A Word From Your Neighbors…

The Petaluma Neighborhood Association is a non-profit organization that was founded out of a communal desire to educate ourselves and our neighbors about the planned Big Box development projects slated for Petaluma. The project of particular interest is Merlone Geier Partners’ (MGP) “Deer Creek Village” 346,000 sq. ft. bigbox retail development a across from Petaluma Hospital. At this time, our mission is to generate community awareness and participation in letter writing, attending City Council and Planning Commission meetings, providing educational materials, and organizing community events addressing the negative impacts of proposed Big Box development in our community. We encourage the various neighborhoods of Petaluma to join us in taking an active approach in voicing our concerns and participating in the preservation and development of Petaluma for today and tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Click on map of  the big-box project below to enlarge)

Thanks to all who support us and who advocate for good planning practices and a healthy community here in Petaluma!

Public Hearing for Large Shopping Center Approval

On Monday, February 27th-2012, the Petaluma City Council will be voting to certify the Environmental Report for another large shopping center in our community. Located along N. McDowell at Rainier Avenue, It’s called “Deer Creek Village”, and it consists of a 343,998 sq. ft. sprawling commercial retail project, that includes a 44,450 sq. ft. fitness center.

The certification of the project’s CEQA document is the most important phase of the approval process -yet, the majority of the City Council members are poised to approve this CEQA document that fails to address the project’s impacts on our community. How can the City Council approve this impact analysis, when they know it does not meet the legal obligations of CEQA Laws? They simply do not have sufficient information to allow it to move forward.

Approval of this shopping center will be one of the most important planning decisions that our city will make – do not let our elected officials side step their legal obligation to our community!

As the City gears up to approve more sprawl and blight in our community, please consider the issues below:

1) The project will have an enormous impact on traffic conditions, adding up to 10,000 more automobiles daily on McDowell and the surrounding streets. The CEQA required analysis grossly neglects the traffic impacts and provides no real means of mitigating these problems. Instead the City consultants have tethered all traffic mitigation to the City’s General Plan. This is a major problem because, the GP traffic mitigation for the cumulative impacts of both projects (including the Target project) relies solely upon infrastructure (e.g. Rainier Crosstown connector) which, since the elimination of RDA funding, the City does not have the means, or funding resources to build. Our city’s main thoroughfares and intersections already have major problems, it is irresponsible to allow these roadways to degrade any further by adding more cars by way of more auto-centric development approvals.

2) The project EIR does not contain a complete water usage assessment. Again they tier water usage and mitigation off the GP’s EIR which cites conservation measures through the use of “recycle water” to off-set future development needs. The problem with this theory is, there is no plan and no funding to build infrastructure to accomplish this goal. At present, it is not been stated how much water the project will use. Based upon the known water use, of 13 million gallons per year for the Target project, we can estimate Deer Creek Village, with its proposed Fitness Center, to use even more than the Kenilworth project.

3) With this weeks announcement that Friedman’s would possibly locate at this site, the City still has not addressed the true economic conditions of blight once both projects are up and running. The economic impact analysis is still an essential componant of the CEQA process. For this very reason, to prevent blight! Yet, the City Council has ignored the findings of the analysis that explicitly states the loss of millions of dollars in sales from existing retailers to absorb the additonal 700,000 sq.ft. of new retail in our community. The Financial & Economic Impact Anaylsis clearly points out the high likelihood of Plaza North’s Kmart and CVS closing. This is exactly what the CEQA Laws were intended to prevent, unnecessary blighted conditions -but, the City Council has ignored this essential element of sustainable growth under the laws.
There are many more problems that need to be raised and addressed in the coming months regarding the cummulative impacts of two very large shopping centers in our community. Please join us in opposition to this project and request that the Council not allow the FEIR to move forward without a comprehensive analysis of the effects on our community, and suffcient means to mitigate the project’s impacts.


Standup Against Traffic Gridlock in Petaluma!

DEIR: Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Deer Creek Village is available on-line for reading.  You have until the 25th of April to respond to comments for the PUBLIC RECORD. See the City of Petaluma Website for a copy of the DEIR.  Attending this city council meeting is important!

WHY SHOULD YOU BE CONCERNED?

