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GUEST OPINION: The reasons why Sebastopol’s CVS/Chase debate will continue


Early Wednesday, the Sebastopol City Council, by a split 3-2 vote, allowed the controversial Chase/CVS development to go forward, with a couple of conditions.

However, the struggle against Chase/CVS is far from over, for at least two main reasons — a pending lawsuit and the upcoming City Council elections. Opponents continue organizing to prevent these two major corporations from anchoring the downtown commons.

Shepherd Bliss.

The pending lawsuit by the Small Town Sebastopol Committee is now likely to go to court in an attempt to stop the project on the grounds that it violates the California Environmental Quality Act. “The lawsuit alleges that an adequate traffic study has never been done and violates CEQA,” commented activist Helen Shane after the council’s decision. Armstrong has twice requested extensions of the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 6, residents of Sebastopol will vote to fill two seats on the council. This development may dominate that election. Of the four viable candidates running, two have come out against the development, Robert Jacob and John Eder. If either is elected, they would replace outgoing Councilman Guy Wilson, who voted for the development, and could shift the vote to 3-2 against the project.

The Press Democrat’s Tuesday editorial alleges that there are no “good reasons” to reject the controversial Chase/CVS anchoring Sebastopol’s downtown commons. I’m mentioned in that editorial, and I would like to summarize a few of the numerous good reasons for rejecting this development.

First, traffic, traffic, traffic, as in location, location, location. A 2010 Press Democrat article reported that of some 80 cities within its population range, Sebastopol had the second highest number of fatal and injury accidents. The corner that Chase and CVS covet is one of the most congested in Sonoma County. Highways 116 and 12 bisect our small town and create huge traffic problems, not only for cars but for pedestrians, bikes and emergency vehicles. The two drive-thrus proposed would worsen pollution and chaotic climate change. That “twice as much parking” that the PD lauds is part of the problem. Many Sebastopudlians are trying to move beyond a car-centric culture.

Second, the majority of those who have spoken at the meetings over the past two years oppose this development. Many are likely to continue that opposition. At the most recent public hearing, 43 people testified against it and only 17 for it.

Third, the Design Review Board has rejected the proposal numerous times, recently by a 4-1 vote. The Armstrong Development changes were cosmetic, not substantial.

Fourth, the proposed strip mall is totally out of character with the sweet downtown commons of our small town, with stores such as Screaming Mimi Ice Cream, Slice of Life restaurant, Hairmaster Salon and Infusion Tea and Chocolate. On the other hand, Sebastopol has welcomed the large, nearby Barlow Project, which is under construction, since it will be occupied by local businesses, will create new jobs and will circulate money here.

Finally, the editorial agrees that porn shops should not be allowed there. So it is contradictory to say that something far more dangerous should be approved. Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., has been responsible for giving subprime loans and then foreclosing on many homes, which often bankrupt people, who also lose their jobs. Chase’s predatory banking practices do considerable damage to people’s lives. Chase preys on the poor and vulnerable. Our City Council needs to be lawmakers and consider how to deal with law-breakers, such as Chase and CVS. It is important to consider the consequences of our actions, such as allowing them to anchor our commons. Given that the resistance to Chase/CVS is expected to continue, as will the economic downturn, it remains to be seen if it will ever be built.

Many other “good reasons” for rejecting Chase/CVS have been voiced by literally hundreds of people at meetings, online and in local publications. The essence of our objections is that these big chains would rob small town Sebastopol’s people of money, taking it out of the county, as well as damage our heart and soul.

Shepherd Bliss farms in the Sebastopol countryside, teaches part-time at Sonoma State University and has authored more than two dozen books.

17 Responses to “GUEST OPINION: The reasons why Sebastopol’s CVS/Chase debate will continue”

  1. Ryno says:

    In response to his so called reasons…..

