Friday, Feb. 1:

Erik Chalhoub: The first drops of rain are starting to smack the pavement in Watsonville.

According to the National Weather Service, heavy rain is expected tonight, with gusts as high as 43 mph. Showers are expected most of the day Saturday, with some possible thunderstorms and high winds. The Monterey County Office of Emergency Services issued a coastal flood advisory between 6 a.m. to noon on Saturday, as well as a high wind warning from now until Saturday morning.

A chance of showers is expected through Monday, with things drying out Tuesday.

While on a drive through town, I noticed work is underway on the Staff of Life market in the East Lake Village Shopping Center. My colleague Johanna Miller reported a couple of weeks ago that the inside of the former Super Max grocery store has been stripped down.

While there were no crews around Friday afternoon, I noticed a mobile construction office set up outside the parking lot, which is a good sign work will hit a high gear pretty soon.

Speaking of gutted buildings, a large dump truck was parked outside of the long-vacant bank building on the corner of Brennan Street and East Lake Avenue, with crews tearing out drywall from within.

That building has been empty for years, so it is exciting to see some movement on it. I hope to find out soon what business will be moving in.

I’ve written numerous times about pedestrian safety in Watsonville, but recently, one of the relatively new flashing beacon lights at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Marchant Street helped me see a pedestrian crossing when I otherwise probably wouldn’t have spotted them.

As I approached the intersection, I couldn’t help but notice the bright lights, so I slowed to a stop. Sure enough, two teenagers were crossing the intersection, seemingly coming out of nowhere due to low visibility from all the nearby parked cars.

Infrastructure and education go hand-in-hand. It was encouraging to see these teens using the crosswalk as it was intended, and waiting for traffic to stop before they crossed.


Thursday, Jan. 31:

Todd Guild: I spoke with Watsonville Environmental Science Workshop co-coordinator Gustavo Hernandez on Wednesday. He was helping a group of school kids assemble a whale skeleton, which is a moving natural history exhibit that can be used to teach biology, animal anatomy, marine biology, physiology and a host of other topics.

Better still, the skeleton is fully hands-on, which in my mind is precisely how teaching should be.

Hernandez said the kids are likely not going to remember his name, but they will almost certainly remember the feel of the bones, the smell of the whale’s brain still encased inside the skull, and holding the mummified flipper in their arms.

“This is the funnest job in the world,” he said. “I get to teach science in the most natural way.”

That reminded me of working in two separate science camps, one in Idyllwild, Calif. and one in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where I got to teach hands-on science to kids aged third-eighth grade. Indeed. It was the “funnest” job I have ever had.

On my way home from that conversation, I got a call from our photographer Tarmo Hannula, who despite being on vacation was still monitoring Watsonville news. He told me that a shooting had just occurred in the Aptos hills and that I should cover it.

I hurried to the scene, but was turned around by Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s deputies blocking the road.

While reporters in California are allowed access to incidents such as fires and car crashes (Penal Code 409.5, in case you’re interested. Section (d) addresses media access), we are afforded no such luxury in crime scenes. So I rushed to Dominican Hospital to take a photo of the air ambulance carrying one of the victims lifting off for a trauma center.

I spent the rest of that night, and a good part of Thursday, gathering information for the story. If you’re interested, visit or check out Friday’s paper.

It occurred to me during this process that, at first glance, reporters in these instances must appear to be somewhat cold-hearted, particularly in our rush to gather information.

I’ve heard us described as “vultures” feeding off a “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” philosophy. This would be morbid indeed, if it were true.

I would assure everyone that none of us wish bad things to befall anyone. When they do, however, the challenge of gathering information from busy law enforcement officials, excited witnesses and bewildered victims can be extraordinarily challenging. Exciting, even, in its own strange way.

I would compare this to the flight nurses in air ambulances. Those folks – the elite among the emergency responder industry – never wish horrible things to happen. But I am certain that using their years of training in high-pressure, no-room-for-error situations poses an exciting challenge.


Wednesday, Jan. 30:

Erik Chalhoub: Bill Bray, owner of Street Scene at the intersection of Main Street and Auto Center Drive, called me Wednesday to let me know that Friday is the final day that the business will be located at 1035 Main St. after 19 years. It will move to 27 First St. in downtown Watsonville, and have a soft opening on Monday.

