Is it just irony, or is it appropriate that Tsunami Landing could once again become a symbol of hope for downtown Crescent City?
After the sudden devastation of 1964, the construction of a covered walkway linking downtown properties and bearing the name of the disaster that inspired it seemed the perfect icon for "Comeback Town, USA."
Nearly a half-century later, its demolition could - make that should - be the catalyst for positive change in the city's core area.
That it outlived its usefulness is beyond debate. It has rotted into an eyesore that will eventually crumble to the ground with or without assistance. The City Council quite properly voted this week to pursue its removal at an anticipated cost of about $150,000 - probably far less than paying off a single liability claim if part of the landing were to land on somebody.
We encourage the city to move as quickly as possible to accomplish
the task while Redevelopment Agency money is still available - the state
has gotten into a bad habit of co-opting local RDA funds, and Gov.
Jerry Brown has proposed doing away with the state-funded agencies as a
cost-cutting move. If the money is there now, use it.
Just tearing something down doesn't guarantee a fresh start for
efforts to revitalize downtown, but it would demonstrate a good-faith
effort on the part of the city. After that, the impetus would be on the
people who own downtown property to reassess how they're using their
If a building has been sitting vacant for years, isn't it high time
for its owner to re-evaluate market conditions and do what it takes to
make that property functional again? Multiply such re-evaluation by the
number of long-term vacancies downtown, and you'd have quite a
brainstorm washing over Crescent City.
City Hall's work won't be done when it takes down Tsunami Landing. It
needs to partner with property owners to address whatever obstacles
stymie good-faith efforts to make these buildings viable enterprises
again. If bureaucratic red tape is an issue, cut it. If zoning laws are
roadblocks, change them. And finally, if a property owner simply refuses
to do anything with his or her downtown building and it's in an obvious
state of disrepair, declare it a public nuisance and force the issue.
Downtown Crescent City isn't struggling because of the lingering
effects of a long-ago catastrophe, or because of the arguably
ill-advised construction of Tsunami Landing. We are a microcosm of what
has transpired in so many American cities, big and small. The shopping
centers moved to outlying areas, leaving downtowns to the offices, a few
specialty stores, and the resulting vacant buildings.
In some of those cities, downtowns were reshaped to regain vibrancy.
In others, they still languish. We're not unique, although the
spread-out nature of Crescent City with its downtown removed from both
its harbor and its highway corridor does present challenges that not all
coastal communities share. It can all be disheartening, and sometimes
those who try to rally the troops become targets, an example being the
debate over whether we want to continue downtown's Business Improvement
Can our downtown thrive again? There are signs to the affirmative.
Where property and business owners have put out the effort, people do
stop to shop or dine. Check out Tomasini's Enoteca when a band is
playing and you'll swear you've happened upon a town with a nightlife -
the kind you won't be afraid of.
It's not that all those vacant buildings need to fill up with shops
and restaurants. If they fill up with anything appropriate, more people
will work downtown, and the amenities appealing to them and to visitors
All those reminders to shop local are appropriate, but charity won't
save downtown. A pervasive new sense of responsibility and activism on
the part of its property owners might. They need to take up the cause as
the city takes down the landing.