. I would only encourage others to consider these factors going forward while there’s still time and choose wisely; right now, it may seem to work and the purpose, design and practical realities may support what you’ve described– which is all good. But the trail doesn’t necessarily end here where your description of it begins.

    This greater level of awareness, understanding and purpose is what I’d like to see incorporated into the island’s thinking about Opal’s mission. I’d like to see some “outta the box” forward thinking that respects the hard infrastructural, natural and physical limitations of small island living. Doing so I believe is what has attracted most to Orcas whether this attraction has been articulated or not. Let’s articulate it now, together, in this conversation.

  12. Perhaps Mr Graham, you may consider going to the OPAL event at the Village Green tomorrow afternoon. I do not think you will find at this event that …”many would like to simply transfer the mediocrity of the mainland to these beautiful islands”…

    FYI, I do not live in any OPAL units.

  13. I would love to be at tomorrow’s gathering but irony would have it that I just so happen to be off island this week starting a trial in less than an hour defending a single mother (who immigrated to the US from Eritrea) from eviction and ending in the streets or a shelter along with her 14 year old daughter. She has a job. Affordable housing is the immediate issue but is belied by a deeper systemic mainland failure. The mainland’s approach is what failure looks like; I spend much time trying to lessen the pain; but, if you look deeply, the solution isn’t affordable housing, which is a symptom of a much larger deficit in understanding and vision.

  14. Wow, Mr. Chris Graham, it seems clear that it is fine with you that the Island become overpopulated by the wealthy but you don’t want to live around the locals or poor or working class! If you are truly concerned about overpopulation, take a look at our growing tourism economy. That is what brings more and more people who then decide they need to live here! We don’t need this economy which means that we need to support twice the infrastructure needed for residents (to support the fact that the population doubles for several months in the Summer) so that the few can have their tourist supported businesses. If you don’t believe that they are a minority…take a look though the yellow pages and see how many of the businesses listed are tourist related…definitely a minority.
    While you are doing your research to learn a little about this Island, talk to some of the employers here (grocery store, restaurants, hardware stores, etc. etc.) about how there are not able to find employees now that nearly all the year round rentals have been pulled off the market so the owners can make a killing with vacation rentals. In our neighborhood alone we have had both a wave of year round rentals turned into vacation rentals and other houses that sit empty except for two weeks of the year when their new (rich) owners come to enjoy the view and mow the lawn….
    I surely hope that you will take some time to get to know this Island that you want to protect.

  15. Merry, I dont want over-density, period…no matter the stripe. Overpopulation combined with the inability to responsibly raise offspring creates and sustains poverty; overpopulating degrades human life and, just as importantly, degrades our larger eco-sytems globally. It’s this thinking that translates into a race to the bottom. I realize that these facts arent convenient for certain social policies. But, there may better ways to think about our challenges.

    Therefore, I’m against enacting policies that serve to disempower the very people most in need. Real education, not what most of you think passes for education, is the key.

    In the interim, I’d like to protect Orcas’ delicate ecological balance and not have it become the victim of good intentions followed by unfortunate consequences.

    Human life isnt the only life to consider. It’s this attitude that’s destroying the planet and threatens eco-systems like the one on Orcas.

    If you plant seeds of dependency, that’s what you’ll reap. If Opal is simply designed to provide housing for hard working people not yet in a position to purchase, that’s fine. But we should keep in mind that we cant and shouldn’t overburden the island deliberately for socio-economic and political reasons. It’s just a small island and it will be damaged by overpopulation regardless of each inhabitant’s net worth.

    I want an Orcas that maintains its ecological bio-diversity by maintaining an abundance of undeveloped open areas like turtleback. I’m certainly not in favor of making Orcas another Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.

    Not everyone subscribes to the black and white politics of the day. As with most things in life, the “relative” and “ever-changing truth,” as much as anyone has access to such lofty heights, is most likely “gray” and more likely found bouncing around somewhere nearer the middle. I avoid linear thinking; a quantum mechanical view of life seems better able to describe matter…which includes you and me.

