Occupy Arcata Heights Ends With A Splatter – March 14, 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Tom Vanciel's Occupy Arcata House. Photos by KLH | Eye

Tom Vanciel’s Occupy Arcata House. Photos by KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

K STREET – The house is still there at 1250 K Street, replete with painted slogans and redolent with animal waste. But the numerous two- and four-legged occupants who lived in and around Tom Vanciel’s urban homestead are gone, this time for good… probably.

Vanciel is casually known as “Yak Man” for his strolls around town in the company of his yak. Sometimes he is accompanied by roommate Samuel Sanchez, known to casual observers at “Goat Man” for his town treks with his goat companion.

In recent months, Vanciel and Sanchez have been joined at the house by kindred spirit Geronimo Garcia, whom one neighbor referred to as “Chicken Man,” for the flock of fowl which lived in and around his residential bike trailer in the driveway.

Last Thursday morning, Arcata Police stood by as the house’s water service was turned off. But the yak, goat and chicken men had already departed.

The house is now owned by the Federal National Mortgage Association, or Freddie Mac, which foreclosed on it last year. Though ownership transferred last Oct. 27, Vanciel and his flock refused to move out until last Thursday morning.

Samuel Sanchez and Tom Vanciel roam about town with their companion animals.

By the time it was vacated and secured last Thursday night, the $300,000 property had become an animal farm, inside and out. A dozen or so goats, a yak, chickens and possibly a cow had been living there with their human companions. The impacts of the dense habitation on the single-family residential home are easily seen – and smelled.

The backyard, once a carefully tended wonderland, is a defoliated, waste-drenched bog. Former resident Rebecca LaCasse recalled when Mildred Moore, now deceased, owned the home.

“It was full of old roses, big old camellias and fragrant rhodies, it had a round-a-bout path through mounds of oxalis,” recalled LaCasse. “There were scads of daffodil and narcissus, Japanese maples… it was like a beautiful forest grove.”

“She had created a beautiful garden with a small pond in the back, full of established plants and trees.” remembered Kate Christensen, who also lived there for a time. “The inside of the house was in good condition. Hardwood floors in great shape.”

Those hardwood floors, as well as the walls, closets and even the bathtub are presently covered in pools of housepaint. Thursday morning, the gray paint was still wet throughout the house, with the largest splatter in the front bedroom spelling out “LOVE” in capital letters.

Straw and animal feces are strewn about– mingled with the wet paint in places – and the stinging stench of urine pervades the house. Bedrooms host abandoned personal knick-knacks and animal enclosures, while walls are covered in slogans advocating peace, liberty and understanding. “STOP HATE” is written in toothpaste on the bathroom mirror.

A mixed-media, mixed message – love through vandalism? – in paint, straw and other random objects in the front bedroom.

Since 2010, Vanciel has been ignoring warning letters from the City about Land Use Code violations for keeping the farm animals at his suburban home. Last May, he and his animals departed to the Southwest for a time, but the rugged individualist and his animal entourage returned to the home he purchased with his wife Nancy in August, 2007.

When his wife moved out a couple of years ago, say neighbors, Vanciel’s eccentricities surfaced and magnified, as did negative encounters with authority. Facing foreclosure by Bank of America, Vanciel’s  angry suspicion of the society around him intensified, and he dug in.

Tapping into the energy around last fall’s progressive quasi-insurgency, Vanciel rechristened his home “Occupy Arcata Heights.”  The in-town animal ranch, plus the modifications to the property, brought inevitable attempts at enforcement of Arcata’s Land Use Code in the neighborhood which is  zoned Residential Low-Density.

Each City complaint or letter from the bank only seemed to deepen Vanciel’s resolve and bring forth more conflict with neighbors, who were increasingly alarmed at the goings-on at his home.

The final spiral began several days before last Christmas,  when Vanciel got a letter from the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) warning him of imminent eviction.

This was followed by another round of warning letters from the City, with a rare Nuisance Abatement agenda item slated for next week’s City Council meeting. As late as last week, City Building Official Dean Renfer was still corresponding with Freddie Mac officials about violations at the house.

A letter dated Monday, March 5 notes building code violations over an addition to the garage roof, since removed, and the presence of large animals in violation of the Land Use Code.

Neighbors said Vanciel had constructed a 24-foot-tall “meditation tower” in the backyard at one point. Last April, a neighbor complained that Vanciel had built a fence on his property, even nailing boards to the neighbor’s house.

To Vanciel, the objections were a ruse to legitimize theft of his property and to silence his objections to government wrongdoing. In repeated complaints to the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District, he claimed that toxic emissions from Rich’s Body Shop across the street had exacerbated his health problems, physical and mental. None of the alleged violations were ever verified.

