WatchSonoma Watch

Cotati scales back downtown redesign in wake of roundabout ban


Cotati officials who in 2011 happily settled on a controversial $3.5 million redesign of the downtown have altered their course following a ballot initiative that banned roundabouts from the city.

Cotati (PD FILE)

The passage of Measure U in November killed off the Village Main Street project, which would have narrowed Old Redwood Highway to two lanes and installed two roundabouts on a half-mile stretch that is Cotati’s commercial center.

Now the city is hurriedly trying to design a smaller project to achieve some of the same goals of making the downtown a more inviting area for residents, businesses and shoppers.

“It will include some of the elements that were in the prior project, but it’s much scaled back,” said City Manager Dianne Thompson.

The city must submit a new project proposal by February to keep a $1.1 million Metropolitan Transportation Commission grant that was to help pay for the Village Main Street plan. Measure U backers say that’s the sensible path — if the new plan does not add to the city’s debt.

“If they’ve got the money, why lose it,” said Rick Stewart, owner of Arch’s Glass. He said street resurfacing and landscaping, and signal lights to control traffic would be worthwhile improvements.

If it returns the MTC money, the city will be ineligible for additional grants for road and transit improvements for three years, Thompson said.

“I think that would just be an incredible loss for the community, not only to lose the money for downtown improvements but also to be disqualified for future grants,” said Councilman Mark Landman.

The money from the transportation commission — which has also awarded the city $1.5 million for a commuter train depot — can only be used for streetscape and pedestrian and bicycle features.

The council in December agreed to pay Omni-Means, an engineering and planning firm that designed the earlier plan, an additional $69,000 to redo the project proposal.

About $530,000 — from the city’s now disbanded redevelopment agency — has been spent on the project already for design work and planning, engineering and environmental studies, Thompson said. The new Omni-Means contract is to be paid with the city’s gas tax reserve funds, she said.

Landman and Thompson said the city lost out on a chance to remake its main street and bolster its economy with the passage of Measure U, which won with 57.5 percent of the vote.

“I think there was a lot of potential in that plan that people couldn’t see,” Landman said. “We had an opportunity to have a downtown that was as good a destination as any in this county, and that’s a vision that’s lost.”

“It’s a missed opportunity for significant economic development for the city,” Thompson said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.)

10 Responses to “Cotati scales back downtown redesign in wake of roundabout ban”

  1. James Bennett says:

    Correction Pat Gilardi not Janet Orchard will likely step down at the Wed. night Cotati Council meeting to be Gorin’s assistant.

  2. James Bennett says:

    They hired an ICLEI consultanting firm called Omni-Means. They’ll work together with these other UN sponsored NGOs to figure out a way to keep Cotati in compliance with their grant money eligibility.
    Part of which probably requires the main arterie to be a “Complete Street” if it intersects with the “Transportation Corridor.”
    See their future isn’t tied into pleasing their constituents.
    They see their future as being adherent minions to these globalist NGOs like ABAG, MTC and ICLEI.
    ICLEI’s purpose is to involve communities in the action plan that is UN Agenda 21/Sustainable Development.

    When One Bay area comes to town in the Spring I have no doubt that these traitors will sell out the freedoms of their neighbors.

    See that’s why they have such concrete resolve over this down town remake, in preparation for this oppressive opportunity.

    Now Janet Orchard is stepping down to be Susan Gorin’s assistant.

    Having George Barich replace her would be the natural choice, but they don’t want diversity. they’re freakin’ now ’cause because between this Measure U thing and George back in the picture, folks may see too much truth. If they force a special election and waste $20.k it’ll look bad, and he’d probably win.

    Stay tuned next week for another episode of “How a Free Republic Turns” sponsored by ICLEI.

  3. Dennis Anderson says:

    For years Del Mar was known as “Gasoline Alley” with nine service stations.
    Camino Del Mar (101) was termed “Bloody Alley” due to the frequent accidents. Then in 1967 when I-5 highway bypassed Del Mar, most businesses failed and Del Mar’s economic base virtually evaporated. What was needed to attract new shops and businesses to Del Mar was a vision of what Del Mar could be without I-5 traffic. To do so, a local group of residents and business interest prepared a brochure titled “Why Del Mar”.

    The report stated “Why” indeed should a city whose business community had deteriorated after being bypassed by I-5, emerge as potentially one of the finest semi-rural, walk able communities on the California Coast? That vision of what Del Mar could be attracted more than a dozen new businesses. A couple of those businesses were Virginia Igonda’s Earthsong Bookstore and George Bullington’s “Bully’s” restaurant.