  16. Chris, you seem to be very concerned about unintended consequences. That sounds to me like “unknown unknowns” if I can borrow an expression from Donald Rumsfeld. Perhaps I can reassure you that we have been about this for a long time (nearly 30 years) and OPAL has a proven track record for not only protecting our ecosystem, but also providing permanently affordable housing for the people who are at the heart of our workforce. We are pretty good at understanding the “known knowns” and even at moving some of the “unknowns” into the known category. Your concerns seem to be a little vague to me and I wonder if you could be more specific. I think that you will find that there are some very talented people here who are quite talented in addressing the issues that concern you. Please visit the OPAL website at http://www.opalclt.org/. I think that you will be favorably impressed.

  17. I will visit the site and investigate it more; but I’d ask you to consider where this is headed.

    Eastsound has been unfavorably altered, ecologically, by so-called “progressive” development.

    I’d ask that you consider that peoples’ wants (as opposed to their needs) should not be what matters most or what always always come first, irrespective of socioeconomic background.

    What I find myself often up against is a prevailing assumption in this country that human life is always superior to all other life and that we are here to subjugate all including delicate ecosystems to our will. You may not think you’re operating under thiis teleological influence but I’d beg to differ. It’s difficult to make my case because it challenges assumptions not only held on the right, but also many on the progressive left.

    Intellectual honesty is expensive and often uncomfortable to tolerate.

  18. Well stated, @Chris Graham – especially the paragraph you just wrote about our short-sighted and selfish assumptions that human life should supercede all other life systems – which is how we got here to the 6th mass extinction. Where would be be without those other life forms? Thanks also for giving a care for what we in Eastsound UGA are going through; so few people really see or understand it, even the visionaries because they’re not thinking 7 generations ahead to how what we do now will affect whether humanity even survives as a species, and they don’t remember what this place was before it was so degraded.

    Having lived for many years with the consequences of seeing our county be OK with making the biggest contiguous natural forested wetland (Eastsound Watershed Basin) an “urban growth area” and destroying it with our ‘manifest destiny’ mentality of humanity over all else – it seems to me the big elephant in the living room and questions to ask are: why does all this “affordable housing” have to take place on the last forested lands in Eastsound and its surround? Why don’t other islanders in other locations want to help us ease the insanely unsustainable load here in Eastsound UGA, where our trees are being cut and falling like dominos, the storm water problem increases to the point where we further pollute our wetland and salt waters in an area ONE mile wide, at sea level (with rising sea levels) , a wind tunnel, and some of the most ecological sensitive lands on all of Orcas?

    These aren’t “pie in the sky” “chicken little” worries – this is HAPPENING at an alarming rate. Victory Hill is slated for “luxury condos.” That was supposed to be PROTECTED in our Comp Plan but when EPRC and Colin Maycock rewrote our SubArea Plan, all that was changed – we don’t even have Conditional Use Permits in the UGA anymore – that means NO environmental impact Studies needed – permits are granted.

    Somebody please answer this question: WHY should we take the brunt, watch our trees and wildlife die (go to Audubon if you don’t believe how fast insect-eating songbirds are disappearing rapidly), winds get fiercer and more damaging, drainage and pollution problems abound, the air is dusty and filthy here when it’s not raining and muddy – WHY? And for what?

    Here’s a link to the rapid decline of insect-eating beneficial songbirds:

    These are just some of the reasons I cannot in good conscience support “April’s Grove” project at the present projected location; the last forest in an already intense wind tunnel. it seems so pretentious to name a housing project named after a cow – however lovely she was – and assume that the cutesy name going to somehow make it OK to do another clearcut forest and wipe out more of the necessary forest ecosystem.

    From seeing what’s already been done here to degrade and destroy this little wetland basin I love, I know where this is heading. Call me “negative” or a “chicken little” if you like. Human “dominion” over all other life will extinct us all. If we don’t take care of the lands and waters that sustain US, all the talking and planning and building all the affordable or “luxury” housing in the world will just hasten the demise of everything that makes these islands livable.

