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Petaluma OKs Deer Creek environmental report

Site of proposed Deer Creek Village shopping center

Site of proposed Deer Creek Village shopping center (File photo)


Despite vocal opposition and calls for additional studies, a split Petaluma City Council early Tuesday approved the final environmental analysis of the Deer Creek Village shopping center.

By certifying the report, the City Council essentially approved the 36.5-acre development, which is to be anchored by a Friedman’s Home Improvement store. The 344,000-square-foot project must still go through the city’s design review process for approval of architectural details.

Mike Healy, Mike Harris, Chris Albertson and Gabe Kearney voted to certify the final environmental impact report, while Tiffany Renee, Teresa Barrett and Mayor David Glass voted to reject it.

The decision didn’t come easily: about 200 people packed City Hall for the hearing, which lasted six hours. Forty-seven residents spoke, 32 in favor of the project.

Two opponents have retained lawyers, although they didn’t overtly threaten legal action Monday night.

Supporters urged the city to welcome Friedman’s back to its hometown after a four-decade absence. Bryce Pattison, a small business owner, said he bought a fixer-upper when he moved to Petaluma and has spent more than $50,000 — “every penny of it in Santa Rosa” — because Petaluma has no home improvement warehouse.

Merlone Geier Partners, a San Francisco developer, has been working with the city since 2008 to develop the vacant property along Highway 101 at Rainier Avenue and North McDowell Boulevard.

Glass backed an alternative plan identified in the study, which would have replaced most of the retail space with a residential care facility, although that option failed to gain any other council support.

“Was it what I wanted? No. But it did get improved,” he said of the final Deer Creek proposal.

Merlone Geier spokesman Marko Mlikotin said the center will bring hundreds of jobs to Petaluma and about $1 million annually in sales and property tax revenue. The city will also receive about $9.2 million in development impact fees.

“Clearly this was the most significant hurdle, so we’re pleased,” Mlikotin said after the 1 a.m. vote. “The response from the community was great. They’re very excited about Friedman’s return.”

Friedman Brothers began in Petaluma in 1946 but left in 1970 after a fire. Today there are three Friedman’s Home Improvement stores, in Santa Rosa, Sonoma and Ukiah.

“Always, the family’s dream was to come back,” owner Bill Friedman said Monday night. His company signed a long-term lease this year after Lowe’s home improvement backed out in October.

Friedman’s is expected to bring more than 100 new jobs, Vice President Barry Friedman said. He called the vote an “important step toward economic sustainability for the community.”

City staff recommended approval, while noting that the analysis found significant and unavoidable impacts from traffic and greenhouse gas emissions. Under state environmental laws, the adverse effects can be considered acceptable if they are outweighed by the benefits of the project.

Several speakers said the benefits of the center, and Friedman’s in particular, outweigh the costs.

Critics, including former council member Janice Cader-Thompson, raised concerns about a lack of certain funding for the planned Rainier Avenue cross-town connector and freeway interchange, envisioned as a way to ease traffic congestion.

Cader-Thompson’s lawyers — who also represent Syers Properties, the owners of the nearby Plaza North Kmart shopping center — asked the council to reject the EIR, redo the traffic study or approve an alternative that would significantly reduce the retail component.

“You can’t have a project this size because our city streets can’t handle it,” she said.

Louise Vicino, an 83-year-old Petaluma resident, urged the council to hurry up and approve Deer Creek.

“I’d like to be able to shop here in Petaluma,” she said, instead of in Novato or Santa Rosa. “I’d like to see it come in before I kick the bucket.”

Friedman’s expects to open in the summer of 2013, pending design approvals at the planning commission.


12 Responses to “Petaluma OKs Deer Creek environmental report”

  1. @ Sour Grapes says:

    Yes, he did have those endorsements…which flies in the face of the contention from Healy that he was abandoned by progressives. Just see how many of those endorsements he gets next time around. It’s not about being “open minded”. He had his mind made up before he even went to his first planning meeting. The council members who suddenly backed a “progressive” wouldn’t have done so had they not believed he would vote their way. We need to change the charter so people get to decide who represents them, rather than back room deals and promises in exchange for an appointment.

