WatchSonoma Watch

Petaluma protests state’s denial of $34 million for city projects


Petaluma is preparing a protest letter to the state in defense of $34 million, mostly in highway construction projects, that the state disqualified for funding with former redevelopment money.

The East Washington Street overpass in Petaluma. (PD File)

The most crucial at-risk plans include two highway interchange projects: at East Washington Street, which is under construction, and at Old Redwood Highway, which is ready to go out for bid.

The $28 million budget for the East Washington-101 project includes $4 million of redevelopment funding, which the city approved in 2005. Of that, $1.8 million has already been spent on land acquisition.

The $41.5 million Old Redwood Highway interchange project was to include $15 million in redevelopment funds, $11.3 million of which was rejected by the state Department of Finance. That project was identified as a redevelopment priority in 2003.

After the state dissolved municipal redevelopment agencies — as a part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to use the revenues to plug the state budget gap — each locality submitted a list of what it said were contractually obligated projects, essentially those for which redevelopment funds had been specifically earmarked.

The state Department of Finance is in the process of analyzing each local government’s list and approving or denying projects, based on whether they are considered “enforceable obligations.” Money not allowed for the projects will be diverted back to underlying taxing entities, such as school districts.

Last month Sonoma County learned that plans to transform a Roseland shopping center into a commercial and residential complex and to complete pedestrian upgrades to Highway 12 north of Sonoma were denied. Santa Rosa learned this month that $8.1 million for three projects was denied.

In Petaluma’s case, the state denied $34.3 million of the $41.5 million it considered to be enforceable obligations.

That includes the two highway projects, $7.5 million the city earmarked for the Rainier Avenue cross-town connector project, $6 million for undefined future economic development, $6 million for affordable housing programs and administration, $1.4 million for the next phase of the Petaluma River bike trail and $1 million toward a loan involving work at the city’s marina.

Mayor David Glass has sought the help of state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, who encouraged local leaders last week to fight for their projects, particularly ones that were approved locally before the state moved to eliminate redevelopment agencies.

“I do not believe the city of Petaluma could stop construction on this project at this point and we have no other funding source identified to honor our contractual obligations,” Glass said of the in-progress East Washington construction.

Councilman Mike Healy, chairman of the oversight board charged with winding down the former redevelopment agency’s functions, also defended the planned $7.5 million funding for Rainier. That project doesn’t have a clear funding source, but is in the city’s general plan.

“With East Washington, I think we would desperately try to find another funding source because it can’t just be stopped,” he said. “For Old Redwood, I think there’s a risk of that just not happening.”

Glass said the city might sue the state if it continues to deny the eligibility of what the described as “already earmarked funds.”

Petaluma Finance Director Bill Mushallo said the city may ask the county to hold disputed funds in a trust fund pending a final resolution.

He said neighboring agencies “seem to be getting different vibes” from the state, depending on which analyst reviewed their lists.

“It seems to kind of be all over the map as to what they’re denying and approving,” he said.

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

19 Responses to “Petaluma protests state’s denial of $34 million for city projects”

  1. Graeme Wellington says:

    The redevelopment agencies are going away – but they are coming back:


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  2. MOCKINGBIRD says:

    John-Bechtel? Seriously? Isn’t that one of the no bid billion dollar companies that Cheney and Bush contracted with to supply services in Iraq? One of those companies fried some our boys in the shower. Those companies got billions of our tax money and failed to perform adequately in Iraq. Services not performed, units not getting necessary supplies, ammunition, equipment, even water, and so on.

    We paid these corporations billions and some of them are still there with their billion dollar contracts. We’re under the pretense that we are out of the “war” in Iraq. Most of our soldiers came home but our billions dollar contractors are still there doing the same job our soldiers (and our soldiers did cheaper and better).

    AND JOHN, if you don’t live or vote in California-GET OFF THIS BLOG. Why would you care about what happens here? What interest could you possibly have in our local elections or how our government runs?

