Tag Archives: North County

Cuesta Grade – North South Divide

Anyone who lives in California finds out fairly quickly that there’s a north and a south – and the two regions are different in many ways. The primary reasons for the differences has to do with weather, cultural and geography. The latter is significant, what with mountain and deserts along with a large valley making the divide muddled at best. Geographically speaking, the southern part of the state is drawn by 35° 47′ 28″ north latitude. However, this isn’t necessarily how it works in reality.

Central California is used to designate areas in the middle of the state to differentiate between the two giants to the north and south – the Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles. However, it’s generally regarded that the state is of two parts: north and south. Here on the Central Coast, the line is partly drawn through the center of San Luis Obispo County with the Cuesta Grade. First used as part of the El Camino Real (The King’s Highway) to connect all the Spanish missions, it is a sliver of a crevice that was used by the railroads and eventually became an opening for a major north south highway (101).

Dividing line

This seemingly arbitrary ridge – part of the Santa Lucia Range – is the physical dividing line between what is called the ‘North County’ and the southern portion of San Luis Obispo County. It also could be a cultural divide as well.

The southern part of the county tends to be from a laid back typical California attitude that includes mild weather and beaches – not unlike SoCal. North is a different way of life. Much of this land north of the Cuesta Grade is wine country and the deep diurnals with definitive seasons are some of the differences that break these two regions up.

SanFranciscoGiants-trophy_tour-Paso

And sports. Boy, did I learn quickly. When I first moved here from 250 miles away in SoCal, I soon learned that this was San Francisco country, and to some extent, a Bay Area sports enclave, especially in Paso Robles. I knew that the schools in the locale mostly played Southern California programs in sports – I played a football game some 40 years ago at War Memorial Stadium here in Paso. However, that’s where the commonality ends.  I even contacted the local sports guy on TV – you can do that here – and he said what I had noticed: the Cuesta Grade divided the region.

North to San Francisco

Walk into a barbershop, real estate office or even a grocery store in Paso Robles and there are San Francisco Giants’ pennants, signs et all wherever you look. As a lifelong and true-blue Dodger fan, this made me a little ill. And they’ve been making championship trophy tour appearances around here of late … well, ugh is all I can say. No matter, it is a way of life and tells you a lot about the mentality of the region.

The El Camino Real is a trail that connected the Spanish missions in California. The site pictured is on the Cuesta Grade dividing Northern and Southern California.

The wine culture is big in Paso and although the area thinks of itself as much different than Napa, there’s no denying the similarity in the influence of vino in the North County. And politically there’s a variance as well. The city of San Luis Obispo has a long-standing tilt to the left, while North County is a bastion of conservatives.

The Cuesta Grade pass maybe only 1,500 feet in elevation, but it might as well be the Himalayas. The grade divides the state on the Central Coast and the county as a whole is united when it comes to helping out each other, such as commerce, tourism platforms and the same local television station. Still, much is divergent in regards to the culture of the Central Coast as the Cuesta Grade indeed divides the Golden State into the a north and south.

Additional sources: El Camino Real & The Route of the Daylight

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Gang-Related Shooting A Cold Reminder

I don’t want to alarm anyone and the fact remains that Paso Robles – for the most part – is somewhat isolated by what goes on in the big cities a couple hundred miles away. However, the truth is, we do have crime on the Central Coast. And in case folks think we’re just a sleepy little town, we had a gang-related shooting. Yes, even in the cold of winter, the idyllic town of Paso in wine country has a little nastiness of big city life pop up here on an occasion.

Paso_Robles

I’m one of the first to expound on living in bucolic Paso Robles as just about life in paradise. Having lived a majority of my life in the Los Angeles area, I know of what I speak. On one hand, it’s not naive to think we can have a quiet life in charming Paso Robles. Heck, you can go almost anywhere in San Luis Obispo County and find the finer pleasures of a great and relatively calm lifestyle. Yet, it’s inconceivable to believe crime doesn’t live amongst the rolling countryside of North County.

Monsters to the north and south

We like to mention often how we sit in a much less populated region between two giant metropolises: Los Angeles and San Francisco. However, that’s part of the problem. Less than four hours south lies roughly 20 million people in the Greater L.A. area and just over three hours north is the Bay Area and nearly 10 million congregate there. Obviously, there will be some influence even though we have large expanses between these two behemoths.

