Character Development: Saving Sugarloaf (40 Years Ago)

By Stanley JungleibNo Comments

This was a deeply formative, emboldening campaign. I did my homework, and left nothing to chance.

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I was 16-1/2, barely driving. I must have gotten a bit angry about a proposed development I read in the paper. Politely calling ahead, playing my student government card, I that afternoon met the head architect for the Sugarloaf project. As an inquiring and curious student reporter, I let him boast of the boost of growth—typical Chamber of Commerce stuff. After noting as many details as I needed, and gaining perhaps a few mimeographs, he proudly invited me to see the massing model secreted in another room.

We entered and my act collapsed as the HO-gauge, detailed embodiment brought the impending tragedy into full relief. A few sentences into his expected refrain I just cut him off: “Nope. I’m going to stop this.”

[stunned pause] “Excuse me?”

“That’s insane. You are out of control. I am going to stop this development.”

“Oh, you ARE?” he could only respond as patronizingly as any ‘professional’ could to a kid still yet to really shave. “Then I guess we are done here.” And showed me the door.

It never occurred to me that my unplanned outburst and commitment was precociously audacious, nor that I could lose. Indeed, two years later I had kicked all of their asses: the corrupt City Council and the dozen developers that had put them there. Leap-frogging tamer efforts, my front-page Examiner revelations forced a referendum on the issue that transferred the land to Belmont’s zone of influence and swiftly sent all five stunned Republican councilmen to Central Park for pigeon-feeding duty. This earned me an invitation to join the leadership of the County Democratic Committee—where I developed an initial building moratorium strategy for San Bruno Mountain.

I met with the estimable and gracious Alvin Duskin, who pointed me to the Livingston and Blaney Report, a touchstone for a new Peninsula Ecology effort that had innovatively argued to the City of Palo Alto it would cost far more to develop the foothills than not. These reverberating economic considerations and machinations recognized many of the unincorporated open spaces which took their rightful places in solidifying General Plans then undergoing increased scrutiny from the State to prevent sprawl, and which we now enjoy under the management of independent, stable regional agencies.

So, don’t tell me you can’t fight City Hall. I’ve summed up this strategic operation for many over the years with this analogy: when they place a chessboard in front of you, very often the only appropriate response is to just leap over the proposed game and focus overwhelming firepower upon their king. This early lesson became a regular, sustaining guideline for challenges yet to come—such as stepping out of Philosophy to convince the Army Intelligence School they needed to totally redesign their radar training, then doing it so successfully that the Navy adopted the program as well. And later, forging deals or settlements with Intel, Creative Labs, Microsoft and Yamaha.

Yet the win which stands out as mountainous and meaningfully as does Sugarloaf today was not merely overpowering EFF’s hypocritical, irresponsible sustained attack shilling for The Mayfield Fund’s congenitally-mismanaged Beatnik; but again seizing the opportunity of underestimation to ensure EFF soiled themselves as thoroughly as did the City Council four decades prior–while my expert and legal team simultaneously clarified and significantly extended the patent’s claims in cooperation with USPTO. (See Seer Systems Vindicated.) Oblivious to realities about ‘prior art’ dooming their entire seven-year quest before it started, incapable of apologizing for proven self-defeating falsehoods, left only to now plaintively deride the judgement of the agency they sought, even psychically resorting to retrospective mind-reading to rationalize their failures: It is equally satisfying to have effectively sent such bewildered lawyers to feed the pigeons as well.

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