Quantcast
 
Loading
WatchSonoma
WatchSonoma Watch

GUEST OPINION: Quixote alive and well in Sebastopol

By GRANT BARNES

By now the rest of Sonoma County is probably tired of hearing about Sebastopol’s tempest-in-a-teapot fight over the relocation of two retail outlets, one for Chase Bank, the other CVS Pharmacy. But larger issues are involved, some derived from national politics, some with comical overtones.

Grant Barnes.

First, a little background. An old, run-down auto dealership used to occupy a corner where the two state highways intersect in the center of town; readers may recall seeing the several classic cars that were displayed in Pellini Chevrolet’s windows on the site. It was a good location for a business that thrives on traffic, and this is why Chase and CVS and its agent, Armstrong Development, have been willing to endure years of petty politics over the design of new structures, driveways and a parking lot. Bear in mind that both of these firms are already located in Sebastopol, but in a shopping mall that is fed by only one of the highways, Highway 116.

The claim is made that if these two firms are permitted to proceed with their plans, traffic through town will increase and pedestrians will be discouraged from what they do best, which is to walk about town and buy stuff. Small-town stuff, such as incense candles, body oil and ice cream cones. If we allow cars to drive in and out of a parking lot to pick up a prescription or visit an ATM, they say, we are encouraging our “sweet” small town to become just another impersonal, noisy, polluting, car-centric haven for strip malls.

The problem with these objections is that Sebastopol is a classic crossroads town. Most of our traffic consists of people on their way to and from the Russian River or Bodega Bay. Sebastopol’s business community thrives on the stops made by travelers seeking goods and services; most of its sales are made to customers, whether residents or travelers, arriving and departing by auto.

It is bizarre to suppose that the town can be reconstituted as an old-timey pedestrian-centric village simply by harassing a developer who wants to rebuild on property that is now an eyesore. A property that has always been valued precisely for its accessibility to passing motorists. The demand for an environmental impact study is a stalling tactic and a misuse of that important safeguard.

The group of activists that has been opposed to the development is working out its hostility to Big Pharma and Wall Street. Shepherd Bliss, in his Close to Home piece (“The reasons why Sebastopol’s CVS/Chase debate will continue,” Aug. 10), spends a long paragraph berating those two behemoths in the same language favored by the Occupy movement. Bliss, to his credit, in my opinion, has previously written in support of the larger goals of that same movement.

The people who attend Sebastopol’s increasingly contentious City Council meetings reflexively hiss and boo at the mention of big business. They have also opposed two of the candidates for City Council, Kathy Austin and Kathleen Shaffer, both of them hard-working and accomplished women who have chosen a more moderate approach.

So it comes down to this: a romanticized past is hypothesized as a counter to the change that comes about through the natural ebb and flow of business cycles, shopping habits, and the needs and expectations of a market town. Design criteria are invented on the fly as an impediment to property owners seeking the “highest and best use” of what they own, as they are entitled by law to do. Environmental preservation is invoked in a chain of flimsy causality.

Citizens frustrated by gridlock in Washington and misbehavior on Wall Street lash out at any local outlet for mega-corporations whether or not their presence in town is a net good. Principles of law and fair play are treated as notional. In sum, the future of a small town and the most basic rights of its commercial property owners are threatened by hostility to businesses that are not locally owned.

(Grant Barnes of Sebastopol is director emeritus of Stanford University Press.)





18 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: Quixote alive and well in Sebastopol”

  1. Mac E. Velli says:

    Hey, Helen Shane! Public good is whatever you say it is, right?

    Or is it MOB RULE?

    Or as my grandma used to say, Who died and made you God?

    Why didn’t you all get together and BUY the land at the crossroads? Then you could make your little fantasy perfect public good teepee right there.

    The phoniness, the arrogance, the self-righteousness of the so-called progressives sucks. What happened to Democrats? We’re getting played by these phonies who are twisting us into knots.

