Jun 10

Petaluma’s Big Box related lawsuits sedated

Congratulations Petaluma, your next soulless big-box shopping center strip mall is once again on track to dominating one of the most valuable pieces of land the city has to offer. While that may sound particularly negative and uninspired, it should. There is no way in hell the potential for the geographical center of Petaluma is going to be met by this shopping center in any form. This land could have synergized the East and West sides of town. Could have increased tourism by boosting individuality. And could have encouraged urban innovation in future projects.

But at least we’re getting something more modern. The original and previously envisioned designs were even less inspiring. Some essentially called it a 1970s architectural abomination requiring travel by car exclusively which, among others, alienates key concepts from the city’s General Plan.

This is precisely the platform the Petaluma community coalition (PCC) folks are standing on with the lawsuit and appeal filed against the city for Regency’s East Washington Place. It created a sort’ve trifecta of inaction with the City, PCC and Regency occupying corners and preventing ground-breaking of the project.

The latest is a deal involving all three that meets some each’s criteria requested; I imagine it as a precarious compromise at best. First off, Regency will drop their “unjustly delays” lawsuit and pay for the city’s legal fees required to defend itself against the suit. PCC has also agreed to drop their lawsuit contingent upon a few design changes.
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Feb 10

Mom & Pop Shop vs Big Box

From neighborhood signs (and webpages) that read “Keep Petaluma Eggcentric” and the anti “Big-Box” sentiment it implies, Petalumans, on the whole, have fought to keep the town quaint.  Downtown shops are independent and run by locals (though there are a few chain-coffee shops).  Tourists flock to and gawk at our muddy river whilst tasting local Sonoma or Napa county wines.

A town that was once the hub of Telecom Valley, continues to primarily favor antique stores and boutique shops.  Alone, it struggles to maintain its economy out of the red.  Even with the project potentially helping to bring additional tax revenue to the city, fear of losing these little businesses is one reason why many citizens have vigorously fought against it.  In their minds, the onslaught of the Big-box commercialization from coming to town would further cripple Petaluma’s spirit.

Kenilworth Field, Target(ed)

This prized lot of land, some 400K square feet of prime real estate in the geographic center of town, was the former site of Kenilworth junior high school.  It was purchased in 2004 by Regency, a Florida development company for $22 million.  This capital went immediately to the school district which began construction of the new junior high at a different location. Shortly thereafter, Target signed on to be the headliner of the new shopping center, to be named East Washington Place (EWP). In the years since, squabbling over uncertainties and misinformation have created an atmosphere that has driven the town’s governing body (Mayor and City Council) to postpone project decisions again and again.

So much so that Regency Centers filed a lawsuit against the city and Target has threatened to pull out of the project altogether. The primary reasons for the City’s delays are, in actuality, few, but undeniable.

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