WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa council sidetracks transit-oriented plan for Coddingtown area


A plan to encourage development of a transit-oriented community around a future train station got sidetracked Tuesday by Santa Rosa City Council members concerned that the 300-page plan was overreaching and lacking the support of Coddingtown mall.

John Nemeth, center, planning manager for SMART, lead a tour of the north Santa Rosa station site at the train crossing on Guerneville Road near Coddingtown Mall, June 16, 2010. (PD File)

The council spent four hours picking apart the long-range plan before directing staff to strip out several proposals that Coddingtown officials said would hinder the very economic development the plan sought to foster.

Kirstie Moore, development manager of mall co-owner Codding Enterprises, said plans for streets and bicycle paths across its properties would create “excessive undue economic hardship” for the mall.

The goal of the plan is to encourage more people to live around the train station just west of the mall to support ridership for the $360 million Sonoma Marin Area Transit train. It calls for tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure improvements aimed at making it easier for people to get to the station by bicycle, foot and car.

Moore said the mall agrees with the idea of increasing housing densities in the area and encouraging economic development, but the plan as drafted would require the taking of private property and harm mall operations.

She said the mall opposes plans for the extension of Coffey Lane, the construction of three roundabouts on Range Avenue and two bicycle paths running across mall parking lots.

Councilman Scott Bartley said the city needs to take the mall’s concerns to heart because the owners will be a big part of whether the plan is successful.

“A major property owner is a citizen, too,” Bartley said. “I think we need to respect their concerns.”

He said it is more important than ever to work with property owners to achieve the city’s goals because otherwise nothing will get built.

“If we’re going to spend $500,000 on something, I’d like to be able to point to a success,” Bartley said.

Bartley and the three other council members in the majority supported stripping the higher-density zoning called “transit village” from an area south of the mall, leaving that designation for areas closer to the station.

But Councilwoman Susan Gorin called many of the changes Bartley was proposing — including eliminating the designation of certain streets as “complete streets” that called for bike lanes and wider sidewalks — “discouraging.”

“What you’re suggesting is we should throw (the plan) in the recycle bin!” an exasperated Gorin told Bartley.

Others pushed back against what they perceived as Codding Enterprises, the largest private landowner in the area, throwing its weight around.

Barbara Moulton, a member of the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, said she was disturbed to see the city’s planning processes “pushed around by a mall owner.”

Housing Advocate David Grabill said he found it ironic that the mall welcomed the station being built nearby on Guerneville Road, but then gripes about proposed locations of streets and bicycle and pedestrian paths needed to effectively get people to and from the station.

“They are making out like bandits,” Grabill said. “They’re already getting rich off their plan, but they are not satisfied.”

By increasing the housing densities on hundreds of properties in a half-mile circle around the station, the city estimates that over 20 years it could add 2,941 new housing units and more than a million square feet of office, retail and industrial space and nearly 6,000 new jobs.

A similar plan around the downtown SMART train station passed in 2007. An environmental impact report found the project would harm air quality and traffic in the area.

Comments from residents ranged from supportive to derisive. Ben Boyce, coordinator of the Accountable Development Coalition, called transit-oriented development “an evolutionary necessity.”

“We have to start becoming smarter about how we build our cities,” Boyce said.

Resident Kirsten Merrihew called the plan a “pie in the sky wish list and not a “solid workable plan.”

Not all the changes to the plan were sought by the mall.

One major one involved the proposed extension of Briggs Avenue north through Jennings and Edwards avenues south of the mall.

The problem is that the city’s Design Review Board just recently approved a 270-unit apartment complex right where that road would go. Because the plan was not yet approved, it couldn’t require the developer to incorporate it in their project.

The council agreed to strip Briggs Avenue from the plan. The council directed staff to return with many of the changes at its Sept. 18 meeting.

22 Responses to “Santa Rosa council sidetracks transit-oriented plan for Coddingtown area”

  1. indievoter says:

    Good point, Snarky. You are referring to the comprehensive annual financial reports, yes?

