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Cotati traffic overhaul a deal-breaker for Oliver’s

Steve Maass, left, president and founder of Oliver's Market, and Tom Scott, vice president and general manager, at the site of a planned Oliver's Market in Cotati. CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/PD


One of the biggest companies in Cotati says it won’t move downtown and may leave the city if officials go ahead with a plan to redesign the main street.

“They’re going to have to decide what they want,” said Tom Scott, general manager of Oliver’s Market, which said in June it would move downtown from its longtime location on East Cotati Avenue.

The city, after more than a decade of discussion, has come up with a design that would narrow the stretch of Old Redwood Highway that runs through its downtown to two lanes from four and incorporate two roundabouts in the redesign.

The project would take a year to complete and cost $3.5 million, said City Manager Dianne Thompson.

It makes it safer for pedestrians, slows traffic, has additional parking and makes the street more attractive for visitors and residents, Thompson said.

“It is going to define the character of this part of town going forward for the next 30 years,” she said.

She described the project as a “catalyst” that will support existing merchants and attract new businesses to the city.

But Scott and other merchants already on Old Redwood Highway say the city’s plan will not accommodate an eventual increase in traffic, especially once the economy picks up, and that the roundabouts will present a problem for motorists.

Those factors will make it less appealing to people who might want to travel and stop to shop on the street, they say.

“To me, those plans are really not working for businesses,” said Neville Hormuz, owner of Loud & Clear, a music store on the north side of the street.

He and other business owners are designing an alternative that would be wider and roundabout-free, he said.

Oliver’s has planned an $18 million, mixed-use development for its property near the street’s intersection with Highway 116. The project would include apartments, office and retail space and the 40,000 square foot grocery.

But that’s off if the city decides to go with the current design, Scott said.

“We’ve told them that if they go with the roundabout situation, we’re going to walk away from our project,” he said.

If Oliver’s couldn’t then negotiate a lease with its landlord, something it has been trying to do for nearly four years, it would leave Cotati, Scott said.

“They’re in a tough spot. I think the city really has a decision to make about who they want to be and how they’re going to balance their need for tax revenues with being a small town,” Scott said.

Thompson said the roundabouts were designed carefully to accommodate and facilitate existing traffic flows, not inserted “just because we like roundabouts.”

Also, she said, the street’s maximum traffic capacity, determined by the intersections at East Cotati Avenue and Highway 116, and are not being altered.

She predicted that despite Oliver’s reaction the street project would be a success.

“Several developers have been in touch regarding our Northern Gateway for hotels, grocery stores and other uses. The city can’t control what individual businesses do, but we know that this site will make a successful location for some business.”

More information about the project is on Cotati’s website, www.ci.cotati.ca.us. The city’s design review committee takes it up Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in City Hall.

19 Responses to “Cotati traffic overhaul a deal-breaker for Oliver’s”

  1. Occupy Old Redwood! Saturday afternoons.

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  2. Greg Karraker says:


    Like you, I’ve been hoping for a nicer, more beautiful downtown for years. The problem is that nearly nothing has happened for ten years because the area has been planned to death. Instead of letting development occur naturally, city staff has dictated that it follow the Downtown Specific Plan, which can only be implemented if $71 million in grant money miraculously appears.

    Instead of waiting another ten years, I’d like to see Thompson and Lustig give up this fantasy and implement a workable plan, like the one Oliver’s presented and Thompson summarily rejected, before receiving intense pressure from local merchants.

    I’m glad you agree that an election is the best way to resolve this question. It’s a much better alternative than letting Thompson and Lustig make whatever mess they like out of Cotati, then going home to Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.

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  3. Lucky2BOliver's says:

    Code 3 response firetrucks in Clearwater, Florida and Baltimore, Maryland have no issues with roundabouts- see for yourself. What is with all of the imaginary fear in Cotati?



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  4. Claire says:

    I have no problem with that Greg. As far as our “special set of needs goes”…my desire to have a slower downtown comes from working in it for 25 years and desiring a nicer, more beautiful downtown for all, not just bicyclists. Last week at the meeting, which I also attended, there were more people there that opposed the plan because it was a group effort by those in favor of a four lane road to get there and oppose it. Those that may be in favor may have had no idea that it was even going to be opposed.

    I think that the Design Review Panel suggested that it needed more public review, and also those in attendance that opposed and approved deserve to have a say.

    A vote would be great, with all sides of the idea and argument presented fairly.