“He’d call whenever he got a whiff of something,” said Al Steer, compliance and enforcement division manager. “He’d call up and start screaming, and I don’t put up with that.”

Nonetheless, Steer dutifully checked out the complaints.

“I went over two times and sent three officers on six occasions,” he said. “There was a minimum of 10 visits. On no case was there any exceedence of any kind of emission limit.”

Vanciel also believes that fluoride in drinking water has corrupted the thought processes of those who consume it, making them obedient to government control. A neighbor passing by last weekend was told – loudly – she was in the grip of delusion by the “fluoride tea” that composes Arcata’s drinking water.

Conversations with passersby followed a similar pattern – initially cordial, but swiftly escalating into shouting as Vanciel, Sanchez and Garcia would lose their composure.

“He tends to run to the high side,” Steer said.

A photo layout from the pages of the Arcata Eye.

Like Occupy emplacements at Arcata City Hall and in Eureka, the K Street occupation station was riven by internal dissension as well as rocky relations with the outside world.

A neighbor reported loud arguments in the backyard, with Vanciel telling Garcia to stop drinking and warning him that he would be evicted. Somewhat comically, Garcia replied that Vanciel couldn’t evict him from a property he didn’t own, the neighbor said.

Other neighbors said that Garcia spent three nights up on the house’s rooftop haranguing the neighborhood over various issues. “He was very loud for a long time,” said next-door neighbor Michael Winkler, who happens to be Arcata’s mayor. “Then the cops came and after that, not a peep.”

A sign reading “Geronimo Motel” soon appeared in the house’s front yard in apparent mockery of the former City Council candidate’s continued occupancy.

Neighbor Eliot Baker’s experience was typical. “I tried to talk to them during a loud fight they were having in the yard recently, waking me up by screaming at each other and slamming things around,” Baker said. “They told me to fuck off because they were role-modeling fighting without guns. After an attempted lecture on the Constitution I just walked away.”

Tom Vanciel

Despite heading up a City government which Vanciel had termed a “fascist puppet dictatorship,” the affable Mayor Winkler maintained neighborly, non-political relations with the irascible crew. He said Garcia told him that Freddie Mac had obtained a court order evicting everyone on March 8.

With the house now vacant, Freddie Mac will presumably make repairs and put the property back on the market. The damage, while unsightly, is mostly superficial and reversible.

But that resolution leaves some questions unanswered. Unknown for now are the present whereabouts of Vanciel and associates. Another riddle for many is the contradiction inherent in Vanciel’s ways – ardently advocating love, but usually with severe, hair-trigger hostility.

“I see a disconnect between the slogans plastered all over their house and their complete and utter lack of respect and willingness to build community with their neighbors,” Eliot said. “Love isn’t just something you write or say, it is something you do.”

Winkler said Vanciel was doing the best he could in uniquely challenging circumstances, pursuing his ideals despite severe emotional and financial hardship. “He had some difficult challenges,” Winkler said, noting that Vanciel’s wife had left him two years ago.

“The Occupy movement gave meaning to his life,” Winkler observed. “His home was a center for his alternative lifestyle and a place to express his beliefs, his outrage at the economic and social conditions in the community.”

Contacted last week, Vanciel was suspicious of the inquiry. “To use the metaphor of five minutes to midnight before atomic destruction,” he wrote in an e-mail, “May I ask why  it is you’ve waited to offer help?”

Vanciel went on the explain his relationship with his animal companions, and their joint mission in Arcata: “The Sacred Holy Yaks that Sam and I accompany and shepherd from the evils of this murderous society are not to be approached by meat eaters, tobacco smokers, alcohol drinkers, gun bearers or imperial fascists. These are special spiritual envoys from Tibet. We are blessed to accompany them on their spiritual mission. They are here to purify and bless the mess you call Arcata.”

 

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48 Responses to “Occupy Arcata Heights Ends With A Splatter – March 14, 2012”

  1. Gary

    Those people need to be taken to a looney bin and locked up, their farm animals should be taken to the slaughter house and I’ll fire up the grill for tonight!! Woo Hoo! Fresh meat for the poor!

    #57456
  2. Al Steer

    Kevin
    A slight misquote. I stated a minimum of 10 visits.
    Not, “There was a minimum of 20 visits.”

    #57464
  3. Thanks Al. I’ve corrected it.

    I must be having trouble with my aim regarding that region of the keyboard. That’s the second number mistake I’ve made today.

    #57465
  4. Burger N Fries

    So aren’t the who lived there getting a warent for destruction of property by the loan people? I hope so.

    #57472
  5. Roger

    Great read. Thank you.