  • Traffic: Their shopping center proposal is estimated to generate 10,000 car trips daily in and out of the project area. Impacts from Old Redwood Highway to McDowell Blvd, Rainier Avenue up to Maria Drive are at levels E and F. Levels are rated from A-F. Level E and F are unacceptable.  Gridlock is unhealthy for all Petalumans.
  • Protecting Our Hospital: Getting to the hospital in an emergency is vital. Depending on sirens is not the answer when you’re the one in the ambulance. Our fire department has always said a Rainier cross-town connector is vital for our community to get to our hospital safely. NOW the same people are saying sirens are enough to get across town to our hospital.
  • Transportation: The Rainer cross-town connector/interchange is not funded and yet it’s the mitigation for both the Deer Creek Village and East Washington Place projects. The new update cost for a full interchange and cross-town connector is over $160 million. Who pays?  Our city is broke.
  • Pollution: The amount of air pollution from this project is over 13.2 % higher than acceptable standards.  This is NOT acceptable, and can easily be lowered by designing a walkable project that will reduce the amount of traffic.
  • Noise: The City of Petaluma is moving quickly to approve  “Deer Creek Village.”  For those who have backyard’s backing McDowell Blvd, I urge you to write to the City of Petaluma and ask that the developer do a better job minimizing the impacts to our neighborhood.
  • Sound Wall: The fence on North McDowell from Profession Drive, to the Sandalwood Mobile Home Park is falling down. This is eyesore and it lowers the value of Park Place Neighborhood.  A sound wall needs to be required by the city before this project can be built.
  • Zoning: The project site is zoned for “Mixed-Use” development. Petaluma’s General Plan requires that Mixed Use be “pedestrian oriented”. The General Plan also recognizes the need to reduce traffic impacts and pollution along McDowell Blvd.

What can you do? Contact our Mayor and Council Members and voice your opinion. This project is not about shopping, it’s about our quality of life in Petaluma. We knew this land would be developed but, the size of the proposed project and its impacts are more than our local roads can handle.

East and West Side Residents: tell our City Council; Petalumans are tired of all the gridlock and pollution that comes with poor planning.  Ask your city representatives to make the project comply with our General Plan and require that the developer build a well-designed walkable mixed-use project.  NOT another big-box strip mall.

SEND ALL COMMENTS TO ALL THE BELOW EMAIL ADDRESSES
Heather Hines: City Project Planner: hhines@ci.petaluma.ca.us
John Brown; Petaluma: City Manger: jbrown@ci.petaluma.ca.us
David Glass; Mayor: daveglass@comcast.net
City Clerk: cityclerk@ci.petaluma.ca.us
City Council: citycouncil@ci.petaluma.ca.us
City Council Members; councilman.albertason@gmail.com, teresa4petaluma@comcast, mike4pet@aol.com, mthealy@sbcglobal.net, councilmmemberkearney@me.com, tiff@tiffanyrenee.com

Written comments can also be mailed directly to:
Petaluma Planning Department
c/o Heather Hines
11 English Street, Petaluma CA 94952

Meeting Date:
City Hall, 11 English Street, April 25th 7:00 PM

STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT!
To get more details about how you can help make our community a better place email us at: stop.traffic.gridlock@gmail.com


PCC Appeals Bigbox Project Design

Re: Appeal of Planning Commission approval on April 13th, 2010 of Site Plan and Architectural review of the East Washington Place Development, including architecture, landscaping, layout, and site amenities. Regency Petaluma, LLC, applicant/property owner.

 April 26, 2010

 Dear Councilmembers:

 This letter is to outline the basic pertinent facts and grounds for our appeal, as well as the relief we seek in regards to the above referenced Planning Commission action.

 On April 13th, The Planning Commission substantially approved the above referenced project design, with minor modifications. Because the approved design with changes clearly contradicts the Petaluma General Plan’s direction and specifications for this site, we are compelled to appeal the Commission’s decision.

