Doni’s 2019 Redding Wish List

Welcome to 2019. If you’ve read this far, it means that you and I survived 2018; no small feat for many here in the north state considering the death and destruction wreaked by the Carr and Camp fires.

July 26, 2018, the Carr Fire by day in Doni’s neighborhood.

Many ANC readers and contributors alike lost homes, pets and security to these monster fires. Tens of thousands of others were in the same position I faced; fleeing under ordered evacuation, saying goodbye to our homes as if we’d never see them again; returning to intact homes with gratitude mixed with survivors’ guilt.


Congratulations. We’re here, and we have a new chance for another crack at a new year, older, wiser and stronger than before.

I’ve made a north-state wish list in no particular order, but it mainly involves Redding. Like many wishes, they may not be possible or practical. But they’re on my wish list just the same. Feel free to chime in with your wishes in the comments section.

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Downtown, a place I’ve lamented over for decades, looks like it just may pull out of its death spiral and become a place of pride, not embarrassment. With any luck, I just may live long enough to see downtown Redding live up to its full potential.

Even so, I have a few wishes. First, I wish for a gathering place in the downtown’s center, a real promenade. I wish for a huge pine tree to be planted in the center so we have a living, growing Christmas tree. I won’t bore you (much) with my childhood recollections (again) of a cut Christmas tree that was stuck in a manhole each holiday season; a magnet for annual DUI impacts. While the sentiment of having the tree in the city center was a good one; the placement, not so much.

Still on downtown, I have two huge wishes for Redding’s two grand historic hotels: the former Hotel Redding on Market and Sacramento (kitty corner from the Cascade), and the Lorenz Hotel on California and Yuba Streets. First, I wish for the Lorenz that its building would embrace the old Downtown Specific Plan vision of a mixed use place: The upper floors could be renovated apartments — for not just low-income seniors, but a variety of renters. The ground floor would be as it is now, retail, offices and restaurants.

For the former Hotel Redding, a place I championed during my newspaper column days to save and restore, my wish is that it would become a restored, fully functional hotel again, a place of pride, a hotel that would cater to the Cascade Theatre’s performers and audiences. Imagine how convenient it would be for Cascade Theatre entertainers to walk across the street and sleep at the hotel, rather than heading for Hilltop Drive. Imagine out-of-town guests who traveled to Redding to catch a show at the Cascade, who could stay in the historic hotel. Imagine even local people making a night of it; eating at a downtown restaurant, catching a show at the Cascade, and then spending a night in the restored Hotel Redding.


Speaking of downtown Redding …

All the grand, creative, multi-million-dollar improvements to our city core will be in vain if something isn’t done about the homeless problem.

Redding is looking less and less appealing as a place to stay put. Have you noticed the exodus of people who are so fed up with Redding that they’re leaving; saying their mass farewells on Facebook as they head to places like Oregon, Idaho and Montana?

But I digress. Back to my wish. I wish for a clean, safe, compassionate place for the homeless people to sleep and have shelter. I’ve changed my mind over the years about the right locations for homeless housing, but my current choice is the county property on Breslauer Way. Homelessness is a county problem, not just a Redding problem. Our leaders may not be able to solve every problem that caused homelessness, but it should do the humane thing and give those who live on the streets a place to sleep while society figures out how to fix what caused homelessness in the first place.

Let there be light

One of the reasons that Redding is not a pedestrian-bike friendly city — especially at night — is it’s so darned dark. I live in west Redding, about an easy 15 – 20 minute walk to downtown to visit restaurants at night. But would I? No, partly because of the presence of so many sketchy people (see “homeless” above), but mostly because it’s literally too dark to see. More light posts would bring more light to dark streets, which would encourage citizens to walk more in the evenings, and it would also illuminate and discourage the bad guys.

Remove photo-enforced red-light cameras

Raise your hand if you or someone you love has received a red-light ticket in the city of Redding. Raise your hand if you’ve had a visitor whose welcome to the city is a red-light ticket. Raise your hand if you’d like the red-light cameras to leave Redding. My hand is raised for all three.

Redding should join the ranks of the many, many other civilized cities and dump the photo-enforced red light cameras. I say this not just because I have received a red-light ticket, but because I think they’re a bad idea. The time I was nailed by a red-light ticket I was heading east on Cypress in the right lane getting ready to turn right. The light was green, green, green, and I was behind a car that was just turning the corner right onto Hilltop when the light turned yellow for maybe three seconds. The car in front of mine slowed … the yellow changed to red just as I was turning. Snap! It got me.

Since then, I will slam on my break at a yellow light, and gun it through green intersections to avoid the yellow light, sometimes nearly hitting the car in front of me, and have had a few close calls with someone almost rear-ending me as a slam on my brakes to avoid a yellow. I know I’m not the only one who’s responded in this way. I know this presents its own kind of danger.

Recent analysis by Case Western Reserve University confirms my suspicions.

“There is no reason to believe that there is a reduction in overall accidents thanks to red-light cameras,” Gallagher said. “Our analysis does not support the case that the cameras improve public safety, which is one of the main justifications used by public officials and law enforcement.”

What’s more, some studies suggest that red-light enforced intersections are more deadly to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Redding, do us all a favor and dump the red-light cameras for good.

Money, money, who’s got the money?

Ever since the Carr Fire, and then the Camp Fire, we’ve heard one glowing story after another about all the money that’s been so generously donated from near and far to help the fire survivors; people who’ve lost their homes and businesses. A long list that includes citizens, companies, schools, philanthropists, celebrities, professional athletes and many others have opened their hearts and wallets as a way to soothe and help those most afflicted by those fires.

Millions and millions of dollars, and counting.

Here’s my wish: that every last dime donated to help the Carr and Camp fire survivors will find its way to those people. The cynic in me has doubts that this will happen. I hope I am wrong, and that the people who are most in need will receive the help as it was intended. Every dime.

That’s my list so far for 2019. I am crossing my fingers in hopes some of my wishes come true.

How about you? What are your wishes?

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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