Framework for Future Retail Development:

Every city has its own topography and ambiance and there are rules of thumb to keep in mind when reviving neighborhoods and approving projects here in Petaluma.

REIN IN THE AUTOMOBILE: For 50 years we completely obsessed with making room for cars. We need to show respect for people who are moving about on foot or by bicycle.

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE: Celebrate the things that give our city its special characteristics- views of hills or water, historic buildings. If it’s nice for the locals then visitors will love to come here also.

EMPHASIZE THE OUT-OF-DOORS: We do almost all of our work indoors; we need to move in our leisure time. People want to walk, run, bicycle- or sit and enjoy the setting, have a cappuccino.

DESIGN FOR ALL AGES: Various groups in the population have various needs. For instance, fold active playgrounds into a site plan and position them where parents can relax with a glass of wine while children let off steam.

(Excerpted from “Life Between Buildings” by Jan Gehl)

Letter to Petaluma's Transit Advisory Committee:

Dear Transit Advisory Committee Members,

It has been brought to my attention that during a recent Transit Advisory Committee meeting (TAC) you have been asked to make comments and vet your concerns regarding Regency Center’s East Washington Place retail development proposal at the Kenilworth site and its DEIR.

For the record the September 3rd 2009 TAC meeting in reference was not notified to the list of interested parties held by the Petaluma planning department and project planner. Nor, was any attempt made to notify the public at large about the fore mentioned meeting.

At this time, please accept the following comments with my points of concern regarding the EWP/EIR and the proposed development at the Kenilworth site.

Unfortunately, the proposed retail project’s EIR does not adequately address potential negative impacts on transit in our city. Nor does it provide reasonable alternatives to its project to adequately comply with Petaluma’s General Plan objectives for development in this area.

The project site is situated just five blocks from our new transit plaza and the Petaluma SMART rail station. Yet, there is no effort to implement Transit Oriented Design (TOD) elements into the site plan. Why not?

Our GP clearly stipulates (Chapter 5-Mobility):

“Ensure that land use decisions and public
improvements enhance the viability of the
Northwestern Pacific Railroad (SMART)
corridor for use as a multi-modal mobility
corridor.”

Under “Related Planning Efforts” CPSP (page 5-3GP):

” The Central Petaluma Specific Plan
directs growth into the City’s historic core. A key
element of the Plan provides that locating new growth in
the geographic heart of the City (adjacent to downtown
and a rail corridor with future transit potential and
served by the City’s key cross-town connectors) to allow
future development to occur with reduced reliance on
motor vehicles and an increased emphasis on pedestrian,
bicycle and transit circulation.”

GOAL 2-G-4: Washington Corridor (page 2-9):

D. Ensure that development at the old
Kenilworth Jr. High school site and any future
redevelopment of the Fairgrounds property
maintains a public, pedestrian, and active face
along East Washington Street, and provides
civic and ceremonial spaces with links to the
Library and other uses.

Taking the above GP objectives into consideration shouldn’t we try to achieve the “Transit Oriented Design” potential for this site, given its close proximity to our transit hub? Shouldn’t we also consider including this site in the CPSP?

In March of 2009, Matthew Welbes the deputy administrator for the Federal Transit Administration said, “As we go forward in our country, we want to be sure that we make investments not only in transportation but, in the way we develop our land and we build our housing and our businesses so we can create choices for people, so that they can choose to travel by transit to get to school, to reach work, to visit the doctor or even to design communities so that there are trips that are not taken, so that in order to get that loaf of bread or to get a hair cut, a person can walk to some place near by. And so if we create urban forum that is less auto oriented, more supportive of transit and walking, we create places where in the future our investments will support lower emissions and fewer green house gases.”

This past summer, congress passed a $500 billion bill to fund Transportation and Infrastructure. The bill would also put big money toward transit, trains, bike paths and walkways.

The project site falls within Petaluma’s redevelopment district and is also directly adjacent to our designated community use area. This makes the surrounding city owned areas eligible for redevelopment funding. Should we not consider future investments to improve infrastructure and transit amenities in the vicinity?

Regency Center’s proposal being purely an auto-centric design; how does this fit in with future planning and transit in and around that area?

Consider the commitment that other bay area communities have made toward TOD’s, the objectives of our own GP, and the potential for future redevelopment funding/investments in our city.

As committee members with the community’s vested interest in mind, I respectfully request that your comments elaborate and reflect upon these concerns and shortfalls of the proposed project and find that the EIR has not fulfilled its requirements, to adequately address impacts on our city’s transit system or to fulfill future transit objectives within the scope of General Plan compliance.

East Washington Place EIR Analysis/General Plan Non-Compliance issues:

The following excerpts from our General Plan clearly stipulate what the objectives will be, not only for retail development at the Kenilworth site but, also the surrounding areas and the East Washington corridor. It provides a vision for how retail development should be integrated along the Washington Street corridor, referring to East Washington Street as “a entry gateway into Petaluma, and to create distinctive features at this point.”