 Among other major reasons for our appeal besides General Plan inconsistency are:

             The current approved configuration of Johnson Dr. as illustrated on the applicant’s plans is detrimental to the health and safe use of the swim center and skateboard park by children and adults due to increased exposure to air pollutants and toxic particulate matter due to the proximity and amount of new traffic caused by the project

  • Lack of safe, friendly pedestrian and bike access (Few large intersections that concentrate pedestrian and bike access are contrary to the General Plan.)
  • Lack of “robust” mixed uses incorporated into the plan
  • Lack of an integrated design that blends the project with surrounding uses
  • Lack of buildings being situated along Kenilworth Dr.
  • Lack of designated specific locations for solar photovoltaic arrays

 These are a few of the reasons we are appealing this decision. We regret that the Commission was too timid and easily cowed to assert its clearly stated preferences for some meaningful changes, forcing us to take this action.

 Among the relief we seek are:

  • Honor the vision for this site as specified in the General Plan
  • Reconfigure Johnson Dr. to move away from swim center/skate park: extend further south to T into an extension of Fairgrounds Dr., which can connect to Kenilworth Dr.
  • Place multistory mixed use buildings with active uses on ground floor with housing or office space on upper floors along Kenilworth Dr.
  • Reduce the acreage of paved parking lots by mandating a two story Target building (A1) with structured parking underneath
  • More pedestrian gathering areas, plazas and pedestrian features on site
  • Better, safer and more pedestrian and bike access points connecting to surrounding areas
  • Make Kenilworth Drive between Johnson Dr. and East Washington St. into a Pedestrian/Bike walkway only
  • Specify roof areas designated for solar PV arrays (Note that HVAC equipment is easily situated almost anywhere on a typical roof, contrary to the applicant architect’s specious claims that tenant HVAC equipment can only go in predetermined locations, which just happen to be unknown at this time.)
  • Provide traffic control and calming improvements to East D St. and Old East Side intersections

 These are some of the changes we feel are minimally necessary to make this project even close to acceptable for Petaluma. We hope that regardless of Regency’s meritless and bullying lawsuit, you will be able to rectify some of the most egregious shortcomings now embedded in the plan.

 Sincerely,

Petaluma Community Coalition

Concerns Regarding Roadway Design in a Open Letter to the Petaluma Planning Commission

Dear Planning Commissioners:

In 2004, a City Ordinance was passed that established the terms and conditions for an easement to improve the access to the East Washington Place project. This easement is located in the EWP project plans where Johnson Dr. is proposed (see proposal map above).

In the PC’s current deliberations on this project, it is the purview of the Commission to review and recommend changes to the project’s internal circulation, its egress, and its ingress.

Despite erroneous advice from the Assistant City Attorney, the PC is completely within its rights and responsibilities to look at the configuration of Johnson Dr. As currently planned, Johnson Dr. has a stranglehold on our existing Swim Center and Skateboard Park. These facilities, which encourage healthy vigorous physical activity by the community’s children and adults, will be surrounded by multiple lanes of traffic on all four sides. This traffic will frequently be moving at a very slow speed, and in fact will often be gridlocked.

The exposure to carcinogenic exhaust and particulate matter by adults and children (who are especially sensitive to the harms caused by toxic pollutants) is clearly detrimental to the community. We feel that this dangerous situation must be rectified by the PC.

We wish to bring to your attention that the easement is not now in place, either contractually or by law. The enabling ordinance merely established an option for Regency Centers to exercise when it received all of its project entitlements and met all of its obligations as specified in the ordinance.

In addition, the citation of the specific CEQA clauses used to justify creation of the option was inappropriately applied by staff. In fact, the sections cited, 15061(b)(3), 15303, 15304 and 15333 specifically state that they are NOT to be used to bypass CEQA review, which is exactly what has happened in this case. The language in these sections* states categorically that they are not to be used for major development projects that will clearly have negative environmental impacts, yet that is exactly the kind of clearly foreseen project the sections were applied to.

This option was based on false pretenses for its justification and is therefore questionable as to its legal validity. Furthermore, it has not yet been exercised at this time. Therefore, should the PC direct that the road configuration be changed to better protect the public’s use of its public facilities, the easement can be readily renegotiated with the City. If for no other reason, because of the misapplication of the CEQA language, it should be redrafted. And that provides the perfect opportunity to rectify this tragic road design flaw as well.

General Plan Compliance Solution:

The Petaluma Neighborhood Association as represented by the list of undersigned residents feel that a more appropriate road configuration is necessary to achieve

a safer, less hazardous means of  ingress/egress with less impacts on our adjacent public use area. The road configuration that we have provided (see map below) has Johnson Dr. extending further south, intersecting into Fairgrounds Dr.  This configuration will reduce the exposure to auto-generated pollution and improve access to the site from Payran St. as well.

