Thursday, July 30, 2015

Latest Update and Status Report of Arcade Situation

So as you all know, we fought for months in attempt to relocated in Azusa at a strip mall known as the Edgewood Center.  I don't really want to go into too much detail regarding this because we are still not locked in for anything yet and anything I say or do might have a negative effect on the outcome.  Anyways, to sum it up, I was in the middle of a political war between the landlord of the property and the entire city.  The place seemed like a great location as it was located near a major street, easy freeway access, tons of parking, and a large space for a decent price.  But once again, no matter what effort we brought to the table, we were not going to win this war.  The good new though, after fighting and pleading our case at two public hearings, the stigma of arcades and the arcade lifestyle has been brought to a new light.  The complete effort made by everyone, via attendees at the hearing, people speaking on our behalf, and even those who posted on various social media, has made a difference and also made me so proud to be part of this great community.  I mentioned it somewhere before, but one of the gentlemen who spoke against us at our first hearing was actually the person who found our new location for us.  This is so huge for many reasons.  Kind of reminds me of a scene where Rocky was just beatdown by Drago then states, "If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!"  Our community has so much heart and it just amazes me that there is no limit to what we can really achieve.  Hell, Evo finally received some mainstream recognition by being on ESPN.  How crazy is that?  But that's a story for another day, so let me continue before my thoughts wander even more.

So I just came to terms with the landlord of the new property, and mind you I am dealing directly with her directly, which is so much easier than having to go through a middle man such as a leasing agent.  She is a very lovely lady with a super positive attitude and is just very easy to work with.  We have discussed our plans with her and she loves what we are bringing to the table.  Her store is not in the greatest of shape, and needs a lot of work, but once the final product is in place it will be incredible.  So here's the process from start to finish.  Find a property, check.  Agree to terms with the landlord, check.  Go apply and pay for required permits, check.  City is required to send out notices allowing all those within 300ft to state their complaints.  This process is something we cannot expedite and the whole reason it takes time to receive a permit.  Now here's what can happen.  If there are no complaints, we are issued a permit and can start work immediately.  If there are any complaints, we must go through a public hearing once again with the same people who denied us twice.  But, that is not a bad thing at this point because all those that were not in favor at the time are on video stating that they, and i quote, "we would love to have you in our city, just not at the Edgewood Center."  With that being said, I am very confident we will have 0 issues as the city planners are being very helpful with the entire process.  This location was hand picked by a council member, it is literally within arms reach of the police station, and there is no drama going on with the landlord.  So based on those facts it is now just a matter of time before we get started on renovations and bring this place back to life.

And for those wondering what happened with the appeal and why we chose a different route, I will explain that briefly.  Taking everything into consideration which includes, cost, time, and possible outcomes, I believe this is the best choice.  The appeal would have cost us over $2,700 for starters, and this would be a one time hearing where the decision would be final.  If we lose this one, it's over and the money is gone.  The hearing for the appeal would also not happen until the first or third week of September because the city council is on break for the month of August.  So wait 4-6 weeks, pay $2,700, and have nothing solid in hand.  Granted we could win the appeal and everything works out, but waiting another month and a half for a maybe just seemed too risky at this point.  Now taking option B, start over in the process, pay for permits to a new location which cost roughly $1,200, and follow through with the whole notifications process, etc etc etc, and wait about 4 weeks as well.  Then if there are any issues we would attend a much easier public hearing if needed and all is done.  So basically this option would allow us to comply with the wants of the city members and we avoiding what they consider a horrible location.  It's much better to have people of the town support you, then force your way into something and have to prove yourself.  I don't want to be under the microscope at the first location and for any reason have my permits revoked over any incident that it not in my control.  This option is the safest, saves money, saves a bit of time, and everyone is at a happy medium.  Maybe things do happen for a reason, and maybe this is the place Super Arcade was meant to be.  Only time will tell and just know that I will never stop until this mission is complete!

Thank you all for reading and I will keep you all updated as things move along.  Here's to a bright future for the So Cal scene and thank you everyone for all the love and support.  It's honestly all of you that makes this entire fight worthwhile and it's the love and passion of this community that keeps me driving this train full speed ahead!  Till next time everyone.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Todays Hearing and Stress

I normally don't stress too much and handle situations pretty well, but the weight of the day is just building way too quickly this morning and I am feeling almost nauseous.  I started writing blogs to give people a sort of behind the scenes look at things, but today is a totally different beast.  I am actually writing this post because I am under so much stress and need an outlet.  I know I posted that my next blog entry would be the last until today's hearing and I apologize for that.  Life just kicks you in the ass sometimes and I am having a very hard time this morning.

