WatchSonoma Watch

How will the Petaluma Community Coalition spend its $100,000?


Leaders of the community group that will receive a $100,000 settlement payment from the developers of the Target shopping center say they have no specific plans yet for the amount, which others have called “unprecedented.”

The payment — which came out of the group’s negotiation with Regency, the project developers — is a part of a settlement that clears the project of all legal roadblocks and ends the two lawsuits over the shopping center planned at the former Kenilworth Junior High School site.

The $100,000 payment reflects the hours of work that leaders of the group spent on the project, said Matt Maguire, a former City Council member and co-chair of the Petaluma Community Coalition. Others say the move may set an “unusual” precedent for the city that could discourage business and encourage litigation.

Matt Maguire

“Frankly, we haven’t decided how it will be spent,” said Maguire. “It will go in part toward repaying donors.” he said.

Maguire and Paul Francis, a co-chair of the group, said they would like to invest some of the money in the community.

“I hope we can use the money and put it back into something positive in the community — whatever that may be,” said Francis.

The sum could be used for seed money for organizations, to apply for grants or to “achieve things that the city is unable to do,” said Francis.

Both Francis and Maguire said that Council “failed” to address environmental impacts that the project would have on surrounding neighborhoods, and that their lawsuit was an attempt to do so. Maguire said that “it’s possible,” that the money could be used in future litigation if the public process “fails” again. If the council fully addresses impacts of developments, then there may not be a need to litigate, he said.

“We did not enter into litigation with anything but utmost reluctance,” said Maguire.

Others worried that the payment sets a precedent for lawsuits and business in Petaluma.

“That piece of it was very problematic to me,” said Councilmember Mike Harris, who said he voted against the settlement in closed session because of the payment to the group.

Harris said that “the cumulative impacts of these types of decisions makes businesses pause” before coming to Petaluma. He added that the settlement may cause other groups to see litigation as a way to “line their pockets.”

“I think it’s very unusual,” said Harris.

In addition to the payment, the settlement says Regency and the Petaluma Community Coalition will drop their competing lawsuits and Regency will pay legal fees for the city and the community group.

Regency also agreed to other modifications to the buildings and $40,000 to the city to be spent on traffic improvements in the East D Street neighborhood.

Regency’s payments in the settlement amount to about $216,000.

Both Maguire and Francis said that they would have liked more changes to the project rather than the payment, but felt like they would not be able to get more from Regency.

The agreement also prohibits the group from any further actions on the shopping center, including the public process in the possible addition of a Friedman’s Home Improvement store.

Regency representatives did not return calls for comment on the settlement or their timeline for opening the shopping center.

8 Responses to “How will the Petaluma Community Coalition spend its $100,000?”

  1. Brass Tacks says:

    There are a few bubbles that need to be burst here. Somehow, all the groups who have weighed in on various development projects around the county are being conflated into one big scary entity. The Petaluma Community Coalition, the Living Wage Coalition and the ADC are all separate entities with different agendas and projects. I find it amusing that the critics seem to have the idea that there is one big conspiracy out there, operating from a central command. I wish we were that organized.

    These groups are all lightly funded grass-roots organizations who are motivated primarily by a shared progressive ideology. No one is in it for the money. Even I was surprised when the PCC got a settlement from Regency. Paul Francis and Matt McGuire worked on this project for several years as volunteers, and I don’t begrudge them being compensated for their work. I am confident that a portion of that settlement will go to additional work on behalf of the quality of life in Petaluma.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  2. Kay Tokerud says:

    What is the $100,000 for? We were told by a leader of Petaluma Community Coalition that the developer had already made all the concessions they would make and that the lawsuit would be unsuccessful if they continued.

    What is left? What’s left is the promise that they won’t oppose the Friedman’s project. Today’s PD article plainly states that the group may oppose a future Lowe’s project in Petaluma that would compete with Friedman’s. Friedman’s benefits by this deal. The $100,00 could fund the opposition to the proposed Lowes.

    In Santa Rosa, the Accountable Development Coalition suddenly was awash in funds when they opposed the Lowe’s project here. The Grand Jury, which investigated the ADC and members of the Santa Rosa Planning Commission including Michael Allen and Nick Caston, said that $95,000 was used by the ADC in that effort. Rumor had it that Friedman’s funded them. In both of these cases, community coalitions have taken actions that benefitted Freidman’s. Michael Allen’s other non-profit, NEWS, lists the Freidman Family Foundation at the top of their list of donors. There’s also a long list of labor unions that support NEWS.

    Are these community coalitions just hit teams for a big box retailer (Friedman’s)? If so, what a travesty it is that the SMART board has agreed to use the Accountable Development Coalition to represent the community in the Railroad Square project. We need to get to the bottom of who is influencing these groups and who’s paying them. If it is Friedman’s and they want to lobby on their own behalf, then they should do so and not hide behind these shady so-called community groups that do their bidding.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  3. Do Right by Thy Neighbor says:


    Is this an admission you played games at the expense of your neighbor?

    Where is the honesty in this process? You complain of lawyer tricks, yet you seem to be the master. Which bedrock principal do you want to debate? Should we not respect our neighbors property or is a promise no longer a promise?

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  4. Gene says:

    Use the money to replace the sewer at 1146 Lombardi Ave. Rain water doesn’t even go into it but into the cracks around it. A sink hole is developing.
    It will cost a lot more later.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. Lyn says:

    Regency knew, as did PCC, that it would ultimately gain project approval but only after a lengthy period of appeals should PCC chose to carry the fight. That is the reality of land use planning in California today.

    So, who winked first about a $ settlement is almost irrelevant. Each side knew the end result. And each side had something to offer the other, one money, the other time.

    Bottom line, for the shrinking number of businesses that choose to do business in California, this kind of “payoff” is simply the price of doing business in the “golden state.”

    Is it corrupt? Sure. But the way out, clear, clean land use policies seem to be beyond our reach.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  6. Dan says:

    The message is pretty clear. Petaluma is for sale. Pay off the appropriate groups and your project moves ahead. I think I’ll file my own suit and pocket a cool hundred grand. Extortion has never been so easy.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

  7. Does not make sense says:

    The article fails to answer the fundamental questions of who’s idea it was for the developer to make the payment directly to the group, who benefits, and how they benefit. Did the City ever ask whether these groups have the right to bring a lawsuit? If the allegations the developer did not do enough to offest the impact to his neighbors are true, can the injured neighbors still sue?

    Are the allegations true that the City iolated the developer rights by delaying too long? Was the City stuck between a rock and hard spot?

    Is this money that should have gone into city coffers being given to a private organization? Why would the City allow/want it to be re-routed? Are there cost and time savings to the developer?

    Is thy neighbor trying to pull a fast one?

    Seems there is more questions then answers.

    Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

  8. SoCoLoisLane says:

    Part of the $100,000 being given in the Regency settlement to the Petaluma Community Coalition has an interesting potential destination.

    Alicia Kae Herries, appointed to the planning commission by the majority that, at first, opposed this project, is a member of the D Street Neighborhood Association, which stands to receive some money from this settlement.

    Should an appointed member of city government be so entwined with a lawsuit affecting city business?

    Does her inside information while on the planning commission, most likely equipped with information from friendly city council members belie a conflict of interest and gross misappropriation by the Petaluma City Council Majority?

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 8

Leave a Reply