    When are we going to stop “selling the dream” to tourists and take care of the reality we’re facing right now that is our responsibility? Where are the rights for ecology and ecological systems to exist and do their job keeping the balance? It’s hypocrisy to pretend to care about these islands and then turn our backs on the poor and working class here in the UGA as we watch “luxury condos” being built – for whom? Not us. We watch our supposed “UGA” become “prime” real estate for more Air B &Bs rather than housing which was promised to us, since we’re supposed to be clustered here like sardines. The densities are crazy – up to 40 units per acre in Eastsound Village Commercial! 40!

    Where will they all PARK?

    We who have loved these lands and waters and fought for them for years, watch our remaining forests razed for MORE parking lots for MORE tourists and MORE shopping. What are we doing? Please, can we wake up now from this dream fog?

    I have repeatedly stated my case with OPAL – that I think this forest is the wrong place for this housing; there are plenty of open fields. But the reality is, the realtors, developers, County Councils, and planners, have all long been pushing us into this sad direction we are going, and the train seems to be picking up speed with no brakes. Is this what we are proud to hand our youth?

  19. Thank you, Sadie.

    The ecological harm that’s been visited upon Eastsound is inexcusable neglect originating from a form of unconscious self-centeredness. Greed/ego causes this form of temporary insanity and explains why sowing the seeds of our own demise doesn’t phase us or disrobe our “pretend” love for our children or grandchildren. Only an unconscious form of self-centeredness explains the dissonance that turns love into violence. We’re all self-centered by nature; being aware of it makes a qualitative difference in how we conduct ourselves as stewards of our irreplaceable blue orb.

    The disregard for the bio-diversity necessary for complex life, like humans, as well all other life on the planet, is the epitome of ignorance and the kind of selfish, short-sightedness that’s extinguishing life as we write. It’s happening everywhere at an alarming rate. Despite these alarming facts, however, what gets the most air time is the same politics found in every other hamlet across the country, that is, in-fighting amongst ourselves between proponents for “affordable housing” and those for “vacation rentals.” What’s lost in all of this is the big picture; some would call it reality: that is, that we’re all cut from the same cloth. When our eco-systems go, we (all) go with them– rich, poor and everyone in between. I prefer not to play politics with the mini-extinction level events that add up to the grand finale– the 6th extinction.

    We should realize that the choice between our “environment” or a “comfortable human habitat” is patently false. This illusion derives from the most narrowest of our visions. It’s the opposite of anything remotely progressive. Instead of trying to legislate “equality in results” (an abstract idea that bares no relation to the animal world of which humans are just one of many species), we might want to direct some of our energy towards “real” education (not the political education that focuses more on policing expression than actually curing ignorance), and also towards policies that lead to a conversation about population growth and the underlying scientific knowledge that encourages the self-policing necessary to return the planet to equilibrium–so that we’re not left with China’s horrendous one-child policy (which will backfire demographically if you live long enough to witness it).

    The bottom line is without protecting and caring for our natural habitat, there’s simply no long term viable and sustainable human habitat to speak of, to say nothing of the wildlife with whom we share this planet and about whom we show such little regard.

    Hence, we’re witnessing the self-destructive nature of unconscious human beings operating from an unaware, self-centered place. This is an instructive and illuminating definition of violence that should make us all uncomfortable.

    By the way, I don’t know Spirit Eagle but he/she wrote with such concern and sincerity in the below letter to the editor back in 2015 (I hope she/he doesn’t mind my copying and pasting it here for all to read, again):

    Letter to the Editor: Spirit Eagle Decries Wetland Destruction
    Posted on December 11, 2015
    — from Spirit Eagle —

    The Eastsound Sub Area Plan (ESAP) has facilitated destruction of the Wetland/Swale by allowing uses incompatible with a Category 3 Wetland. Developers who, without Permits have taken trees and undergrowth that was necessary for the health of the Wetland in order to put houses and other buildings there have been neither fined nor stopped! Just “a slap on the wrist” for being naughty boys and they continued to build houses in the Wetland.

    So much for protection of probably the largest and most important Wetland in Eastsound
    which extends all the way through the Airport to North Beach.

    With this Revised ESAP It doesn’t seem to bother anyone that the waterfront will be literally crammed with apartments which I suspect will be used mainly by tourists. One designation allows for up to 40 apartments on one acre! (if parking could somehow be made available) I’m sure they’ll get around that “little problem”.