    Like flies to men’s eyes are we to the gods–King Lear.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. LCM says:

    Thanks Sebastopol Mom for your level-headed and reasonable response. I am tired of the name-calling and hate radio sound bites that are used in the name of “logic” and “reason”. There are real people who live here in Sebastopol, not just hippie freaks or confederate flag wavers. We need a town that works for us.
    We can set aside the fact that this is a CVS/Chase development and simply look at site design. These buildings will far outlast CVS and Chase. A big thanks to the DRB and City Council for getting real windows in the CVS building. I still have concerns about the mid-block entry on Pet. Ave. but it’s an improvement on the previous entrance/egress. And I am happy to see the shift away from planting redwoods along Sebastopol Ave. Nothing against redwoods, I just don’t think they are appropriate next to buildings and streets.
    Just a few things to consider outside of the tired rehashing of stereotyped arguments.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

  3. Sebastopol Marty says:

    Helen Shane your response to this well developed and thoughtful piece by Grant Barnes is bias and not based on fact as usual for Small Minded Sebastopol. You cannot stand it that others now are involved in the process and you do not get you way. You represent a small minority many like Bliss and Kramer and Nelson do not live in the city nor can they vote for the council! So sorry Helen!

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 6

  4. Ms. Shane, in one eight-word sentence, described everything that is wrong with city planners and their faux moral authority they claim

    “Property rights do not trump the public good.”

    How smug. How totally wrong. This pious progressive, who did who-knows-how-much damage to legitimate businesses during her tenure as Sebastopol Planning Commissioner, demonstrates that she is a communitarian instead of a constitutionalist.

    Perhaps she would feel differently if the public good dictated that Occupy Sebastopol deserves a permanent camp, which should be built on her front lawn, justifiably trumping her property rights.

    Thumb up 15 Thumb down 9

  5. jody hampton says:

    Where’s Ernie Joyner when we need him?

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  6. bill says:

    Barnes makes a reasoned counter to what has become a major issue over land use in the center of town.

    It would be better if the antique cars remained there as a nice attraction. But since they have gone elsewhere the land is a battleground.

    The location is a busy intersection. Locating business that will cause traffic issues is a bad move. Better to convert the land to parking for existing nearby business.

    Thumb up 9 Thumb down 9

  7. Sebastopol Mom says:

    I would like to take issue with some of the comments in the article about what our town IS and should be used for. It is both a crossroads for not only tourists on their way to other places, but the ~50K people who live in the surrounding areas, and also a community of people ~8K who live within town.

    I live here with my family, and have watched traffic increase to non-sustainable levels throughout our town. So much so that we frequently drive around town and shop in other corridors. As for walking around town and shopping–we don’t buy scented candles and body oils, but we do like to go out to dinner, the movies, the bookstore, and show our children that our neighbors live and work to build a community here, which means frequenting the interesting, alternative shops on our way to those places. Because our town is not very walkable these days, due to street layout and the need to cross several streets, traffic, the lack of barriers and greenery between sidewalks and street, and lack of parking, it’s not very friendly to those of us who do live here. We would bike to town, but we may not survive the trip, or that’s how it feels, anyway.

    Moreover, on the subject of CVS and Chase versus the hippy-style stores, we have ceased going to CVS entirely because of pharmacy errors, as well as not wanting to expose our children to the beer-buying clientele who seem to be frequenting CVS at 10 AM in the morning. The quality of the products and services CVS provides has plummeted since the Longs acquisition.

    While I agree that the Pellini site needs development, that area of town deserves quality commerce. I regret that Real Goods, or another strong, independent brand that would provide meaningful local employment and would align with our town’s vision of local growth could not be part of the conversation here. And I would like to see the real data that most of our traffic is people heading to the Russian River or Bodega Bay, as your editorial indicates. I think a traffic study should have been the very first step here.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 13

  8. Sarkyfish says:

    On my way to Bodega Bay I NEVER stop in Sebastopol because the smell of scented candles and double, goat milk lattes make me nauseous. However, I would be willing to stop for Grant Barnes if he needs a quick getaway, which, I fear, may now be the case. The man is far too intelligent for the progressive pod-people who will soon stalk his life.

