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Council Approves Deer Creek Project 4-3

In a meeting lasting until 1 o'clock in the morning, council moves to certify the Final Environmental Impact Report for the development, in the works for the past seven years.

The Petaluma City Council approved the Deer Creek Village shopping center, including Friedman’s Home Improvement store, on Monday night during an emotional meeting that included comments from nearly 50 residents and business owners and which lasted six hours.

The council voted 4-3 to move forward with the project, with Mayor Dave Glass, Vice Mayor Tiffany Renee and Councilmember Teresa Barrett opposing.

The hearing was packed with more than 150 people spilling out of the council chambers to the entrance of City Hall. During comments, traffic again surfaced as one of the main negative impacts of the 345,000 square foot shopping center on North McDowell and Rainier Boulevard.

But the developer, Merlone Geier Partners of San Francisco, assured the council that the shopping center, which will also include a gym, an electronics store and restaurants, would add no more than one minute and thirty seconds to current travel times.

“This isn’t about a big box, it isn’t about a hardware store, but it’s about Eastside people having a place to go,” said Mike Schrock, a landscape architect with San Diego-based Urban Arena, adding that the shopping center would have an art walk, many trees and benches, a creek and space for a farmer’s market. “It isn’t a place for business, it’s a place for community.”

Many speakers said they believed that “the slight increase” in traffic was worth the economic benefits of the project. City planners estimate the development will bring in about $1 million a year in sales tax revenue and $9.2 million in impact fees, while Merlone Geier promises 300 construction and 500 permanent jobs.

“Yes traffic is a problem and we need to address it,” said Petaluma Chamber of Commerce CEO Onita Pellegrini. “But I will gladly add 30 seconds of my time to drive to Deer Creek if it means adding 800 jobs to our community.”

“I don’t want to go to Santa Rosa for my shopping and I don’t want just Friedman’s, but other nice retailers,” said 83-year-old resident Petaluma Louis Vicino. “Hurry up and make this development go through before I kick the bucket,” drawing laughter from the audience.

But critics said their opposition was not to Friedman's, but to the significant unavoidable consequences of the project, including traffic, noise and building in a floodplain.

"It’s about long term quality of life and it’s what no one is addressing," said Janice Cader-Thompson who lives across the street from the project site. "People are already using 101 to get to north Petaluma, so what will it be like after Deer Creek is built?"

If anything, one thing that was clear Monday was the deep-seated respect for Friedman's, which began in Petaluma and is today headquartered in Santa Rosa.

Many of the speakers praised Friedman’s for not only being a local company providing a needed service, but also a business that has a strong track record of giving back to the community, helping put on the Veterans’ Day and Butter and Eggs Days parades and funding many youth programs.

Among those who spoke in favor of the project were owner Justin Hansel, President Marcus Benedetti, rancher Arnie Riebli and David Solo, the president and CEO of the , who said that nonprofits would benefit from local businesses such as Friedman’s during difficult financial times.

But Glass, Renee and Barrett raised questions about whether the traffic calculations in the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) were accurate, since it assumes a crosstown connector and interchange at Rainier Avenues to alleviate traffic. They said was unlikely that the city would ever have enough money to build the project, whose price tag is estimated between $109 million and $120 million, according to city engineer Larry Zimmer.

Mayor Glass raised the possibility of implementing a special tax to pay for Rainier, saying that the end of redevelopment agencies left the city no choice. He also said he was in favor of the so-called Alternative C, that would bring a Friedman’s to Petaluma, but eliminate the three other “junior box stores” in favor of a 50-bed residential care facility.

“To me this is the compromise that people have been seeking,” Glass said. “We would achieve the economic benefit of having a home improvement store without having all the environmental impacts.”

Councilmember Healy said he was looking forward to fine-tuning the impact fees (which developers pay to offset impacts of the new project) next month to figure out where savings could be achieved, such as by eliminating various projects for which the city has started collecting fees.

Vice Mayor Renee said that a special tax for Rainier was absolutely necessary to avoid even more delays in building the crosstown connector. “Otherwise, we are just kicking the can down the road,” she said.

After the vote, Councilwoman Barrett gave a list of numerous improvements she hoped the developer would implement, including making all buildings energy efficient, enclosing the Friedman’s lumber yard, improving bicycle access to the shopping center and giving all sides of each building architectural details.

“This project needs to go overboard and provide good things for our community,” Barrett said. “It should be redesigned to be more pedestrian friendly. The idea of 26 acres of concrete is so 1970s.”

Marko Mlikotin, a spokesman for Merlone Geier, said the developer was pleased with the outcome of the vote, calling Monday a great day for Petaluma that would allow the company to recruit new tenants to fill the remaining vacancies at Deer Creek.