In addition, we recommend that the short extension of Kenilworth Drive from Johnson Dr. to East Washington St. that is being proposed as a means of vehicular ingress and egress become a bike/pedestrian access point only (see attached drawing).

Both recommendations being proposed by the community are established within the pages of our General Plan:

1)    Petaluma General Plan 2025 Goal 2-G-13: Washington Core (page 2-18) “2-P-79- Extend traditional street grids as opportunities arise.”

2)  Petaluma General Plan 2025 Goal 2-G-4: Washington Corridor (page 2-9)

“2-P-23 Facilitate development patterns that provide an urban edge along East Washington Street, providing visual continuity and cohesiveness and increased  safety.” “C. As development/redevelopment occurs require the reduction of or elimination of curb cuts along East Washington Street; and encourage potential  consolidation of lots to maximize access from side streets.”

The above recommendations for a road reconfiguration does not make this large auto-centric commercial retail complex an ideal project for this site, but it at least provides some improvement on the current poor design. By pulling Johnson Dr. away from the pool center and by converting the Kenilworth Drive/East Washington Street extension to a pedestrian promenade, we can help to reduce the traffic impacts on the surrounding public amenities while at the same time making the proposal align better with Petaluma’s General Plan.

Sincerely,

Paul Francis

Stephanie Sanchez

John & Cynthia Rathkey

Hope Ratner

Linda Kalb

Gene Hamm

Mary Glardon

Greg Mitchell

Peter Sheridan

Janice Cader Thompson

Jim Daveport

Paul Allen

Alexander Robb

Karin Burger

Bill Phillips

Mariette Leufkens

Michelle Lyman

Kelly Collins

Dale Axelrod

Michelle Lyman

Michele Woodbury

L. Padilla

Stepanie & Frank Galvan

Barry Bussewitz

Nicky Ovitt

Shelly & Dave Trumbo

Moniz Stess

Matt & Laree Maguire

Sarah & John Gorman

Craig Stammler

Melanie Dado

Chip Reese

Brian Way

Carl Patrick

Megan Edwards

Jim Thomas

Brian Williams

Bob Moyer

John Crowley

Sherri Fabre-Marcia

Gregory Reisinger

Karen Boudrie

*”This section is intended to promote infill development within urbanized areas. The class consists of environmentally benign in-fill projects which are consistent with local general plan and zoning requirements. This class is not intended to be applied to projects which would result in any significant traffic, noise, air quality, or water quality effects.”

True Mixed-Use Design Offered by the Community…

On February 23rd, at the Petaluma Planning Commission meeting, PNA members presented an alternative mixed-use design site plan drawing for the Kenilworth parcel. The design layout was heralded as a superior design to that which was proposed by Regency Centers. The community’s design concept better represents the vision of Petaluma’s General Plan which calls for “design standards that promote pedestrian orientation”. This redesign layout presented by the PNA gave the community a better option, and left many Petalumans wondering why Regency Centers is so adverse to building a well designed project here in Petaluma?

Petaluma Residents Challenge Regency's Bigbox Project

On Thursday March 11, a suit was filed in Sonoma County Superior Court challenging the City of Petaluma’s approval of the Environmental Impact Report and project entitlements of Regency Centers’ East Washington Place development. The anchor tenant would be Petaluma’s first big box chain store, a 130,000 square foot Target.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Petaluma Community Coalition (PCC) by the public interest law firm of M.R. Wolfe & Associates of San Francisco. The PCC is comprised of a number of Petaluma residents and community groups, including the Petaluma Neighborhood Association, the Petaluma River Council, Petaluma Tomorrow and the OWL Foundation.

“We filed this suit because the City’s approval of the EIR and project plan did not follow the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and because the proposed project will have devastating impacts on our streets, swim center, skateboard park, and nearby neighborhoods,” said Paul Francis, co-founder of the Petaluma Neighborhood Association. “You think getting across town is bad now, wait until this thing is built. People will be furious when they discover the reality- utter gridlock.”