    #57474
  6. Tonto Bubba Goldstein

    At least they didn’t burn the place down. These two are obviously mentally ill and it sounds like the mayor is a little off too. Why did it take so long to get rid of these people? I remember when Arcata was a beautiful place, but that was before the progressives destroyed the timber industry, ran off the hardworking loggers and mill workers, and created the nightmare welfare state we see now. If it wasn’t for grant money and dope growers, Arcata would dry up and blow away. So very sad.

    #57532
  7. Kim

    More burnt out crazy scud muffins with FARM ANIMALS IN THAT HOUSE?!?!? Sound’s a bit kinky if you ask me. Does the goat have panties too? I’m sure it does! BAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH BAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH KISS KISS BAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH LICK LICK BAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH

    #57545
  8. Big Hank

    I want a big greasy steak made from their little cow, mmmmmmmmmm so good, so meaty. Does anyone know where I can find it and gut it for free?

    #57556
  9. I doubt that you are up to your aspirations of butchery if you can’t even summon up the courage to use a real name on an online comment.

    #57557
  10. [...] in toothpaste on the bathroom mirror. A mixed-media, mixed message – love … Read more on Arcata EyeShare and [...]

    #59385
  11. tina

    These men clearly have some type of mental illness with antisocial features. As odd and unneighborly as they may have been, they haven’t done anything worse than the mortgage companies. Freddie Mac should sue these two guy on social security (probably for mental illness) cuz lord knows Freddie Mac needs more government cash!

    #59979
  12. [...] six percent of the vote. Garcia was active with the Occupy Arcata as well as Tom Vanciel’s Occupy Arcata Heights foreclosure-resistance live-in on K [...]

    #63842
  13. A unforgettable portion of our lives. Thank you Tom and Sam.

    #63909
  14. A unforgettable portion of our lives. Thank you Tom and Sam.

    #65535
  15. A unforgettable portion of our lives. Thank you Tom and Sam.

    #65961
  16. A unforgettable portion of our lives. Thank you Tom and Sam.

    #66001
  17. A unforgettable portion of our lives. Thank you Tom and Sam.

    #66126
  18. A unforgettable portion of our lives. Thank you Tom and Sam.

    #67221
  19. A unforgettable portion of our lives. Thank you Tom and Sam.

    #67836
  20. A unforgettable portion of our lives. Thank you Tom and Sam.

    #68535
  21. Veronica Lisa Chapman

    Holy Yak! I met these guys yesterday….the Yak's have grown!

    #65038
  22. Veronica Lisa Chapman

    Holy Yak! I met these guys yesterday….the Yak's have grown!

    #65536
  23. Veronica Lisa Chapman

    Holy Yak! I met these guys yesterday….the Yak's have grown!

    #65962
  24. Veronica Lisa Chapman

    Holy Yak! I met these guys yesterday….the Yak's have grown!

    #66002
  25. Veronica Lisa Chapman

    Holy Yak! I met these guys yesterday….the Yak's have grown!

    #66127
  26. Veronica Lisa Chapman

    Holy Yak! I met these guys yesterday….the Yak's have grown!

    #67222
  27. Veronica Lisa Chapman

    Holy Yak! I met these guys yesterday….the Yak's have grown!

    #67837
  28. Veronica Lisa Chapman

    Holy Yak! I met these guys yesterday….the Yak's have grown!

    #68536
  29. Everyone who has has their house foreclosed without a good reason should do the same thing.

    #65039
  30. Everyone who has has their house foreclosed without a good reason should do the same thing.

    #65537
  31. Everyone who has has their house foreclosed without a good reason should do the same thing.

    #65963
  32. Everyone who has has their house foreclosed without a good reason should do the same thing.

    #66003
  33. Everyone who has has their house foreclosed without a good reason should do the same thing.

    #66128
  34. Everyone who has has their house foreclosed without a good reason should do the same thing.

    #67223
  35. Everyone who has has their house foreclosed without a good reason should do the same thing.

    #67838
  36. Everyone who has has their house foreclosed without a good reason should do the same thing.

    #68537
  37. [...] are met with blistering ripostes, and heaven help anyone who asks anything of the two irascible yaksmen, like to move out of the roadway at 14th and M streets. An officer attempted to detain the two for [...]

    #69157
  38. That's right. Actions speak louder than words. If fighting and sleeping in shit is what you do, fighting and sleeping in shit is what you are….you contribute nothing to help others, the Earth, yourself. Your existence becomes meaningless and sad.

    #69362
  39. I forgot to add; Please seek help.

    #69363
  40. […] Vanciel and Samuel Sanchez have not had an easy time in Arcata. The two are well-known on the streets and in local media for trekking about town with […]

    #70322

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