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  5. Greg Karraker says:


    My wife and I are customers of your shop, and we understand your particular desire to have a slow, bicycle-friendly downtown. But in your enthusiasm for your special set of needs, you exaggerate the problem. We have ridden to your shop frequently, and never once have felt midlly nervous, to say nothing of “taking our lives in our hands.” I have also walked across Old Red several times a day for at least five years, and have never had an incident.

    I was at the meeting last week where every other merchant on the block signed a petition declaring their total opposition to this plan, because they know it will be a business killer. The Rancho Adobe Fire District is also writing a letter stating that they feel the two-lane plus roundabout plan is unacceptable.

    This is before I moved here, but I also understand that fully two-thirds of Cotati voters were so opposed to roundabouts that they wanted the issue put on the ballot. So if you believe this is truly the best future for Cotati, how would you feel about letting the citizens vote on roundabouts, instead of letting the city manager do whatever she pleases?

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  6. Claire says:

    My husband and I own the bike shop in Cotati, The Hub Cyclery. We are in favor of the slower downtown plan. We have operated our business in dowtown Cotati for 22 years. The speed of traffic is not a draw to business, and just walking to the bank or out to lunch is taking your life in your hands. I have personally attended meetings discussing round-abouts and traffic calming for 25 years. I think of how nice it is to visit downtown Petaluma, downtown Santa Rosa and other cities that enjoy a calmer environment and contrast that with places like Rohnert Park that have no downtown at all. There are a lot of people that support slower traffic, better pedestrian and bicycle access, and hopefully they will get to the next city meeting and be vocal. We could have the best of both worlds, Oliver’s has a huge intersection right at the doorstep of their new development, hwy’s 101 and 116. Then the calming would occur just after you pass their store allowing a place that would invite people to STOP their cars, get out, and actually walk around. I would LOVE to see people walk in front of my store windows. Right now its just a loud obnoxious speedway, with people racing by as fast as they can to get where they are going, which is not downtown. In my opinion, this is about creating a quality of life here in this town and a destination. Businesses can come and go regardless of the design of the city. But the city structure will remain. There are so many great examples of successful slow downtown areas, places that people flock to because of the way that they are designed. Thats what some of us here are hoping for.

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  7. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    Looks like a great solution for the massive traffic that backs up through Cotati when something goes wrong on Hiway 101. With this in place, last week when the 101 was closed due to fuel spill, instead of a one day traffic disaster through Cotati, it would have stretched out for two days. That’s great for the merchants- they could push the coffee-and-bagel carts down Old Redwood Hiway and not get run over.

    The only ‘downside’ I see is that Cotati will have to hire more police officers to fill out accident reports, but since it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs, that’s a good thing, right?

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  8. Cherie Maria says:

    I’ll eat my bowl of crow soup now….

    So I went to the Cotati website and looked at the actual plan complete with youtube videos….

    Its actually a clever design and it provides something that I seem to encounter needing every time I visit Cotati parking spaces.

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  9. Social Dis-Ease says:

    In commercial real estate, professionals brag about it if they have it.
    Conveinient access and parking.
    Like I’ve said when they’ve pulled this (ICLEI) crap before.
    If 10-20% of the customers decide 10-20% of the time that it’s too inconveinient to go to a certain area, that can make the differece between black ink and red ink.
    The Cotati merchants know it, Oliver’s knows it, the City knows it.
    Economic contraction instead of expansion.
    Cotati, you should be livid.
    Think about this next time your ICLEI town starts with the ‘job creation’ crap.
    Yeah, that’s what we need,
    ‘business calming’.
    Hopefully this will serve as a…

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  10. Jim says:

    Read the details in the article…

    “after a decade of discussion”…a freaking DECADE! This is an example of our efficient government.

    The project would be a ““catalyst” that will support existing merchants and attract new businesses to the city.” “But Scott and other merchants already on Old Redwood Highway say the city’s plan will not accommodate an eventual increase in traffic”…so the government morons, who have NO business sense whatsoever, are wanting to waste money on a project to help business when the very businesses they claim to want to help say it won’t help.

    This is government looking to spend money just to spend money. It is government wanting to give money to union contractors (via prevailing wage jobs) when the project would hurt business.

    Every level of government in this state is run by morons who have ZERO business sense.

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  11. 0 Representation says:

    Why does it seem to be the “thing” to do to minimize car traffic in a city? I would think the city would want the cars passing by so that they might just stop to shop or eat. Why would they push potential business away in such times?

    Has anybody driven through the crazy round-abouts in Petaluma? I don’t believe the traffic will disappear. Though believe this to be a terrible idea for the amount of cars in Cotati.

    NO round-abouts.

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  12. Social Dis-Ease says:

    I’ve been keeping an eye on this deal.

