Recently Petalumans have seen private citizens performing the function of what a city council should be doing for a community. It is the responsibility of city council to evaluate the impacts development brings to a community. This is a two-sided balance sheet weighing both beneficial and negative impacts.
It is not necessary to have a city council tell us what the benefits are. The benefits are obvious. In the case of Friedman Brothers we are lucky to have a local company returning to the community of their origin. This is far superior to the original plans of the developer to burden us with a national chain.
The identified parcel also meets the needs of Friedman Brothers and with their business located at this site it is less likely they will encounter a competing store in Petaluma anytime soon. Those are the benefits and they come as a result of market forces with or without any involvement of city council members.
What also comes with this and any project is a good deal of negative impacts from the associated traffic challenges new development creates. There were simple remedies that a city council concerned with the impacts would have insisted upon being included in this project. They were mitigations that I found the developer was agreeable to including in the project.
However, because the city council on their rush to judgment failed to ask much of anything to protect our quality of life, my husband and I were left with the burden of hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars fronted into legal fees and the potential of a lawsuit against our town to achieve the following safety issues for our community:
1.) A fully paid lit crosswalk at Rushmore and Rainier Avenue
2.) Replacing the 30-year-old dilapidated fence, the gateway to the Park Place neighborhood.
3.) New landscaping on McDowell Boulevard to reduce sound. The developer agreed to maintain the landscaping for five years.
4.) Protection of the old Valley oak tree on the Deer Creek site.
Another group has achieved other amenities for our community offering a grant to Heritage Homes, which turned the money down. Is this tainted money? Is it taking the high road to turn it down?
The power brokers that have put their politicians in place have always discredited those that stand in their way. The law allows for citizen groups to do exactly what we did. Therefore, it moves to perhaps a higher court...the court of public opinion.
It is admirable there are members of the community that have taken on the burden of improving projects and acquiring amenities for the benefit of our community. If Heritage Homes can't put the money to good use, I trust another group will. The real battle here is for the public to see this fight was in the public interest and the winner is the public. Think of it as Robin Hood if you must.
Neighborhood associations should not be negotiating crosswalks, landscaping, fencing and traffic calming measures to make a neighborhood safer. This is the job of our city council and they failed!
That failure was a result of a lack of willingness on the part of the four that blindly looked the other way to the additional needs of our community. Yes we need and welcome Friedman Brothers back to our community. For that we can thank Friedman Brothers...not the politicians...particularly those that originally advocated for a national chain.
And for the failure to provide the corresponding safety and quality of life improvements we can point the finger accurately at Mike Healy, Mike Harris, Chris Albertson, and Gabe Kearney. They have proven themselves to be nothing more than needless cheerleaders for the developers at the community expense and to balance the scale with vital analysis it is unfortunately left to citizens exercising their legal rights to achieve adequate remedies for the impacts of development.
Janice Cader-Thompson is a community activist and a former Petaluma city councilwoman. The opinions expressed in this piece are her own.