    The stagnant Pond on the Mount Property has done nothing to enhance the health of the Wetland. In fact, it was touted as Best Available Science at the time. By whose definition? It was modeled from a Study in New England which has Rain in the Summer and a completely different Climate. In fact the Scientist who created this model 20 years ago has disavowed it and now says it is better to leave the trees and to keep the under story.

    What will happen with more impervious surfaces in our “Streetscape” Plan that will prevent the trapping of toxins in the Wetlands? What is being dumped into our waters? I’d like to see the run-off analysis. Is that available to the Public?

    Further north in the Wetland, a business went in and cut trees illegally and again, as violators of the law do, got a slap on the wrist, didn’t get fined, continued to build and continued to violate the Codes. We need Code Enforcement officers immediately! At least three!

    A healthy Wetland has an abundance of Wildlife. They have no voice in meetings that decide their fate. The Deer, Bats (who eat mosquitoes), Squirrels and Owls, Hawks, Eagles and Racoons are gone. Frogs who used to sing their song of life…gone!

    This Fall, I saw only one or two Migrating Bird Species in the Wetlands (Migrating birds are protected under the International Migratory Bird Treaty to which the United States is a Signatory.) Just a few years ago, the joy of watching flocks of many species alight there was part of what made life bearable in Citified Eastsound!

    In looking at the UGA Maps, the planned Buildout is phenomenal with more to come! Consider that Light Industrial will intensify in the hills to the West. During the Winter when rainwater gushes like a river in ditches alongside the roads which it does now, the pollutants will flow along the road on Lovers Lane and straight into the Bay without depositing its’ toxins in the Wetland that is dammed up at Lavender Hollow on Enchanted Forest Road (with a too small Outflow pipe). Nothing has been done about this.

    The water used to flow into the Wetland. Further South, the Wetland has been compromised of course! The increasingly unfiltered pollutants will cause a decline in species in Eastsound Bay ie: Herring Spawning Grounds, Eel Grass and much more! If the County continues to allow these code violators to eat into the Wetlands, Life in the Bay will die. Tourists don’t come here to look at dead fish, polluted waters and sick wildlife with Buildings everywhere.

    Years ago, when I worked with Dorothy Austin when she was attempting to educate the citizens regarding the disastrous results that would ensue if Eastsound was designated an Urban Growth Area, her Lawyer, an Environmental Attorney, told the people at a large meeting that if they voted for the UGA, Build Out (every Parcel must be developed) would be Required under the Growth Management Act! This you will see, is manifesting Now! With a vengeance! Dorothy Austin was vilified for telling the Truth!

    I urge you Not to approve the revised ESAP. Instead, take as your guide in wisdom the Greek Physician, Hippocrates: “First Do No Harm”!

  20. Thank you Chris Graham for your Comments and for re-printing my letter of 2015. And Yes, I am a Woman (Hear me ROAR)! when I see greed as well as supreme ignorance destroying what is known as the Goddess’ Island. I used to live in the old Farmhouse that was on the so-called April’s Grove property with my daughter. It happened to be Haunted and the land itself wasn’t pleasant at night. I’m sure it was a Spirit Path, a place the original Native inhabitants who “crossed over” used. Other Sensitives who visited us could also feel them in the building and outside in certain areas. I bring this up because it illustrates many forces in Nature that shouldn’t be disturbed. I am amazed that OPAL will cut down one of the last Windbreaks in town. Eastsound IS A WIND TUNNEL! WHO in the COUNTY PLANNING DEPT doesn’t Get This! We know that developers don’t are, nor do investers and realtors care, yet as each tree comes down in Eastsound, there is nothing stopping the Wind. The trees the County replaces these Grandmother trees with are pretty little “Streetscape trees” that don’t exceed 6 or so feet in height. This won’t mitigate the wind velocity roaring through Eastsound.
    Whether people like to hear it or not, Eastsound has been sacrificed for the rest of the Island so that the Island is the perfect picture of a serene and pretty, clean, little island.
    Over half of the Orcas population is Mandated to Live in Eastsound! Get it? Squash “the workers” into town while the rest get to Experience the pleasure of Living On an Island, with Dark Skies at Night, Quiet nights and days. No cars roaring past, no pollution from constant auto traffic or increased airport traffic. It is “Island Living Outside of Eastsound.