“The design and implementation of this project makes a mockery of our recently updated General Plan,” said former City Councilman Matt Maguire. “We’ve been trying literally for years to get Regency to work with us to make this a viable project with a lot less impacts. They’ve done nothing but stonewall us. We have no other option than to bring suit to prevent this fiasco from happening to Petaluma.”

“Those of us who live nearest the project have a lot at stake, but our larger concern has always been what this will do to Petaluma,” Francis said. “The General Plan calls for a mixed use project with improved pedestrian, bike and transit access. The project as approved doesn’t have that. What we’re getting now is a typical 1970s style big box strip mall that is completely auto dependent. There is no housing. This is not a mixed-use project. It’s the opposite of what’s called for at this site.”

The suit’s intent is to get the City to recirculate the EIR to fully account for the negative impacts that were left out and to include a number of proposed mitigations that would lessen the project’s impacts. PCC also wants the Friedman’s Home Improvement store, touted by Regency as a likely major tenant, included in the revised EIR. Better mitigations of the traffic impacting a number of major intersections and East D St. should be part of the conditions of approval, along with ways to reduce the project’s significant greenhouse gases and air pollution.
“A lot can be done to improve it,” said Paul Francis. “Members of the public have suggested structured parking, reduction of the 16-acre parking lot, and more public spaces would be more consistent with the GP. Two and three story buildings with residential units on the upper floors and better links to surrounding areas would make this a pedestrian oriented project.”

Maguire and Francis note that Regency has been uncooperative with the City as well as neighborhood and citizen groups that want the project to reflect the site’s General Plan vision. The forgery of letters of support that were published in the Argus Courier, the baseless but expensive lawsuit filed by Regency against the City in the middle of the normal public review process, the lack of complete documentation provided in a timely manner, and the resistance to consider changes that would make the project align better with the GP have all made gaining even meager consensus nearly impossible, they said.

“If nothing else, we want to see the multilane roads pulled away from all four sides of the swim center and skateboard park,” Maguire stated. “It’s a shame that Regency has been so arrogant, that they’ve resorted to intimidation tactics, because this could be a pretty good project if they would get a clue for what Petaluma is really about.”

The review process has been skewed by gross misinformation in the press, developer PR ploys and hostility from Target supporters who have unfairly attacked the current council majority for, in their opinion, not approving the project quickly enough. PCC’s members note that more important than haste is to ensure good planning and a full public review, where all the problems are revealed and honestly addressed. This hasn’t been done, in part because of the pressure on the council to satisfy critics, Regency’s threatening lawsuit and the poor financial condition of the city.

The project will have at best a negligible benefit on the City’s finances, but will have serious impacts on its infrastructure and natural environment. Regency’s and Target’s cookie-cutter approach is designed to push their investment risks and costs onto the surrounding community, which will bear the traffic, air pollution and other burdens for years to come. However, both corporations have built far more attractive, community-friendly and less environmentally damaging projects in many other cities. “That’s what we want to see here,” Francis said. “All it takes is four votes and the will to do what’s right for our city.”

Development in Petaluma over the past two decades has been mixed. The Factory Outlet Mall, built in a floodplain, has flooded and the ungainly Auto Mall sign is not what was approved. The Kohl’s shopping center with its empty stores and useless architectural embellishments is typical of obsolete and unsuccessful shopping center design. On the other hand, the Theater District, an outgrowth of the Central Petaluma Specific Plan, has received wide acclaim. That project went through more community input than any of the others.

Approving a weak EIR without meaningful or effective mitigations sets a very low benchmark for future large projects that are queuing up. “We need and would love to see Friedman’s back in Petaluma, and we want to help the Council to do this project right the first time,” Maguire said. “Their premature approval and incomplete mitigations fail to serve the best interests of all of us, so we’re proceeding with this suit. We’re hoping a much better result will come out of it.”

Rebuttal to Merlone Geier Partners' Budget Report

The letter below was sent to the City after the Petaluma Neighborhood Association’s members evaluated the accuracy of Merlone Geir Partners consultant’s Budget Impact Study.
————————————————————————————————————————–

Dear Planning Commissioners, Council Members & City Manager,

On February 10th, 2010 you received a letter from Greg Geertsen of Merlone Geier Partners attached to an “economic study” that was presented to the Petaluma Area Chamber of Commerce. This purported study is entitled, Budgetary Impacts of New Retail Projects (Deer Creek Village and East Washington Place Shopping Centers).

