Tuesday evening, July 23, I attended the Planning Commission meeting where the topic of discussion was Brandon Varise’ experiential outdoors / sporting goods store with the proposed inclusion of an indoor shooting range. I’m not sure if it was fortunate or not that I arrived towards the end of public comment, Brandon – love ya man, but I love Adam (Citrus Salon) more and my hair appointment had been booked weeks earlier, lol.
The few public comments I heard, along with comments from Commissioner (and Realtor) Tracey Casella, prompts me to write today. There seems to be this narrative of the Downtown that I simply do not agree with. A belief that Downtown Martinez is some sort of delicate high brow experience that could not possibly house a sporting goods store along the lines of a Cabela’s / Bass Pro shop. To hear people question Mr. Varise’s desire to pursue his business plan in tones dripping with despair and disdain leaves me to question whether some need to remove those rose colored glasses and clean them off a bit.
In Martinez residents take pictures of discarded hypodermic needles left in our public parks and people get beat up in public restrooms. In Martinez homeless wander the streets shouting obscenities and defecating on public sidewalks while leaving their drawers dropped around their ankles. In Martinez our fishing pier and breakwater is failing, boats sit in mud and Almar can’t be bothered to come to the table and be the partner the city needs. And in Martinez, particularly in Downtown Martinez, building owners are negligent and small businesses struggle daily to create enough foot traffic to keep their doors open. Business owners rail against city leaders, the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Martinez all saying the same thing, no one supports me, my business or the downtown.
Well, not “all”. There are those few bright lights who have created what is termed “destination” retail, Citrus being one. Even the county has coined the phrase the “Martinez Ale Trail”. But these are the exception, the majority of businesses fit into the most popular category of location based retail. Which would be fine if the majority of their foot traffic wasn’t primarily those conducting county business Mon – Fri between the hours of 9:00 – 5:00. As a result Downtown Martinez is that perennial fight of how can we spur investment, how can we increase foot traffic, what will it take so the collective brain trust that is city staff and city leadership can focus on the entire 12 square miles of our fair city, our looming financial obligations, and not continually squander years and man hours to address the needs of 12 square blocks?
Yet despite these Downtown Martinez realities residents presume to claim that in Martinez, Off-Trail does not fit.
This past Sunday I rode my bicycle out to the pier and found myself pleasantly surprised and awed by the sight of a lone kite surfer. When the wind lifted him up, it lifted my spirits and I shared video of his joyous play on social media. Someone recognized the man and I ended up checking out his profile page. On it was a picture of a young woman dressed in camouflage, a huge smile on her face, and ducks in her hands. Now I doubt those at the planning commission meeting, holding signs reading Beavers Not Bullets, would call her out for being part of the “toxic gun culture” as she clung to “antiquated” gun rights, but make no mistake that is exactly what they’re saying with their letters of opposition.
In Martinez, within a short 5 minute walk of Ferry & Marina Vista, a long gun shooting range already exists. Off Trail is not as off course as those wearing the rose colored glasses seem to believe.
– Linda Meza