  21. What a brilliant discussion! I’d like to invite all interested to join the FB Island Housing page. The OPAL picnic has a brief review, with pluses and minuses, and there are many interesting ideas being offered on affordable housing. I’d love to find ways to provide affordable housing, particularly for those with long term ties to the island (of which I am one), AND preserve our precious trees that are a habitat for so many species. I think that there may be a way to make it all work, but we have to HEAR each other. One way or another, Nature will prevail. The question is, do we wish to be a part of it?

  22. The real question is, will “human” nature stand down?

    Nature, apart from it’s “human” component, doesn’t detach itself from the moment, live in fictitious mental constructs separated from reality (i.e, not the present moment) and then proceed to destroy all habitat in order to exist. How often do you see an overweight zebra, cheetah or gazelle–undomesticated nature in the wild and free of human influence–? Nature that exists mostly in the present moment doesnt manufacture conflict as its human brethren do. Thus, instead of being “proud” of our great large minds, can we talk less, observe more and be a bit more humble.

    Our specices’ bi-pedal hominid-like ancestors likely first appeared between 5-7 million years ago. We discovered fire about 2.5 million years ago. After moving from Erectus to Habilis to Sapiens, we appeared as a bit more modern versions of ourselves around 130 thousand years ago (when we reached today’s approximate brain size).

    The dinosaurs roamed the planet for roughly ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-FIVE MILLION YEARS. Their end likely came from an asteroid or comet impacting earth in the Yucatán Peninsula as evidenced by the Chicxulub Crater–my point? It didn’t come from self-destructing.

    Why tell you this? Perspective! For all of our pride for having such large brains, we’ve only survived a fraction of the time of our reptilian friends; yet we’re on the fast tract of depleting our environment and our planet’s ability to support life (plus we’re about to commit a type of genocide as against all other non-human life to add to our hubris)…all this due to our increased brain power?–isn’t this just a bit ironic?

    The lesson here is to understand the brain as a tool, not a vehicle for removing us from reality, the moment. When it does this unconsciously, whatever conclusions we arrive at are tainted by having no grounding in reality. It’s our lack of sel-awareness, not our fine ability to use imagination, that conflicts us with our nature and all other nature around us. That’s part of what a “real” education looks like. Along with an exploratory search for the understanding of matter, subatomic particles, –all fields of science, ridding oursleves of irrational belief sytems that breed violence and instead being self aware of the tool our amazing brains can be, is how we “mindfully” co-habitate, organize human society and enact policy that helps run our cities and villages wisely. This is intelligent living. It requires real education as a foundation.

    Presence of mind, self-awareness and not manufacturing stories untethered to reason and empirical evidence is the starting point. Believe what you will, but “beliefs” without empirical evidence should never be permitted into the public square and serve as a basis for legislating behavior between ourselves. Otherwise, all things are equal irrespective of the equally observable reality; this is where violence and conflict are sourced; none of this mischief can begin if we’re self-aware and choose to remain present.

    On July 9, 2017, Pilita Clark, an environmental correspondent for the FT, wrote an article chastising the billionaire visionary Elon Musk for his “inter-planetary” ambitions. While she makes salient points regarding where his and the efforts of other influencial visionaries should focus their minds and money, one would be forgiven for assuming, based on her analysis, that she’s not aware that she herself is part of the intractable human dilemma for lacking self awareness and not seeing the real source of conflict instead of conveniently demonizing other human beings of different class, education or politics. In fact, the lack of reality in her comments proves to visionaries like Musk that we’re not likely up to the task of the necessary mea culpa to chart a new course– so why not have a “Plan B” waiting in the wings just in case– he probably thinks.

    Again, why point fingers at others? Instead, grab a mirror. It all starts there!

  23. Couldn’t agree more, Chris. Hope to see you on the Island Housing page.