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Petaluma shopping center developers seek 60-foot-tall sign



Construction work has begun on Petaluma’s East Washington Place shopping center, but the controversy may not be over.

The developer’s sign proposal comes before the Planning Commission on Tuesday and it goes well beyond what the city usually allows.

The landmark sign — the largest one in the center — is proposed as a 60-foot-tall freestanding structure equal in height to the Petaluma Auto Plaza sign.

The auto mall sign was erected in 1991 to “immediate and widespread horror,” according to media coverage then, and a lawsuit sought unsuccessfully to have it removed.

Senior Planner Irene Borba noted that both the 60-foot height of the shopping center sign and its proposed orientation toward Highway 101 violate the city’s sign codes. She recommends the seven-member Planning Commission reduce the height and relocate the sign.

Construction on East Washington Place began late last month after years of making its way through the city planning process and in the face of critics who said the 378,000-square-foot center was too big, ugly or was in the wrong place.

The developer, Regency Centers, bought the property at East Washington Street and Highway 101 for $22 million in 2004 with the intention of bringing Target to Petaluma.

After dueling lawsuits were filed — and later dismissed when developers made a few design changes and paid the opposition $150,000 including legal fees — the city approved the project in 2010.

The shopping center will cover 34 acres and include Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sprouts market, TJ Maxx, ULTA Cosmetics and restaurants Panera and Chipotle, according to paperwork filed with the city.

Borba said the proposed 60-foot sign’s location in the back corner of the development and its orientation toward the freeway are at odds with city guidelines meant to prevent visual clutter and oversized signage.

The proposed location “provides an uninterrupted view from northbound traffic on Highway 101,” Borba’s report said. It is proposed to have “Welcome to Petaluma” at its top.

She proposes moving the sign further south so it will be visible from Kenilworth Drive and not primarily Highway 101.

Regency also proposes three 15-foot tall signs facing East Washington at access points and six lower-profile signs within the center. Borba recommended allowing only two taller signs and four smaller ones.

The city’s ordinance also prohibits signs on the back of buildings that face 101, which Regency also proposes.

The Planning Commission meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall. Any decisions could be appealed to the City Council.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

7 Responses to “Petaluma shopping center developers seek 60-foot-tall sign”

  1. Stuck in traffic, yet again says:

    What an eyesore! Maybe Petaluma should just abandon all taste and self-respect, and look like any other freeway fronting city, anywhere USA. Regency doesn’t give a crap about our city – only what they can take away in profits for their next junkyard-on-a-freeway. Barf.

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  2. Follower says:

    if you’re going to have a shopping center next to a freeway where the next exit is 3 miles away (heading north) I think A SIGN might be a good idea.
    A nice TALL sign that you can see in time to exit safely.

    Speaking of “exits”… how many MILLIONS did they spend widening the Cotati Grade & they didn’t put a south bound exit at Railroad?

    Our tax dollars at work!

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  3. Jim says:

    After years and years of delay this project is finally breaking ground. What I haven’t heard mentioned by anyone is the traffic problem. Driving from one side of the 101 to the other at any time of the day is a disaster. The Washington overpass is a joke. With Target drawing in more traffic, Petaluma will become a parking lot.

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  4. Mo says:

    I believe this is the best thing to happen to Petaluma. I do not need to drive to Novato or Rohnert Park to buy household goods at a Target. I spent $1900 at Target in 2011, $1200 in 2010. I checked Quicken, and that is a fact.

    Big 5 is a nice store, but competition is needed in the sporting goods area. Dick’s is a great thing to have. No more driving to Novato to buy sporting goods at Sports Mart.

    I know people that drive to San Rafael to go to Chipotle. I can’t believe it either, but it’s true. Mi Pueblo is not going to be harmed by a chain fake Mexican joint.

    All we need is a Costco so I do not have to drive to Rohnert Park to get my bulk grocery items, and fill up with gas. Also, a Lowe’s would be the best thing to happen here as well.

    With the price of gas, I welcome new stores, and more competition.

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  5. Steve Klausner says:

    Driving through Petaluma has become slow and ugly, pretty signs might be a nice distraction.

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  6. 2020 hindsight says:

    Even more interesting than the sign sociopathy:

    “The shopping center will cover 34 acres and include Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sprouts market, TJ Maxx, ULTA Cosmetics and restaurants Panera and Chipotle, according to paperwork filed with the city.”

    This insipid project was slammed at us because “they” said that it would provide the City of Petaluma with $600,000 in additional sales taxes each year. Where oh where are the sales taxes going to be generated here, anybody?

    Let’s see. The Target store will likely be a Super Target, which means including groceries. Groceries are not subject to sales taxes. Sprouts Market and two restaurants (what, we need MORE restaurants here???) won’t generate much in sales taxes either. And the out of date Retail Leakage Study that many cited as proof of need to build this shopping center said that Petaluma had too many grocery stores.

    That smoke coming out of my ears was blown in elsewhere on me.

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  7. Petaluma is crazy says:

    Of course Petaluma has a problem with the signs. After 8 years of process the city was forced to allow this shopping center. Why would you want them to advertise and bring people into the shopping center. Maybe because the city is broke and announcing a new round of cuts as it projects more defecits. Go get ‘em Petaluma. Make it has hard as possible for them to do business. Simply amazing.

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