WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa sells Santa Rosa Avenue strip to Kia dealership

The City of Santa Rosa has sold the strip of land between South A Street and Santa Rosa Avenue, containing the "Cyclisk" sculpture, to the incoming Kia dealership, seen on the left. CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/PD


Santa Rosa has sold the land that is home to a 65-foot-tall obelisk to the developers of a new Kia car dealership.

The sale of the triangular-shaped parcel to Empire Real Estate Holdings completes a controversial deal aimed at creating new Santa Rosa Avenue frontage for the dealership.

Neighbors have been divided over the proposal to abandon the southern tip of South A Street and reroute traffic down Barham Lane. Some worry about reduced access and traffic congestion, while supporters hope the project will revitalize a struggling commercial district sandwiched between Santa Rosa Avenue and Highway 101.

Work is already underway to prepare the site for construction. The owners of the adjacent Nissan of Santa Rosa dealership hope to have their 12,000-square-foot Kia dealership open by fall. The business expects to hire 20 people and generate $25 million in sales.

The City Council signed off on the plan last August, but it took several months to work out the details of the transaction. This included placing a value on the 7,400-square-foot parcel, which is made up of the triangular piece where the obelisk sits and a portion of the street.

The developer in late February paid the city $86,865 for the parcel.

While private real estate investors often seek to sell property at top dollar, the city offered it at “fair market value.” The value was determined by comparing the property to those acquired by the city for the widening of Santa Rosa Avenue, said Josh Maresca, the city’s right-of-way agent. The value was then reduced by several factors, including the variety of easements across the property, Maresca said.

The city’s formula for determining the price does not take into account the level of the buyer’s interest in the property, said Molly Dillon, assistant city attorney.

“We weren’t going to try to hold it over their heads and extract crazy amounts of money,” Dillon said.

The city utilizes a similar approach when determining how much it will pay when it takes private property by eminent domain, she said.

If it weren’t for the city’s willingness to reconfigure the street, Kia never would have approved the site, said Lawrence Amaturo, co-owner of Nissan of Santa Rosa and one of the developers of the new dealership.

Now, instead of being located off a side street, the Kia dealership will have 135 feet of prime Santa Rosa Avenue frontage with room to display 15 vehicles, Amaturo said.

He said he tried to get the city to lower the price, to no avail. “They played very evenhandedly in this,” Amaturo said.

The city will retain ownership of the obelisk, a 10,000-pound sculpture made of discarded bicycle parts titled Cyclisk.

Amaturo said he’s planning some upgrades to the property, including benches, landscaping and even some “soft” lighting of the statue.

The property comes with an easement allowing workers access to the site to maintain the sculpture, which was funded by public art development fees paid by Nissan of Santa Rosa, which opened in 2009.

The parcel being sold is actually one of three related to the abandonment of the 27,000-square-foot section of South A Street.

When a public agency gives up its interest in a property, how it disposes of the land depends on how it got it in the first place, Dillon explained.

In the case of South A Street, the city does not own the street outright. The property appears to have been conveyed to Sonoma County as an easement in 1900 and was later annexed by the city, Dillon said.

In such cases, the law calls for the land to revert at no cost to the adjacent property owners.

That means the west side of the street is reverting to Empire Real Estate Holdings, while most of the east side is reverting to Good Stuff Auto, a used car dealership owned by Jim Bennett, who is suing the city over the deal.

7 Responses to “Santa Rosa sells Santa Rosa Avenue strip to Kia dealership”

  1. Western Cluebird says:

    Everyone that needs to go to Good Stuff
    Auto or any other worthwhile neighboring business will just need to park in the KIA dealer lot while they shop elsewhere.

    The junk heap monument to cyclists discarded parts is not art, it never looked like art, and it disrespects the entire history and tradition of art.
    Tear it down before it falls on someone.

  2. Paul says:

    Wow, you people need to get your facts straight.

  3. Climb Every Mountain says:

    To paraphrase President Reagan, Mr. Mayor, tear down that pile of rubble sometimes used as a climbing wall by some of the miscreants from Santa Rosa’s own occupy wall street rabble.

    That pile of junk sents the wrong message when you are trying to be serious, if you are, about bringing new business to Santa Rosa.

