By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Santa Rosa Planning Commission voted Thursday to reconsider the permit it granted for a Target
store at Coddingtown mall, citing inaccurate employment information provided by a company executive.
The commission voted 3-2 to revisit its June 14 vote approving the permit for a 143,000-square-foot store on the site of the former Gottschalks building.
Commissioner Caroline Banuelos said she wants new jobs to be created in Santa Rosa as much as anyone, but felt the commission should revote based on accurate data.
“I really think that anytime you take a vote the information has to be accurate, otherwise, in some ways, it’s a tainted vote,” Banuelos said.
Commissioner David Poulsen said he thought taking another vote was a bad idea because it would delay a project seen as helping revitalize the aging mall.
“I believe this is just a barrier to getting jobs quickly into our community,” Poulsen said.
The decision means the commission will re-vote on the use permit at its July 12 meeting.
John Dewes, a Target regional development manager, apologized to the commission for giving it wrong information about the company’s full-time to part-time employment ratio.
At the previous meeting, Dewes told the commission 60 percent of Target employees are full-time. He made the statement to rebut a claim by Marty Bennett, co-chair of the Sonoma County Living Wage Coalition, that most of the 200 to 250 jobs at the new store would be part-time and 37 percent of employees would receive health insurance.
In fact, between 35 and 45 percent of Target workers are full-time, with the balance being part-timers, Dewes explained in a follow-up letter to the commission. He said he had “unintentionally inverted” the full-time and part-time figures.
“It truly was an inadvertent mistake,” Dewes said.
Bennett, who didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting, urged the commission in a letter to require a community impact report for the project to ensure the commission receives accurate and detailed information.
“We think this is a big victory for good governance. We can’t have good planning if we don’t have good information,” Bennett said.
Several business representatives, including contractors hoping to bid on the project, urged the commission not to delay it. Stephen Schofield, an executive with North Coast Bank, told the commission that Target would bring jobs that are “sorely needed in this community.”
Construction of the new store is expected to create 300 jobs, said Kirstie Moore, development manager for mall co-owner Codding Enterprises. She called the decision “very unfortunate.”
The project received final design review approval last week. The decision will further extend the approval process for a project the mall had hoped to begin work on this year, Moore said.
“Everybody struggled when Gottshalks closed its doors, and we have worked very hard with our partner to try and find a replacement,” Moore said.
The mall is co-owned by Simon Properties, the largest mall owner in the nation. Gottshalks closed in 2009 and the two-story building remains vacant. It will be demolished to make way for the Target.
The vote might have been different if all seven commissioners had been present. Peter Stanley, who was absent, had previously said he didn’t think the new information would have changed his vote. Commissioner Shaun Faber abstained from the vote.
Commission Patti Cisco joined Poulsen in voting against reconsideration, saying that while it was regrettable the employment information was wrong, it wasn’t “pertinent to our decision.”
Also voting for reconsideration were commissioners Curtis Byrd and Vicki Duggan.