“We’ve been working very closely with the community to build a project they support and the alternative we presented tonight reflects a lot of community input,” Mlikotin said. “There is a lot of interest in a shopping center beyond Friedman’s…something with restaurants, fine dining, electronics and somewhere for the community to gather.”

The project will now undergo a Site Plan and Architectural Review (SPAR) at the Planning Commission, where it could be approved or sent back to council with suggestions and recommendations for the project. It is also expected that a group of residents will file a lawsuit challenging the city's decision to approve the development.

Are you satisfied with council's decision to approve the project? Will it help or hurt Petaluma?

pb April 04, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Plowing is for farming, not building shopping centers. Where, oh where, do Merlone's flacks come from? Surely, not Petaluma.
The Happy Medium April 05, 2012 at 12:15 AM
I just interviewed top management of Lowe's and he said he worked his way up and gets 50K plus medical and benefits for whole family. He was raised in Petaluma so it's not like he is from Tonga, Fiji, or Mexico living with 2 or 3 families in one house and sending money he makes overseas to family... As where Lowe's gets their supplies and products, Friedman's he said probably gets theirs from the same place. When asked how much of Lowe's products are American-made, he said only a small percentage. Most comes from overseas. I then called and spoke with management from Friedmans who said they get their hardwares from "Do It Best". I looked them up, and they supply to 4,000 hardware stores in the U.S. and 50 countries wares mostly from overseas. We were both sorry so few things are American manufactured anymore. Both managers said that only a small percentage of products are American made. * Friedman's gets their supplies mostly from manufacturers overseas, it's not "local economy". The Lowe's manager doesn't live in the same town where he works so that town is not getting HIS earnings back. How many from Petaluma you sure will get jobs@Friedmans start at min. wage & spend it in local economy? You are fooled that Friedman's is local. But that's not so hard, there is a place in China named "U.S.A." so they can put stickers on things made there with that label to fool people too. I'm just sayin'.
Ptown April 05, 2012 at 02:44 AM
50k plus is very good money, unless you live in a spoiled little bubble.
Max April 05, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Wow! the people on this blog are as clueless as those who were at the meeting on Monday supporting the certification of the EIR. Actually, those same people at the meeting were in support of Freidman's. They had not a clue about the EIR or the project itself. Boy, will they be surprised when Freidman's pulls out and they stick another retailer at the site... like they did at the Target project. Can't wait for these same people to be shocked when Harris and Healy try to jam a tax bond measure down their throats to fund a $100 million Rainier connector. Clueless!
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:11 PM
The people against these shopping centers were there at the poorly done, unscientific leakage study and zoning process of this. Where were you that you are clueless of this? Time and time again these same individuals pointed out the sham of Rainier and how it is just a political stunt that gullible, unaware people gobble up from the likes of Healy, Harris, and now Albertson and Kearney. Kearney will be history, like Samantha Freitas, no longer necessary to Healy. So, ptown how willing are you to pay a special assessment tax bring in the necessary traffic relief of this overblown project? Healy is hoping to keep that under the radar until he is re-elected. Yep, another gold plated water bill scenario served up to the people. Congrats, you people embraced his elite, at your expense, politics. Happy??
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Patrick, how much of the special assessment tax are you willing to pay? Idealism versus real dollars and cents, or shall I say sense? If it were on the ballot today would you pay the extra tax?
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Kearney just sealed his Samantha Freitas fate.
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Yes, you will enjoy the traffic of the Novato narrows right here in your own city. So you will not miss Novato traffic. Surprised? Sure you are, you never read the final traffic study of this project.
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:20 PM
James, read the traffic report in the EIR. Give me specifics how several cycle failures to get thru a light serve you well. Were you there at the meeting to hear what 1min. 39 seconds equates to? My memeory was level F at 50 to 80 seconds per car. We hear, several light changes to get thru a light, per light. So, that's okay, they can fix it, with Rainier. If the special accessment tax necessary were on the ballot tomorrow, would you vote for it?
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Mike, will you pay for the neceesary gold plated Rainier tax assessment for this if it were on the ballot today? It is the only way Rainier will be built. Unless the developers or Freidman's wants to help us out. The drop in the bucket fees of the developer are a joke next to the Xtown, or Interchange which neither will Caltrans discuss further until we show them the money. so, will you vote to pay for this golden idol?
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:32 PM
The bigger box was voted in because Freidman lobbied to have the citizens to have that approved. And the citizens believed they would be in the Regency Center. Now they believe they will be in the Deer Creek Village, so they brought that project in. They were used by the developers on the East, like they were used on the West. If they do get in, notice the developer insisted Freidman's accept the indoor Lowes like build, not allowing their Freidman lumber yard brand build. That way if Freidman's fails, Home Depo can easily buy them out like they did Yardbirds.