    At the time “Bully’s” was located in La Jolla on a four-lane artery in Bird Rock, often termed “Baja La Jolla” because of its unattractiveness. I had not been back to Bird Rock since convincing “Bully’s” to come to Del Mar. However, with all the concerns about roundabouts, I felt it important to do so. So I visited Bird Rock and was impressed. Instead of the four-lane raceway for traffic I found a quite beautifully landscaped area with flourishing unique neighborhood shops. I noted how the single lanes each way allowed more traffic to flow through town at a slower pace significantly enhancing the environment, the air quality and the overall pedestrian atmosphere.

    I talked to over a dozen businesses and residents in Bird Rock and asked a simple question. “What is your opinion of the roundabouts and reduction from four lanes to two lanes?” I was amazed by the absolute enthusiastic replies. All stated “I love it.” — “It’s the best thing that ever happened.” — “It’s great and so much safer for pedestrians.” — “The traffic used to fly by and never know my business was here, now we have a beautiful walk able community and my business is flourishing.” — “It moves traffic far more efficiently and reduces car emissions without all the stops and idling cars.”

    The positive comments were virtually endless. There is so much false and misleading information about roundabouts. If you have any doubts about how positive the roundabouts can be in helping Del Mar finally achieve the 1975 plan goal, I would urge you to go visit Bird Rock to see the positive impact and vote “Yes” on Prop J.

  4. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    It sounds like Nancy Pelosi because it’s true.

  5. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    “Most people hate the idea of roundabouts, but once they’re in place most people like them.”

    Sounds like a Nancy Pelosi sound-bite, who told us all we had to pass the health care bill to know what was in it… gee, there must be SOME reason why Cotati residents just voted and banned roundabouts…

  6. Dennis Anderson says:

    One half of downtown Cotati is a great place to walk and enjoy all the music and what Cotati has to offer and those businesses are liking the foot traffic. Then you go one black and it’s a expressway. Passage for Rohnert Park residents.

    It didn’t have to be roundabouts, it was about producing foot traffic and future businesses to move to a appalling 4 lane speedway.

    Rohnert Park residence like myself will find alternate routes to get home. Then I will go back and enjoy live bands and entertainment in Cotati.

    Oliver’s Market signed a new lease, due to the lack of traffic that will make them stop and shop. Peet’s coffee is struggling due to the expressway and lack of foot traffic that it should have.

    Cotati will be missing out and no future businesses will not bring more economical stability to a struggling downtown area.



    Successful roundabouts in California.


    More success and neighboring towns are following suits.


    Roundabouts on STATE HIGHWAYS!


    Well designed streets for livable communities. Numerous ones here.


    Solid article and facts.


    Del Mar 4 lane to 2 lane roundabouts and businesses are flourishing.


  7. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    Going back to the drawing board, via a roundabout. Most people hate the idea of roundabouts, but once they’re in place most people like them.

  8. James Bennett says:

    “Now the city is hurriedly trying to design a smaller project to achieve some of the same goals of making the downtown eligable for that globalist Smart Growth grant money”…

    Do you suppose they would understand sky writing?

    A law suit?

    The residents have tried most everything else.

    I have never seen such a tight little cabal of traitors in my life.

  9. “I think that would just be an incredible loss for the community, not only to lose the money for downtown improvements but also to be disqualified for future grants,” said Councilman Mark Landman.

    The real loss for the community was the city’s insistence on the dysfunctional, wildly unpopular Village Main Street Plan. Because of their stubbornness, the city council and city staff forced Oliver’s to abandon plans for a very attractive $18 million store, retail, and apartment complex. It would have begun to transform this blighted area, but instead, the area will likely remain a sad weedlot for years to come.

  10. Kirstin says:

    There’s a lot of upside down thinking by Cotati officials reflected in this article.

    First of all, a city shouldn’t make decisions about how its downtown should look based on restrictive grants from outside agencies. That’s allowing the tail to wag the dog. One makes plans that suit the needs of a city’s residents and THEN, if appropriate, obtains available funding to implement said plan.

    However, how that funding should be secured is also a vital component. There is a major problem with the current process in which regional agencies (run by people who are NOT directly elected) such as MTC accumulate huge pools of money (TAXPAYER MONEY!) which those agencies then “hand out” as if they were giving gifts to the people. NO! This money is our money. It should not be going through this dog-and-pony-show set of extra channels to get back to us. These grants are ways in which the planner elite (which wants to control how every city looks) try to force compliance from gullible city officials who hunger after dollars. It is a disgrace. It is NOT good government. We need to put an end to it. Regional agencies such as MTC, ABAG, etc. need to be abolished.

    Cotati, and other Sonoma County cities (as well as the county itself) need to elect officials who have the fortitude to represent the needs of the residents first and who are don’t make their first priority grabbing at grant monies that control their planning process.