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  2. Wilson says:

    re:Decision made when Gabe was appointed

    You got it 100% right. Towards the end of the meeting when Renee was getting emotional, I wanted to yell at her that she caused this to happen when she foolishly let kearney in.

    re:sour grapes

    Kearney may have claimed all of those endorsements in his last election, but he didn’t actually have them all. He had all but disappeared from the local political scene since the late 1990′s. When he returned in 2008, he had changed significantly. He had turned bitter and cynical. he lost most of his friends and supporters. He’s going to need to get a lot of money out of these developers to finance this campaign because he won’t have any volunteers (just like Healy).

    Back to the article though, it is quite misleading. What else is new. The meeting was about certification of the FEIR. It was NOT about Friedman’s. I wish that I was a bookie so I could take bets from people thinking that Friedman’s will be built there. There is no guarantee whatsoever (cough walmart cough). They already bailed out of the Regency development. What is that they say about “fool me twice”? Very few of the people who spoke in support actually mentioned anything remotely about the FEIR. Those few that did seemed to be reading a speech that somebody else had written for them. Nobody really spoke against Friedman’s. They spoke against either the project itself (wrong location, not needed) or the abomination of an EIR.

    This project is just one more nail in Petaluma’s coffin. Gimme a thumbs down if the truth hurts.

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  3. Good job council says:

    My only concern with this project was the additional traffic, yet after listening to all the comments it was clear the benefits outweighed the impacts.

    Petaluma Progressive,
    Everything you stated was so very negative. Don’t be such a poor sport. Have you noticed you are the vocal minority? I hope you are not one suing Merlone Geier.

    Decision made when Gabe was appointed,
    Councilmember Kearney is doing a fine job. Might you be the one who was not appointed by the city council last January?

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  4. Truth Teller says:

    Let’s face it: there are two Petalumas. Let the rarified elite of the West Side have their bungalows and “charming” downtown. Let the working class East Side have its subdivisions and suburban style.

    It’s interesting that it’s usually the West Siders that are so interested in stifling development on the East Side even when it doesn’t directly affect them and when East Siders want the development and shopping opportunities.

    I really wish the West Siders would quit imposing their values and supposedly superior way of living on the majority of Petalumans.

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  5. Why do folks want to make Petaluma like Anytown USA? says:

    I have no problem with the addition of Friedman’s to Petaluma. We do need a quality home improvement store here. What I do have a problem with is building a whole shopping center when we really don’t need another shopping center especially with Regency being built.

    These types of developments just make Petaluma like Anytown USA. Unfortunately, Petaluma is losing its charm.

    Additionally, when approving these development projects, our city government doesn’t seem to negotiate very well on getting infrastructure improvements paid for by the developer. I bet we will still be known as potholeluma even after both shopping centers are built!

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  6. James Todd says:

    Petaluma Progressive,

    Liberals have held the California Legislature since 1992. Since then, tehy’ve exploded our deficit, put in place entitlement after entitlement, exploded spending, increased taxes, chased away businesses, and made California a worse place to live. California USED to be the World’s 5th biggest economy.
    The continued fall of California’s status and well-being is happening under THEIR stewardship. (Don’t try to play the “Arnold” card, he was a RINO and we all know it!)
    Face it, liberal/progressive “values’ are destroying our economy and way of life, and yet you will try to blame the republican MINORITY for all the problems. Pathetic.
    When will liberals take responsibility for their mistakes?
    You try to stand in the way of what people want in this community and cry like little babies when you don’t get your way.
    Thankfully, the populace as a whole are waking up to the insanity of your policies. People are getting tired of your whining, oppressive taxation, anti-business policies, and entitlement attitude.
    It will happen in November on a national scale. I hope you don’t wet your Pampers when it happens.

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  7. sour grapes says:

    Those who try to paint a clandestine story of Gabe’s appointment to the Council might what to review his campaign endorsement list.

    Sonoma County Democratic Party
    Sonoma County Young Democrats
    Petaluma Tomorrow
    Sierra Club
    Sonoma County Conservation Action
    South Sonoma County Democrats
    Sonoma County Latino PAC
    Coalition for a Better Sonoma County
    SEIU 1021
    Progressive Democrats Sonoma County

    State Senator Mark Leno

    Assemblywoman Noreen Evans
    Assembly candidate, Michael Allen
    Supervisor-elect Mike McGuire

    Pamela Torliatt, Mayor, Petaluma
    Tiffany Renee, City Councilmember, Petaluma
    David Glass, City Councilmember, Petaluma

    Those that don’t like Gabe’s willingness to keep an open mind on subjects are just upset that he doesn’t walk in lock step to Keller, JCT, Francis and Maquire – none of whom have the guts to put their name on any ballot so their true support will be exposed.