Bray expects it to be fully up and running later in February.

Workers throughout the week have been moving items and equipment from the old store to the new location.

Santa Cruz Seaside Company, which owns the Main Street property, is looking to construct three buildings that add up to roughly 15,000 square feet of space, featuring restaurants and other retail establishments.

The property, at 975-1075 Main St., is currently home to Street Scene, JV Towing and Eclipse Window Tint. Mi Ranchito Supermercado and Taqueria Mundial have recently vacated the three-acre property, and both buildings have been boarded over as they prepare to be demolished.

While driving through downtown, I noticed Maple and Union streets were partially closed as public works crews continue underground work at various locations in the road.

Blackburn Street adjacent to Watsonville High School is also partially closed for road work.

The Watsonville Buddhist Temple has a large sign posted in its parking lot at 423 Bridge St. advertising its annual Udon Feed, which takes place Saturday from 4-7 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the door, with a price of $10 per person. 

Also available, at additional cost, will be a variety of desserts, onigiri (rice balls) and beverages.

The Pajaro Valley Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture is gearing up for its largest event of the year on Saturday, and this week volunteers are setting up the Crosetti building at the fairgrounds.

Alex Solano will receive the chamber’s Lifetime Achievement award, and will be recognized alongside Woman of the Year Lori Butterworth, Man of the Year Brad Hubbard, Business of the Year Alladin Nursery, Organization of the Year Dientes Community Dental Care and Event of the Year Aldina Real Estate Charity Chili Cook-off during the annual awards dinner.

The event is sold out.

Today, a crew from Teen Challenge is putting up the pipe and drape, as well as setting up the stage. Decorating and set up will continue Thursday and Friday.

Johanna Miller: On Sunday morning, I woke up in a rather miserable condition, with a bad headache and feeling like my eyes were full of sand.

Hello, seasonal allergies.

I never had many problems with allergies until about five years ago. Just as some people develop intolerances to certain foods as they grow older, others develop allergies to certain things.

My symptoms mainly manifest in scratchy, burning eyes, plugged ears and the aforementioned headaches. For a long time I thought the headaches were sinus-related, but after a recent trip to my Otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) on Green Valley Road I discovered that serious allergy problems can prompt migraines.

Currently, I’m preparing for a major allergy testing appointment, which will help determine what exactly I am allergic to and how I can treat my symptoms.

I don’t know if anyone has noticed the bright yellow trees that line Highway 1 on the way out of Watsonville, but if so: Those are acacia trees, and they are some of the worst foes of allergy sufferers. I am not completely certain if I’m allergic to them personally, but I do notice a correlation between when those trees begin to bloom and how serious my symptoms are.

I’ve also noticed that things get worse when the weather gets warmer. Or when the weather is cold and we shut ourselves in our houses, heaters blasting. Pollutants, both natural and man-made, can mess up the air quality both inside and outside the home.

This past year my family and I invested in an air purifier. The appliance is meant to filter inside air to remove airborne particles such as pollen, dust and pet dander. I am not completely sure if it helps with my allergies in a long-term sense, but it does seem to make the air cleaner. You can pick up air purifiers at stores such as Home Depot and Target.

As I wait for my allergy testing to be done, I am on the lookout for helpful hints to battle general allergy issues. Hints that go beyond just popping back a Benadryl.

One tip that I’ve heard is eating local honey. Many people believe that after bees pollinate regional flowers and plants, the honey they make can act as a type of vaccine. The idea is an interesting one, and makes sense, though from what I’ve heard, the evidence has not been conclusive.

Despite it being winter, our mild climate in Watsonville makes it easy for plants to bloom all year long, and with it come allergies.

Have any tips you’d like to share? Contact me! I’m all ears.


Tuesday, Jan. 29:

Erik Chalhoub: Watsonville Police shut down Freedom Boulevard at Laurel Street at about 8:20 a.m. today as they pulled over a suspect in a “high risk” car stop.

