By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Santa Rosa planning commissioner who abstained last week from a key vote on the Coddingtown mall Target project because of a
conflict resigned the following day, thus allowing him to be replaced quickly before an upcoming re-hearing of the project.
The replacement is a Chamber of Commerce member with clear pro-business credentials.
Shaun Faber, co-owner of residential design and architecture firm Farrell-Faber & Associates, didn’t vote last Thursday on whether to reconsider the commission’s prior approval of a permit for a 143,000-square-foot Target to replace the empty Gottschalks building.
Faber’s abstention, when combined with the absence of Commissioner Peter Stanley, allowed the reconsideration vote to pass 3-2. He later explained that he abstained because he had done work for Codding Enterprises.
Commissioners voting to reconsider the issue said they were concerned that a Target official had overstated the percentage of jobs that would be full-time at the new store.
John Dewes, a Target regional development manager, acknowledged he “unintentionally inverted” the full-time and part-time figures when he claimed that 60 percent of workers would be full-timers. He later apologized and provided the commission with figures clarifying that between 35 and 45 percent of Target workers are typically full time.
Those who voted against reconsideration said the employment issue, while an unfortunate mistake, had nothing to do with the permit and would create unnecessary delay.
Critics of Target’s employment practices seized on the episode as further evidence of why a “community impact report” exploring the various economic and social impacts of the project should be required, such as was done in San Rafael last year. There is no such requirement in Santa Rosa.
The commission’s decision to reconsider its earlier vote means that issue will return to the commission July 12. If Faber remained on the commission, he wouldn’t be able to vote on the issue then, either. That could have set up a scenario of a 3-3 vote on July 12, which would have further held up the project.
But on Friday, Faber sent an email to City Councilman Jake Ours, who had appointed him to the commission, informing him that he was resigning “effective immediately” because of his “recently increased business obligations and travel schedules” that will conflict with “many upcoming commission duties.”
Faber said in an interview that he is part owner of a startup company, hybridCore Homes, and that its business is “suddenly kind of exploding,” requiring him to travel extensively and likely miss future commission meetings.
Faber has been on the commission for a year and a half, but served for several years previously, as well as on the city’s Design Review Board.
He didn’t resign specifically to allow himself to be replaced prior to the next Target vote, he said. But he acknowledged that his abstention made it “a little more glaring” that such conflicts have consequences. He said he would have voted against reconsideration, a proposal he called “absurd.”
Ours agreed that Faber’s resignation was tied to his inability to vote on the Target project.
“I don’t think it helped it any,” Ours said.
Ours said he did not ask Faber to resign. But it didn’t take him long to find a replacement. He quickly reached out to Curt Groninga, retired assistant superintendent at Santa Rosa Junior College, whom Ours said he met at “at various social functions.”
Groninga served on the Charter Review Committee and is a member of the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Council, which has a mission of promoting “a pro-business political environment.” The city received Groninga’s application Monday. The appointment becomes effective five days later.
“He’s a bright guy and we’re lucky that he said yes,” Ours said.
Groninga was out of town and not available for comment.
Ours said he did not tell Groninga how he felt about the Target decision, but did tell him to review pending commission items and past discussions in preparation for upcoming votes.
Asked about his opinion of the vote to reconsider the Target permit, Ours said “I thought it was a waste of time.”
You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or firstname.lastname@example.org.