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Petaluma to put downtown boulevard on diet

By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Over the concerns of downtown Petaluma merchants, the City Council has affirmed its support — though just barely — for reducing the number of traffic lanes through the heart of the downtown shopping district.

The council, on a 4-3 vote at this week’s meeting, approved a revised spending plan for a so-called “road diet” for Petaluma Boulevard South.

The diet would reduce the main thoroughfare from four traffic lanes, two in each direction, to one lane in each direction with a continuous turn-lane in between. The reconfiguration would widen all lanes, leave more space for parallel parking and bicycles, and cut down the distance pedestrians would be vulnerable to cars, said Larry Zimmer, the city’s capital improvements manager.

The project was narrowly approved last year with a different council makeup. The issue returned to the council Monday to approve a change in the way the city’s $200,000 portion of the $900,000 project would be spent.

Representatives of downtown businesses asked the city to hold off on recommitting to the project until their input was sought and their concerns could be resolved.

Jeff Mayne, speaking on behalf of the Petaluma Downtown Association, said more than half of its members felt they didn’t have enough information to weigh in on the project. Of those that did, 60 percent of them were opposed to it, citing traffic and parking concerns.

Councilwoman Teresa Barrett said similar fears expressed before a 2008 diet on the northern portion of Petaluma Boulevard from East Washington Street to Lakeville Street proved unfounded.

“We’re obviously disappointed in the outcome,” Mayne said Thursday. “There’s been a history of the council doing whatever it wants and letting us know what it’s doing, as opposed to allowing us to have input.”

Mayne said the northern portion of the boulevard is not as business-dense as the southern portion, which includes a bustling few blocks with more retail shops, restaurants, bars and the movie theater.

Current lane widths are about 9½ feet, with parallel-parking lanes about 6 to 7 feet. The diet would widen lanes to about 12 feet and parking lanes would be about 8 feet wide.

Councilwoman Tiffany Renee applauded the anticipated safety benefits of wider lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians. Zimmer said collisions are expected to be reduced by 35 percent with the new configuration.

But many merchants believe the reduction of lanes could throttle the flow so much as to make motorists — and therefore shoppers — avoid the area altogether.

City traffic studies of Petaluma Boulevard North show a decrease in collisions, from 20 to 9, after the lane reconfiguration, and that traffic volume remained the same.

Mayor David Glass and Chris Albertson voted with Barrett and Renee to approve the revised spending plan. Councilmen Mike Harris, Mike Healy and Gabe Kearney opposed it.

“A lot of the support is based more on wishful thinking than analysis” of the problems, Healy said.

Harris said he would rather spend the $200,000 for road repairs than on a new project.

“It’s just not something we can afford now,” he said. “It was nice to have, but to me the match portion that is necessary in this grant can be used for more essential projects.”

The project is slated for construction from summer to fall of 2012.





20 Responses to “Petaluma to put downtown boulevard on diet”

  1. Kim says:

    Sonoma Bat Man, if I wanted to live in a “city” I would have moved to one! However, I, like many, moved to Petaluma for its “small town charm”. It seems some on the city council are dead set on changing that.

    Of course we ALL know what that center turn lane is going to be used for. Its the perfect place for delivery trucks! Turn on the flashers, set the emergency brake and make your deliveries!

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  2. Kim says:

    Courious as to which two police officers that are going to have to be laid off to come up with the $200K that the city has to come up with?

    Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5

  3. Jeremy M says:

    Monique Furtado,
    I am sorry your relative was hit. But with your attitude you SHOULD move to LA as you said. I’m sure you will find it very sane, intelligent and full of only the safest drivers!

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  4. Sonoma Bat Man says:

    Guess no one saw the New York Times article Sunday about skinny streets and how they are revitalizing downtowns and increasing sales for businesses located on them. HOW ABOUT THAT!
    As for Santa Rosa’s streets that were skinned, they are much safer and it is a much more pleasant experience driving on them.

    Then there are the cities in Europe that are making it very difficult to drive and easy to take the bus/trolley or walk. In many cities there, half the houses don’t own cars. Think how much money you could save and spend on enjoying city life!

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  5. BigDogatPlay says:

    I noted that city staff reports fewer traffic collisions on the Boulevard to the north of East Washington; from 20 to 9 year over year. I also note that staff indicates that the street previously “dieted” is carrying the same volume of traffic.

