Long before construction began on his plan to remake the site of Healdsburg’s former post office with a butcher shop and cafe, Pete Seghesio said his building would make a statement —create a splash — at the prominent downtown location a block from the town Plaza.
The nearly complete Healdsburg Meat Co. building with its columned facade and detailed cornice work is certainly getting attention. But after a slew of last-minute changes made outside the public eye, including the addition of an ultra, high-end restaurant, it’s not necessarily the kind he had in mind.
The revisions, which include the elite restaurant and luxurious hotel suites to replace a smaller cafe and extended stay rooms, have sparked complaints, put Seghesio on the defensive and prompted the mayor to write a long public letter explaining what happened.
It has also added fuel to an ongoing debate over Healdsburg’s identity — whether tourism is increasingly outweighing the needs of local residents, making it a town that caters more to gourmets who can afford the $200-per-person cost of the new restaurant.
The cork-colored building — just under the city’s 50-foot maximum height allowance — is a commanding presence, occupying the site where the post office stood for four decades before it was lost to fire in 2010.
For Seghesio, 50, it was a way to bring back some of the tall, stylish Healdsburg buildings of old. “That was what we wanted to build — not just a meat company — but we wanted to build a great building. I believe that’s what we’ve done,” he said.
The fact that the Healdsburg Meat Co. building sits on the site of the lost post office, a former everyday gathering spot for the general public, has heightened people’s sensitivity.
Critics say a cherished community gathering place is being replaced by a restaurant for the “1 percent.”
“We probably don’t need another restaurant we can’t afford,” said Jack Anderson, a Healdsburg health care consultant and passer-by whose opinion was polled last week. “That said, Cyrus did well,” he said of the acclaimed two-star, Michelin-rated Healdsburg restaurant that closed in 2012, following a high-profile legal dispute with the landlord.
But some say they like the building, even if the restaurant is out of their price range.
“It’s better than the ramshackle old post office,” said Healdsburg resident Barry Maclure as he eyed the new building with approval. “It will add to Healdsburg, but I can’t afford it — the high-cost meals.”
He plans, however, to shop at the adjacent butcher shop on the ground floor when it opens, now estimated to occur in September or October.
Some have described the building in the pages of the weekly Healdsburg Tribune as an “out-of-scale monster,” while others defend it as thoughtfully designed, reflecting the historical attributes of Healdsburg, not only for its style, but its resemblance to the tall imposing building that occupied the same spot in the late 1800s.
But it’s the plans for the inside of the building that really stoked the debate. After rumors last fall that a top-notch chef might be moving into the space, Seghesio in January confirmed that superstar chef Kyle Connaughton and his farmer wife would be opening a Michelin-worthy restaurant there, dubbed Single Thread Farms Restaurant and Inn.
California pot: Smoke it (or eat it) if you can get it
OAKLAND — It wasn’t exactly reefer madness Monday as California launched the first legal sales of recreational marijuana, but those who could find the drug celebrated the historic day, lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from cookies to gummy bears to weed with names like heaven mountain.
Jeff Deakin, 66, his wife Mary and their dog waited in the cold all night to be first in a line of 100 people when Harborside dispensary, a longtime medical pot shop in Oakland, opened at 6 a.m. and offered early customers joints for a penny and free T-shirts that read “Flower to the People — Cannabis for All.”
“It’s been so long since others and myself could walk into a place where you could feel safe and secure and be able to get something that was good without having to go to the back alley,” Deakin said. “This is kind of a big deal for everybody.”
Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo used a giant pair of scissors to cut a green ribbon, declaring, “With these scissors I dub thee free,” before ringing up the first customer at a cash register.
Sales were brisk in the shops lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state’s largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn’t authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.
Licensed shops are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego, around Palm Springs, San Jose and Santa Cruz, where the KindPeoples shop tacked up a banner Monday declaring, “Prohibition is Over!”
The state banned what it called “loco-weed” in 1913, though it has eased criminal penalties for use of the drug since the 1970s and was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes in 1996.
California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.
The nation’s most populous state now joins a growing list of states, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance, like heroin and LSD.
The signs that California was tripping toward legal pot sales were evident well before the stroke of midnight. California highways flashed signs before New Year’s Eve that said “Drive high, Get a DUI,” reflecting law enforcement concerns about stoned drivers. Weedmaps, the phone app that allows customers to rate shops, delivery services and shows their locations, ran a full-page ad Sunday in the Los Angeles Times that said, “Smile California. It’s Legal.”
Travis Lund, 34, said he’d been looking forward while working the graveyard shift to buy weed legally for the first time since he began smoking pot as a teen.
“I’m just stoked that it’s finally legal,” he said after purchasing an eighth of an ounce of “Mount Zion” and another type of loose leaf marijuana at Northstar Holistic Collective in Sacramento, where the fragrance of pot was strong. “I’m going to go home and get high — and enjoy it.”
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