Geertsen’s letter, along with the aforementioned document drafted by Navigant Consulting, conveyed erroneous information in an attempt to draw support for two poorly designed large retail projects in Petaluma.

The Petaluma Neighborhood Association and its research team have read and conducted a full analysis of the Navigant study and have determined the document to be inconclusive and specious in its findings. In more instances then we can count, the report incongruously draws parallels between random bits of information. This is a deceitful attempt to justify and push through approvals of two proposals that do not comply with Petaluma’s General Plan. The fact that this report was commissioned and presented by the proponent of one of the two projects, and is offered as an “objective” report of some benefit to the city, is preposterous on the face of it.

Would the city be better off with Deer Creek Plaza and East Washington Place?

There is no evidence provided by the Navigant report that the City of Petaluma would be better off financially or commercially with either of these two projects in place.

By using the period 2003-07, which predates the global recession, as a benchmark for its findings, there is absolutely no relevance to the claims made by Mr. Geertsen that either of these two retail projects, if approved at an earlier time, would curtail the city’s financial crisis or aid in the city’s ability to rebound from the economic downturn. His theories are purely speculative.

Conversely, we may even draw a contrary determination when the circumstances and the financial burdens of both projects are analyzed more thoughtfully. Petaluma’s financial crisis would not be lessened by the approval of either of these two projects, and in fact could easily be further impacted when the added burdens on our infrastructure are counted over time, as it is local taxpayers who ultimately pay for them.

The city’s financial problems were brought on by a number of serious economic issues that the Navigant report never bothered to address. Like most every other city in California today, the downturn of the economy culminated in a situation which caused our city’s expenditures to outpace its revenues. These macro-economic factors so far outweigh the purported benefits claimed by this report that they pale into insignificance when compared to these larger factors.

What is the True Intent of Navigant’s Report?

In the executive summary of the report and in several other locations, it states that the nature of their analysis is “independent and objective”. A further investigation into the business practices of the Navigant Consulting firm instead reveals a clear bias motivating their methodology.

According to their website, Navigant specializes in “Construction Consulting Services.” They are so-called experts in the field of “Schedule and Delay/Acceleration Analysis.” They have little experience in the field of retail economics or municipal fiscal policies. The report they prepared clearly reflects their lack of knowledge of the subject and demonstrates how nonobjective they truly are with regards to both of these two retail projects being proposed in our city. This is a classic example of the piper calling the tune, where Merlone Geier Partners went out and hired a consultant to report back with the results they wanted, and should only be given the consideration that such a commercial effort deserves.

How are other cities faring with Target and Lowe’s?

The Navigant study attempts to justify the building of both Petaluma big-box projects by drawing comparisons which are focused on Lowe’s and Target stores that were opened in 17 Northern California cities from 2003 to 2007. Again, for their comparative analysis, the preparers of this report utilized data through the end of 2007 only. As a result of gathering only pre-recession data, excluding pertinent information in the following years, and ignoring the larger economic context, the report falls short of providing a true economic analysis of any budgetary burdens big-box projects such as these have had on the cities included in their report. Given this extremely skewed starting point, their conclusions of benefits are equally suspect.

However, our research team wanted to test their premise that these kinds of projects are beneficial to the cities where they are built. We analyzed the cities Navigant listed and put together a chart on the following page that lists all 17 cities and the current state of their municipal budgets, as well as actions that they have been force to take to adjust to recent conditions. The information provided clearly shows that the majority of these Northern California cities are in just as much a financial crisis as Petaluma, in some cities the situation is even more severe. Cities such as Fremont, Stockton, Hayward, and Manteca have allowed over expansion that has led to excessive burdens on city services and infrastructure. These communities paid little regard to sustainable planning practices and continued to approve large big-box projects such as Target and Lowe’s, which led in part to a substantial drain of their city resources. The impacts of such practices have crippled their ability to stabilize their budgets.

Subject Cities’ Deficits & Fiscal Impacts
————————————————-

Antioch: -$3 Million City Hall, laid off 24 employees in
2009, implemented furloughs and
trimmed expenses by $11 million

Cotati: -$700,000, Cotati voters to approve a 5-year
general transactions and use tax of
one half cent.