The EWP/EIR fails to address the following land use objectives of our General Plan:

Chapter 1 of the General Plan reads as follows:

GOAL 1-G-1: Land Use (page 1-14)

Maintain a balanced land use program that meets
the long-term residential, employment, retail,
institutional, education, recreation, and open space
needs of the community.

Comment: Because there is no specific list of retail tenants aside from the possible anchor tenant, the project’s EIR does not comply with this GP objective to “meet the long term retail needs of our community”. The EIR is fictitious and inconclusive in this area.

A. Develop incentives in the Development Code
to encourage lot consolidation to enable
efficient multi-story buildings, and relocation of
driveways to side streets.

Comment: The project proposal makes no effort to achieve this objective. By proposing mostly inefficient large single story structures on a subdivided lot, it misses the point entirely.

1-P-6 Encourage mixed-use development, which
include opportunities for increased transit
access.

Comment: The project site is situated just five blocks from our new transit plaza and the Petaluma SMART rail station. Yet, there is no effort to implement Transit Oriented Design (TOD) elements into the site plan. Also see my TAC comments.

1-P-7 Encourage flexibility in building form and in the
nature of activities to allow for innovation and
the ability to change over time.

Comment: The proposed “building form” solely meets the minimum standards of the developer and is essentially a mono- use/mono-form design. The project EIR does not address the “flexibility of building form” therefore does not adequately provide alternatives for future innovation of the buildings.

1-P-27 Encourage innovative site and building design
to address parking solutions such as shared,
structured, and/or underground facilities.

Comment: The project proposal and the EIR both fail to address this objective in our GP. The project layout consists of a large 16.5acre patch of asphalt as the only option for providing parking at the site. The EIR does not adequately address this as a negative impact, provides no alternatives to meet the GP objective.

The EWP/EIR fails to address the following Community Design, Character, and sustainable building objectives of our General Plan:

Chapter 2 of the General Plan reads as follows:

Strong entries are another important element of community design, as
their character creates the image Petaluma presents upon
arrival.

Comment: The term “strong entries” is certainly open to interpretation. But, I think we can all agree that the backside of a large bunker style structure would do nothing to achieve this particular GP objective and would not enhance the character of Petaluma.

2-P-5 Strengthen the visual and aesthetic character of
major arterial corridors.

2-P-22 Encourage development with active ground level
uses, plazas and open spaces, while allowing
residential and commercial uses at upper floors.

2-P-23 Facilitate development patterns that provide
an urban edge along East Washington Street,
providing visual continuity and cohesiveness,
and increased safety.

2-P-23(D) Ensure that development at the old
Kenilworth Jr. High school site and any future
redevelopment of the Fairgrounds property
maintains a public, pedestrian, and active face
along East Washington Street, and provides
civic and ceremonial spaces with links to the
Library and other uses.

Comment: Sections 2-P-5, 2-P-22, 2-P-23, 2-P-23(D) of our GP provides us with a framework of how development should proceed at the Kenilworth site and the surrounding area. The EWP/EIR also quotes these policies from our GP. Why then, does the project proposal seemingly ignore these policies? Why does the project’s EIR reference these policies and yet it makes no attempt to address these critical viewpoints, nor the negative impacts relevant to a project design that is non-compliant?<

The Most Important Thing YOU Can Do for Petaluma!!

A City Council meeting is tentatively set for February 8th, 2010 – please attend one of the most important meetings concerning the future of our community here in Petaluma. The Petaluma City Council will be considering the EIR and site design of Regency’s giant 400K sq. ft. shopping center at the Kenilworth site. The PCC will be reviewing this project’s EIR along with vetting concerns from the community.

This is NOT a discussion about Target. Or, where to shop. This is about proper planning and the future of our great community here in Petaluma.

Please attend and give our council the support they need to reject this EIR!

Please consider that the project, as it presently stands, does not comply with the objectives specifically laid out by our General Plan. See Chapter 2 Community Design, Character, and Green Building for a further perspective. (Link: http://cityofpetaluma.net/cdd/pdf/gp/ch2.pdf)

Some other EIR inadequacies to consider:

1) The impact analysis is incomplete relative to aesthetics, air quality, water resources, transportation, public services, utilities, and land use.

2)The DEIR uses an inconsistent definition of cumulative buildout scenario, which cripples the ability to accurately ID the cumulative impacts, as well as provide and objective comparison of
alternatives.

3) The EIR does not provide substantial evidence to support a number of its assumptions and conclusions, including citing documents not included in the DEIR, incomplete citations to City documents, and relying on documents that are now discredited, superseded or that are too old to
provide accurate information.

4) The EIR relies on documents that are not in the public record, which disqualifies them from use under CEQA.

5)The EIR fails to provide any project level impact analysis in several categories, instead simply offering up a cumulative analysis only.

6) The EIR relies on improper project segmentation, by severing the analysis from key surrounding uses and actions, such as installation of a new groundwater well, limiting pedestrian and vehicle flow from the project to only the Project site (excluding the Library and park-and-ride facility as required by the General Plan), the relocation of Little League facilities, etc.

7)The EIR has inconsistent assumptions regarding traffic flow between the Transportation section and the Population/Housing/Blight section, as well as the timing of infrastructure improvements. This then compromises the conclusions of the Air Quality analysis.

