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Critics challenge Lowe’s EIR

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A Petaluma neighborhood group that took $150,000 last year from developers to drop its opposition to a Target shopping center is now challenging the legality of the environmental impact report of another, similar-sized proposal anchored by Lowe’s.

San Francisco lawyers for the Petaluma Neighborhood Association, headed by resident Paul Francis, sent a 29-page letter to the city on Friday objecting to a draft environmental review of the Deer Creek Village project.

Critics of the Lowe’s-anchored project on North McDowell Boulevard turned out in force Monday night, urging the City Council to take a closer look at the impacts of the 344,000-square-foot proposed development.

The council seemed to agree the environmental review was lacking in some areas, notably with regard to traffic, noise and air quality impacts.

Council members were still discussing the issues late Monday. Staff recommended they accept comments, which the final EIR would respond to, and begin working toward finalizing the document.

David Keller, a former councilman, called the draft EIR insufficient.

“I’m sorry to say this is one of the most flawed and deficient EIRs I’ve ever seen,” he said.

He and other speakers complained the traffic and flooding studies were inadequate or based on outdated or inaccurate numbers.

The environmental report determined the traffic and air quality impacts were significant and unavoidable, adding to congestion to the already busy East Washington Street/McDowell Boulevard interchange.

Councilmembers asked staff to return with more “feasible mitigation measures” to lessen the impacts.

The developer, Merlone Geier Partners of San Francisco, say its project will bring about 300 construction and another 500 permanent jobs to Petaluma, along with the city’s only home improvement warehouse.

They say the center would generate about $1 million annually in sales taxes and property taxes for Petaluma, which is cutting $4 million to balance its $32.5 million general fund budget.

But in a letter sent Friday to City Hall, the Petaluma Neighborhood Association’s lawyers said the draft EIR is “wholly inadequate” under state environmental laws. The association contends the document is insufficient in analyses of traffic and air quality, and that the project is inconsistent with the city’s 2008 general plan.

“It must be thoroughly revised to provide analysis of, and mitigation for, all of the project’s impacts,” the letter states. “This revision will necessarily require that the EIR be recirculated for further public review. Until this EIR has been revised and recirculated, the project may not lawfully be approved.”

The council didn’t address the letter on Monday night.

Terry Watt, an urban planner from San Francisco who said she was representing the neighborhood association, said Monday the project was “flatly inconsistent with the general plan,” while calling for a mixed-use residential-retail project at the site.

The draft EIR is tentatively set to be completed next month, with responses to questions raised during the review.

The Planning Commission is tentatively set to review the final EIR in June, followed by the council in July. If the final EIR is certified, the project would then go back to the Planning Commission in August for site-plan and architectural review.

If the project is approved, Merlone Geier has said Lowe’s and some other stores could be open in 2012 with other office space built in the next two to four years.

—–O—–

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story did not fully describe a $150,000 settlement received by the Petaluma Neighborhood Association in exchange for dropping its opposition to the Target-anchored East Washington Place shopping center.

In the settlement, developer Regency Centers agreed to pay PNA leaders $100,000 and provide an additional $50,000 for the group’s legal fees. An additional $32,000 paid the city’s legal costs and $40,000 went toward traffic improvements on East Washington or in the nearby East D Street neighborhood.





14 Responses to “Critics challenge Lowe’s EIR”

  1. tom h says:

    PETALUMA SMALL BUSINESS OWNER
    -Where did you grow up? Did you enjoy the wonderful charm of P-town? There is hardly anything at home depot that i cant get in petaluma. Home depot Wall Mart and lowes bombard the masses with advertising and brain wash the public into believing that they are the lowest price and highest quality.Ive got news for ya, They aren’t. What about all the small businesses that go under when a big chain store moves in? Don’t we have enough empty buildings in town? No one talks about the Petaluma-owned mom and pop stores that will go out of business. No one does research on that because they aren’t being paid to. The lobbyists for big business go around telling everyone how great it will be when Lowes comes to town…( see above )they will save the day with the tax revenue. Yea! 2 more big box stores and 25 more empty buildings in our newly renovated downtown district-that sounds great! NOT! Or maybe Lowes will hire me for less money when I lose my job because of them. That sounds awesome. NOT! Big box stores pay their workers less money,lowering the standard of living for the workforce. They sell a large number of products that are made in china , so right there a big chunk of money leaves the country–GONE!. The gross profits of the sale go to the big corporations and OOPS! another big chunk of money leaves the state county and the town FOREVER!. Then last and LEAST is the sales tax. I hear all these people making a big deal about the smallest part of the total sale and how great it is that this one big store can generate so much tax revenue for the community when it’s actually the biggest RIP OFF of all time. The amount of money being spent in petaluma wont go up just because a big box comes in, it will just shift from the smaller stores to the big store. Same deal with the tax revenue. Oh and for the 300 “new” jobs 300 other Petalumans will loose jobs, stores, shops and livelyhood shortly after. Places like Rex Hardware and numerous others will disappear. Do you remember the public out pouring when Rex Hardware burt down? I stood on the street with the crying family as the flames shot out into the street. In the days following the fire people put cards and pictures and stories on the cyclone fence encouraging the family to rebuild this part of our community. It made me proud to be a petaluman. this is only one example.
    Get real people, these huge corporations dont care about You or Petaluma one bit. When you buy products and services from a locally owned company not only do we get the tax money, we get the profits from that company being spent again at another Petaluma business and so on and so on. The money stays in the community. We also get to keep the jobs we have,the profits stay in the community, and more of the money stays in Petaluma and California and the USA.
    We as Petalumans should unite and buy locally, hire locally and spend locally and give to local charities. This will actually improve our local economy and our quality of life. Petaluma is Petaluma because of its small businesses and the people and families that live, work and play in Petaluma. Go to the Butter and Eggs Day parade, Peggy sue american graffiti days, Vets parade etc. and look around. We are the proud owners of a wonderful community and we can make it even better by teaching these beliefs to our neighbors and children .If we loose our small town charm then what do we have. Please dont buy into the lies of big greedy corporations. WAKE UP

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  2. Camino Alto says:

    I know many people that USED to support Paul Francis and Matt Maguire. That number is growing so don’t assume that they have a lot of followers. I believe that it is due to the $100k settlement.

    As far as how Mayor Glass ran the meeting Monday night, how many of you know what a DEIR review is?

    Part of the state law that dictates the EIR process says that a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) shall be produced, the public shall have 45 days to comment on it and so shall the governing body of the site location (in this case, the Petaluma City Council). The puropse of Monday night’s meeting was nothing more than to critique the DEIR. It was meant to be negative by pointing out what was wrong, what was confusing and what was missing in the DEIR. That’s what the agenda item was all about and nothing more and nothing less. Monday’ night’s agenda item had nothing to do with speaking out in support of the project. That’s why Mayor Glass pushed them away and told them to come back when approval of the project was before the council.

    For me though, the most interesting part of the meeting was when Mayor Glass brought up the question of will this be a Lowe’s or will they bail out and a Wal-Mart will come in instead? he really didn’t gat an answer. The rumor is that Wal-Mart has been looking for another location in Sonoma County since they got shut out in Santa Rosa. With a Wal-Mart and a Super-Target anchoring new shopping centers that aren’t needed, Petaluma will be just like Rohnert Park – a city without a downtown.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 12

  3. Joseph donegan says:

    I have seen these cases many times before, in the end they will have to pay court costs and all attorney fees. That usually puts an end to the matter once and for all. Lowes is a big player, and may just lose their tolerance for these delaying tactics.
    Puts enviormentalists in a bad light.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 16

  4. Lisa Ramirez says:

    This is extortion, plain & simple.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 15

  5. Chucky says:

    Why are there so many thumbs down but not one responce from the people marking thumbs down. To those people, do you like that someone threatens a lawsuit then gets paid off to stop. Is that the environmentalist way?