    What staff seems to have neglected to report is how much longer the average trip through the “diet zone” takes when one attempts to restrict four lanes of traffic down to two. And for those in town, such as Bonnie posting below, who believe that this change ultimately speeds up traffic and reduces vehicle generated pollutants in the area, all I can offer is a happy, ‘guess again!’.

    And then there is the months of destruction and construction to make it happen…… not like that’s going to have an effect on downtown business, eh?

    For the city to spend hyper-valuable funds on this type of a feel good project when there are streets all over town that are close to impassable (try riding a bike around on the east side like I do every day for a fast education), is a testimony to the concept that our city government continues to strive for.

    It’s far better, politically, to push style over substance. And for this latest bit of bureaucratic poof, the four who voted in favor should be recalled, starting with the utterly feckless Mayor Glass.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 6

  6. Justice says:

    Why is the council responding to “downtown merchants” when the cause is not supported by the Petaluma downtown association? So what is really doing on here?

    If you have been in town for any time you will remember that street parking was not allowed on the blvd in the center 2 blocks of downtown. So there were no problems with parallel parking and plenty of room for cars and bikes.

    Parking was added recently to this area and even though it’s 2 hour only very few business customers, other than Starbucks loyalist use the spots. It is a bitch to park and dangerous as can be. Frankly the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen related to traffic management.

    I’m not sure what the proposed center turning lane would do. The section of the blvd they are planing to put it on does not have anywhere to “turn” to. All other turns are either an intersection with a stop light or lighted cross walk.

    This is an obvious personal agenda of the council and nothing else. If they really cared about safety they would eliminate the parking on the 2 blvd blocks downtown or just single lane those two blocks, and let the bikes ride down the center or something.

    It is as baffling as the draw bridge.

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  7. Barbara says:

    I wonder if this will actually work?

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  8. Steve Klausner says:

    Glad to hear all the important problems are solved and the Council has the time to fiddle with road alignment. Maybe it is time to put them on a diet.

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 6

  9. Dogs Rule says:

    There are roads in horrendous condition all over Petaluma. Hello?

    Thumb up 16 Thumb down 5

  10. Sonia Martinez says:

    The people that need to go on a diet are the Petaluma Council members. They need to tighten their money belts and stop spending tax money on pipe dreams.

    The doctors of democracy, the taxpayers, are pleading for the council to go on a spending diet and focus on what is important, balancing the city budget, promoting the Petaluma economy and maintaining our streets so we can drive downtown without blowing a tire in the potholes or on the rough roads.

    Why hurt the businesses in the downtown district? The reason, the liberals on the council want to tell their friends and the newspaper they stopped growth in its ugly tracks downtown.

    The voters need to remember this at the next election and turn them out of office.

    Sanity needs to be brought back to our city.

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  11. Monique Furtado says:

    Petaluma is STUPID. This is the most ineffective way to “safen” the downtown, and the MOST effective way to convince people never to support Petaluma again. I’m convinced. I will NOT be moving there ever again – after growing up with traffic on the boulevard, and having my own family members hit by dumbass drivers, no thank you. The council is just pulling Petaluma into oblivion with their “diet” ideas. I feel sorry for all the business owners in the downtown region. I say, run away, far away, possibly to LA where there are actually roads to get places. Whether other towns like Santa Rosa did this is irrelevant. The fact is, Petaluma Council is wasting our time, our money, and our roads away. Vote for some change people; better yet, FIRE THEM!

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  12. Ruthe Browning says:

    Just moved here from Santa Rosa. Spent the last 2 weekends in utter enjoyment of your downtown area. Truly…why would you want to fix something that is NOT broken? Perhaps put in another lighted crosswalk or two, or bumps to slow traffic. But, to eliminate a lane in each direction with round-abouts? NO…it is such a charming and accessible downtown as it is! I bet you can use that money on other more important projects in Petaluma, like drug-free schools don’t ya think?

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  13. Bonnie says:

    As a Petaluman, I welcome this change. It will make the downtown more friendly to both locals and tourists. Petaluma Boulevard as it is now is noisy, smelly and dangerous. The noise and fumes penetrate inside the shops, making the experience less enjoyable. The four lanes are a relic of the days when the boulevard was also highway 101. And since there is effectively only one through lane going north and south at Washington Street, it won’t cause increased congestion. By the way, my favorite place to visit in Santa Rosa is 4th Street, precisely because of the road diet there.

