Petaluma Residents Did Council’s Job in Studying Deer Creek Project

Janice Cader-Thompson spent hundreds of hours and thousands in legal fees to force the developer to make many improvements in the Friedman's shopping center on North McDowell. And that's plain wrong, she says.


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.

Sterling October 08, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Where we're the people watching out for Petaluma when the "Cader" subdivision bulldozed over many creeks and habitats. I thought that is why we elected council to oversee the "whole community" not just within a rocks throw of the author. Strong arm and blackmail developers. A past like that is why I see businesses downtown getting their Costco business supplies delivered and I have to drive out of town to get a computer and plywood. " not in my back yard" mentality.
Gerald October 09, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Where were you Mr. Sterling when the east side was being plowed over? On the bulldozer? Give me a big smile and tell me what your real problem is?
mikeg55 October 09, 2012 at 08:33 PM
so how much was your payoff? I read that you got a seperate settlement? Did you make a profit?
Max October 09, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Fantastic op-ed by the former council member! She covered the important points that the local press refuses to address in their biased reporting. Those who are criticizing, do not have a grasp of the reality, there is more than what is on the surface. I think people are going to be surprised when they are asked to pay millions of dollar in infrastructure costs to support these projects. So what ever happened to the $8 million dollars Basin Street Properties/John Berella embezzled from the city? What happens to the $11.5 million the city borrowed to build the mythical Rainier CTC? ...and people are quibbling over some improvements Janice and the neighborhood groups got for their community? Gosh, talk about a disconnect.
Active Thinker October 09, 2012 at 10:57 PM
City Council often is the Lame Duck. They have their own agendas and are overwhelmed with too many problems right now. Petaluma has three road projects going on Washignton at the same time...great planning...as a friend of mine said petaluma is a nightmare to get into...the side of the roads look like hell with all of the trees gone...it's getting really ugly
Petaluma Seer October 10, 2012 at 09:06 AM
mikeg55, the only personal profit the community has identified is what Mike Healy received from these developers in exchange for a quick and speedy greenlight of their project. Their Land use of his campaign signs, and campaign funding. Listen to the council meetings on granicus and you will see him bristle at the developers while chiding them for breaking an agreement and about his distrust of them. Am I the only one that noticed those actions? Seriously, the public was not aware of any agreements made. What were those agreements? Nothing for the community as the citizens had to fend for themselves. Obviously, there appears to be a behind doors agreements. I direct the public to the final FEIR Council hearing on the project to see it for themselves. It was NOT pretty. Politics at it's worst. Healy and his personal agendas must go! He is already hinting about creating parcel taxes to build Rainier! Haven't people been taxed enough for these elite politicians agendas? People are struggling to pay for their gas, food, shelter, and educate their children! Parcel taxes?? Time to clean house.
Petaluma Seer October 10, 2012 at 09:32 AM
Former council member janice Cader Thompson says it well. City planning should not be left up to the citizens, but rather is the job of sitting govt. leaders. We have a weak Council Majority when it comes to their job performance as public servants. Our city deserves better. Innovative Planning Commissioner Kae Herries, and sitting Council Member Tiffany Renee are govt. leaders that listen to the people, are strong advocates for Petaluman Citizens. They have requested mitigations of developers while showing wise detailed analysis of the projects impacts, and yet they welcome business into our city. Commendable! Business Leader Jason Davies brings forth strong new angles for bringing commerce into the city as well. The "commercial retail store revenue" cards have played themselves out. We have "stored up" now. Time to look at leaders who have ideas of new revenue streams. They deserve our support and votes! They have mine.


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