Regency's End Game? By Paul Francis

Published: Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 3:00 a.m. in the Argus Courier

All large retail development has direct impacts on our city’s ability to maintain economic stability and plan for future revenue.

Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that building development also has direct and indirect impacts upon our city’s social well-being. It is in the reticulum of our neighborhood streets, thoroughfares, walkways, buildings, parks and plazas by which our community can grow and prosper together. These are the places where the individual becomes interdependently linked to his/her community. With attention and encouragement of building designs that cultivate social interaction and discourage auto-centric design, the prosperity of the individual, through symbiosis, becomes the collective prosperity of our community as a whole. There is a direct correlation between how a city is designed and built and the social health of its community.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that any future development is carefully scrutinized for its ability to reinforce specific concepts that will lead our community to a sustainable future for many generations to come. Fortunately, for us here in Petaluma, we have a General Plan along with a Central Petaluma Specific Plan that clearly stipulates our principles.

The recent meeting held by Regency Centers was not about a “spar” between residents of Petaluma, as Corey Young reported, but about something far more important. By skimming over the real issues surrounding the retail development at the Kenilworth site, Young missed an opportunity to delve into a truly newsworthy story.

The story really lies in the fact that this is yet another example of Regency’s manipulative tactics to polarize our community (Remember the forged letters they submitted to the Argus?). The meeting held by Regency Centers at the Sheraton was just another attempt by their khaki-clad group of non-Petalumans to impose a divisive campaign to sell their anachronistic shopping center that defies the principles of our lovely community. This is Regency’s “end game.”

Regency’s representative, Bruce Qualls from Walnut Creek, said, “It was disappointing,” speaking of the outcome of the meeting. As one who attended the meeting and who sought answers to my questions concerning this large project, I was more disappointed than anyone. Here was a perfect opportunity for Petalumans to vet the issues and to get questions, pertaining to this looming 380,000-square-foot shopping center proposal, answered.

Sadly, I realized that Regency was able to exploit a small contingency of my fellow Petalumans into supporting this dismally designed project. Among this small faction and, much to my dismay, was our very own former councilwoman Karen Nau. It’s no secret to any in our community that Nau has a history of being easily misled on various issues. Remember Bryant Moynihan’s initiative that she endorsed without even reading?

It’s true, I may disagree with Ms. Nau’s decision to support a bad project in our community, but that doesn’t translate into me not embracing her as one of my own, as a fellow Petaluman.

Indeed, I think Young profoundly missed the point in his ironically charged story, the “spar” amongst, hmmm? Ourselves? Instead, writer Young might’ve shed light on Regency’s ability to cleverly divide and conquer our community just to get their dismal proposal approved. They have succeeded in funneling the discussions down to the most useless “where do I get my cheap stuff?” context.

When really the fundamental questions all of us should be asking ourselves here in Petaluma is: Should Regency’s project be built to their self-serving standards? Or, should this project be built to align with our own unique community standards?

At this stage, we must stop quibbling among ourselves and hold this project/developer to a higher standard. I think all Petalumans will agree that the Kenilworth site holds a unique opportunity for us to bring neighborhoods together, enhance our community use area, and beautify the East Washington gateway corridor. Let’s take care to plan and develop this to a standard that is uniquely Petaluma. Let’s take care of ourselves.

(Paul Francis is a Petaluma resident and co-founder of the Petaluma Neighborhood Association.)

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