With urban monsters like these comes crime and gangs, which is part-and-parcel to what could be happening here on the Central Coast. The Golden State has a natural rivalry between Southern and Northern California. In sports, there’s nothing as big as the antagonistic battle between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants. Nevertheless, a lesser known but more violent rivalry is between gangs from these two regions. This isn’t Westside Story.

West Side Story

In the south, Southerners or Surenos, have a stronghold in Los Angeles and actually can now be found throughout the nation. They are essentially tied to the Mexico mob and the mafioso-type organizations there. Still, when they try to move north though, they run into the Northerners or Nortenos. Yeah, I know, not very original.

The Nortenos are based in more rural towns and otherwise were formed in the Salinas area (some say Folsom, near Sacramento) but are spread out through the northern half of the state and into the Pacific Northwest. The two gangs are run from the prisons of California and have a deep-seated hatred for the other.

Who controls what?

The dividing line for these gangs has been noted as Bakersfield in the southern San Joaquin Valley, but since the coastal area of Central California (i.e. San Luis Obispo County) is sparsely populated, the lines blur and are potentially an area of concern though the North County is considered Surenos influenced. Note Monterey County is controlled by Northerners and the two counties butt-up just 10 miles away from Paso Robles.

Having said all this, the crime reports here in Paso Robles can be laughable. There are certain days that go by with basically no crimes reported. Yet, that wasn’t the case on a cool early Tuesday morning that otherwise was a quiet and very nice part of southeastern Paso Robles. Gunfire erupted on Sycamore Canyon Road (source: KSBY).

The police say it’s gang-related and while there were multiple shots fired by the assailant, luckily no one was shot – there were some cars damaged. It’s not known if this is a turf war or not, so my elongated description above may or may not be applicable. Still, gangs are a problem and this instance reminds us that we as a city need to be attentive to any perceived escalation.

Chivas

Gangs such as Chivas are common in the Greater L.A. region.

Denial? 

I remember reading an article a few years back and it noted how a solid majority of Paso Robles officials felt there wasn’t a gang problem in the town. That was shortly after a drive-by shooting that summer with county sheriffs talking about dramatic increases overall in crime. During that same period, a huge brawl in a bar in San Miguel – a small town just north of Paso – was caused by drugs and gangs. Purportedly law enforcement is in control and the city does an excellent job of fighting graffiti, while keeping distance between the gangs and the citizenry. Ah, but let’s face it, this isn’t L.A.

I owned a classic car restoration business in Norwalk and for a time, the city was known as having more gangs members per capita than anywhere else in the country. The gangs around our shop were rivals with the notorious Chivas’ who were always a worry. It was a war zone. Don’t believe me? Look it up – here’s just one of many stories written about the infamous area (L.A. Times). From personal experience, during the middle of a work week, I heard a big bang and went out to the edge of the street to see what was going on. I guess God had something else in mind because a bullet whizzed by head, just missing me. That’s life in the big city. That’s not Paso Robles.

Paso Robles AVA

Regardless, Paso is a fast-growing town and likely will become the largest in the county within the next couple decades. With growth comes growing pains and certainly gangs will be sniffing around with shootings like the one yesterday popping up every once in awhile. This will continue to remind us we must be vigilant.

Okay, that’s it. No more to see here. Don’t want to be a Debbie Downer – just living life realistically with my eyes wide open. Now back to your regularly scheduled glass of wine, as most of us wait for winter to be done with.

Additional sources: Barrio Gangs: Street Life and Identity in Southern CaliforniaThe Detective’s Guide: California Prisons, Prison Gangs, and Parolees

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Paso Robles Pioneer Day Is Pure Americana

Every year since the Depression, the town of Paso Robles relives its heritage.

The northern half of San Luis Obispo County (North County), California, is represented in this example of what I like to call real or pure Americana. Paso Robles itself is about 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean with the Coastal Range between the city and beach. It’s roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Free

Mentioned this briefly last year, but “Pioneer Day” started at the beginning of the Depression when obviously most were struggling. The community geared up the day to celebrate what people did have back then and that was friendship. So they tied in the commemoration of the cities heritage with a community day and incorporating the theme “Leave Your Pocketbook at Home”. The town got together organizations, churches, businesses along with individuals and gave a little something back to the citizenry.

So this big “thank you” to the town folk has occurred every year since.