To say today's hearing means the world to me would definitely be an understatement.  And I don't want people getting the wrong idea about this post thinking that I'm crumbling before the big show or anything like that.  I just feel like the weight of the entire Socal scene is sitting on my shoulders and I want nothing more than to succeed for the community.  I have dealt with many things in my life and maintained my composure through the most stressful situations.  Funny thing is, I was able to do all this from my experience gained through competitive gaming.  I started my career when at about the age of 15 and the first tournament I entered I faced none other than the person who I consider the best Street Fighter player off all time, Mr Tomo Ohira.  I fondly remember playing him in the Grand Finals and winning the first set 4-3, then losing the final set 4-2.  But these old man tales are for another day and I'll get back to the subject.  Being able to perform to your full potential at all times is a very critical skill in life and very valuable.

Many people deal with the issue of not being able to perform under pressure, and I know there's some Viagra joke I'm missing there but this is a family friendly blog so I'll leave the puns to James Chen.  Anyways, dealing with stress is very tough sometimes and can easily sway your thoughts or even lead to health problems.  I envy the people that are the true leaders in their communities because they deal with stress everyday.  Making decisions for yourself is sometimes tough enough, but when you are making decisions that can affect a large amount of people, this is where things get rough.  I have supported the community known as the #FGC since its birth.  I have loved games since before the days I could even reach the joystick panel.  There is just something magic about video games that is unexplainable and leaves you yearning for more.  But then again I guess the same could be said about crack to a drug addict so it would probably be tough to understand unless you are an avid gamer.

Regardless, I want everyone to honestly know that I am doing all that I can.  I took on a huge responsibility by running a kickstarter and I am doing my best to keep my word.  I hope everyone had a chance to see the last public hearing so you guys have a better idea of what I'm dealing with.  Basically, the fate of the community lies in the hands of people that have a grudge against the property owner and taking it out on me.  I am in a very tough spot but still fighting my heart out to make things work out.  I truly hope tonight goes well, and the funny thing is, I have written about 5 speeches for tonight and will probably use none of them.  There was a guy on r/kappa not too long ago that posted this vid after I was denied back on June 24th : (Rocky Balboa Scene)

I am a huge rocky fan so it was pretty fitting for the mood and in all honesty, I think I might just dump my current speech and go with the "feelings" approach tonight.  Either way, I want to thank you all for being there through this and I am very touched by everyone's effort to help.  I hope to see a bunch of you guys there tonight and let's make this happen. 

Thank You Again For Everything,
M. Watson

Friday, July 10, 2015

Last Post Before Our 2nd Public Hearing

First off, I would like to give thanks to everyone that has been a part of this long journey.  I can't express how much each and every person has helped in motivating me to keep going.  Things obviously haven't been easy and I'm blowing wind now just trying to get to the finish line.  What seemed to be a simple task has now turned into an all out war in a sense.  I have done absolutely everything I can to get this far and it hasn't been enough.  There's been many moments that I have questioned myself and wondered why do I keep doing this, and I truly do hope there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Many people have helped me along the way and all their efforts, regardless of how big or small, will never be overlooked or forgotten.  I really want to thank everyone once again as you have all made a difference in my life.

Before I started this blog, I was a pretty outgoing person.  I never shied away from people as I was growing up in a time before people had access to the internet.  As a kid I would hang out with friends, ride bikes, play ball, and do things any typical kid would do outside of the house.  Life was obviously a lot simpler as a child and teenager back in the 80's.  There was no such thing as cyber bullying or getting trolled, and people had to face consequences for their actions because there was no keyboard or monitor to hide behind.  And I'm not saying this to put down the younger generation, but I have come across many occasions where I do feel that this new age is not changing things for the better.  Not too long ago, neighborhoods and communities were much more tight knit.  You could walk around your block and you would be familiar with all the residents and be on a first name basis with everyone.  Saying hi to people on the street was a common courtesy and making eye contact while cracking a smile was an everyday occurrence.  I can sit here and go on and on about this, but then people would think that I'm just some senile old man ranting about how things are changing in the world and I can't keep up.  The truth of the matter is this.  The world is now a much smaller place and information is at our fingertips.  There is no limit of knowledge and you can find anything on the web.  But there is one thing that we have and I can't stress it enough.  We still have a "community," and this is the very thing I am fighting to keep alive.  There is nothing that can replace the interactions you have in person while both enjoying the moment of competition, and sharing the time surrounded by people with common interests. 

