Story updated at 4pm Wednesday.
The Deer Creek (Friedman’s) shopping center on North McDowell cleared its last hurdle Tuesday night, getting a 4-1 vote from the Planning Commission in a discussion over signage, parking and architectural details.
Commissioner Alicia Herries was the lone dissenter, saying she did not believe the shopping center fit a true mixed zone designation and would cause excessive traffic since it relied on the yet-to-be built Rainier crosstown connector.
“I'm supportive of Friedmans and I welcome them into our community," Herries said. "But I couldn’t support Deer Creek because of the cumulative impacts on traffic...Eastside deserves better."
Commissioner Dennis Elias, who earlier this year voted against certifying the final environmental report for the 345,000 square foot shopping center, was absent, and Commissioner Bill Wolpert recused himself, saying that this earlier opposition to the project gave him a “biased perspective.”
Janice Cader-Thompson, a vocal opponent of the shopping center who lives near the project site, said she would appeal Tuesday’s vote citing traffic concerns, as did Paul Francis, who called the development the “opposite of good planning.”
“It's disappointing to see such lack luster leadership in our city planning commission,” Francis said. “I think that some of the planning commissioners have lost their perspective of what good planning is and have instead let the city attorney dictate their decisions."
"Given the fact, the city has no means to deal with the traffic impacts generated by the project, it's surprising to me, that they didn't try to work with the site plan to at least improve the on-site traffic circulation.”
But Commissioner Jennifer Pierre said traffic impacts had already been addressed at earlier hearings and were not within the group's scope Tuesday night. Pierre and all other planning commissioners besides Councilman Gabe Kearney voted against certifying the project's Final Environmental Impact Report in April.
Commissioner Melissa Abercrombie echoed the sentiment, saying that voting in favor of various mitigations on design and parking did not equate to being in favor of the project.
"I think our positions have been very clear, which we have shared at many hearings and meetings," she said. "But if we don’t have a supportive council, is it better to lose any helpful components and not to mitigate the project in any way that we can?”
The Friedman’s anchored shopping center is expected to generate an average of 10,155 additional new daily car trips (that includes both entering and exiting), including 985 trips during the evening peak hour.
A traffic study found that traffic at a minimum of four intersections would be delayed by the shopping center, including at Old Redwood Highway and McDowell Boulevard, Corona Road and North McDowell Boulevard, Corona Road and Petaluma Blvd. North and East Washington Street and North McDowell Boulevard.
But Merlone Geier, the project developer, says the delays will be insignificant, adding an average of 1.3 minutes to driving times for cars traveling between East Washington Street and Old Redwood Highway.
The company also said that understood neighbors’ concerns and will keep lights on the two signs at the outside of the development tasteful and build a fence on the eastern part of North McDowell to act as a sound barrier. The developer will also plant shrubbery on the perimeter of the parking lot to make the location more inviting.
Friedman’s, which got its start in Petaluma in 1946, said it was looking forward to returning to town and would make its Petaluma the main location of its operations.
"We want to create a place where both the farmer and the housewife feel welcome," said owner Bill Friedman. The company hopes to open by the end of next year.
What are your thoughts? Are you looking forward to the shopping center opening? Concerned about impacts on traffic and other businesses?