Bouquets and Brickbats

Heartening progress at Sunny Acres

April 26, 2013 

Cal Poly students begin the cleanup process at Dan DeVaul’s Sunny Acres in April 2012.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — The Tribune Buy Photo

We’ve heard the overworked expression “cautiously optimistic” so many times that we vowed never to string the two words together again. But we can’t come up with a better way to describe our reaction to the news that Dan De Vaul will be allowed to build a new sober living facility, now that his Sunny Acres ranch has been cleaned up and brought up to code.

Given the lack of sober living facilities in SLO County, offering De Vaul the opportunity for afresh start makes sense, yet it’s hard to overlook the history of code violations at Sunny Acres, or De Vaul’s numerous run-ins with county officials.

Still, the progress made at Sunny Acres — which went from being declared a public nuisance to getting a clean bill of health — is huge. Everyone who had a hand in the transformation, including the Cal Poly crew that took on the project, the Sunny Acres board of directors and Judge Charles Crandall, who oversaw the case, deserves a big bouquet of public service.

Keep in mind, the work isn’t over; those interested in helping with the next phase — building a sober living facility that’s in full compliance with all building, health and safety codes — can email De Vaul at

Funding rules hurt local schools

Ironic, isn’t it? On account of state revenue takeaways, the San Luis Coastal Unified School District slashes 40 jobs — along with summer school and bus transportation for high school students — yet in the same week, the state of California reports income tax revenue is $4 billion above the original forecast.

Most of that additional funding is supposed to go to schools, though under the state’s arcane funding formulas, basic-aid districts like San Luis Coastal — which are primarily funded by local property taxes — won’t benefit.

We agree that there is a need to equalize funding among schools districts. But when state takeaways rob a district of its ability to provide programs that were once basic — such as summer school and bus transportation for all students — then the state can expect to get schooled with a brickbat.

Before class is dismissed, one final note: The San Luis Coastal Board of Trustees deserves some extra credit — and an apple blossom bouquet — for deciding to keep two full-time counselors for the elementary schools.

Kidney donor’s inspiring gift

We toss a huge gift-of-life bouquet to the anonymous donor who gave one of her kidneys to Jules Hock, 77, of Los Osos. Without the donation, Hock would have faced a 5-year-long, life-threatening wait for a kidney. The donor read about Hock’s situation in The Tribune, and stepped up to help.

That someone would go to such lengths to help a stranger is inspiring enough; that she would want to remain anonymous and would refuse all forms of compensation offered by the Hocks makes it all the more remarkable — an act of incredible generosity we won’t soon forget.

A heartwarming good deed

A stand-up bouquet goes out to Nancy and John Franta, the couple who did the right thing by returning a surfboard left on a South County beach following a memorial celebration.

The board had belonged to Todd Everett, 44, who died of colon cancer in February. The realization that it had somehow been left at Pismo Beach following a seaside ceremony was a big blow to his widow, Jennifer, and his 6-year-old son, Oliver. The loss led to a plea for the board’s return on Facebook and Craigslist. The family also reached out the old-fashioned way — by posting fliers around town.

Turns out, the Frantas had picked up the board with the intention of tracking down its owner, but they went out of town and didn’t learn that a search was underway until they returned. When Nancy Franta spotted a flier about the missing board, the couple immediately contacted Everett’s family and returned the board — putting smiles on the faces of everyone who had been keeping their fingers crossed for a special mother and son.

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