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Sebastopol Council rejects CVS design


A controversial proposal by CVS Pharmacy to build at one of Sebastopol’s most visible intersections was in limbo Wednesday after the City Council rejected its design plans.

Now the developer, who declined comment, must decide whether to revise the design, give up the project already approved by the City Council after a year of discussion or consider legal action.

SG Ellison, vice president of development at Armstrong Development Properties, Inc. addressed questions about the CVS project in Sebastopol at a Sebastopol City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. (CRISTA JEREMIASON/ Press Democrat)

The council’s decision late Tuesday night came after more than four hours of council questioning on design details, from the size of a portico on the southwest side of the building, the placement of the trash receptacles and the size of plaza to how many windows actually would allow people to look in from the outside.

Finally, the council voted 3-2 to uphold the Design Review Board’s decision to reject the design.

“I am not willing to say that what was submitted to the Design Review Board is the best that can be done,” said Mayor Guy Wilson.

Bill McDermott, a vice president for Armstrong Development of Sacramento, which is proposing the plan for a CVS Pharmacy and Chase Bank branch, had appealed the design repeal to the council. He argued the company already had changed many aspects of its design, had met city guidelines and that the Design Review Board had overstepped its authority.

“This is a better project because of the outpouring of involvement in town,” said SG Ellison, Armstrong vice president of development. “This is a better project than when we submitted it, it fits well into the community.”

Armstrong Development already has received the necessary approvals from the City Council to go ahead, but the final piece is approval of the design.

The Design Review Board rejected the developer’s proposal as being out of sync with Sebastopol’s Main Street character.

The project, along with a list of City Council objections and suggestions, could now go back to the Design Review Board, where it has been discussed before in emotion-charged meetings.

Ellison complained Tuesday that those board hearings were too raucous, denying them the chance to get a fair hearing. He even asked the council to provide an intermediary or mediator, if they go back.

Zachary Douch, design board chairman, said Wednesday he was confident the project could get a fair hearing, the developer has a better understanding of what is wanted and a resolution could be reached.

But Douch also acknowledged that emotions were high at those hearings.

“It was a tremendously contentious application and not for just design review reasons,” Douch said. “There was a lot of emotion. There is a reaction amongst the Sebastopol public against the notion of having CVS and Chase on that site. It has clouded the atmosphere of the meetings.”

In the end, the deciding factor was where the project was to be located, at the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership, and whether it was part of Sebastopol’s downtown core or a transition zone between retail and industry.

“I do like the design of this building. I do not believe that this is Main Street,” said Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer. “This is a transition zone, this is an industrial location and this building fits in with the buildings on Sebastopol Avenue. A block away we are selling tractors.”

Councilwoman Sarah Gurney disagreed, saying it was the first intersection seen as people drive in from the east and is part of the downtown core.

“I don’t see it as a transitional zone,” Gurney said. “I think our city wants a downtown that is a grid of streets that is more than two blocks square.”

Architect Kevin Kellogg of Sebastopol said the architecture tries to reflect both, with storefront, sidewalks and trees that are all associated with Main Street.

“We believe we have emulated the architecture of Main Street,” Kellogg said.

Wilson, Vice Mayor Kyes and Gurney voted for the denial, with council members Patrick Slayter and Shaffer voting to grant the appeal.

Armstrong Development is proposing to build a CVS Pharmacy and a Chase Bank branch at the intersection of Sebastopol and Petaluma avenues, at a cost of $10 million.

CVS and Chase already have facilities elsewhere in Sebastopol and would relocate to that corner, the site of the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership.

The opposition has been led by the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol, which wants something other than CVS and Chase at the corner, and has also filed suit in Sonoma County Superior Court challenging the council’s decision to not require a full environmental impact report.

7 Responses to “Sebastopol Council rejects CVS design”

  1. Coming From You, Never. says:

    For a minute there, I was afraid that you were referring to Sebastopol.

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  2. Can It Be True says:

    Don’t build it and they will not come. Weeds and broken glass is a move back to nature. They like that look in the peoples republic of Sebastapol.

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  3. Norman Rockwell says:

    Except that the cool neon “Chevrolet” sign and the cars, both new and classic, are gone, two windows have been boarded up due to damage and the property hasn’t been maintained by the owner (weeds left to grow, trash accumulating, etc.), the buildings and property look no different than they did 12 years ago when I moved here. Any other perceptions are revisionist architectural history. These buildings have been maintained in a rundown, pre-abandoned state for many years. This has been the welcome to Sebastopol for a long time prior to it’s demise as a functioning business. The buildings, except for the former gas station on the corner, are actually both fairly attractive from a design perspective. I would be in favor of their reuse/adaptation, but it appears as if they have been left to deteriorate over a long time span.

    Here is a link to a photo of the main building one week prior to the closing of the dealership. You decide how much different it looks now:


    To generate income in the short term, perhaps a weed museum could be operated at that location.

    For all of those who say anything would be better than what is there now, how about an adult book store (probably as conforming as CVS, but without the need for a drive through), several more medical marijuana dispensaries (drive throughs would be allowed there, I believe), a car wash, a mini storage facility or a 7-11? Use your imagination.

    Different isn’t better. Good enough isn’t better. Only the best should be allowed there. Sebastopol deserves no less. It is merely a matter of the developer recognizing this and doing the right thing.

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  4. GAJ says:

    Thanks Kirstin.

    That thing IS worse than the current ugly building!

    It should be set back on the site and redesigned to not be so out of character with surrounding buildings.

    Have to agree with Design Review on this one.

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  5. It's A Wonder says:

    The City Council approves a project, then leaves it in the hands of an unelected Design Review Board that can deny it on a whim, and actually seems to have done that, spurred on by the Committee For Small Minded Sebastopol. Apparently a rundown abandoned building with broken and boarded windows say Main Street and Small Town better that a new structure with porticos, especially if it has the incorrect number of windows that allow interior viewing, which will of course offend nearly everyone. People will all rush to Sebastopol to be greeted by the Pellini building as it sits now, and will be welcomed by the sight as they wait at the traffic signal. Ahhh, if that doesn’t scream Norman Rockwell nothing does!

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  6. Kirstin says:

    Here is a link to an image of the proposed design: http://www.waccobb.net/forums/content.php?136-CVS-Chase-Development-Is-it-appropriate-for-downtown-Sebastopol

    I think CVS could have come up with a much more eye-pleasing design than that hulk.

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  7. GAJ says:

    Can you add an image of the design?

    I’d like to see how horrific it is compared to the current gorgeous abandoned car dealership building.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

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