Anyways, let's not stray from the task at hand.  This coming Wednesday will be the 2nd hearing involving Super Arcade's attempt to receive the proper permits required to operate in the City of Azusa.  The first time around I was definitely not prepared for the battle at hand.  I was blindsided by all the misunderstandings of a community and out dated information that was being presented by the opposing party.  But this time around, lemme tell you, I have a lot in store and have put in many hours coming up with a plan.  I have watched the hearing at least 20 times now and taken very precise notes.  I have done the homework and each and every issue that was brought forth will be addressed.  I really wonder what else they will have in store for us this time at the hearing.  I hope it's my turn to blindside them with a showing of all the support Super Arcade can bring.  I have quite a few people who will be speaking on our behalf from the community and have delegated different topics for each of them to speak on.  As a community, we are very fortunate to have a few arcade owners that care enough about this lifestyle to make a huge effort in being available to speak at our hearing as well.  Huge shoutouts to Doc Mack from Galloping Ghost Arcade, coming all the way out from Illinois, and also Mia and Mark, owners of Neon Retro Arcade right here in Pasadena, California.  Now I just hope that we can fill the auditorium with the rest of the #FGC (fighting game community) and just overwhelm the council with a horde or faithful arcade and gaming fans.

I really don't know what to expect in terms of turnout, but I feel as though some things were said at the last hearing that really irked the gaming community as a whole.  One gentleman was quoted saying "How are video games and an arcade a higher quality of life?"  A council member was quoted saying "High quality does not really fit with games called street fighter and combat."  This opened up a can of worms and offended much of the gaming community outside of just fighting games.  Saying that gaming is not a higher quality of life seems a little ridiculous when put into just a perspective of money.  Just to be able to play these games at home, it costs hundreds and hundreds of dollars just to obtain the proper equipment.  Does your average "hoodlum" or "thug" have the resources to purchase a home gaming console and a couple joysticks adding up to roughly $1,000?  Does your average "lower quality of life gamer" have the means to spends anywhere from $800 to $3,000 on a gaming computer just to play these games that bring a lower quality of life?  It is really obvious what needs to be done to overcome the old stigma of arcades and gaming, and now it's really up to us to present the current facts to the council.  Our main goal is to make sure our points are brought up very directly, and we don't have people repeat themselves over and over.  We need to be well organized, well mannered, and well dressed, and then I believe we will finally be heard and our opinions respected.  If you are available and care enough to make a difference, I ask you to please attend this hearing on Wednesday July 15th at 7:00pm located in the City of Azusa's Civic Auditorium.

Thank You.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Post Meeting Updates and Whats Next?

So as many of you guys know, there was a public hearing on 6/24 at the Azusa Civic Auditorium.  The hearing was to have a city council approve 2 multiple use permits required for me to open Super Arcade in the location I have had reserved since the beginning of April.  I was informed that this was just a basic formality and I should be approved with no problem.  Regardless, I still had my guard up and attempted to prepare for the meeting to the best of my ability.  I was sent an email with the schedule and just worked on a plan on how to defend the arcade culture if any questions were to come up.  Well surprise surprise........  I was denied the permits and oddly enough, it wasn't for the reasons expected.

There was a panel of 5 people who were appointed to represent and make a decision for the city.  Right off the bat, one of the members stepped down and decided to participate as a public civilian to maintain a non-bias in decision making.  I had mixed feelings about this due to the fact that firstly, I just increased my chances by eliminating a negative vote, but then I was also worried that this gentleman felt so strongly about opposing the issue that it might really cause some problems.  Regardless, he was one of the 5 people who spoke out against me.  So for those of you who didn't have time to tune into the live stream, here is a link : Public Hearing City of Azusa 6/24/15

The main arguments against me that evening included some of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard.  Just going into the meeting I had an eerie feeling that somehow I was walking into a lose lose situation.  These people that showed up to speak against me were on a first name basis with the council members and obviously attended these meetings many times.  Im not saying that they have nothing better to do, but after hearing their concerns, I believe they are just negative people and just get off thinking they know everything.  The first person to step up complained about the strip mall.  Mind you, she had nothing to complain about in terms of an arcade, just that the location I was trying to occupy was a "retail shopping center" and people coming to shop there would not have anything to look forward to.  She also mentioned that there was a ton of fights, killings, and even a case of rape.  Without mentioning specifics, she stated the owner of the strip mall was not doing the city any favors and it seems as if she just had a vendetta against him.