    Reason One: Traffic?! There will always be traffic, there has always been traffic. What are the actual numbers? There was one fatal accident in 2009…and what were the causes of the accidents. Not really a valid reason until you give us the facts. Plus, isn’t it possible that the tax money that comes in from all of the establishments involved can help improve the roadway at the location and around the city. Just a thought….
    Reason Two: 43 vs. 17 people have spoken for and against the project. Within city limits the population is approx. 8000…add the thousands outside of city limits and it’s a greater number. I’m sorry, but those 43 people don’t speak for me, I speak for myself and the last time I looked that’s why we vote? Not a valid reason
    Reason Three: The DRB is in place to keep the specs within the views of what Sebastopol wants. If they reject it and then approve the changes then there’s really no problem.
    Reason Four: What’s wrong with a strip mall? Does that not provide more jobs and keep the money circulating in the area as well? I would think the other establishments would welcome more foot traffic in the area as they are potential customers. Thus bringing in more income….what a thought.
    Reason Five: Are you really going to compare a porn shop to a bank? Are you one of the ignorant people that haven’t realized that banks also have value. Banking is a business as well, and the last I looked if you don’t make money you are no longer in business. Plus Chase already has a branch in Sebastopol…I know the banking industry did some questionable things, but we still need banks. Banks still provide loans to small businesses that open up establishments in small towns like Sebastopol. If there was only one bank in the city and it was Chase, but you really needed a loan, would you still not go to them and get a loan? And on your comment about coming down on lawbreakers, I don’t think the city has extra money to litigate against a bank like Chase when the Federal Government won’t do anything as well. Oh, and I would like to know what laws CVS has broken? Please tell me.

    I would love to know what you think should be done with the property. As it stands right now…nothing is being done with it…and if you want to build a park, where is that money going to come from, and who has to maintain it? Why put the current owner of the property in a position where they are paying property taxes with no income coming in from it. So they can be bankrupt too? I don’t get it. Evolution is something we can’t ignore. Growth is what keeps towns going. If you don’t have growth the town is no longer sustainable. There is an opportunity to create more jobs and have more tax money coming in but yet environmentalists don’t want it because it can cause harm, but then they complain that there aren’t any jobs and wonder why cities run out of money.
    In my opinion which everyone has a right to voice, these aren’t valid reasons….come up with some new ones that actually make sense

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  2. steve humphrey says:

    @ Bear and Bliss
    “Chase, the largest bank in the U.S., has been responsible for giving subprime loans and then foreclosing on many homes, which often bankrupt people, who also lose their jobs.”

    Evertime I hear this accusation, I think of a board of directors sitting around a conference table. Someone pipes up “hey, I know, let’s make loans on houses to people who we know can’t pay them back, that way we can foreclose on them and lose millions of dollars disposing of the property” while cheers go up in the rest of the board.

    Chase, and banks like them, were FORCED to make loans to to people they knew couldn’t pay them back by the left wing looney Democrats that you all are so fond of. Make the loans, or lose your charters.

    It’s all right in front of your nose if you choose to read about it.

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  3. Snarky says:

    Jim Stoops:

    The traffic may be horrible, but whose fault is that?

    I’ll point it out for you. Its the incompetent and often corrupt local and state government.

    Traffic doesn’t happen overnight. It takes years and years and years of gradual and expected growth of human population numbers.

    And if you think that the solution is to prevent growth, think again. Private property rules. Not government dictators.

    Where there is a need for further road improvements, we pay the government our taxes to get that accomplished. I might add, we don’t pay those taxes voluntarily… they steal that money from us via coercion and then, often, still fail to accomplish their job duties.

    The perfect example is highway 101 where the idiots of CalTrans boasted that they had it in the “plans” to improve vehicle capacity … but only 20 years AFTER the population had already exceeded the highway system.

    Don’t like traffic congestion? Put the blame where it belongs… right on the shoulders of a do-nothing, incompetent, greedy local and state government that concerns itself with enriching its employees long before it considers us, the public.

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  4. Larry the Cable Guy says:

    I don’t care who you are, that’s funny!

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  5. jim stoops says:

    The traffic on Hwy 12 / Bodega Ave is horrific during commute hours, going in both directions and is no fun on holidays. This issue is unaddressed in the CVS/Chase proposal. How can this be so? This proposal is extremely opposed by the people of Sebastopol. What gives?

    Dr Bliss is a very intelligent, well informed and compassionate person who is willing to speak truth to power. This I know to be true. He deserves to be listened to.

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  6. David Wells says:

    Way off base Greg.

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  7. Ron Sondergaard says:

    Since Mr Bliss thinks he knows best for Sebastopol, Maybe he should move back to San Francisco where he likely came from. No one should be allowed to speak for Sebastopolians unless their family has lived in the county for 50+ years. The first problem isn’t “traffic” its hippies, hippies, hippies.
    My only sadness would be the likely elimination of the Pellini building. Here’s a better suggestion people: Let’s bring in Cabelas for a nice shop there. They can have an indoor shooting range, and even a Chick fil a to further benefit my town.

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  8. Note to Shepherd Bliss, David Wells, and everyone else who thinks their anti-growth, anti-business, anti-human fringe ideas should be codified into city ordinances:

    Use the free market that made this country great to keep Chase/CVS out of your precious little socialist enclave. Hold mass demonstrations. Organize a boycott in advance. Collect petitions. Get enough support from the community that no citizen will patronize these businesses, then Chase/CVS will give up on Sebastopol for the dry well that it is. Heck, I’d even support you myself, since I prefer local mom and pop businesses.