    And the most amusing thing about the charade of an supervisors race between Gorin and Sawyer is that Sawyer would win in a blowout (I’d say 80%-20%) if only he would call out Gorin on this very issue. Nobody wants to pay a tax for every mile they drive. The problem is that Sawyer is complicit. He knows what’s going on and he’s going to stand by and let it happen. It’s all a part of Agenda 21 being rolled out and all elected officials in Sonoma County are complicit in its implementation.

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  2. Snarky says:

    John Murphy:

    You seriously need to update yourself on the fate of shopping malls in America. :)

    Most are in a financial death spiral simply due to the changing landscape of the American shopper. i.e. online shopping, changing spending habits, retirement savings.

    So, in a sense you are correct even though you clearly don’t understand why. Coddingtown probably will not survive another 20 years.

    Just the same, the mall is private property. Got it? Your demands that the mall owner comply to your desires is pointless and childish. ;)

    The local government’s demands that private property owners comply with their Orwellian demands is scary but not surprising.

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  3. Snarky says:


    You just did me a huge favor by publicizing Gorin’s desire to help criminal government stick its dirty neck into our lives even more by mandating that we are tracked by GPS in our cars for the purpose of taxing us.

    She is one dangerous person and needs to be stopped in her public employment quickly.

    What was her employment background?

    The State of California and its various county and city governments have been exposed in their hoarding of cash via secret, non reported bank accounts. Gorin just doesn’t get that, I ‘m sure.
    The money is there… the criminal government just wants more.

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  4. @Vinyl and Richard: When progressives criticize conservatives, it’s “patriotic dissent.” When conservatives criticize progressives, it’s “hate-filled vitriol.”

    I do not belong to the Tea Party, and always use my real name. The emotion expressed by me and many others on this forum is a clear-headed look at highly questionable progressive beliefs, and righteous anger about the negative effect of many harmful progressive policies.

    Are there a few crazies on the right? Yes. Do they represent every Sonoma County conservative? No.

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  5. Vinyl Rules says:

    This forum is such a cesspool of hate and vitriol. Like Richard Padilla said, its good for our county that these hateful voices are not represented in local politics. They’ve got a lot more bark than bite. But I suppose they can always rally around gadfly George Barich…

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  6. Richard Padilla says:

    All the anti-goverment Tea Partiers on this website who are so quick to take sides with the mall owner and developers support John Sawyer. These are the same crazies who have made the Republican party a laughingstock. They may rule these boards with their fake identities but they are irrelevant in the county of Sonoma, thank God! Voters know that Susan Gorin will fight for Green, walkable and bike friendly neighborhood. As for me , all I need to know is that Susan Gorin is endorsed by the democratic party and the Sierra club and Sonoma Conservation Action and that John Sawyer is endorsed by the Business Alliance and the Republican Party. I am voting for Susan!

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  7. indievoter says:

    “I am glad Susan Gorin speaks up for us. She’s got my vote for Supervisor!”

    Really? The same Susan Gorin who is trying to push mandated installation of GPS tracking devices in our cars to tax us by the mile (through her unelected position on ABAG)?


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  8. BigDogatPlay says:

    I think I’ve figured out the progressives plan.

    They’re going to bankrupt the state into the next century, then walk away in success at ramming through all their utopian ideals and public works projects leaving it all to the immigrants who won’t know what to do with it, and won’t be able to pay the debt. Thus further preserving the scuffling underclass that buys into the progressive mantra of “government is your provider” because they are too blinded to see what has been done to them, so they will keep turning back to the progressives in a never ending quest for “reform”. Talk about keeping the brown man down……

    The undercurrent of institutional racist thinking that is at the core of the modern progressive movement is just astounding to me at times.

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  9. Steveguy says:

    @ Missy, Thank you for posting about Ben Boyce and his seemingly made up ‘organization’. I saw that too when I looked it up. I too wonder the funding.

    He must be one of those that is designated to ‘ create a consensus’ so that everybody has a feel good moment in the name of UN Agenda 21.

    At our expense for their myopic dreams, and a nightmare for us.