8) The EIR uses a changing and incorrect baseline for the Project Setting. CEQA requires the setting to be based upon the circumstances at the time of release of the Notice of Preparation for the EIR. In several cases, the EIR relies on older information.

link to city agenda:http://cityofpetaluma.net/cclerk/pdf/planning/plan-agenda2009nov24.pdf

What Do You Want Your City To Be?

OPEN PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED THROUGH SEPTEMBER 14th- The Draft Environmental Impact Report is now available for Regency Center’s massive retail development proposal at the old Kenilworth site. This 380,000 sq. ft. retail shopping strip mall has a all the makings of a crudely designed bunker style shopping strip plaza, right in the heart of our community use areas and adjacent to our serene neighborhoods. Please take time to review this DEIR at http://www.cityofpetaluma.net/cdd/plan-eir.html and voice your opinion. Now is the time to address the adverse impacts a proposal such as this will have on our community and ask for a better designed project that will enhance the East Washington street corridor and not detract from it.

Impacts to consider:
– Increased Traffic Volume
– Who are the tenants?
– Poor “auto-centric” Design
– Road way encompassing our pool center
– Pedestrian and Bike access
– Impacts on Surrounding Neighborhoods
– Who pays for additional infrastructure needed to support such a project?
– What will be the impacts on (pool center and skate park, library, Fairgrounds, Kenilworth Park) our community use areas?

Allowing development based on such a mindless design would be to allow a disastrous continuum that has fueled so many of the problems in this community. Please read the DEIR and submit your comments to build a better Petaluma.

Building for Us

One of the biggest complaints from those on both sides of the big box debate is the architecture. Hardly a soul would say they are aesthetically pleasing nor designed to last. The cookie cutter design is what is easiest for the developer and what takes the hardest hit aesthetically on our communities. The malls of the eighties no longer exist. We now have car based centers focused on the parking lot rather than the person behind the wheel. It’s a model evident in every regard of these projects.

If the projects are so great then why are there PR folks working on selling their project from the project’s inception? Why do they find it necessary to hand out cookies, granola bars and bottled water at our city council meetings? Why do they sponsor petting zoos at the fair?
Why not save their money and build a better project? Despite these bleak times we have excellent prospects growing here. The SMART train is coming- is this evident in any of the large scale developments slated for Petaluma? NO! What about our emerging “locavor” reputation. We are so fortunate to live in an area where we could sustain on what is grown and produced within mere miles of us- is this evident in any of the large scale developments slated for Petaluma? NO!
When PR folks come to city hall and tell our council what they are willing to build and what just isn’t feasible for a community of our size then we have a problem. Either our community is too small for their project if they can’t afford to build it right or their project is too shoddy for our community.

Show Me the Tenants?

Again and again the residents of Petaluma ask who the tenants for East Washington Place and Deer Creek Developments are? The answer is always Target and Lowes. The reality is we really don’t know.
Target recently postponed their planned expansion in San Rafael. Let us recognize that the trade area for that Target would have been all the way from Novato to South San Francisco, West to the coastline and East to Albany. Quite a sizable trade area in location with no existing KMart, Walmart, or Costco stores for competition. A Petaluma Target’s trade area would be 9 miles to our North and 10 miles to our South. Now why would Target continue to pursue a location in Petaluma and postpone the more sizable potential investment in San Rafael? (http://www.busjrnl.com/article/20090330/BUSINESSJOURNAL/903269881)
Speculation that Friedman’s proposed Petauma location may be at East Washington, Deer Creek or elsewhere has started stirring (http://www.petaluma360.com/article/20090504/COMMUNITY/905049938/1362?Title=Friedman-Bros-sets-sights-on-Lowe-s-proposed-site). How sure of a thing is Lowe’s if Friedman’s is being considered? It calls into question just how willing these large chains are committed to investing in our community.
In the past, many council members stated that they were okay with a Target but drew the line at a Walmart. The FEIA’s we requested show limited details and never use actual data from the “proposed” tenants. When developers seek to turn neighbors against each other, falsify support for their projects, hold unnoticed meetings, and make every attempt to barrage our community with propaganda for their projects we start to lose faith in their integrity and commitment.
How do we know what we are getting?

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.)

Your Attendance Needed 10/6 7PM City Hall

cir_councilflyer_oct6.pdf

Together we can get the CIR/ FEIA resolution passed, please come and show your support. We need to let our city council know we want fiscal responsibility NOW!

150 Trees for 150 Years! Improving our Neighborhoods One Tree at a Time!

Your Petaluma Neighborhood Association is coordinating it’s efforts to plant up to 40 trees!
A grant given to the Tree Advisory Committee and Parks and Recs has allowed the City to provide this great opportunity to plant 300 trees
throughout our neighborhoods and in our parks. The PNA has formed a volunteer group to plant trees in the Old East Side neighborhood in the coming weeks.
For more info email us:
Paul stopbigboxinpetaluma@yahoo.com
or go to: http://cityofpetaluma.net/parksnrec/community-trees.html