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2010-02-10
Petaluma, CA. Ugly Target Gets Approval in “Ugly Process”

On April 6, 2007, Sprawl-Busters introduced a project called the "East Washington Place," a large development in Petaluma, California, situated between the Sonoma County Fair grounds and HWY 101. This proposal consists of 37.28 acres that used to host the junior high school, but is now slated for six big box stores and 227 condos. The Florida-based developer, Regency Centers, said in 2007 that the major anchor for the 123,800 s.f. space was a Target, with a garden center, plus a Circuit City in the 33,862 s.f. space, a chain bookstore in a 21,000 s.f. space, and a Cost Plus World Market, a specialty general merchandise store, in the 18,300 s.f. space. Two Large anchor spaces of approx. 20,000 s.f. had no reported a tenant when first announced. A group called the Petaluma Neighborhood Association strongly opposed the project from the start. The citizen's group reported in 2007 that the project's developer appeared to be "creating" support for the project. "Regency Centers had the audacity to attempt to hoodwink the citizens of Petaluma in regard to the new shopping center they propose to construct for the 'benefit and wellness' of our town," the PNA said. "We are referencing the four fraudulent letters recently submitted by a consulting firm hired by Regency Centers to the Argus-Courier newspaper, purportedly signed by four Petaluma residents. As the newspaper reported in its May 9, 2007 article, all four residents deny writing any letters or having any knowledge of signing any letters that may have been pre-written by Regency's hired consulting firm in favor of Regency's proposal for Petaluma development. These women do in fact confirm that they only signed a petition in favor of Regency's proposal, but no letters. The Vice President of Regency Centers states 'The notion of forgery is absurd.' He would rather we believe that the four women residents were ignorant and didn't realize they were writing and/or signing a letter. For Regency to expect this insulting explanation of this misleading, if not possibly fraudulent and illegal, submission to the Argus-Courier, to be accepted by Petaluma's residents, is just another example of Regency Centers' blatant display of arrogance and lack of consideration for our community... The impact their proposed development will have on our environment, as well as our local economy, will be devastating. The increased traffic flow in itself will drastically change Petaluma as we know it. The required signage for a project with the proportions of Regency Centers' proposal (totaling 800 s.f. of signage), as well as the proposed 14 foot high wall they propose to buffer the noise, will be detrimental to the aesthetics of our City, and an eyesore as you enter via the East Washington Street Gateway. The apparent water shortage that will definitely occur, and Regency Centers' 300,000 s.f. bigbox nightmare will be one major deficit all residents will be confronted with. Downtown Petaluma will undoubtedly most severely suffer the impact of Regency Centers' proposed plan. The very spirit of downtown Petaluma, the independent vendors, restaurants, and individuality that they bring to our City will definitely be compromised, if not brought to demise, with the fruition of Regency Centers' proposed plan. We can have economic development without expansion; by channeling our efforts into making Petaluma better... not bigger! We must urge our city government to consider alternatives to such bigbox projects that are already antiquated, and soon to be obsolete." That report was written 33 months ago. This week, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat newspaper reports that after five years of battling residents, the Target mall has received a vote of support from the Petaluma City Council. After six hours of debate, the Council voted 5-2 in favor of the project, ending this phase of what Mayor Pam Torliatt called "an ugly process." She told the newspaper the debate over this project "really bothers me," because of "how low it's gotten." This is the same Mayor who considers this project to be an economic development project. "We need to keep our dollars local," she said, describing shopping at Target as 'local.' The residents who fought the project for years, would certainly agree that the process and the product were both ugly. At one point, the developer intimidated the Council by filing a lawsuit charging that city officials had forced Regency to endure years of delay. After the City Council voted to approve the project, the Mayor told the Press Democrat, "I would suggest and ask that the applicant get rid of the lawsuit."


What you can do: The local review of this project is not over. Regency Centers now moves onto the design process before the Petaluma Planning Commission. One Council member who voted against the plan said the traffic level, and water consumption were unacceptable. Another opponent said the huge footprint of the stores will change the character of Petaluma, and tie up traffic on East Washington Street. All this rancor moves to the Planning Commission on February 23rd. The Commission will hear testimony on the site plan and design of the facilities. "We deserve something better than a 'bigbox' plan," the Petaluma Neighborhood Association has said. The group has described Regency Centers as "a developer whose deceitful practices insult and undermine our community." For further information and to contact the Petaluma Neighborhood Association go to: www.stopbigboxinpetaluma.com. Readers are encouraged to email Petaluma Planning Commission Chair Christopher Arras at cearras@gmail.com with the following message: "Dear Chairman Arras, the East Washington Place project should be called what it really is: The 'Target Box' Place. Picturesque Petaluma, with its beautiful Marina, does not need this incompatible project. Your Commission has the power to cut this project down to size, to make it more pedestrian-friendly, and compatible with the rest of Petaluma. These are properly design and site plan issues. These box stores are inharmonious with the rest of commercial development in your community. You can insist that the Target project be made to fit Petaluma, not the reverse. I hope you will take an aggressive stand on site plan scale, open space, and character of the project, to protect the residents of the city. This is not an economic development project -- so don't swoon over the jobs and sales tax imputed to this plan. This revenue will largely come from other retailers in the area, and does not represent new growth. The City Council missed the Target, but now the Commission has a chance to address the real problems with the inappropriately-scaled project."










 
 
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