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