    Write it off to the now defunct redevelopment effort. New ideas, modern cost effective measures to improve the city, not make it look like a disorganized scrap yard dropoff.

  4. Kay Tokerud says:

    This will be a great case showing abuse by both the city and the Nissan dealership partners. First the city lets Nissan put their required public art (bike spike) next to Good Stuff Auto that creates a barrier for his potential expansion, then the city abandons South A Street and gives most of it to the Nissan partners that closed off access to Good Stuff Auto, now they sell the frontage strip to the Nissan/Kia developers without offering the parcel to Good Stuff Auto. Besides being against the law to not offer to sell the parcel to all adjacent property owners, it’s darn rude.

    I’m envisioning a large settlement going to the owner of Good Stuff Auto after a jury hears this case. The parcel consisting of mostly frontage on one of the busiest streets should have brought a much larger sum had it been bid on by ALL interested parties. This is classic inverse condemnation coupled with a flagrant disregard for the law that applies to disposition of public property.

    Redevelopment may be dead but the mentality of our city officials to participate in something this unfair lives on.

    The Nissan folks have had their designs on this parcel as well as the property of Good Stuff Auto (offers were made) for several years. This latest affront shows that everything that has happened was designed for them to get this valuable frontage. When two or more parties plan and carry out a plan then they have conspired. I don’t think that is too strong a term for these actions. This is a perfect example of Santa Rosa’s contempt for small businesses while doing everything to help the fat cats.

  5. Money Grubber says:

    “”The city will retain ownership of the obelisk, a 10,000-pound sculpture made of discarded bicycle parts titled Cyclisk.””

    Pay close attention to the rust seeping out of the bottom of that obelisk and oozing over the concrete base.

    Yes, you see, the city owns it but refuses to admit they have an object that is rusting from within and will eventually be too dangerous to leave standing due to its potential fall upon people or cars below.

    The concrete base has already been repainted twice that I know of… to hide the rust stains.

    No comments from the government experts.

  6. Harry Callahan says:

    The pile of junk needs to come down and recycled at the landfill.

    The hyppies who put it together have had their fun and the council that paid for it have spent more tax money on junk to satify their addiction to spending money on wasteful projects.

    Removing the junk pile will be an indicated that Santa Rosa can recover from its quirky past and move into a serious future where a government seriously considers where money is spent.

  7. Jim Bennett says:

    Josh Meresca had direct knowledge of our interest in purchasing the ‘tip’ because we had a conversation about it.

    I had to wait on the purchase.

    I was busy at the time getting taken for the 3 YEAR ride of our financial lives from S.R. Code Enforcement;
    we didn’t have a permit to paint, replace some windows and doors at the little run down school we had just bought.
    It was to be a community center/dance school.
    The only one that took dance lessons at our community center was me.
    To prevent bankruptcy from what they put us through we sold our nice BMW service business and a great west county vacation rental.
    Wife had a nervous breakdown.
    The red-tag ‘process’ took most all the money we earned for 20 years of work, but we kept our credit perfect.

    I’m a big boy, I can take my licks-
    if I got greedy in the stock market, over leveraged rental properties or something, but not for this.

    Thankfully, with the demise of redevelopment our little dealership and other people’s properties won’t be taken by eminent domain.
    Experts have told me that the conveyance of our public street/access to our neighbor was another effort to devalue the property for an eventual taking.

    Imagine my surprise when the ‘artist’ came walking up to me one day seeking a water source for his hose to mix the concrete.

    I’ve always been supportive of S.R. Nissan/Kia’s efforts EXCEPT for the need to take A Street.
    The explanation for damaging the neighborhood’s access has no legitimate answer, we should know, we’ve all asked.
    Reconfigure the S.R. Ave. access to accomadate the Kia Dealership frontage and everyone’s happy, just keep it public.

    Against the pleading of all the residents and small business’ that spoke at City Council, they ran with their dated ‘traffic study’(’07) that didn’t regard the subsequent ambulance company, the eventual development, or any of us.

    I really love small business, 14 years ago when we moved here I wanted to have a reputation for doing good business, not for trying to defend our right to do so.