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Planning Olivehurst's future
The atmosphere is cozy; the company familiar.
For nearly eight years, Duke's Diner in Olivehurst has been hosting the meetings of the South Yuba Economic and Improvement Committee, a community group that invites a variety of speakers each month.
Business owners, utilities engineers, school district officials, and a variety of others with newsworthy projects and programs are invited to speak to those gathered at the diner's booths and tables on the appointed Thursday evenings.
"They're regular residents that are curious and want to know what's going on," said Yuba County Supervisor Mary Jane Griego.
Griego, long-time community organizer Vera Correa, and John Taylor, a commercial Realtor, get together once a month to determine which topics and presenters will be timely and interesting to the group, set out the upcoming agenda and post it in the diner's window.
Usually, 20 to 30 residents show up for the hour-long meeting. The forum is followed by social time, with light refreshments.
"They're grass-roots, little town hall meetings," said Griego. "We're not political. It's not our thing to get people stirred up."
But they don't leave politics out of the mix entirely.
Last Thursday, John Beckett and Denise Burbank, candidates for the Olivehurst Public Utility District board of directors, made informal presentations.
Political candidates are traditionally part of the lineup prior to elections.
Taylor said his own involvement began when Plumas Lake development was still going strong. He was determined to make a single community of the residential area and Olivehurst.
"It was like trying to bring together the cattlemen and the farmers," he said. "Olivehurst thought Plumas Lake was Johnny-come-lately folks, Plumas Lake thought Olivehurst was hicks in the country."
Once the economy collapsed, the effort became less relevant. Taylor now focuses on trying to get future developers on Olivehurst Avenue to abide by a new aesthetic model.
A San Jose-based property owner who had been looking to invest in a new project there made a rendering of an idyllic small town commercial corridor. He based the image on what he believed a future Olivehurst Avenue should look like.
The folks at Duke's liked it.
About six years ago, they took the image to the Board of Supervisors, which held it up as an official model for all future development on the Avenue.
"Rite-Aid changed their facade to go along with that and then H&R Block," said Taylor
The picture now hangs on the wall of the diner.
Taylor said he realizes that what it depicts is far from reality.
"This is a piece of crap bad area is what it is," he said after last Thursday's meeting. "Things are a hodge-podge mess there now."
"The question is, what's it going to look like in the future?" he said.
Another of the group's efforts recently resulted in a safety improvement elsewhere in town.
Caltrans had plans to add street lights to ramps off Highway 70 at McGowan Parkway. So the folks at Duke's Diner had an engineer in to talk to the group.
"We told them about all the near misses with kids coming home after school after sports (practice) and walking home in the dark," Griego said. "We talked them into putting lights on the overpass."
"It was perfect timing. We were so excited to see that happen," she said.
A spring community cleanup and Christmas parade planning also have links to the monthly gathering at the diner.
"There's a strong sense of community in Olivehurst," Griego said. "It gets a bad rap, but there's so many people here who care."