    But do not — repeat not — undermine the basic tenets of liberty that built this country by expecting a local government to deny a legal business the legal rights we all enjoy as citizens. That is a slippery slope towards dictatorship, and it is contemptible.

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  9. Sarkyfish says:

    “the struggle?” There’s something odd and creepy about this cat. Shepard? Bliss? He’s a Pied-Piper of what: sexuality or some kind of goofy, new-age enlightenment? What was his given name and when did he change it? When a name appears fraudulent everything follows.

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  10. David Wells says:

    You can go five miles in any direction and find your convieance store. It’s not wanted. Get that thru your thick skulls. Your snide comments and name calling will get you nowhere. Small minds attack with name calling, like hallucinatory children.

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  11. Missy says:

    Ohhh Shep: shouldn’t you be railing against this because WHITE MEN will go to CVS? And WHITE MEN will get prescriptions from CVS? Whereas WOMEN ARE PROEGRESSIVES & won’t SHOP @ CVS because they are NATURALLY SMARTER than men.

    Let’s look at Shep’s past quotes:

    “There’s a dangerous, angry mood in the country today. The people who brought to power these right wingers were white males. The largest gender gap ever in history occurred in this election. Women were much more progressive in their voting. There does seem to be a backlash of white males who are reacting to some of the gains of women. Some men are feeling a lot of fear today, in terms of work, in terms of changing family structures. But these are not the mythopoetic men.

    I don’t fall in line behind all these so-called “family values.” They’re often homophobic. They’re often a way of putting down single men. I don’t think because a man is a father that he’s any better than any other man. The Republicans are thinking of giving a big tax break to children. I think we should give a tax break to people who don’t have children. The biggest problem in the world today is over-population. We don’t need more incentives to have children.

    America consumes by far the greatest percentage of unrenewable resources in the Earth, particularly fossil fuels. We’re very dominating, very controlling of nature. Humans have become thieves. I live in the Cunningham Marsh. Developers want to come in here and take the homes of salamanders, fresh water shrimp, and owls and put six human homes in what today is thousands of homes for wildlife. This march of technology, of development into the marsh which provides habitat for wildlife, is messing this whole beautiful place up.

    We need to return to the cooperative masculinity that men used to harvest food, raise barns, and volunteer to fight fires together. We lost that and replaced it with a competitive technological masculinity. The problem is not masculinity; it’s technological masculinity. We as men need to take our economic and political privilege, admit that we have it, and use it to do good.”


    I’m just wondering Mr. Bliss, are you SHARING your AWFUL CAPITALIST DOLLARS on your farm, your awful TAX DOLLARS from SSU with other people or are you just keeping it all to yourself?

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  12. bill says:

    busy intersection needs parking

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  13. bear says:

    None of these personal attacks on Shepherd Bliss and his chickens say a thing about the many valid points he raises.

    This is what anyone would describe as the “signature location” in Sebastopol.

    Do RESIDENTS OF SEBASTOPOL (not outside commenters) want a crooked bank and a corporate drug dispensary to occupy this critical site?

    The jobs created would be mostly low-paying, any profits would go outside the city, and these tenants could disappear overnight.

    The actual buildings and asphalt will be there for the grandchildren of us all to deal with.

    Can we strive for wisdom?

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  14. Joyce Garcia says:

    LOL Too easy…..Is ignorance bliss? I’ll let you be the judge!

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  15. Skippy says:

    A committed communist laughing all the way to the bank to deposit his SSU paycheck, consisting of dollars confiscated from actual working Californians.
    He is the best reason ever to dissolve every shred of Big Govt Education and Indoctrination.
    It will be a great day when whack-jobs like this guy are on display as reminders of a time when this State was run by hallucinatory children.

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  16. Many on this board will be critical of Dr, Bliss, but I urge you to give him some slack. Now that Jonah Raskin is no longer polluting young minds at SSU, Shep has to work twice as hard. Of course, he is eminently qualified.

    From this review on RateMyProfessor.com:
    This was the WORST teacher I have EVER had- hands down. He brought his two pet chickens to class and we had to listen to one of them lay an egg for the 3.5 hour class. I paid HOW much to take this class only to listen to a chicken lay an egg? Didn’t ask anyone if they were allergic to birds, either- just did i

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  17. GAJ says:

    Temper tantrum much?

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