by Maya del Mar
I live in a lovely community of 7,000 set on the hillside beside San Francisco Bay. My neighborhood, "Caledonia Street," is an intimate, village neighborhood which provides services, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. primarily for the community. It is organic and charming. It usually takes me awhile to do an errand, because I meet my neighbors there and stop to chat.
This is a story which coincides with the timing of the Saturn-Pluto opposition, about which I have written so much over this last year. Its essence is deep structural change, and the primary target is beliefs, values and attitudes.
At the end of July 2001 we went to a city planning meeting at which a proposed new building was first officially introduced to the publicand at the same time OKd by the planning commission. It was thus a done deal, needing only the rubber stamp of the city council OK.
Those of us from the Caledonia neighborhood were horrified at what we saw. The building was to be built ON the end of Caledonia Street, thus cutting off the flow through the neighborhood. And it was huge, and would dominate and ruin the village character. It would also be very expensive.
Many of us spoke against the building at that planning commission meeting, to no avail. It was to be a public safety building, to house the police and firemen, and you were identified as "against public safety" if you attacked the building.
A few of us got together and said that if we could show the city a petition against the building signed by 500 voters, they had to listen. We had two weeks before the Council meeting at which the final OK was to be given.
We did it. And in the process, of course, people learned what was going on. The Council meeting was packed, and included a ring of uniformed police standing all around the back. People spoke for hours both pro and con. But the petitions were ostentatiously ignored by the Council. Of course this further fueled the flames of protest.
The Council did not OK the building. It was sent back to the planning commission for some tweaking of the plans. This was not sufficient. But it did give us more time for public education and the gathering of more signatures.
"Us" became a group working against building on top of Caledonia Street. We met in Mauro Dosolinis Café de Vino. We liked and respected one another, and became a group of friends as well. Many talented and dedicated people did terrific work as the months went on.
Then came, over the winter, an extraordinary series of public hearings. They kept getting bigger and bigger, so that an auditorium had to be used to accommodate everyone. Along the way, our group developed a finely researched analysis of the proposed building, and was allowed 15 minutes to present it. The Council ended up paying very close attention to the petitions. There were pro and con presentations at various meetings of community organizations. It became a real community issue.
The Council was still convinced they should build this building. Finally they acceded to our request for a voter referendum, if we would drop the lawsuit which we had pending against them. They didnt agree to abide by the results, however.
The vote was in March, and we the people won 2 to 1. The Council had to listen.
The building planning is starting from scratch again, with a steering committee, and working committees which include our people.
In the meantime our group continues to meet, and we are talking about how we can be most effective in making our city government responsive to the people.
In this case, we began with an emotional issue. We immediately moved into voter information, and continued that process with dedication and perseverance. Information, communication, and education have been the keys.
The opposition of Saturn in Gemini and Pluto in Sagittarius is all about a renewed awareness of the power of the word.