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:38 PM
Paul, Duh, did you listen to the meeting like many of us did? Did you attend? Cause if you did you would have heard what the rest of us heard. That at 50 to 80 seconds per car equates to level F, with long cycles, failing to get thru the stop lights at several lights, and off the freeway per light. Think, Novato narrows, or Albany across from the race track. so people will bitch and then, the golden idol Rainier will loom large with Mr. Healy's ushering it in. So, will you pay for the assessment tax required to mitigate the traffic of this project. Or will you be happy to just suck fumes in this city? And pay handsomely at the gas tanks?
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Do you even live in this town?
Ptown April 06, 2012 at 06:52 PM
Here ya go Seer, the sky is not falling. There are more choices abound and wrangling to do. It will take time. Nothing can be done until 101 is widened anyways. Just be patient. http://petaluma360.com/article/20120402/COMMUNITY/120339938/1381/COMMUNITY0802?Title=Why-lowering-impact-fees-will-help-get-Rainier-built
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 06:55 PM
The meeting on Monday eve. was to decide if the EIR was adequate, not about whether or not Freidman's was coming back to town. They were under contract to wait as long as it takes to get through the approval process. Freiman's and the citizens who wanted them came out in force to force the project's approval before all the traffic studies were complete. This was not in the best interest of Petalumans at large. Freidman's has now been used for a development on the East side and now on the West side. They have had to agree to accept a Lowe's like indoor build rather than their brand, which is a lumber yard. The developers will hold this property for 6 to 8 yrs. and then sell it. The lowe's like build will allow Home Depo to buy them out, like yardbirds, if Freidman's fails. The citizens of this city have been dupped and now will now need to buy Healy's and Harris's golden idol, Rainier. Healy is running for re-election and am I the only one that heard him snap at the developer for a minute stating he had Trust Issues as he wasn't getting what they had agreed to with him? What behind closed doors agreements were made between these developers and Mr. Healy? How unaware of political ethics issues are the citizens of Petaluma. Go back and watch the eve. on Granicus. The devil is in the details.
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Rather, Freidman's was used on the Westside to bring in the Target Center, and now to bring the Eastside Deer Creek Village. Yes Freidman's helps the community, they like any business need write offs. And yes, we are happy of their help, however, short changing the citizens quality of life in Traffic mobility, Noise, Air quality, and public safety in regards to Flooding, was not in the best interest of Petalumans who live here. Impatience will now cost this city the loss of vetting the project to be a better project, and more environmentally suited. How many of you will pay the gold plated assessment tax that will be required to bring traffic relief of this traffic gridlock Healy, Harris, Albertson, and Kearny have now brought us?
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Ptown, if you believe that article I have a London Bridge in the dessert to sell you. Seriously, I graduated with Honors in Economics. Not that that matters. Just do the Math. I have. The same Councilman in that article states that 70 % of Petalumans voted for Rainier. Call the registrar's office. That year 189 people voted for the measure. That is .006% of the 31,000 + voters in Petaluma. Tell me if my information is correct. 189 people. Get back to me on that will ya?
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Further response to sky is falling remark. You are asking us to be patient while dealing with Gridlock as this Developoment will be in years and years before any such infrastucture as Raiiner could have enough $$$$ ponied up. If it was so easy it would have been done yrs. agao, and Caltrans said flat out the city preferred alternative is NOT their Alternative. They consider Rainier a locally serving project proposal, and they are instead in the business of Moving Traffic. Go back and search the govt. site for the CalTrans meetings with the City, and of their letters to the City, on anything that brought up Rainier. It's there. Read it, or watch the videos. Unlike Healy I do not attempt to rewrite history or attempt to put a spin on it. I am not running for election and unlike him, I do not have the need. The facts speak for themselves.
Ptown April 06, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Again Seer you are jumping to conclusions Rainier cannot be buit until 101 is widened, a long way off. Which leaves time to explore money sources. http://petaluma360.com/article/20120402/COMMUNITY/120339938/1381/COMMUNITY0802?Title=Why-lowering-impact-fees-will-help-get-Rainier-built Right now we are not even close to needing a tax. And the developer telling Friedmans to accept a design that can be re-used is actually a positive not a negative.
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Again Ptown, of course we are not close to needing a tax, DCV is not built yet. It will be built years before Rainier. That does not leave us time to explore money sources. We have not found money sources for Rainier for 40 years and counting. Once again, do the Math. Yes, Freidman's can be repurposed to a Walmart, like they have done with their other developments. you consider this a positive. I get it.
Petaluma Seer April 06, 2012 at 08:13 PM