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  10. Jim Bennett says:

    ‘Complete Streets”.
    Let’s say you have a 5 lane thoroughfare., same configuration for decades. Lined with business’ that invested in the boulevard. based on it’s traffic count, accessability, parking and it’s long term investment potential.
    THEN, the town adopts an ICLEI Charter.
    ICLEI’s purpose is to implement UN Agenda 21 Sustainable Development on a local level. Since this is a complete Plan for complete control (oppression) it undermines that which represents freedom, independence and financial well being. Anti-car, anti-business, anti-private property. Crash the old, usher in the new; the New World Order.

    As such, you take this 5 lane boulevard, reduce it to 2 lanes with big prominent accomadation to bicycles.
    Then, you eliminate parking along the curb completely, or as much as the Progressives can get away with.
    Then, you install a big island down the middle as to prevent left turn access and the success of all those business’.
    Then, you make all the intersections
    ’roundabouts’. This is genius. It socially engineers polarity between motorists and cyclists is it deliberately creates an unsafe situation in which travel can’t co-exist easily, by design. It also undermines the investment and business potential of the property owner that paid a premium for the one or two minute captive audience the red light provided.
    A really ‘Complete Street’ would have the municipality steal six or eight feet ‘easement’ from the property owners frontage for a big wide sidewalk. Better yet, impose an ordinance that makes all the buildings conform to the Smart Growth model. Presence of the building all the way to the sidewalk, inconvenient parking always in the rear of the building. Make the builder install ‘Affordable Housing’ as part of their approval criteria.
    Time the lights poorly as possible, lots of obtrusive cross walks.

    These ‘projects’ also provide another important component, they crash coffers and perpetuate the over paid adherent bureacracy.

    If the roads can be reconfigured as to favor chosen big box retail and sabotage small business…all the better.

    You pay to screw yourself and your community.

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  11. Snarky says:

    Bill :

    Skip the personal, sniveling attacks on one political party or the other.

    Government is out of control and BOTH parties are to blame as they seek to enhance their own power, to enhance their own finances at public expense, and to pretend as if we really need all their pretend “services” that are hardly critical and mostly fluff and waste.

    See potholes in the roads? WHY are those not fixed?

    See cops congregating at the local coffee shop rather than rotating through their duties… and ask WHY… WHO is minding the patrols?

    See government boards of appointees running their mouths only to discover that those board members have next to zero employment skills and ask WHY.

    And when the usual governmental lie is muttered about “the recession,” remember that they never accept excuses from you when you pay a fee or tax late. The downturn in the economy didn’t happen overnight. The local and state governmental failure was and continues to be one of poor management and poor planning on their part.

    Got that Bill? BOTH parties are to blame. Quite sniveling.

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  12. Jim Bennett says:

    Don’t let private property, the people’s wishes, the budget or any other annoyances get in the way of the hardscape that the globalists want us in.

    This important item on the agenda started out with City Mgr. Kathy Millison stating to the citizens that they were “no longer members of ICLEI”.
    She obviously did so because anyone remotely familiar with the UN sponsored NGO knows that ‘Transit Villages’ and ‘Complete Streets’ are exactly what ICLEI is tasked with implementing.
    Our tax dollars are misappropriated to extort/bribe our public officials with grant money…these are the strings attached though.
    Big life changing strings.

    Of course the hard core progressives like Gorin and Wysocky pushed for the most complete implementation possible.

    What was so obvious as the reluctant acceptance of this plan unfolded was how unnatural it was. Because it isn’t natural. It’s not in response to our desires. This is to accomadate globalist desire to oppress, simple. This isn’t the natural free market/Democratic/civil dynamic that they are sworn to work with. This isn’t organic to our needs and priorities. This is globalist interest being imposed by local public servants whose loyalty has been bought, subverted and hijacked.

    They had this hour long paralysis from analysis as they looked in their 3 ring binders provided by ICLEI to ensure that their ‘Plan’ adhered to ICLEI’s definition of ‘Complete Streets’.

    During one long awkward pause I just couldn’t handle it anymore and yelled out “Google ICLEI Complete Streets there’s pages information”.

    These are not traditional city council meetings.

    They are Agenda 21 implementation charades that mimic a genuine process.

    Demand that your community’s sovereignty be restored.

    Demand that these followers govern for Americans, not globalists.

    Slaves don’t make demands.

