February 7-13, 2007

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News Briefs

By Patricia Lynn Henley

Return of the cactus

A "wandering" cactus is once again rooted in the garden of the Pancho Villa restaurant in Fairfax. More than five feet tall and weighing over 100 pounds, the barrel cactus was dug up in broad daylight on Sunday, Jan. 28. Fuzzy images of the thieves and their truck were captured on videotape from a security camera. Originally planted in the 1970s, the cactus is valued at $5,000. Restaurant owner Kelly Medina studied the videotape for clues, posted bilingual "missing" fliers, put a lost-and-found notice on and filed a police report. She also drove around looking for pickups similar to the one on the video. Finally, police received a tip that a cactus matching the description was in the front yard of a San Rafael home, wrapped in a blanket and tarp. Medina accompanied police to the site and identified it as her cactus. The home's residents and neighbors say they have no idea how it got there. Medina's landscaper brought the cactus home, and it's thriving. Medina is installing an additional security camera on that side of the building. "We're just happy that it's back and that we can go about our business, instead of looking for the cactus," she says.

Hooray for Habitat

There's jubilation at the Solano Napa Habitat for Humanity, because after a four-year search the group has a potential site to build an affordable home on E Street in Napa. "It's been difficult to find a place to build [in Napa]," says Solano Napa Habitat president Steve Brothers. Habitat has built 11 homes during its 10 years of operating in Solano County, but this is its first possible building site in Napa. Because of the long delay, the group started Napa-based participation in the national Habitat's Home in a Box program, raising about $8,000 of the $75,000 needed to preconstruct the framework for a house and ship it to a community ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. It turns out one of the committee members for that project owns property in downtown Napa. If the land can be subdivided, Habitat now has an option to buy one parcel and build a house on it. They'll need to raise money both to purchase the property and for permits and construction costs. Brothers says a community meeting will be held in March, to discuss both the Home in a Box project and the potential Napa building site. These aren't the only steps forward for Habitat in the North Bay. The San Francisco Marin group is addressing neighbors' concerns about parking and traffic for four affordable three-bedroom homes in an unincorporated area between Mill Valley and Tiburon. These will be the first Habitat homes in Marin County. And Sonoma County Habitat is finishing up the last of six homes being built in the Roseland area on the edge of Santa Rosa, bringing Sonoma County's Habitat total up to eight new homes and 18 remodels since 1984. Habitat homeowners provide 500 hours of sweat equity and make principal-only mortgage payments (the homes aren't free). "They're just regular American residents," explains Amy Lemmer of Sonoma County Habitat for Humanity.

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