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Deer Creek Shopping Center Gets Nod of Approval for Signs, Architectural Design

Decision now goes back to city council; two opponents say they will appeal the decision.

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?

Sheri Cardo August 15, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Why is a commissioner recusing himself from voting simply for having an opinion? That is neither required nor necessary. In fact, one would hope that people get appointed to these posts BECAUSE they have opinions. And then I would hope that they vote their conscience and convictions -- like Commissioner Alicia Herries just did. If the shopping center doesn't conform to the general plan, doesn't "fit a true mixed zone designation and will cause excessive traffic since it relies on the yet-to-be built Rainier crosstown connector" (which many of us believe will never actually be built) -- why did anybody vote for it?
Patrick M. August 16, 2012 at 01:50 AM
I would like to thank the members of the Planning Commission that voted to move this project forward. I am quite certain an awful lot of people want this to move forward. I don't want activists on Councils or Commissions, I want representatives. There is a difference.
Longest Family in Electrical in Petaluma August 16, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Too much water is going to be needed for the landscaping!
Max August 18, 2012 at 05:38 PM
The planning commission and council also never addressed the cumulative impacts of both projects. The "Target" project, at the old Kenilworth site, will generate about 15,000 new car trips daily. When both project come on line, we'll have almost 800,000 sq. ft. of new retail sprawl. CEQA law requires a city to also analyze cumulative impacts. Those on the council and planning commission who voted in favor of these projects failed to do their jobs. How are the City planners going to handle the traffic? The Developer's have only paid a fraction of traffic fees required to mitigate all this traffic. Who will pay for traffic infrastructure? How will the city raise funds without redevelopment agency funding? These are the questions every Petaluman should be asking themselves.
Linda September 17, 2012 at 09:56 PM
It is inexcusable that the Planning Commission would approve this project without dealing with the incredible traffic issues it will cause to everyone trying to get anywhere on the east side. It is also ridiculous for a commissioner to say that traffic impact is 'not within the scope of the group'. There is no point in putting this center in without creating the Ranier access and there is no way, given the state of the state, county and local budgets the access will be built in our lifetimes. So far, there has been little done to improve traffic in Petaluma and much done to make it worse. I find it easier to drive to Rohnert Park to shop than to try to cross Washington or Corona and shop on the east side. Why not fix these problems before adding to them???

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