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 10

  6. Shelby says:

    @ Kay

    I often don’t like your comments but it often turns out that you are “right”
    about the way things are.

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 13

  7. Observation says:

    @John Bly – I appreciate you pointing out exactly what I noticed during the meeting – David Glass shunned anyone who supported the project and let anyone who opposed the project speak freely. Blatant disregard towards proponents.

    Thumb up 25 Thumb down 14

  8. GAJ says:

    Wouldn’t this project simply replace the Yardbirds/Home Depot that closed a few years back?

    The horror; a potential upgrade!

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 20

  9. Steele says:

    Paul Francis and his \followers\ are wacko’s who should be sued by the developer and the city for obstructing.

    Only a wacko could sleep at night knowing he single handedly is denying hundreds of VERY desperate local workers a job, and hundreds more gainful employment in the WORST economy of our lifetimes.

    He does not have to face a hungery child or the devastation of families being torn to pieces, No! instead he can sit at home and praise himself for flexing his egocentric muscle.

    There is a name for people like him, and Karma has a special place for them too.

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 23

  10. Fred says:

    I would like to see an accounting of what they did with the last shake down pay off they received. They will claim that they are a private group not beholden to the public, but this was public money…..

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 21

  11. Kay Tokerud says:

    Just as I and others predicted, they were paid off enough on the Regency deal to now obstruct the Lowe’s project. We received an e-mail from Paul Francis in which he states the money he got will go back into the community in some way. Hiring a law firm to block Lowe’s is the way apparently. He also said he shares common interests with the Accountable Development Coalition that also blocked a Lowe’s project in Santa Rosa. Is it all connected? Yes.

    In my opinion, these two guys should be the subject of a complete investigation to find out who exactly is behind this bribery/extortion. Another big box competitor? Friedman’s? Remember when the Accountable Development Coalition headed by Santa Rosa Planning Commissioner Michael Allen killed the Lowe’s project in Santa Rosa? The Sonoma County Grand Jury that investigated this came out with a report citing numerous conflicts of interest centered on Michael Allen and fellow Planning Commissioner Nick Caston. Michael Allen was also found guilty of violating FPPC rules this year. It’s scandalous what’s happening here.

    Petaluma councilmembers should do the right thing and approve this project which will help the city by providing jobs and much needed revenues for the city. This should offset any minor increases in traffic, noise and air quality.

    Thumb up 34 Thumb down 23

  12. Angry Petaluman says:

    This is a good project and one that the majority of Petaluman’s want.

    What do we get? More of the same. Mayor Glass angrily lecturing us on the purpose of the meeting. Recycled ex-council memmbers declaring their dislike. Barrett and Rene fretting over green house gases ( I will make some more driving to Home Depot in Rohnert Park today).

    Don’t expect any leadership from Mayor Glass. The City Manager appears to be missing in action. Healy is the only one showing any leadership. Looks like we need to settle in for a long protracted battle again while the rest of the city falls apart.

    Thumb up 31 Thumb down 22

  13. john bly says:

    Mayor Glass, part of the Torliatt led group that paid off the neighborhood group obstructing the Regency project, looks like he was orchestrating the repeat performance last night-continually catering to the obstructionists while criticizing, belittling, and trying to discourage public speakers from expressing support for the project’s draft EIR. Groundhog Day in Petaluma-same song, different address. Meanwhile, Petaluma will lose a lot more jobs before they add any under this Mayor’s reign.

    Thumb up 39 Thumb down 25

  14. BigDogatPlay says:

    The message, as in the case of Target, appears to be “pay us or we’ll sue you and drag your project out for years”.

    That’s extortion, pure and plain, as I see it. Perpetrated by a progressive minority concerned more with their own self interest and self aggrandizement than with the public good.

    Thumb up 40 Thumb down 22

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