About mid-morning, a parade starts going around our city park, which is centered in the middle of town. This parade is a story unto itself. When I first saw this, it was almost surreal – giant steam-powered tractors which are the biggest stars of the show, come puffing down the street. I mean giant; like a couple stories tall. I can’t really describe it because it feels like you stepped back in time.

Coming from not just North County but far beyond, these are museum pieces and you have to realize that these behemoths, a few with one-cylinder, yes one cylinder, are actually still running over 100 years after they first were built. It’s hard to believe these vehicles can run and some of them are absolutely beautiful.

Every tractor you can imagine drives by along with lots of bands and of course the town’s officials and business people. Classic cars, steamrollers, harvesters and fire engines of different sorts also parade around and there are some cool horse-drawn vehicles and they too might have dignitaries on them.

There’s more

After the parade, the lines form for the bean feed – it’s free so you can imagine what it looks like when all of a sudden several thousands people stand in line in our city’s park. Then you can mill around downtown or go to the Museum (Pioneer Park) and look at some of the vehicles up close. There’s also a horseshoe throwing contest. Don’t forget, there are tasting rooms in every direction.

There are all kinds of things to do like watch wood carvers, shelling and grinding corn, make butter, watch a smith shoe a horse and basket-making. There’s probably more but you get the picture.

If you’re into antiques and friendly socializing the way it used to be, this event is perfect. It truly is everything that a small town or community can offer. The atmosphere is fun and special … pure Americana.

Additional source – Check out some great pics here

See ya ’round pardner,

Daryle W. Hier

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Central Coast 2014 Fall Forecast

Summer gave us a little of everything including a rare thunderstorm or two. It was mild overall and in fact, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, it seemed we were in a perpetual June all summer long with warm but windy conditions.

With summer sadly coming to an end soon, it’s time we looked at harvest time and fall. I’m not a weather forecaster and don’t play one on television. However, I’ve had an interest in weather for quite some time even though I lived most of my life in the Greater Los Angeles area, which really doesn’t have a lot of weather … or seasons.

Now that I’ve lived in Paso Robles for several years, with tie-ins to the wine business, weather has mattered more. The forecast here is a compilation of several other sources that know much more than I … although a tidbit of my own observations may sneak in.

Actually, fall doesn’t start until late Monday night at 10:30 p.m. on September 22nd. So essentially fall starts with the first full day on the 23rd, which is still three weeks away.

Ease into Fall

While the rest of the country will be seeing the onset of winter-like conditions in the fall, weather experts have vacillated on how much of an affect if any, El Nino will have this winter in relation to the West Coast. Whether the strength of it will be worth noting or not is debatable but since El Ninos don’t tend to have a lot of effect on fall, we’ll figure the norm for Autumn rains.

13th Street - Paso Robles

Parts of the Salinas River can’t be seen – but floods have reached the 13th Street bridge in Paso Robles.

September will likely see a slow but steady drop in temperatures with some saying we may have seen the last of real hot weather. September, and even the first half of October, can bring heat to the Central Coast, but unless something unusual occurs, we’ve seen the last of big heat. That means no more 100’s in the North County or 90’s in the inland areas. The beaches could still see some 80’s and much of our beach areas receive their clearest and warmest weather in late summer and early fall, however, don’t expect a lot of good days remaining in that regard.

Nothing spooky

October won’t look much different than September – just cooler. Again, this period of the year can sprout a little heat wave and there’s nothing to say we won’t have some more days that lean towards the hot side, but as we get closer to Halloween, the weather will cool down. High temperatures will be at or slightly above normal with beaches and inland areas in the 60’s and 70’s while the North County will hang on to the 80’s. Lows will be the usual 50’s for almost everyone with North County dipping into the 40’s and maybe some 30’s too.

I might note that because of the drought situation, some of the colors we get, especially in the North County, will be earlier than normal. In fact, I’ve already seen the first signs of color change on some trees – something we don’t normally get until late September or early October.

Mild Thanksgiving … but December?

As November hits us, the usual temperature drop continues, but nothing extreme this year. Also, don’t expect much more moisture than usual, even if the threat of an El Nino is real. Mild is the word heading into Thanksgiving.

The last few weeks of fall might see average to little more than normal rainfall heading into winter. December is generally considered the coldest month and that will likely be the case this season. In other words, unlike the rest of 2014, December should be normal with cool days and cold nights and at least a couple rain storms.