    Thumb up 22 Thumb down 9

  9. Helen Shane says:

    Here are my responses to some of Mr. Barnes’ opinions. Helen Shane

    By GRANT BARNES
    By now the rest of Sonoma County is probably tired of hearing about Sebastopol’s tempest-in-a-teapot fight over the relocation of two retail outlets, one for Chase Bank, the other CVS Pharmacy. But larger issues are involved, some derived from national politics, some with comical overtones.

    Response: Well, that’s a pretty supercilious characterization of community involvement.

    Grant Barnes.
    First, a little background. An old, run-down auto dealership used to occupy a corner where the two state highways intersect in the center of town; readers may recall seeing the several classic cars that were displayed in Pellini Chevrolet’s windows on the site.

    Response:
    The property owners allowed the site to become run down. Then added an anchor fence to complete the look,

    It was a good location for a business that thrives on traffic, and this is why Chase and CVS and its agent, Armstrong Development, have been willing to endure years of petty politics

    Response:
    Mr. Barnes describes the public democratic process as “petty politics”.

    over the design of new structures, driveways and a parking lot. Bear in mind that both of these firms are already located in Sebastopol, but in a shopping mall that is fed by only one of the highways, Highway 116.
    The claim is made that if these two firms are permitted to proceed with their plans, traffic through town will increase and pedestrians will be discouraged from what they do best, which is to walk about town and buy stuff. Small-town stuff, such as incense candles, body oil and ice cream cones.

    Response:
    Mr. Barnes’ condescending characterization some of the shops and its customers.

    If we allow cars to drive in and out of a parking lot to pick up a prescription or visit an ATM, they say, we are encouraging our “sweet” small town to become just another impersonal, noisy, polluting, car-centric haven for strip malls.
    The problem with these objections is that Sebastopol is a classic crossroads town. Most of our traffic consists of people on their way to and from the Russian River or Bodega Bay. Sebastopol’s business community thrives on the stops made by travelers seeking goods and services; most of its sales are made to customers, whether residents or travelers, arriving and departing by auto.

    Response:
    Mr. Barnes appears to be getting his statistics somewhere other than objective surveys.

    It is bizarre to suppose that the town can be reconstituted as an old-timey pedestrian-centric village simply by harassing a developer who wants to rebuild on property that is now an eyesore. A property that has always been valued precisely for its accessibility to passing motorists. The demand for an environmental impact study is a stalling tactic and a misuse of that important safeguard.

    Response:
    Mr Barnes appears to be a little confused here. An Environmental Impact Study is an important safeguard.

    The group of activists that has been opposed to the development is working out its hostility to Big Pharma and Wall Street. Shepherd Bliss, in his Close to Home piece (“The reasons why Sebastopol’s CVS/Chase debate will continue,” Aug. 10), spends a long paragraph berating those two behemoths in the same language favored by the Occupy movement. Bliss, to his credit, in my opinion, has previously written in support of the larger goals of that same movement.
    The people who attend Sebastopol’s increasingly contentious City Council meetings reflexively hiss and boo

    Response:
    Mr Barnes has used hyperbole here that is not effective or factual.

    at the mention of big business. They have also opposed two of the candidates for City Council, Kathy Austin and Kathleen Shaffer, both of them hard-working and accomplished women who have chosen a more moderate approach.

    Response:
    Kathy Austin and Kathleen Shaffer do work hard. No argument there.

    So it comes down to this: a romanticized past is hypothesized as a counter to the change that comes about through the natural ebb and flow of business cycles, shopping habits, and the needs and expectations of a market town.

