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Sebastopol considers chain store ban, solar energy requirements for projects


The Sebastopol City Council, with the controversial CVS Pharmacy project still casting a shadow over downtown, is adding a chain store ban and solar energy requirements as possible ways to preserve the community’s identity and shape new development.

“As the city grows and develops and learns, there is a lack of clarity in what the city wants future growth to look like, and it is important the council become pro-active,” said Vice Mayor Robert Jacob. “It is very clear our town wants to maintain its unique, small-town identity.”

Annie Carouba, owner of Bliss Organic Day Spa, removes Christmas decorations from her business overlooking downtown Sebastopol, on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

At a time when many cities, notably Santa Rosa, are relaxing zoning and building ordinances in an effort to attract business and development, Sebastopol is searching for ways to tighten the rules.

A chain-store ordinance and a requirement for solar installations on all new business and residential construction or major remodeling would join the recently adopted moratorium on new drive-thru services.

City officials say that none of the measures are meant to derail the disputed CVS project, planned for Petaluma and Sebastopol avenues, one of the city’s busiest and most prominent intersection.

Instead, they said they consider CVS a lesson learned.

“In the CVS process, we identified many holes in the city’s laws, regulations and ordinances,” said Jacob.

Jacob and City Councilman John Eder were elected in November in the backlash against CVS.

All three of the proposals have some following in a city in which seemingly all development is subjected to debate and delay. It’s a town that takes pride in being ahead of the political curve, having fought PG&E Smartmeters, rejected cell phone towers and free downtown wifi and, decades ago, declared itself a nuclear-free zone.

“Sebastopol is a cute, funky vibe; that is what we want to promote, to have that quaint, sweet little town,” said Annie Carouba, owner of Bliss Organic Day Spa, which overlooks Main Street. “To put another CVS in, forget about it. You would lose so much.”

“Chain stores should be limited, to an extent,” said Zach Morris, who was having lunch with his daughter, Marsella, at the Sebastopol Plaza Wednesday. “It helps with local business; it helps small business owners. In a town like this, independent business seems to be appreciated.”

“My personal choice is not to have CVS, not to have drive-thrus, not to have chain stores and to have solar,” said Irene Flynn of Graton, a zen priestess who was reading at the Sebastopol plaza Wednesday. “Let’s keep it quaint and small.”

Armstrong Development Inc. of Sacramento has purchased the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership property for a CVS Pharmacy and Chase Bank branch buildings, a $10 million project on 2.5 acres.

After three years of debate and two dozen often-heated public hearings, the project has received the major approvals needed to go forward, but has not yet gotten a demolition or building permit.

The newly composed City Council in December approved an urgency ordinance that would ban drive-thrus, which is an integral part of the CVS project. That action last week spurred a lawsuit by the developer against the city.

Mayor Michael Kyes is proposing the council consider regulating “formula,” or chain, stores, but it would not affect CVS, which already has a store in Sebastopol.

“The purpose is to keep the city as a sustainable level of a mix of businesses, so that we can maintain our economic base, our distinctive types of stores,” Kyes said.

Chain stores are regulated to varying degrees in Sonoma, Calistoga, Coronado and a few other places nationally. Interim City Manager Larry McLaughlin said the discussion is just beginning in Sebastopol and it is not clear what the regulations might entail.

It may be limited to the downtown core or be citywide with the town’s lone shopping center, the Redwood Marketplace, being exempted.

It might not be an outright ban, since there are some chain stores, such as Apple or Verizon, that the city might want to encourage, McLaughlin said.

Sebastopol Councilman Patrick Slayter, an architect, said he isn’t a supporter of chain store bans.

“As a design professional, I am not sure they really get us where we all want to go. It feels like social engineering,” Slayter said. “What we all appreciate about vintage downtowns or successful shopping districts is the wide mix of types of stores, sizes of stores, the widest variety … it is more authentic. It is grown up naturally; it doesn’t have an artificiality about it.”

A subcommittee of councilmembers is proposing that solar energy be required for all new residential and commercial construction and for major reconstructions.

It would add about $16,000 to the cost of a house, said Kyes, a retired energy consultant.

The City Council also debated the need for solar while considering the CVS project. However, under current city regulations, a builder is required only to make basic provisions so that solar systems later may be added more easily.

(You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.)

10 Responses to “Sebastopol considers chain store ban, solar energy requirements for projects”

  1. mixed nuts says:

    “It might not be an outright ban, since there are some chain stores, such as Apple or Verizon, that the city might want to encourage, McLaughlin said.”

    After all, some businesses are more equal than others.

    The Barlow’s developer got a green light to go full speed ahead on an ugly and unimaginative slew of sheet metal buildings, giving the entrance to town all the charm of an outlet mall, but CVS and Chase must not have had the right connections.

    What I think really needs to be banned is the occupy tent and its fair weather propaganda distributor, when he is not in jail for making threats against the bank or customers of the banks. The trashy looking tent, with its lettering smearing down the side, the city council approves of and allows to stay- free of charge, defacing the charming small town character that we strive so hard to emulate. (Yes, Mr. Slayter, it is contrived)
    This passé movement with it’s short, pathetic history of rioting,camping illegally, demanding free stuff and destroying property and it’s tiny, disturbed contingent of freeloading groupies the council wants to encourage, basically giving them the best real estate in town and getting nothing but hassled in return.
    Because nothing says quaint and charming like a beat up tent covered in propaganda with a parolee or two accosting and indoctrinating passers-by.

    It must be really lonely for Patrick Slayter- the only council member left with a shred of common sense.