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  13. John Murphy says:

    What kind of mall owner would not bend over backwards to have more customers living closer to their retail? One that is sure to go broke soon. Coddington is super dated and will get beat up unless they can leverage off this plan to reinvent themselves.

    Santa Rosa is struggling to keep up while places with housing in walkable distances of shopping and restaurants are going through the roof – places like SF, the Peninsula downtowns, downtown Oakland, Rockridge. Compare housing price directions in Santa Rosa (down) compared to places in walkable distance of even smaller towns like the Healdsburg with it’s Plaza (up up up).

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  14. Snarky says:

    Jay Behr:

    Coddingtown Mall and its owners are under no obligation to do anything for transportation unless the contract involved for the redevelopment money specifically stated a binding agreement.

    Although you state that the parking lot “can be seen from space” is none of your business. Its private property.

    I suspect you are one of the county transportation people who was greedily hoping to gain some financial advantage from the project.

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  15. Missy says:

    “Ben Boyce, coordinator of the Accountable Development Coalition, called transit-oriented development “an evolutionary necessity.”

    Who is Ben Boyce?

    “Ben Boyce
    Community Organizer
    San Francisco Bay Area | Public Policy
    Past: Coordinator at Accountable Development Coalition, Director at Living Wage Coalition, Operations Manager at Redwood Empire Food bank Education: Sonoma State University”

    His Accountable Development Coalition is a SHAM organization.

    “The Accountable Development Coalition has both organizational members and individual members, who collectively comprise the ADC’s Steering Committee.
    Organizational Members:
    Community Housing Sonoma County
    Concerned Citizens of Santa Rosa
    Greenbelt Alliance
    Housing Advocacy Group
    International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 551
    Leadership Institute for Ecology and the Economy
    Living Wage Coalition
    New Economy Working Solutions
    North Bay Labor Council
    Sonoma County Conservation Action
    Sonoma County Transportation and Land Use Coalition
    Sonoma County Young Democrats
    Sonoma, Mendocino and Lake County Building Trades Council
    Professional Members
    Steve Birdlebough
    Jessica Diaz
    Stephen Gale
    Julia Prange
    Sabrina Ross
    Scot Stegeman
    Sonia Taylor
    Terry Watt
    Ben Boyce”

    Of course there is no funding sourced on the link


    Ben Boyce’s objective and the objective of his nefarious organization is to PACK PEOPLE INTO OUR COUNTY, HELP OUT ILLEGAL ALIENS.

    None of this has anything to do with AMERICANS and the CITIZENS of SONOMA COUNTY.

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  16. John says:

    I wish I could have my vote back. I see only waste and corruption by the SMART board while they set up their taxpayer-paid pensions and benefits before an inch of track is used by trains.

    Meanwhile, the public sector unions will move in to staff the operations and further fleece those of us who pay for this fiasco.

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  17. Billy C says:

    I am glad they are putting the brakes on the runaway train village. As I see it we are facing a few realities here that just do not jive with the “ONE BAY AREA” agenda.
    First of all our white middle class population has been decreasing 1% a year for last 20 years. It will continue to do so as our educated young people seek better opportunity’s for themselves and there children’s education. In the mean time our Hispanic population has doubled
    and will double again soon. This means that our population will be over 80% Hispanic by 2035. What the city looks and feels like will be up to THEM!
    We need look south of the boarder to see our future not up to the UN or some “ABAG” dream. The other issue is money.
    We can not afford to maintain our current infrastructure and our situation may get a lot worse. Every time we lose a business we lose more income for the city and jobs. Every time we build a housing unit it COSTS the city money.
    Just maintaining the train alone will cost between 10 and 20 million a year.
    Why would we want to add the cost of transit villages when we cant provide
    jobs or services?
    I feel we need to address our reality’s before we bet money we do not have on a utopian dream.

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  18. Snarky says:

    Jay Behr (who posted here):

    Care to explain to the readers here just what exactly was spelled out in the redevelopment contract that you mentioned?

    Did the mall owners agree to surrendering their parking lot for any particular reason or was that simply your personal desire that you are mixing with reality?

    Something tells me you know nothing about the details of that contract. Prove me wrong.

