Star Wars fans can still look forward to catching Episode III in Old Town Salinas'' yet-to-be-built 14-screen movie theater. But on Tuesday, May 14, theater developers asked the Salinas City Council and Redevelopment Agency to approve a 90-day extension on a deadline to submit construction plans for the movieplex on the 100 block of Main Street.

The extension will push groundbreaking back to April 2003. Construction is expected to take a year, reaching completion in spring 2004. Star Wars Episode III opens May 25, 2005 (the 28th anniversary of the original release of the space epic.) A Salinas city official who works closely with City Manager Dave Mora tells the Weekly that Mora''s a big Star Wars fan. It is unclear whether the date of completion is set to accomodate his viewing.

Mora says he''ll be watching Episode II "somewhere" next Thursday, May 16, opening day. As for Episode III, Mora says, "I''m looking forward to it. It will be a pleasure to see it in downtown Salinas."

At Tuesday night''s meeting, council members were set to decide whether to grant developers Moctesuma Esparza, Frank Haffar and Ray Olmscheid of the Maya Cinema Holding Co. the extension after listening to a report from Redevelopment Director Larry Bussard and public comment. A final decision was reached after the Weekly''s deadline. However, the council is expected to extend the deadline to submit construction plans from May 13 to Aug. 13.

According to Bussard''s report, architectural concerns resulting from "unusable soil" conditions may increase the cost of construction by $1 million and delay the project''s construction.

Bussard points out that Salinas means "slough" in Spanish. "This whole north end of downtown was in that slough area," Bussard explains, "meaning that you have to penetrate through the bad soil to get into the more stable soil."

Bussard estimates the theater will cost between $12 million and $14 million.

The theater delay will also postpone construction of a planned hotel and condo project, proposed for development across the street from the new theater. Construction won''t begin on the hotel or condominiums until the theater has been built.

Poetic Economic Justice

A three-bedroom, one-bath house, recently donated to the City of Pacific Grove by the late Whitney Latham-Lechich, is now available to rent to a low-income poet.

Latham-Lechich, who was an avid supporter of poetry, gave the house to the city with the stipulation that it be rented to someone whose present income level is less than 80 percent of the county median income. That means the person must earn less than $30,150, according to Julie Uretsky at the City of Pacific Grove Housing Programs Office. The rent will range from $550-$725.

In order to be considered the individual must be a published poet (not self-published), or have taken classes related to the writing and reading of poetry, or have led workshops or taught classes about poetry.

The rental price will be based on the tenants'' willingness to provide community services to the City of Pacific Grove, such as library seminars and poetry readings, according to Uretsky. The house is located at 140 18th St. and the application deadline is May 13, 2002 at 4:45 p.m. For further information please contact the City Of Pacific Grove Housing Programs Office at (831) 648-3199.

Down in Front

E-bay bidding has begun on an all-inclusive VIP package that include the best seats in the house for all three days of the Monterey Jazz Festival (MJF). The package includes eight front-row seats for all five main arena shows, passes to all seven venues throughout the grounds, four VIP parking passes, and eight invitations to the festival''s private VIP artist bar.

The bidding began on May 1 on the e-bay web site and will run through May 10.

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Paul Fingerote of the MJF says the seats are directly in front of the stage, and the VIP-room pass will allow the successful bidder to mingle with artists.

All of the money from the auction (as well as a chunk of the profits from the entire festival) go to a jazz education fund.

For further information about the event visit the jazz festival Web site at montereyjazzfestival.org or call (925)-275-9255.

Rite of Passage

Construction has begun in the old firing range on Fort Ord, laying the bed for a road to link South Boundary Road, located off General Jim Moore Boulevard, to York Road, off Highway 68.

"These road connections will enable future transportation for the developing areas of Fort Ord that will be divided between the cities of Del Rey Oaks, Seaside, and Monterey," said Jim Feeney of the Fort Ord Reuse Authority.

The rest of South Boundary road will allow another outlet for eager fans who want to attend events out at Laguna Seca Raceway. It will only be open during special events, Feeney said.

By Jessica Lyons, Justin Adler

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