How many other citizens got it that the building could be repurposed for a Walmart by this developer? Is this worth paying for a special tax assessment for Rainier? And still with a Rainier Xtown built, as CALTRANS has nixed the City prefferred interchange design, leaving one other maybe choice, at over $109 million and counting, it will still leave some levels of F gridlock remaining with the full DCV project. Do you remotely have any idea how much that is? How many more developments do we would need to fix this Road Infrastucture fund deficit? With the remainder to then be levied on the people parcels? The Fab 4 council members could not see their way past to disappoint the developer With the reduced Alternate C version of the project. 2 are running for election and need Campaign Funds and a field to put their signs up. The possibility of Rainier is a shell game to distract the people with possible shiny bobbles. No one in this city wants to shell out the bucks to do it. They are too busy paying their water bills resulting from former politician's elite games. Gridlock burns fuel. Their bucks are also earmarked for gas tanks. How far do the Council Fab 4 think people's wallets go?
Ptown April 06, 2012 at 09:50 PM
At least from now on it doesn't matter who the majority on the council will be. Petalumans finally got approved what is needed for many years to come. Thank you council, for awhile it looked impossible.
pb April 06, 2012 at 09:55 PM
It is still impossible, Onita.
Mitch April 07, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Petaluma Seer, I am quoting you here: "The same Councilman in that article states that 70 % of Petalumans voted for Rainier. Call the registrar's office. That year 189 people voted for the measure. That is .006% of the 31,000 + voters in Petaluma. Tell me if my information is correct. 189 people. Get back to me on that will ya?" Do you support urging the City Council to pursue the design, environmental analysis, funding and construction of a cross-town connector and interchange connecting Petaluma Boulevard North with the intersection of Rainier Avenue and North McDowell Boulevard? 17,759 / 72.1% Yes votes ...... 6,877 / 27.9% No votes How can you possibly believe only 189 people voted for this measure let alone any measure? Get your facts straight! Over 80% of the registered voters cast their ballot on this measure!
Ptown April 07, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Thanks Mitch. Wish someone would just take what's good from each political faction and create a new party. Getting sick of all the ones we have. Seer seems to thrive on the progressives 2 main tactics. Gross exageration and fear. But this one takes the cake of gross misinformation, you might even say common sense. Like you said "How can you possibly believe only 189 people voted for this measure let alone any measure?".
pb April 07, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Seer is clearly an agent provocateur: a Merlone or Basin Street employee disguised as a "progressive" in order to discredit common sense and make the people who do not want Petaluma turned into a super-mall look silly. That's why it is ridiculous to allow anonymous comments.
Mitch April 08, 2012 at 02:34 AM
pb, I prefer facts, not fiction. Petaluma Seer states nothing but fiction and someone I will distrust on these forums. Perhaps you are one in the same defending someone with no facts? Your reply was to bash Merlone Geier and Basin Street without a response to the misinformation. And Ptown, sorry but I personally do not believe Rainier will be built in the next 20 years...at least.
pb April 08, 2012 at 04:02 AM
All of the facts that one needs about Deer Creek are in the EIR and its comments. Of course, I bash MG and Basin Street. The latter PROVEABLY was allowed by the council to lurk off with $10 million in city dough from the Theater District, and MG threatens city officials with lawsuits and gets mendacious chamber of commerce pawns like Healy, and his robot, Kearney, to carry their water. They MUST be bashed (figuratively), since the recitation of simple facts does not stop them. More importantly, they must be defeated in the next election before they and Darth Harris and carpet-bagger Albertson and the Brylcreemed, incredibly over-paid city manager and conflicted city attorney succeed in destroying the town simply to curry favor with rich developers form Los Angeles and Reno.
Petaluma Seer April 11, 2012 at 11:04 AM
I agree.
Petaluma Seer April 12, 2012 at 08:39 AM
Mitch, you are correct. I stand corrected on the # of people who voted for Measure S in the 2004 Nov. Election. When I am wrong i admit it not wishing to mislead. Sorry. Although, it was NOT 70% of Petalumans voting for it. Prior, I was looking at the wrong stats. that were on the same sheet of paper that also had the Retail Leakage study on it. Yes, your figure is correct that 17,759 of approx. 55,000 Petalumans, voted for Measure S, which was an Advisory Measure and had no Financial component other than the following . According to the Petaluma City Attorney Richard Tudnansky, the measure directs the City Council to (4) Prepare a financing plan for Rainier Cross-Town Connector and Interchange Project that maximizes the contributions from property owners and businesses directly benefiting from the project via the use of Benefit assessment districts and other appropriate mechanisms. ***(5) Not allow the Environmental Impact Report for any development proposal to utilize the Rainier Cross-Town Connector and Interchange Project as assumed traffic mitigation until such time as (1) all necessary environmental Impact Reports have been certified, (2)all funds to construct the project have been identified and secured, and (3) no substantial impediments remain to construction of the project. It also directed the CC to (2) Epeditiously complete the EIR for the Rainier XTown and Interchange Project. (3) To finalize it's design. NON of these have been done by the CC since the 2004 vote.

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