The second lady to speak against me mentioned that the strip mall has encountered many problems and how they lost their market recently that was located in the mall.  She also stated that "this gentleman thinks its Disneyland here," referring to me obviously, and saying that I'm in for a surprise.  She also spoke on the requirements for having a security on duty and felt that having so much security would scare people away from even coming to the shopping center.  Her closing arguments were that she wanted a "Whole Foods" a "homework center" or a "bike shop" to show up instead of an arcade.

The third person to speak up was the council member who stepped down.  I was extremely interested in hearing what he had to say, since he felt it was worth it for him to step down and speak.  Surprisingly, his main argument was about the restroom.  Apparently, on the blueprints he was looking at, the unit I was trying to lease did not have a restroom.  I would honestly think that it's common sense that every unit includes a restroom.  Hell, theres 8 restrooms upstairs if they really want to get picky.  Anyways, his issue became a complaint that people were urinating in the alley behind the shopping center and hanging around the parking lot.  He then went on to look at the layout I had proposed for the arcade and stated that the "console stations" would be blocking the view of the arcade and people could use these "blind spots" to commit crimes.  Lol?  He doesn't even understand that the console stations are just sit down cubicles and making assumptions.  He then goes on to share his studies he found while attending a library and mentioned an arcade in Seattle where a robbery took place.  His example came from a library and the only thing he could find was an incident that happened in Seattle?  And mind you this incident was at a Game Stop, not an arcade.  So much for this gentleman being prepared.......

On to the fourth lady.  This lady felt that the arcade is going to generate more crimes and more problems for the shopping center that is already dirty.......  She then goes on to tell a story of how she was with her daughter and they drove up to watch a person urinate in the parking lot at that shopping center.  She also states that only having 1 restroom would lead to more of this and was against the arcade.  I have no comment regarding her statements as they pretty much speak for itself.

And onto the final speaker.  This gentleman was actually pretty well spoken and including building codes and what not in his argument.  If you knew nothing about what was going on, you would actually think he was very on point and knew exactly what was going on.  He was the one that complained about the strip mall not following a code of being only 15% non-retail and went on to mention that the new Gym would already swallow up that 15% leaving me with no leeway.  But he did not know that the city approved the Gym to be exempt from this rule so his argument about this was very pointless.  He then goes on to insult gamers.  He states that gaming is not a "high quality of life for any community" and asks the council to reconsider allowing me to open shop.

So after sitting through all this, I am just shocked.  There is no argument I can make about people pissing on the walls, gaming not being a higher quality of life, and a market closing its doors.  I was well prepared to fight tooth and nail on defending arcades, and how we bring people together from all walks of life.  After being blindsided, I spoke up a couple times stating that people hang around due to the fact that the plaza is 50% vacant, and people only hang around the areas where there are no businesses open.  I also stated that the arcade brought in a ton of business for surrounding businesses and we have proof of that.  Another concern was the arcade was bringing criminals, but I stated numerous times that the Azusa Police Department contacted the Walnut/Diamond Bar Sheriff about our history and that came up flawless.  The funny thing is, they were not even listening to me.  Two of the four council members praised me for my efforts but still voted against me, one gentleman was all for opening up an arcade, and the last gentleman said he would love to have an arcade in the city, just not at that particular location.  So that came out to a 3-1 loss and now it's time to regroup and figure out my next step.  After sleeping on it, I wrote an email to the city planners and requested a meeting to discuss the appeal process and see what I could do about this decision.  I received a reply and fortunately I was able to meet up with them this Tuesday so I didn't have to sulk in the sorrows of being denied for too long.

Overall, I feel as though the meeting went well.  This was not a meeting where any ground was to be made in overturning the decision, but it was one where I was able to weigh out my options and figure out what my next step was.  So all in all, on Wednesday July 15th at 7:00pm there will be another public hearing scheduled to make the decision final from the previous meeting.  At this hearing, I will be allowed to once again plead my case and others are welcome to do so as well.  This time around I hope people will show up in full force so that the city can see just how much of a positive impact our community can bring to this town and how we are not the low life scum they have made us out to be.  The landlord and leasing company have an appointment with the city next week and I will have another update.

It is after 3:00am at the moment so I apologize for all the grammatical errors in this post.  I promised to have a blogpost done today and didn't want to leave something unfinished so the product isn't exactly the best.  I also woke up at 7:00am this morning to make sure I was on time to my meeting so I do have a bit of excuse haha.  Thanks again for reading and talk to you all again soon!