Dublin: -$1.5 Million, unavail.

Fremont: -$5.7 Million, City workers furloughs and layoffs

Gilroy: -$2.7 Million, Police Union led effort to recall
Mayor- Eliminated 71 F/T positionsclosed
city museum

Jackson: -$900,000, City employees asked to take concessions.

Lincoln: -$2 Million, Laid off 25 city workers, including 5
police officers. Created citizens advisory
task force to analyze longterm solution

Stockton: -$31 Million, Layoffs, service reductions citywide.

Lodi: -$1.46 Million, unavail.

Yuba City: -$2 Million, Will lay off 16 employees and eliminate
40 positions total.

Albany: -$216,514, Unavail.

Hayward: -$14 Million, Seeking cost cutting measures,
deficit estimated to reach $19 Million
by the end of the year.

Napa: -$3,269, unavail.

Morgan Hill: -$1.7 Million, Eliminated 16 positions

Manteca: -$4.3 Million, Hiring Freeze, furloughs, and outsourcing.

Contradictory Findings

In the “major findings” section of Mr. Geertsen’s cover letter, he sites a rapid drop of Petaluma’s General Fund revenues “of 34.6% since 2007” but then goes on to cite taxable retail sales levels from between 2003-2007. Mr. Geertsen then proceeds to juxtapose the pre-recessionary taxable retail sales data to Petaluma’s current post-recession budgetary data. By drawing upon data from two incongruent time periods, one from before the recession, the other from just after the economic downturn, he has created a blatant contradiction that is difficult to take seriously. Rational conclusions cannot be drawn from such methods.

Furthermore, the estimate of $1.7 million in annual revenue for both projects is a highly optimistic overestimate of revenue generation, which is based upon inconclusive data from the flawed Fiscal and Economic Impact Assessment reports done for the city. Both FEIAs used primarily pre-recession data to establish a base line for their findings, made general unsubstantiated assumptions about employment income levels, types of jobs created, and impacts on existing businesses and therefore the sales taxes lost, just to name a few shortcomings. The current decline in Consumer Price Indexes along with cumulative retail redundancies were not factored into to the retail sales tax (RST) estimates for either project. They were found completely inadequate by the City Council in providing usable information.

The FEIA prepared for Regency Center’s East Washington Place neglected to factor in the shortfall of revenues through secondary market consumers. Retailers rely heavily on the revenues generated by secondary markets of any given trade area, that is, those who travel from outside a town or city to take advantage of available shopping destinations. A Target store located in Petaluma with existing Target stores in Novato, Rohnert Park, and Napa, would therefore not reap the benefit of drawing from a secondary market, because one does not exist.

Most of the estimated revenue data provided in the FEIA for the East Washington Place proposal was taken from Target stores in cities that had the benefit of a secondary market draw where portion of consumer-spending comes from outside. With Lowe’s stores in Cotati and San Rafael, there will be a limited secondary market here as well.

As Petaluma will not have a true secondary market for either project, the retail sales tax revenue figures that the study cites is grossly exaggerated and needs further examination before his conclusions can be accepted as real.

Is Petaluma Over-Retailed?

Presently, Petaluma has nine major shopping centers that are built to similar specifications to both proposed projects, Deer Creek Plaza and East Washington Place. These existing shopping centers are typical auto-centric projects with limited pedestrian/bike amenities and virtually no connectivity to the neighborhoods or the community surrounding them. Petaluma’s various shopping centers range from older 70’s- 80’s bunker styled buildings to the recently built Redwood Gateway Center (Kohl’s plaza). All are of the same conceptual design with very low-density layouts, large expanses of parking, and pedestrian-unfriendly spaces that hinder pedestrian activity and connectivity. Over the years, these poorly planned projects have resulted in street infrastructure that has been unable to keep pace with the traffic conditions they have generated. With retail vacancies in almost all of these nine existing centers, there is a clear indication that Petaluma’s existing retail outlets, for a multitude of reasons, are not living up to their revenue potential.