Again, all I did here along with my own experiences is compile information from multiple sources. Overall, fall should start out average with moderate temps and little rain, It will continue to be normal temps through the middle of Autumn, followed by cold wintry-like weather in the final stages before winter.

A third year of drought would not be pretty. We need rain on the Central Coast and throughout much of the Golden State. It’s still questionable if that will happen, but we can hope for the best. That’s my forecast – nothing exciting, however December could bring us some changes … hopefully for the better. And let’s hope everyone has a great harvest.

It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn. – B. C. Forbes

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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Is There A Water Shortage In Paso Robles?

This is just food for thought and by no means am I an expert on the water situation here on the California Central Coast … just someone who makes extremely unique wine barrels but now finds himself as a concerned citizen who would like to see all the information laid out on the table.

As almost any Californian can tell you, we are in a severe drought.  In a two-year period in Paso Robles, we’ve had about five inches of rain and over the last year, it’s less than two inches.  Heck, the way the news Drought-soiltalks about it nationally, I’d be surprised if not most of the country and even the world knows we have had a lack of rain in the Golden State for the past couple of years.

This is of a major concern for the folks in the North County area of San Luis Obispo County, sometimes generalized as Paso Robles.  Recently named the world’s ‘Wine Region of the Year‘, Paso Robles – or Paso for short – vineyards have become serious business here in wine country.  However, like any other farmed product, grapevines need water.

Unilateral emergency dictates

With a sudden sense of urgency, near the end of last summer, the San Luis Obispo County Supervisors voted autonomously for what was essentially a two-year emergency moratorium on new vines being planted, which some feel was warranted.  Technically, a grape-grower can plant new vines but there’s a ’1-to-1′ ruling that states a new vine can only be planted for every one that is taken out of the ground.

Now there’s good news in that the value of property will go up because if anyone wants to expand, they will have to buy someone else out.  I’m sure those who are in the real estate business are happy as well as those land owners who want out.  Still, it affects the industry negatively due to the fact nobody can expand, in-turn stifling business in what was the ever-growing Paso viticultural business.

Extra water?

All of this created by the lack of water – or at least the supposed lack of water.  See, the Paso Robles water basin is the largest natural underground aquifer west of the Rockies.  Yes, we are in a drought and we just came out of another drought just a handful of years ago.  The underground reserves are down which might be of some concern.  However, why is the county trying to set up a water district with an idea being that they would be a water bank for outside water agencies?

PRGroundWaterBasin

The Paso Robles Ground Water basin running essentially with the Salinas River is the largest underground aquifer in the West.

As a citizen who figures that sooner or later the city and county will be restricting our water usage to conserve water so that we don’t run out, will we be selling that same water to other districts desperate for water?  There is seemingly a detachment from logic that says if indeed San Luis Obispo County is in need of restricting citizens water usage so that we don’t run out, that we can’t turn around and sell what extra water we do have to some other place in the state.  Unless of course, Paso has more water than the political lords are willing to let on.

Again, I’m ready for conservation modes and in fact we already have certain restrictions on water use in the city of Paso Robles that says we can only water three times a week and other relatively common sense approaches to water usage like not letting a hose run without a shutoff nozzle.

The title question of the story: Is there a water shortage in Paso Robles? – Isn’t being directly answered.

Trampled rights?

Already the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is undermining land rights by infringing on a property owners’ rights to his or her own water.  Further, the city of Paso Robles has stopped any new drilling for water within city limits, even though the land owners have a right to the water below them.  Some have fought back and you can go here for more on that (or an additional source: Cal Coast News).

Water gushing How this turns out, I don’t particularly know but at the very least, more information should be made public – yet that doesn’t appear to be the case.  Something else to consider is who’s to profit from selling our underground water if indeed it is sold to outsiders?  Are some of the power brokers in the county vying for a huge payoff at the expense of local citizens?  There are extremely desperate communities in need of water during this drought (see San Jose Mercury News) and they might go to any length to get it.

This doesn’t feel right.  In a day and age when there’s little or no transparency within federal, state and now local governments, just exactly what is our water situation?  I would hope more citizens start clamoring for additional information on just what is happening behind closed doors along with what subversive politicking might be going on.  Even then, we may not be getting the truth … but the truth is what we need to pursue.  Is there a water shortage in Paso Robles?

What do you think?

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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