    Acceptance of redevelopment money likely did nothing to obligate the mall owners to carving up their parking lot.

    If it can be seen from space, as you suggested, its none of your business just the same.

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  19. Jay Behr says:

    When I saw the paper this morning, my initial reaction was surprise at the arrogant brinksmanship of the Coddingtown Mall owners, who seem to forget that they recently received about $6M in redevelopment money (i.e. free money from the taxpayers) to upgrade the infra-structure of their mall. Apparently, the consultants and city staff had met with them rpeatedly to iron out the issues, but they chose to stick it to the plan in the paper and jam up the approval of a project that represents thousands of hours of staff time (more public money).

    The root of their beef is that, even though the SMART station will funnel traffic through their mall and improve the long-term viability of that aging 70′s behemoth with a gigantic parking lot that could be seen from outer space, they would not budge on losing even one parking space from their massively over-built parking lot, which is designed to meet maximum traffic on Black Friday in a boom year. The public be damned.

    Then my surprise gave way to annoyance, when I realized that for the “business-friendly” council members, one large commercial property owner outweighs, by a factor of ten, all the expert consultants, local residents, and good government nonprofit groups. That’s the corporate calculation that now runs America, and calls the tune for their political lackeys. Corporations are people, my friend. And they are big jerks.

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  20. Kirstin says:

    A great deal of time was consumed last night as the council tried to figure out what complete streets were. This, at a time when our city (and county too, of course) is falling farther and farther behind in road maintenance. Is the council really serious about spending precious time and money to do rather cosmetic things such as widen sidewalks and change striping (and construct dangerous little crossing islands (as on the corner of Guerneville and Range) while it allows the actual streets in many parts of the city to degrade? That certainly was what some of the council sounded like they were advocating, didn’t it? Santa Rosa MUST put the most important jobs first and leave the lesser ones for when the economy really, truly picks up (and that could be a while).

    I hope the council will take up the offer of one resident who asked them to take a walk around the neighborhood with him so he could show them the priorities here. The proposed plan pretends that we live in a much more affluent economy than we do. We can’t afford to build an expensive pedestrian/bike bridge, etc. Sure, the plan supposedly covers 20-25 years, but as Mr. Sawyer said, aren’t people 10 or 20 years from now, going to have their own ideas? Why is the plan so ambitious and so overreaching? Why didn’t the city develop a realistic, workable plan for right now that empowers property owners instead of trying to control them? Unless something unforeseen happens economically, there will be a SMART station by Guerneville and of course there will be some changes due to that. But, given our economy, we should look at how to encourage more businesses to move into the empty spaces in Coddingtown and in some of the commercial spaces nearby. We should also encourage projects to be built as quickly as possible on the old Los Robles property which is currently an eyesore. But the Coddingtown area has enough population (more than enough even according to MTC’s edicts) and doesn’t need big, high-density housing projects that will increase traffic and pollution (as the report last night admitted). The council should give this all even more thought before they approve anything. To their credit, most of the council did realize that the plan presented to them needed changes, but they did not go far enough.

    I also urge the mayor to please remember that people who come to speak before the council often prepare written remarks which they try to time to the usual 3 minutes allotted. When the mayor decides on the fly to change the time to 2 minutes, it can play havoc with speakers who have to edit on the fly too. And it prevents the speakers from fully making the points they intended.

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  21. bill says:

    “A major property owner is a citizen, too,” Bartley said. “I think we need to respect their concerns.”

    This is a recurring theme with small minded Republicans. Corporations, I must remind them are not citizens nor do or should they enjoy the benefits of humanity. Corporations are man made entities that are the source of much of our problems in the world today.

    Bartley and his ilk should realize the makeover of Coddingtown is in the best interests of the citizens and profoundly benefits the merchants of Coddingtown. For now the area has degenerated into a rat infested ghetto due to the negligence of the corporations who no long can make a buck there.

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  22. Sandra Hendricks says:

    Barley and his business buddies on the city council (Olivares, Sawyer, Ours) keep showing they care more about mallowners, real estate developers and asphalt plants than any of us citizens and our neighborhoods. I am glad Susan Gorin speaks up for us. She’s got my vote for Supervisor!

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