The suspect was wanted for a residential burglary, spokeswoman Michelle Pulido said. They were taken into custody without incident shortly after, and the road was reopened at 9:06 a.m. More information is currently unavailable.

The alert was sent out this morning via the Nixle text alert system. Watsonville Police uses Nixle to advise residents of police activity in the city. You can sign up by texting your zip code to 888777.

On Friday, a large Penske moving truck was parked outside of Reiter Affiliated Companies’ 140 Westridge Drive location. I noticed on Monday a sign posted outside the door, notifying visitors that the company has moved to 411 Walker St., which is adjacent to Graniterock’s offices.

A multi-generational farming company spanning more than 100 years, Reiter Affiliated Companies is a multi-berry producer and supplier, with offices throughout the United States and Mexico.

The 7,800-square-foot 140 Westridge Drive location is now up for lease.

I am surprised how gas prices have been quietly dropping as of late. But I’m not complaining.

While Watsonville gas prices hover around the low-to-mid $3, I drove to Morgan Hill over the weekend and was shocked to pay for gas that was $2.95 a gallon. I can’t remember the last time prices were below $3.

Of course, the prices will eventually skyrocket again. But, for now, I will enjoy paying a little bit less to fill up my car.

Johanna Miller: Recently I stopped by the Watsonville Public Library for a quick peek. It always surprises me how much is available there — not only books of all genres, but also music, films, magazines, etc.

One of my very first jobs when I was in high school was as a volunteer at the library, back when it was located on Union Street, where the Cabrillo College Watsonville Center has expanded.

I ran into a couple members of the library’s staff at one of last year’s Culture & Cuisine Potlucks who I actually worked with back then, including Principal Librarian Alicia Martinez. It was great to catch up.

At the library, extensive newspaper archives are available in print and online, including the Pajaronian dating back to the 1860s. People often call the R-P to find old articles for either personal or work-related reasons, and we always refer them to the library. It’s a fantastic resource.

My colleague Erik Chalhoub wrote up an About Town column last week about the library’s used book store, located on the first floor. I actually had no idea it was there. Next time I will be sure to bring a few dollars just in case.

The library also has a computer lab. During my recent visit I saw all sorts of people using the computers, from young children to college students and seniors. Perhaps they were taking advantage of the library’s free online classes. For information:

Whenever I do make it to the library, I’m always sure to check the New Arrivals section to see what new books have come into the library recently. I never know what I’ll find — volumes about World War II, epic fantasy novels, cooking guides … the possibilities are endless.

I also make a point to see what kind of art and/or history is on display, and to pick up one of their hand-out calendars that lists monthly events and in-person classes.

Let’s continue to support our local public library. It’s a tremendous asset for our community.


Monday, Jan. 28:

Tarmo Hannula: I ran into my longtime friend and musician Kevin Conley at the Pure Water store in Watsonville Square Friday evening. Conley, who has been living in Watsonville for the last 25 years, is the owner of Conley Painting and is an accomplished guitarist. He told me he is working on putting out a new CD in the coming months, which will feature five songs. The R-P featured his previous CD years ago. 

Conley said that he can see Fremont Peak from a window at his Madera Street home.

“I proposed to my wife up there so it’s a great memory that I am reminded of every time I look out that window,” he said.

Erik Chalhoub: Community Bridges is testing out new electric vehicles for its Lift Line program, thanks to a major grant it received last year.

According to Community Bridges CEO Raymon Cancino, the organization received a $270,000 Community Air Grant from the California Air Resources Board. That money, coupled with Measure D funds, has been used to purchase two new electric busses for Lift Line, which provides rides for seniors and people with disabilities.

The busses will be stationed in Watsonville.

Established in 1977, the organization runs 10 programs, such as family resource centers, nutrition programs and programs for seniors including Elderday and Meals on Wheels. It serves about 22,000 people annually, according to Cancino.

The City of Watsonville recently welcomed a new assistant building official for its Community Development Department: Rob Allen.

Allen, who hails from the midwest, most recently served as building official for the City of Gilroy. He has more than 30 years of experience in plan review and building inspection services.

“I’m enjoying working here in Watsonville, and will do my very best to serve the residents of this community,” he said.


For last week’s About Town installment, visit

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