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  3. Skippy says:

    Thanks for the sober view with the perspective of distance.
    Ca. is owned and operated by Big Govt and her unions. That accounts for the shoddy work and standards you rightly point out, and the “who-gives a damn, I get paid the same anyway” attitude of our public employees.
    Keep writing, and often.

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  4. John says:

    Bear, I don’t live in California, I don’t vote in California; therefore, I take no responsibility for your states obvious dysfunctional issues. A little known fact for you, the unions do run the political spectrum that much isn’t a secret to anyone unless that person is leaching off taxpayer funds then of course they’ll deny the union has any involvement. Public officials have no ambition or gumption to produce anything useful or meaningful, that’s why they work for the system where they have no accountability where they’d never succeed in the private sector or they failed and took the public job knowing they’d never get fired.

    John, lmao, I do work in the industry and I see it firsthand every time I come to your state and see projects completed where the obvious quality is lacking due to contract enforcement. Let’s place a bet, gentleman’s bet, 101 abutment embankments in Rohnert Park and the 101 embankments in Cotati were both were recently completed. Those fills went in way too fast where compaction efforts I noticed when I watched them was somewhat comical. In those areas, embankments will settle and surfaces will be a roller coaster where no abutment exists and speed bump where approach slabs exists.
    It’s a well known fact, Caltrans and local agencies allow close and go quality control whereas DSOD, USACE, USBR, and most other agencies who don’t allow close and go or deviations from the contract without documentation and evaluating the end product. If the agencies there did follow or enforce the QA/QC, the streets there wouldn’t be in the condition they are in and the taxpayers would all save money.

    Go ahead, get that $35 million and throw it away, money is of no concern to public agencies, they don’t care, and they get paid regardless of how many mistakes are done. I do though enjoy reading the papers and comments made by most, it’s somewhat different that the rest of the USA.

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  5. John bly says:

    @ John-your accusations that local officials are somehow allowing shoddy work to get built with public funds is without merit. I am not certain your motives, but your observations and conclusions are false. If you really had any knowledge of wrongdoing, with your “international” experience, do you think WSC is the place to vett your “findings?”. You are not employed in the engineering and construction world. That much is obvious. I think the “shame and embarrassment” would be shared by all of us if the projects were “under your umbrella”. Thank goodness these $100 million projects are too small for your firm to lower yourselves to deal with.

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  6. bear says:

    Oh get real! Who do you think does the real work of county or city government?
    These politicians YOU keep electing or the rank-and-file employees – including some VERY smart people – who do the real work but can’t control the outcome?

    I’ll tell you my qualifications when you describe – in general terms – what your personal interests are are and why you hate us. I get that you think you pay too much in taxes. Take the debate a little further. And please don’t assume that unions run government, because it simply isn’t true.

    Otherwise, you’re all just welshing on the promises made in your name.

    About time the P-D did some actual reporting and trace who funds elected officials.

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  7. Skippy says:

    ” Smart people are highly valued in city and county government. ”

    Your statement flies in the face of virtually every encounter the taxpaying public has with Big Govt.
    Please present any evidence at all to verify such ridiculous nonsense.

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  8. John says:


    You’ve got to be kidding, quit my job and work for a public agency or locals; I’d be committing mortal suicide not to mention working in a system is designed to fail. Public Agencies and contractors have a system in place that works for them, not the taxpayers. Neither I nor anyone else can ever change that. The only way it would change is to remove the nepotism and good ole boy syndrome and have Bechtel manage the process where the plans, specifications and special provisions would be enforced where taxpayers would realize instant savings. The locals couldn’t stomach let alone handle working under a contract that is non-negotiable and all terms will be followed by all involved.

    The sad part is that local politicians are in bed with locals and afraid to piss off their cash crop knowing the political favors and nepotism would go away.

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  9. bear says:

    @ John

    Since we are so screwed, and you are so smart, the least you could do is resign your current position and come help us out. Smart people are highly valued in city and county government.

    As for the redevelopment issue, it is a money and power grab courtesy of state government. The biggest grab since Jerry Brown failed to stop Prop. 13 in 1978.

    Voters get what they pay for.

    All else aside, you folks in the cities should fight hard for projects that may help you in the long run. Otherwise, your money just goes somewhere else.