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  2. Its Me says:

    A friend of mine and I were have a very heated discussion about having drive in in a city that was rebuilding after a hurricane, in which he thought they should be banned. Sometime later as we went through a dive in, I ask him a question “why are you using it if your so appose to them”, and his answer was “ its all ready there”, I this point I just let sleeping dogs lie. The point I am trying to make, I you don’t like them then don’t use them, and quite being do as I say, don’t, do as I do.

    I thing I would like to do to the council person of each town, is to give them a local numbing shot so they can’t walk, and see what it like to get around, without the use of there legs.

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  3. James Bennett says:

    Every time these ICLEI towns (through their partner; the PD) continue to indoctrinate us to the notion of government intervention of private property rights; I’m ‘gonna call ‘em on it.
    The full use, enjoyment and right to develop our property is to be an UNalienable right.
    Even if we tolerate a down grade to the Constitution’s language regarding property rights and treat it as an INalienable right.

    This is more soft pedal incrementalism toward this anti-private property ICLEI crap. Along with the “Climate Action Plan” they’ll impose mandatory solar retrofits.

    While we have a glut of natural gas, while they blow up hydro-electric dams.

    We have turned into the easy girl in school with our rights and willingness to let someone have their way with us.

    It’s time to point at this oppression’s earmarks every time we see it.


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  4. Don says:

    NIMBY’S I can now sleep at night knowing that you kept those store’s from opening. Sounds like Mr Jacobs hates the competition with that drug store opening in town.

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  5. Actually Living In 2013 says:

    Why doesn’t Sebastopol kick ALL the chains out, and require every single residence and business to have solar, new building or not? Maybe your zen priestess(a what, from Graton????) can channel everyone together, and you can then change the town name to Feng Shui, and each morning and evening you can rise, and bow to the rising and setting sun? I’m not sure what is funky or unique about the Pellini building, which is now fenced off by hurricane fencing and barbed wire, has 5 to 6 foot weeds growing from the asphalt, broken and boarded up windows and fading paint. It’s much closer to Salvador Dali than Norman Rockwell. But of course the drive-thru moratorium and chain store ban have nothing to do with any of this, it’s merely coiuncidental. If you believe that, then I have a great deal for you on a bridge in Brooklyn and some ocean front property in Arizona, which has a marvellous beachfront view! Why is it CVS is the cry, when Chase Bank is also part of the project? It’s mentioned as an afterthought, if at all. Just saying it doesn’t meant it’s so, Joe! Have to admit, this is almost as entertaning as watching Honey Boo Boo.

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  6. Fiscal Conservative says:

    What is missing here is the Freedom and Liberty promised under the Constitution of the United States of America.

    I agree that a small amount of government zoning codes may be required. As an example, having a bar next to a School is not a good idea; however this broad attempt by the City of Sebastopol to infringe on individual’s rights is not just unethical it is unconscionable.
    I predict that the City will soon be in binding arbitration with JAMS, where a retired judge will read to them the statutes and what they mean. Then the City attorney will be forced to contact their insurance carrier with the judgments. This will be astronomical as the indirect costs will not be limited.
    The City in my opinion has the responsibility to provide infrastructure, Police, Fire and other Civil services, becoming a quazi communist state where the Czars will determine the land use belonging to individuals is a far step beyond their actual responsibilities.
    I personally would like to see the municipalities focus on their actual responsibilities more and provide the basic infrastructure that is failing or in dire need of repair. I would like to see them remedy their debt by actively resolving the defined benefits pension crisis that has dwindled the public coffers. Yes, that is hard difficult work, but it is the REAL work that needs to be performed.
    In the article, Vice Mayor Robert Jacobs states: “ As the City grows and develops and learns, there is a lack of clarity in what the CITY wants future growth to look like.. It is important the city council become pro-active”. I strongly disagree. I see that as a power and control struggle as well as infringement of rights. This is an abusive marriage with government and certainly very bad parenting.
    It does not matter what the CITY COUNCIL wants future growth to look like, what does matter is what individuals who are property owners want their properties to look like.
    Sebastopol has a unique small town identity because of just that individual freedom. To be true leaders the City Council will need to abandon the theory of collectivism and realize that each individual is free and capable of making property decisions.

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  7. John Pendergast says:

    The definition of a liberal in 2013 – Do whatever you want, just eat what I eat, shop where I shop, believe what I believe, read Eat, Love Pray and love every word, etc. etc. etc.

    Decades ago liberal meant open minded. Who are you people to take away my choices?

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  8. Snarky says:


    Yes, you CAN flip off the police. A Federal Judge just said so. While that particular ruling may not impact the West Coast, just yet, it will :)

    A man in Oregon last year sued his local police dept for the exact same misconduct by the local police. They had to pay him around $5,000.

    Think twice, officers, before you play games that you cannot win.

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  9. Snarky says:

    Sebastopol is a nice little town.

    But government has no authority, no matter how much they pretend, to interfere with private business where the roads are already zoned and can handle the traffic.

    Think government does not pretend?

    How about the following?

    A Federal Judge in New York State just ruled that a police officer cannot arrest you for simply flipping him the bird.

    The police sniveled that their victim, the man who flipped them off, was acting in a threatening manner. The judge ruled that such a defense by the police was essentially absurd as the rude gesture had been used in the USA for over 100 years.

    The victim continues in his litigation against those police officers as he should. They PRETENDED that they had authority that they did not.

    It simply takes some litigation against government misconduct to flesh out the government pretenders. Once in court, they find it difficult to continue hiding behind their job titles and hiding behind the City Attorney.

    Moral of the story? Sue the police and any other government bureaucrat who you think is pretending. You will win.

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  10. Ca voters so dumb says:


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