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  8. Decision made when Gabe was appointed says:

    The fact is that the decision to approve the project was made when Kearney was appointed. We had a split 3-3 council post election with the 4th runner-up (Davies) edging out Kearney. Rather than stick to a 3-3 council where real compromise would be required, Tiffany Renee chose to switch her vote to Kearney, after learning that Kearny had convinced Healy, Harris, and Albertson to support him. Healy. Harris, and Albertson were all backed by the developer for Deer Creek (along with others such as Ray Johnson). It was all pre-planned, but they staged it so it would seem as though they “stumbled” upon Kearney as the “compromise” candidate.

    Why Tiffany believed the outcome would be any different is astounding. Healy, Harris, and Albertson wouldn’t have supported Kearney unless he passed their pro-developer litmus test. He will run again – not for “reelection” as Renee misstated recently, but for election. Voters didn’t put him on the council, Renee, Harris, Healy, and Albertson did. If Renee doesn’t understand how badly she screwed her own progressive base and the Petaluma community by putting Kearney on the council, she really isn’t fit to lead again…..nor is her husband.

    The question comes to why she would do it. Was she promised support for her congressional run? Would she risk the future of Petaluma for her own potential political gain? Sure. It happens all the time. Kearney ran spouting smart growth, “Keep Petaluma Eggcentric” , etc. But none of those principles were worth standing up for when it came to his own political future. Look at his other votes – approved larger big boxes at Regency, approved Healy to manage redevelopment funds, voted against road diet (even Albertson couldn’t go against that). These were all Healy litmus tests and Kearney has passed with flying colors. Appointments have consequences. So do elections.

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  9. Steve Klausner says:

    Here’s a hardware shopping tip. Go to http://www.lowes.com.
    Whatever you wanted to buy you can find it for 20% off and delivered to your local Lowes for free. You have to pay sales tax, but you get to just walk in and pick it up. Same trick works with Sears.

    Make the Big Box work for you!

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  10. Sound Decision for a Change says:

    Could it just be that the so-called Progressives are out of step with the rest of the world? The headline should read “With overwhelming public support majority of Council approves EIR”. The tide is turning and normal people who do not show up at every council meeting came to say “enough” approve the project.

    Of course the usual cadre of anti-everythings had to speak. Janice, Paul, etc. have worn out their welcome and made themselves irrelevant by speaking out against everything. This time normal people showed up. By the way, why must “Progressives” write a book with every post and almost always resort to name calling when someone doesn’t agree with them?

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  11. Petaluma Progressive says:

    One thing that I have long wondered, is why the Petaluma progressives don’t make a project out of pushing back on the relentless corporate booster operation run out of the Argus-Courier? Week after, week, month after month, they use editorials, cartoons, Chamber-backed letters, regular columns (Balshaw and Bennett), to criticize, mock and belittle the progressives. Reading the Argus, you would wonder how in the world any of them dare show their face in town. Once in a while I see some pushback, but it’s running about 10-1.

    Like it or not, they play a big role in setting the tone for Petaluma politics. Let’s fight back. We can write, too. Don’t fall into the trap of getting all your news on-line, and wondering why your team keeps losing elections, because you don’t track what the mass of people are reading in print.

    Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that fighting mega-corporations site by site is a doomed strategy. We need to go up the food chain and get state and national policies that can raise the bar for development assessment. That’s what we tried to with the CIR, but we too did not have enough political power to enact a truly robust policy that could have stopped a misguided development. Until we build a regional, state and national progressive network that can rewrite the rules, we’ll continue fighting these rear guard action battles with limited resources, always on the defense.We have to up our game.

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  12. Petaluma Progressive says:

    Sadly, I knew that this was inevitable quite some time back. The choice of Friedman’s as the anchor tenant was brilliant. They are a good locally owned business that has a lot of community good will, and they are filling a market niche. But, of course, along with them comes the rest of the chain store center. As the Petaluma residents have learned, the big national corporations can buy all the lawyers, PR agents, and news media they need to make sure that they can break down any residual pockets of resistance from volunteer citizen’s groups in any town. Petaluma put up way more of a fight than most cities. Unfortunately, the long siege broke through the last line of defense. We need to look to a new strategy. It is too much to ask of a handful of elected officials to try to remake the American corporate system, while they are under nonstop attack from conservative political opponents and well-funded corporate development staff, backed up by the local media, and only lightly defended by a rag-tag local citizens group.

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