Conclusion

Clearly this report is a self-serving attempt to sway those who either don’t care to exercise critical thinking, be bothered by facts, or have a political ax to grind. Anecdotally, one doesn’t have to look too far to see what these kinds of development projects do to a city. Rohnert Park and Santa Rosa both have long treated them favorably, and today are in worse economic shape than Petaluma. Furthermore, this kind of pay-for-results consulting should be treated warily, with such biased results destroying any credibility such consultants may have at one time had. Crass self-serving commercialism such as this report embodies taints the public discourse, and reflects most clearly on its authors and patrons.

We trust that you will recognize the inconclusiveness of their report and advocate for sustainable planning practices, well designed, pedestrian oriented mixed-use projects that comply with Petaluma’s General Plan.

Regency – Their Words vs. Their Actions

Published in the Argus Courier Jan. 28th, 2010

Petaluma is at a crossroads, with the controversial Target big-box project being touted by some as the salvation of the city’s future, and others as an albatross not worthy of our community.

The project developer, Regency Centers, states on their website that “Regency?…works closely with local governments and community associations” and “adheres to the standards of the community and neighborhoods.”

Unfortunately, they’re not living up to their own high-minded principles. Regency has resisted all efforts by local residents and community groups to address serious shortcomings in the project, and instead choosing to try to coerce our City Council with their recent lawsuit (for alleged “stalls and delays”) into ramming this project through without full public review.

Beginning with forged “citizen” letters to this newspaper, then by withholding pertinent information about the project and now with their suit, they’re trying to distract attention from the significant unmitigated impacts of their poorly designed project, and bully Petaluma into accepting it.

This is not the corporate citizen they want you to believe they are. Rather than working closely with community associations, Regency acts like the public has no right to express concerns over a massive project situated in the geographic center of our city. Huge traffic, air, noise and other impacts deserve a full review by the Council and the concerned public for all to weigh the pros and cons for themselves. Will the sales taxes Regency claims the project will earn materialize? Will it make East Washington so congested that it’ll be easier to drive to Novato or Rohnert Park’s Target? Now is the time to give this a full review.

There’s been little attempt made by their design team to meet the unique standards of our community, which are clearly spelled out in our General Plan. Did their architects and designers even bother to read our General Plan? It clearly states what our vision is and what we as a community are trying to achieve. The most significant impacts determined by the proposal’s EIR cannot be ignored and are in direct conflict with many of the GP goals. These conflicting points include – but are not limited to – the project exceeding the level of development anticipated in the regional clean air plan, generating new air pollution that would affect long-term air quality, additional traffic (over 15,000 new car trips per day) that would result in unacceptable levels of service at many intersections and significant traffic impacts along Highway 101. Furthermore, the GP calls for mixed-use development here, something that is not achieved by the less than 4% non-retail uses Regency has reluctantly included.

Meanwhile, a faction of our very own community – special interests having only their own self centered motives behind their actions – have politicized any community input that isn’t adoring of Target. Our organization is not expressly concerned with the politics of the project. Rather we seek to determine the best possible outcome for our neighborhoods and the health of our community through the public review process. As a group we feel the presently seated council reflects the voters’ expectations as expressed in the last general election. As an individual, I want my council members to exercise due diligence in reviewing the biggest development project in Petaluma. They have served us well amidst troubling economic times and should be allowed to do their jobs.

Regency’s frustrations could have been avoided if they had been willing to adhere to their own credo and honestly work with our community to meet our standards. They were asked to do better, they could’ve done better, and they’ve done better in other cities, but chose not to do so here. By their lawsuit, it is they who have delayed action on the project. Their unwillingness to work with us has come full circle and has produced nothing.

By Paul Francis

Breaking Petaluma…

Yet again Regency Centers has proven to the residents of Petaluma that there are no limits to how low they are willing to stoop to get their poorly designed project built. Early on in this process they submitted forged letters to the Argus Courier now, they are following up with their threats and a lawsuit filed against the city.

Retail development has changed drastically over the years. Regency Centers’ proposal has not met with those changes. Consequently, they have been unwilling to produce a good product here in Petaluma. Now, they are blaming the “planning process” and our “city council” for their ineptitude.

If Regency Centers seek approval and accolades for their project here in Petaluma they should design a project that complies with the mixed use zoning and with the General Plan. Instead they’ve chosen to obstruct the planning and development process and place the blame elsewhere.