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Santa Rosa auto dealer’s relocation plan rebuffed


A used car dealer whose lot was taken by the city when it widened Santa Rosa Avenue a few years ago cannot relocate his business to a recreational vehicle sales lot just north of Highway 12 because the city is trying to encourage less auto-dependent land uses near downtown.

USed carsDuring a meeting Thursday, Planning Commission members expressed sympathy for the plight of George Dibs but said his plan to buy the lot where Bob’s Travel Center has operated for 25 years and begin selling cars there conflicted with long-range plans calling for the neighborhood to be more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

Commissioner Peter Stanley said he agonized over the decision but felt bound by the zoning guidelines of the city’s Station Area Plan meant to guide growth around the future downtown train station.

“We’re not kicking the Dibses out of their business and we’re not kicking the Montgomerys out of their business,” Stanley said, referring to Bob Montgomery, who has run the travel center since 1987 and is hoping to retire. “We’re saying that this community came together, whether you agree with it or not, and they passed zoning requirements and restrictions for that area of the Station Area Plan.”

Several speakers blasted the commission for blocking a viable business deal that was important to two longtime businessmen and for adhering to a plan whose goals were either lofty or ill conceived.

“This is not a pedestrian area,” said Jane Duggan, the real estate agent on the deal. “For the next 20 years, it’s going to be what it is. It’s a thoroughfare.”

Rosa Koire, an activist who opposes the plan’s goals of higher density, mixed-use development downtown, condemned the commission.

“The Dibses are being victimized by your adherence to this ideology,” she said, claiming that the city wants to see “the Windsor Town Green on Santa Rosa Avenue.”

But Supervising Planner Clare Hartman explained that auto dealers are a more intensive use than RV sales in terms of traffic. RV sales can continue in that location indefinitely, but any new use, such as auto sales, cannot be more intensive, she said.

City staff denied the project and Dibs appealed to the commission, which rejected his appeal on a 6-0 vote.

Commissioners said it was a challenging decision because it was both emotionally charged and involved highly technical zoning rules.

“This is probably the most technical, legal exercise that the commission has gone through in years,” Chairwoman Patti Cisco said.

Dibs’ team argued that auto sales wouldn’t be a more intensive use of the property, noting that RVs take up far more space on the property than cars would.

But several residents of the adjacent Burbank Gardens Neighborhood, many of whom worried about people taking test drives down quiet residential streets, urged the commission to follow the long-range plan for the area.

“There is a specific dream here and it’s not auto oriented,” said neighbor Judy Kennedy.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum @pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @citybeater

11 Responses to “Santa Rosa auto dealer’s relocation plan rebuffed”

  1. GAJ says:

    Drove by their yesterday and this decision makes even LESS sense when you look at how tightly packed together those RV’s are on that somewhat small lot and how intrusive they looked compared to the nicely landscaped car lot across the street.

    What possible use would have LESS impact on traffic than a small used car lot?

    A retail store?


    A nail salon?


    A tattoo parlor?


    A restaurant?


    Can’t think of a single retail store that would cause less traffic in and out and can’t think of a single retail store that would want to locate next to an elevated freeway!

    And the neighbors who think people will test drive cars on their tiny, cramped, slow moving streets, with barely room for a car to drive if cars are parked on both sides are crazy.

    Test drives, obviously, would be down Petaluma Hill Road, Hwy 12 frontage road, Route 12 or the Freeway.

    If I was the landowner I’d sue as likely he’s stuck with an asset he can’t sell easily at all thanks to the stupid City.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. bear says:

    OK, even I am admitting this is insane.

    You can bet the CC was behind this, and are responsible for really stupid and inflexible General Plan policies.

    Responsible even if they did not adopt them.

    But even well-intended CC members can pick their battles. This one was not smart.

    Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  3. Rosa Koire Rocks! says:

    Too bad a natural leader like Rosa Koire is not running for City Council

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  4. GAJ says:

    Oops, not next to an offramp but next to an elevated Freeway next to the end of an on ramp.

    Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  5. GAJ says:

    If the City thinks this car lot will be “busy” they’re our of their minds.

    If the City thinks a car lot is less of an eyesore than a bunch of hulking RV’s they are simply ignorant.

    That stretch of road is never going to be a quiet sanctuary of plants and bicycle paths.

    To believe so, as the planners and residents thing, is fallacy.

    A plot of land next to an off ramp from an elevated freeway is the PERFECT place to put an auto related enterprise.


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  6. Vote! says:

    It is time to vote these people out! Just wait if you think this is bad! They are taking away all our freedoms. They know how we should be living and what is good for us. What ever happened to property rights!

    Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  7. James Bennett says:

    I was there.
    Kinda lost my cool.
    This kind of thing really upsets me.

    George Dibbs and family have been around a long time, paying taxes, paying their dues, generating sales tax revenue on ‘The Original Auto Row’.
    That is the history of the Blvd, including which is now the Plaza.

    This story is significant as it represents a microcosm of what ails us…ICLEI.

    Instead of fostering/accommodating free market/small business/capitalism like we were taught in civic’s class.
    In an ICLEI town, revenue largely comes from grant money.
    They take it lightly, throw the term around like it comes from the ‘grant fairy’.
    Grant money is debt, our debt, our kids debt.
    All to install a hardscape that we never approved of, voted for, and is ultimately to replace private property ownership and our way of life.

    Even though the site in question has been auto related for decades, they hedged at the meeting, played with semantics. Stating that cars sales were a more ‘intense’ use.
    Hmm, landscaping and cars instead of huge trailer dwarfing the scale of the lot.
    They called in their cronies like Judy Kennedy and the rest of the hi-jacked ‘neighborhood groups’ that ICLEI towns always create to synthesize consensus.

    The real deal:
    Is that the strip north of Hwy 12 is to be a ‘Complete Street’. It isn’t complete ’till private property/private enterprize has been crushed. Until both sides are filled with Smart Growth, with highly controlled corporate retail, few or no automobiles adjacent to rail.

    So what they’ll do is not approve anything but Smart Growth, no new free market ventures or even remodeling.
    Put everyone on the back burner ‘jack’ program, ’till the area falls into decline.
    This does a few things, that are all part of the Agenda.
    a) turns more folks into serfs.
    b) reduces property values so that Public Private Partners can buy it cheaper.
    c) makes it so the localsefs are grateful to see anything new.

    These traitors even have the nerve on the City’s web site to call a PDA an ‘Opportunity Area’. Which is insider code for; ‘bring us a Mixed Use (Smart Growth) project, and we’ll make it happen’.

    Meanwhile, business people like George Dibbs, Sonny at the Astro Hotel, myself and countless others get jerked like a Chihuahua on a leash for years by ‘public servants’ we pay, and pay.

    The cruel coincidence is that we thought the once desireable hub of the Wine Country was an opportunity area too.

    Thumb up 24 Thumb down 4

  8. Papa E says:

    “challenging decision…involved highly technical zoning rules.” Well, what a STEAMING PILE of BS! SRosa takes Mr. Dibs property and now takes away his right to re-locate to a better location and, denying Bob Montgomery the right to sell his property and retire. Have to agree with some of our bloggers who are always talking about Government takeover of our property rights.

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  9. Steveguy says:

    I will comment again. Is this for real ? I am not in the Twilight “Zone” ?

    Where does common sense and government ideas clash ? When it makes sense it seems. The Dib store was there for decades.

    Now he wants to agreeably move next to the bong store ? Cool dude. That is an awesome spot.

    Appeal is in order, so says Steve

    Thumb up 25 Thumb down 2

  10. Sartian says:

    They had ‘dibs’on the land.

    Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  11. Steveguy says:

    Let Freedom Ring ! Oh wait…

    Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

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