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  10. Steve Klausner says:

    Petaluma should reconsider their request for funding of the Washington/101 overpass. How about approching CalTrans with a Traffic Calming project? Remove a lane in each direction, make it more bicyle and pedestrian friendly, maybe some artwork. I’ll bet they would go for it!

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  11. Steve Klausner says:

    @ Doc Gunderson
    Thought you were running for a state office. What do think your number one priority job come January if elected….provide funding for the planing of traffic relief for the City of Petaluma, or balancing the State of California’s budget?

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  12. Ray M. says:

    Hi 20/20 Vision, AKA Janice Cader-Thompson. Your NIMBYism must stop now.

    Maybe if these projects were built when each was identified, the money would have been there. Typical City Council, whine and cry that there is no money when you delay a project for 9 years or more.

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  13. John says:

    They don’t deserve another penny of our money with the public works department and lack of care with our money. When the public works department gets their own house in order and starts enforcing the special provisions and specifications then maybe they’ll deserve our money until then, no more.

    I’ve travel to Petaluma often to see my relatives and I work for one of the Top ENR international firms that performs heavy civil across the world and I can say without any doubt, Petaluma, Caltrans District 4 and Sonoma public works departments and their lack of contract enforcement ensuring the good ole local boys who do the work these little projects, let the good ole boys do the work without any regard to quality control.
    I came into town and while there I noticed one of locals building embankments in Rohnert Park, these embankments will settle and will require extensive repairs within 4-years or sooner, Caltrans allowed this substandard work. Taxpayers will pay for the costly repairs with settlements and pavement issues.

    I read the new July 2010 SWPPP permits, District 4 Caltrans doesn’t follow their own rules with the local boys, if they did enforce the permit; trash and debris wouldn’t be allowed to build up, damaged erosions control materials would be fixed, installed SWPPP measures would be monitored and kept up, QSP would be onsite making the daily inspections and corrective action items, QSD’s would be doing their weekly paperwork, etc…etc…etc…

    I say no more money to any of them until the rulebook is enforced and the quality of work installed is non-negotiable. I would be ashamed and quite frankly embarrassed if any of the projects presently under construction from Fairfield to the 101 corridor where under our umbrella. But then again, that’s why we don’t work in the region, the good ole boys know they can get with away anything they choose and their work shows just how bad it is, life expectancy of completed work is awful that shouldn’t have ever occurred.

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  14. Kim says:

    Write a letter? ROFLMAO! Jerry Brown and the State Legislature doesn’t give a hoot about Petaluma or Sonoma County its very evident in the way they handled the casino fiasco. Your elected Democrats at work for YOU!

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  15. 20/20 Vision says:

    Dear Mike Healy. Have you for one second stopped to consider that the $7.5 mil that you want for Rainier without any realistic idea of where the other $50+ mil will come from is causing all of this mess? CalTrans is on record as opposing the city’s plan for Rainier as well as the EIR for Deer Creek which includes it in traffic mitigations. Don’t you think that CalTrans has some input into how the state decides what redevelopment funds will be approved for highway related projects? Stop and consider the needs of the people instead of your own whims for once.

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  16. Stopping redevelopment save short term money, but it will create long term issues.

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  17. Dogs Rule says:

    “The $28 million budget for the East Washington-101 project includes $4 of redevelopment funding, which the city approved in 2005.”

    $4 is not going to go very far.

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  18. Morgan says:

    Petaluma has done nothing but build more homes and upgrade a few intersections with their money when they’ve needed to fix these highway projects for years, I can’t say it takes any skin off my back to just skip around that hole in the wall sewage smelling town, and their desires. Deny the appeal, lets get America back on track before we even think about self centered Petaluma. They can secede themselves from the entire country for all I care.

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  19. Jim Bennett says:

    Taxpayers protest $34. million in ‘City Projects’.

    Since when do they care about traffic flow?

    They want the taxpayer money to flow.

    How can they misappropriate without appropriations?

    Tightening their belt like the rest of us might be…appropriate.

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