    This great anchor local grocer wants to place itself in what has been the most desireable part of town. Not anymore, the City has damaged it’s access.
    That’s the whole idea.

    Municipal small business sabotage.
    Picking winners and losers.
    Bottle necking vehicular access.
    Preferential accomadation for bicycles.
    Manipulating values through all manner of oppressive zoning and planning shananagans.
    ‘Gateways’ redevelopment area
    (which carries eminent domain).

    A city planner told a local long time business man; “our study shows that there will be less traffic in the future”.

    This is all ICLEI directive,
    Local Governments for Sustainability
    as it now refers to itself.

    You folks unfortunatly have to come to grips with the fact that your local ‘public servants’ are traitors.
    They have betrayed your trust by signing your town up with the world’s biggest fascist fan club. ICLEI.
    Sad stories are what this Agenda leaves in it’s wake. Stories of life changing property rights molestation, being financially damaged by your own town, while you pay them a lot of money to impoverish you.
    This is serious business.
    This is UN Agenda 21.
    A complete plan for complete control.
    To study this enormous oppression is to see, understand, recognize why everything is so screwed up.
    Redevelopment; the unknown government.
    Smart Growth Fraud Dr. Micheal Coffman.
    The Post Sustainability Institute.
    Freedom Advocates.
    Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition.
    Agenda 21 on Youtube.

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  13. Josh Stevens says:

    Look,I can guarantee you when this redesign goes through,residential areas around Cotati are going to see a lot more traffic as commuters are not going to want to be slowed down on their way north or south.That means more cars streaming through W. Sierra for those headed to Sebastopol and more people driving through A&B section to go back and forth from Cotati to R.P.

    Don’t fix what’s not broken.

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  14. Jay Behr says:

    There is a cognitive dissonance between Oliver’s PR as a progressive, friendly local business and their strong-arm tactics to the city of Cotati about the proposed gateway entrance. I just don’t get it. They say that the pedestrian and bike friendly 2-lane design is a deal-breaker. Somehow they think that their business will be enhanced by a four-lane thoroughfare, with cars speeding by. This is not getting their demographic. We would like a place which is a destination (not a pit stop), and encourages folks to walk or bike to the store and hang out in the area for a while.

    The new trend is toward creating a sense of place, not just another corporate filling station. They are badly misjudging their core customer base. I hope that they go back to the drawing board and rescind their opposition to an idea that would make Cotati a more interesting place and put their store at the center of an attractive destination.

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  15. Greg Karraker says:

    Thanks to Dianne Thompson and Marsha Sue Lustig for the ultimate slap in the face, not just to business, but to the city as a whole. By persisting in their puerile crush on “traffic calming” and “mixed-use vibrant infill”, these two dictators have condemned the Northern Gateway to remain a barren, weed-infested slum.

    The Downtown Specific Plan for this area was bad enough, but in the spirit of cooperation, Oliver’s invested $400,00 in plans to build there. Now, Thompson and Lustig have capriciously decided to redesign Old Redwood Highway, which makes much of Oliver’s investment worthless. If I spent that kind of money, then was victimized by a cheesy bait-and-switch like this, I would sue the city for fraud.

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  16. Cotati Pedestrian says:

    I love Oliver’s. I would prefer to shop at the proposed new location in a 2 lane, slower traffic environment.

    That section of roadway now is not very friendly at all. Wide roads, fast cars, and unsafe crossings are not what I want near my favorite grocery store. Making the roadway wider seems less friendly, and seems like it would deter people from wanting to shop there.

    I thought Oliver’s was more community minded than to want fast roadways and unsafe pedestrian crossings. Sheesh.

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  17. Cherie Maria says:

    Based on my slight addiction to the soup bar at the Oliver’s Stony Point Road location…..

    Cotati, y’all might want to re-think the new street plan if you kill the goose that lays the golden eggs and you end up with an empty hen house….

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  18. Loves Oliver's Too. . . But says:

    Oliver’s is a great market. I love their salad bar, but their continued threats to local government are getting old. “Don’t bring in another grocery,” “change the road the way we like it or else”. Yes, you provide much-needed revenue and I would personally miss you if you went away, but please concentrate on what you’re best at: the grocery business.

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  19. I love Olivers! says:

    You would be welcome in Sebastopol! Please move to Sebastopl — maybe you could even relocated somewhere on Highway 116 so your Cotati customers could still easily access your store, but it would also be much more convenient for Sebastopol shoppers. I have to admit, I really don’t like driving through the Cotati maze to get to your store’s current location.

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