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.
John & Cynthia Rathkey
Janice Cader Thompson
Stepanie & Frank Galvan
Shelly & Dave Trumbo
Matt & Laree Maguire
Sarah & John Gorman
*”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.”