    Response:
    The General Plan, EIRs and Design Review Board are in place to rein in development that would change the very nature of our town, without regard for its character or pedestrian safety. The purpose of these devices are to try to ensure that no unintended consequences will result from development that would destroy the essence of our town….pedestrian friendly and safe, and community based..

    “natural flow etc. is governed by rules and regulations designed to Design criteria are invented on the fly as an impediment to property owners seeking the “highest and best use” of what they own, as they are entitled by law to do. Environmental preservation is invoked in a chain of flimsy causality.
    Citizens frustrated by gridlock in Washington and misbehavior on Wall Street lash out at any local outlet for mega-corporations whether or not their presence in town is a net good. Principles of law and fair play are treated as notional. In sum, the future of a small town and the most basic rights of its commercial property owners are threatened by hostility to businesses that are not locally owned.

    Response:
    Property rights do not trump the public good.

    (Grant Barnes of Sebastopol is director emeritus of Stanford University Press.)

    Helen Shane, former Sebastopol Planning Commissioner and 31 year resident in the Sebastopol Community. Co-founder of Committee for Small Town Sebastopol.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 30

  10. David Wells says:

    Really? That’s laughable. Seems this side kicks and screams as much if not more than the other, for convenience. Ridiculous.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 15

  11. Jean Anderson says:

    It’s good to see sane people actually still live in Sebastopol. The kind with critical thinking skills who can articulate excellent, persuasive arguments based on logic.

    A nice change from the usual garbage spewed by left-wing bozos who seem to litter our Sonoma County landscape.

    Is there actually a glint of hope for saving this county from self-destruction? One wonders.

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 10

  12. Jim Bennett says:

    The heavy breathing in the backround of this issue is the Council’s resolve to install Smart Growth at that location.
    The fact that the site’s desireability is largely from it’s automobile access is to be sabotaged by ICLEI ideology, not fostered. As cronie’s, there’s would be to make it a ‘Complete Street’. Put it on a ‘Road Diet’ (I call ‘em business diets), bottleneck the Hwys., install a center island, lots of obtrusive crosswalks.

    Grant’s employing common sense.

    The Council’s trying to appease ICLEI for that grant money.

    The heavy breathing is from ICLEI.
    The 800 lb. gorilla in that big room.
    In the way of Sebastopol’s fiscal and Free Market economy, our Freedoms, Property Rights, their agricultural roots and all meaningful governmental decisions.

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 5

  13. Sebastopol Marty says:

    Thanks Grant for presenting some reason instead of the Self-proclaimed Sebastopol Mr. Bliss and his garbage.

    Thumb up 23 Thumb down 6

  14. Skippy says:

    In the spirit of mob rule, this thoughtful, reasonable man will likely be pilloried, shunned, harassed and blacklisted. The political is personal to his opponents. These days you publish at your peril, but do vote out the intolerant progressives every chance you get.

    Thumb up 20 Thumb down 5

  15. David J. Spencer says:

    I strongly second the opinions expressed by GAJ, Greg Karraker, and Missy. I fall into the category of traveler who goes from Santa Rosa to Bodega Bay and back, and I also shop at CVS and bank at Chase. I would love it if these two important businesses would be conveniently located en route.

    And I thank Mr. Grant Barnes for taking time out to put his well-reasoned thoughts into this forum.

    Thumb up 27 Thumb down 7

  16. Missy says:

    Awesome guy.

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 7

  17. This is unquestionably the best, sanest guest opinion in ages, and a welcome antidote to the unhinged rants of Shepherd Bliss.

    Thank you, Mr. Barnes. Thank you, PD.

    Thumb up 30 Thumb down 9

  18. GAJ says:

    Logic will get you nowhere Mr. Barnes.

    But bravo for trying to shed some rationality on yet another issue that throws Sebastopol’s “activists” into temper tantrums.

    Thumb up 26 Thumb down 7

Leave a Reply