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Coastal Sunset

How much does state Assemblyman Bruce McPherson really care about the coastline? It's become a campaign issue thanks to Rusty Areias, who is running against McPherson for the central coast state Senate seat which will be vacated by Henry Mello. ... McPherson has been fighting his own Republican leadership over the appointment of four new members to the California Coastal Commission who seem to have little real interest in protecting the coast. (Two battled with the commission over planned home construction; one has said the commission should be abolished.) Then the board announced it would hold a special meeting to consider firing its longtime director, nationally renowned environmentalist Peter Douglas. McPherson, who has worked with Douglas on coastal legislation, lobbied the commissioners, speaker and governor to keep Douglas on board. And McPherson has been successful, at least for the moment: The board decided last week to table the decision until next month. McPherson said, "I feel good that a lot of the hard work I went through paid off." ... Not so fast, says Areias. The problem is that in January, the Republican McPherson fell in line with his party and voted to make Curt Pringle Assembly speaker. Pringle is the guy who appointed the coast-killing commissioners in the first place. ... McPherson, a moderate, said he didn't know Pringle would appoint the people he did, and besides, there were other reasons he favored Pringle. Areias, a Democrat, calls his opponent "disingenuous." "You vote for Curt Pringle, you cast your lot with the extremist elements who have the worst record on environmental regulation in the state," Areias says. "You hang out with a bad crowd."

Bang, You're Dead

Add Hamid Nasaeri, who closed his Café di Roma last week, to the growing list of small-business owners who are blaming the city of San Jose for their business failures as they hightail it out of the city's redeveloping downtown. Nasaeri and wife Sherry Pirouz opened up their pleasant gourmet deli in 1992 after leasing agents told them that theatergoers and condo owners would flock to his store in about two years. Four years later, the theater across the street is still under construction and the condos were just recently finished--too late for Nasaeri. ... According to the coffee guy, the construction that did begin only added to the headaches. Pile drivers to build the Paseo Plaza condos next door started on the first day of school at San Jose State, Nasaeri's prime source of business. "Nobody goes to a deli to hear a bang bang bang," he says. The pile drivers kicked up lots of dust, too. Construction trucks blocked traffic on his street. ... The kiss of death, Nasaeri said, was the repaving of the Paseo right in front of his business last August, again just as school was starting. City officials say access was open at all times, but Nasaeri says it effectively shut him down for a month. ... There may be other reasons why Nasaeri has been having problems. Several coffeehouses and espresso carts have sprouted at SJSU in recent years, siphoning away business. And Nasaeri should have expected some disruption from construction, which he knew was coming. The question is how much disruption. The city's Redevelopment Agency granted $12.5 million to Paseo Plaza developers, counting on yupscale housing as a key to downtown development. Project manager Robert Ryan says city staff were frequently on site to ensure that the pile drivers stopped for two hours during lunch to give local businesses and employees a break. But nearby workers say that didn't always happen. "I recall a number of lunches where my latté was jiggling on the table," says Ross Winetsky, who works at the nearby state offices. Winetsky was a Café regular. "I feel the city hasn't supported small businesses. There are so few places to eat here," he says. "We took our lunch breaks out in the veranda, but the [pile drivers] didn't always quit for lunch," concurs Richard Fuller, groundskeeper for the offices. "After awhile, nobody sat out there anymore." ... Landlord Kimball Small Properties has kicked Nasaeri out, but is forgiving arrears on his $4,000 monthly rent for the publicly subsidized digs.

No Sher Thing

A staffer from Patrick Shannon's state Senate campaign called last Friday to prod Eye for a few paragraphs about Shannon's opponent, Byron Sher, who supposedly took back a pledge to limit contributions in this campaign to $400,000. Of course, that self-serving announcement was no surprise to the Sher faithful, because the 11th District senator never planned to limit spending. Shannon, a Pete Wilson sidekick, might have been confused by a July 11 press release from his own campaign congratulating Sher for accepting the limit. It was based on Sher's comments in a July 10 Palo Alto Weekly article: "There are glaring loopholes in his [Shannon's] proposal, but I don't have a problem with the $400,000 spending limit." ... Shannon's relief and Sher's "acceptance" both were short-lived. The incumbent blasted Shannon with a July 11 letter stating he doubts the sincerity of Shannon's campaign reform efforts. The senator recounted his own efforts at campaign reform and ended by saying, "In my view, these actions are much more useful in achieving true reform of our political process than superficial proposals calculated to generate press coverage in the context of a political campaign." ... The episode is the latest in Shannon's scramble to limit Sher's spending this fall. Shannon fired off faxes all last week to keep the press abreast of Sher's disinterest in spending limits, first calling for Sher to take the pledge, then expressing "disappointment" at Sher's refusal, before the final coup of alleging that Sher had accepted the spending challenge. ... A spokesperson for the Sher campaign, Jim Thurber, said Sher won't take the pledge because Shannon's proposal wouldn't limit issue-related advertising funds spent by groups that support the candidate. Shannon benefited from issue ads in the March 26 election, Thurber said. But he didn't win the Senate seat that Tom Campbell vacated to take a congressional office. Sher is currently finishing Campbell's term, while fighting to win a full term in November. The Sher campaign fears that Shannon will benefit from hundreds of thousands worth of last-minute ads by outside groups, but still report contributions to his own campaign within his proposed limit. "Until you do something about that, you don't do anything about campaign finance reform," Thurber said.

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From the July 18-24, 1996 issue of Metro

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