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  14. Edgar Perez says:

    If it can be done the wrong way and the expensive way, the Petaluma City Council will figure out how to go down that yellow brick road.

    Narrow the streets putting the same amount of traffic and driver frustration in a smaller space is a great idea isn’t it council? Not so much.

    Tiffany Renee, the brainy one on the council, wants more bicycles and pedestrians on the streets. That’s a very good idea with narrower streets. What could go wrong there?

    This expensive idea needs to be put back on the shelf for another rainy day of council dreaming.

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  15. Cherie Maria says:

    “The diet would reduce the main thoroughfare from four traffic lanes, two in each direction, to one lane in each direction with a continuous turn-lane in between.”

    A “diet” that implies less calories consumed. So for a ‘road diet’ that should mean less cars on the road altogether period.

    What the plan suggests is more of a badly fitting “girdle” where they plan to just SQUEEZE the same amount of cars onto an area of road with two less lanes in each direction.

    Now mind you its probably really hard to eat while wearing a girdle. Since according to Wikipedia:

    “Girdles were considered essential garments by many women from about 1920 to the late 1960s. They created a rigid, controlled figure….”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girdle

    It is highly likely that a lot less calories are going to be consumed in Petaluma while the drivers learn to “suck it in”.

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  16. James Bennett says:

    financial, thnx.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

  17. James Bennett says:

    Social Dis-Ease: Agreed. A predatory shark actually. It eats our freedoms, our finicial abundance, our unalienable rights.

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  18. Stop Crying says:

    VERY STUPID. Actually, hasn’t anyone from Petaluma been to Santa Rosa in the last 2 years. They did this all over Santa Rosa, including Summerfield Lane, Yulupa, Hoen, and all over downtown Santa Rosa. Traffic is now a MESS. Very difficult to get anywhere. They have two-way left turn lanes on entire blocks where there isn’t even anyplace to turn left. It is not designed as a “two way” lane as much as it it to simply slow traffic down.

    Now I avoid Santa Rosa like the plague. Why would I bother trying to spend an hour driving down the packed slow moving streets when I can run out to a neighboring city and get my stuff there.

    Downtown Petaluma is already a crawl.. they change it to ONE lane in each direction? WTF?? HELLO??? Go to Cities such as Orange County – Newport Beach or other areas where they have tourists (Petaluma is a tourist town) and they have 4 lanes in each direction to accommodate the visitors.

    SO ask yourself… do you want a small town with no visitors- then just eliminate all the streets and put a walking trail down Petaluma Blvd. Then you can ride horses, bicycles, and play backgammon at picnic benches on Pet Blvd. Maybe set up tents for sleepovers or homeless to sleep on the grassy areas (former streets).

    OR do you want to attract business, customers, and support the downtown business district. Remember, those are the folks that pay for POLICE, FIRE, and the govt to run the city.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if you CHOKE the traffic you CHOKE the businesses and the downtown is empty once again. Go look at downtown Santa Rosa. Nearly 38% of the commercial property is vacant.

    When the City had full flow of traffic it was only 8.2%.

    By the way the Department head over the road “diet” project in Santa Rosa quietly left his tour with the City shortly after making all the roads 2 lanes… was a bad decision and too expensive to reverse.

    Hmmm…..

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  19. Social Dis-Ease says:

    OK, this is Agenda 21. If you don’t know what that is yet…you will. Automobiles and small business(property rights) are the antithesis of Agenda 21. Sabotaging and engineering our decline. Your ‘public servants’ go along, keep it a big secret, act like you’re wacked if you bust ‘em on it. Meanwhile WE PAY THEM TO SCREW US! Look, you know something smells fishy economicly, socially, politicly, certainly locally. Time to go fishin’. The smelly prickly, poisonous fish is Agenda 21. Search: Agenda 21 on U-Tube.
    Look at these sites: Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition, Democrats Against UN Agenda 21, Freedom Advocates. Read up, speak out, tell EVERYONE you know. How dare they do this to us.

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  20. 0 Representation says:

    Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. How short sided is this? Let’s see… fix the roads that are basically rubble? Or change something that ISN’T broken.

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 10

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