YOLO SUN OPINION :

It’s time for Woodland City Council to begin grappling with issues related to the City’s Downtown Specific Plan (DSP); for example, upholding the DSP’s basic “vision” for its key element of a: “Primary gateway.”  Downtown Woodland is the urban heart of Yolo County and its “Primary gateway” must capably display such identity, evoking urban, not suburban, heritage.

Yet, in 2007 the City approved a project recklessly disregarding this key DSP vision: Paul Petrovich’s Rite Aid proposal to install a one-story, suburban strip-mall type of building as one leg of our Downtown ‘Primary gateway” (northwest corner of East and Main Streets). The economy went wrong side up, though, and Rite Aid cancelled the project.

City council members incorrectly argued that there was “nothing we could do,” because of their impression of an unusual loophole in the DSP, through which Petrovich could slyly drive this adverse, cookie-cutter building, replacing the DSP’s vision of: “[C]ontinuation of the old Rice Mill design, carrying the agricultural heritage reflected in this design directly onto Main Street.,” despite the DSP’s clear policy that: “The City shall continue to support mixed-use developments” on this specific location, “with a similar style and scale of the historic rice mill building.”

The three-story Rice Mill building extends between North and Court Streets along East Street.  It was renovated in the early 1990s as mixed-use and was recently purchased and modernized by local developer Jeff Morgan, owner of Maria’s Cantina and the nearby vacant lot on Sixth Street, as well as the Meier building (former auto dealership) at Bush and College Streets, the former bank building on the corner of College and Main Streets and the Barth building near Bush on First Street.

On July 18, 2014, Petrovich renewed his goal of staging a similar, suburban-style, single-story structure at this fundamentally important location.  This new planning application proposes stationing a gussied-up back-end of a suburban strip-mall, absent pedestrian entryways, along uniquely crucial Main Street frontage.

As well, Petrovich’s new planning application ignores long-standing commitments of any such project, under the California Environmental Quality Act, to restore the Keehn House, an historic Victorian dwelling previously moved to East and Court Streets, making possible a development project at this location.

Woodland City Council has authority to interpret the DSP in defense of its key “vision,” by requiring a conditional-use-permit (CUP) based planning process for development proposals at this site.  The question is, will it exercise this authority?

Yolo Sun strongly believes that Woodland City Council must insist upon a CUP-based planning process regarding Petrovich’s renewed development proposal at East and Main Streets, in order to realize basic purposes of the City’s DSP.

The Wiseman building serves as one leg of Downtown Woodland’s “Primary gateway;” let’s not have a stupid-man building as the other leg.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

In early 2013, Paul Petrovich decided to try to shoehorn the Starbucks now located at Raley’s into his small lot between Rite Aid and Burger King near Ashley and Main Streets.  His plan would have worked (and according to Petrovich this move was urgent on the risk of losing this western location of Starbucks), except Petrovich was determined to add to this deal an additional, adjacent retail space of about 1100 square feet.

Reliable sources indicated that, although several Starbucks drive-thru locations dominate this coffee-to-go market in eastern Woodland, Dutch Bros.’ several mid-town locations were eating Starbucks’ lunch within the rest of the City.  Starbucks wanted to expand its market share by opening a new location on Petrovich’s Ashley & Main parcel, abandoning its Raley’s relationship. Petrovich argued that its lease was up and there was urgency to have this project swiftly expedited by the City.

Already, though, squeezing a 1700 square foot, 36 seat Starbucks into this small lot, creating three (3) drive-thru businesses on only about an acre (quite a planning novelty, according to file records) was going to be pretty tough, especially since Petrovich had promised not to construct a second fast-food restaurant upon this site (he claims that Starbucks is not really a restaurant, despite seating 36 persons).

Insistence On Added Retail Space Was Problem

Petrovich’s determination to include a second retail space, however, made the resulting, overall site plan unacceptable to Burger King, which argued that motor-vehicle parking and movement were unreasonably impeded.

On April 25 of 2013, Woodland Planning Commission rubber-stamped approval of Petrovich’s Starbucks plan, in violation of state environmental law regarding use of mitigation measures in cases of claimed categorical exemption from such jurisdiction and over numerous objections from Burger King.

Incredibly, the city at one point even paid $5000 for a traffic study regarding Petrovich’s plan, because he complained that the cost would “kill” it. On the very day that the planning commission met to consider his project, however, Petrovich paid back this money.

Ostensibly, the reason for initial city payment of the cost of Petrovich’s traffic study, was to make him friendlier regarding his various other projects in town.

At this April 25 planning commission hearing, Petrovich claimed he is prepared to — “pay $100,000” — to defend his project in court, but until then had adamantly refused to pay even the minor cost of his required traffic study.

Appeal of this planning commission decision by Burger King, to Woodland City Council, was promptly denied, with the Mayor (Skip Davies) oddly saying that the parties should work this out among themselves.

Lawsuit Resulted

In July of 2013, Burger King filed a lawsuit against Petrovich and obtained a restraining order from Judge Daniel Maguire against project construction pending litigation

Petrovich has recently received what he was preparing for: He has now paid about $100,000 in legal fees to Burger King to defend his initial project, and also been forced to modify his project to eliminate the 1100 square foot retail space he had insisted upon.

Reliable sources indicate that Burger King is settling its lawsuit against City of Woodland and Petrovich on this basis: Removal of this 1100 square foot retail space, providing an acceptable site plan, plus their cost of the needed lawsuit.

[Editor's note: Please see the following Yolo Sun articles, for a detailed description of this matter (just copy and paste into Google)] :

(a)   Fast-Food Feud Erupts On Woodland Main Street; City Minimizes, Funds Project Analysis – Part One

(b)   Fast-Food Feud Erupts On Woodland Main St.; City Of Woodland Accused Of Unlawful Conduct By Giving Public Funds For Petrovich Project – Part Two

(c)   Fast-Food Feud Erupts On Woodland Main St.; Planning Commission Fails To Grapple With Environmental, Political Issues, Rubberstamps Staff Report, As Petrovich Pays Back City Gift – Part Three

(d)   Fast-Food Feud Erupts On Woodland Main St.; Yolo Superior Court Issues Temporary Restraining Order Against Petrovich’s Starbucks Project – Part Four

(e)   Fast-Food Feud Erupts On Woodland Main St,; Distorted City Planning Displayed By Petrovich’s Starbucks Project, City Manager Spills Beans — Part Five

 

 

YOLO SUN OPINION :

Sponsorship has recently been achieved for a municipal ballot initiative to require Woodland City Council elections be conducted at general elections in November of even-numbered years, beginning in 2016.  Reasoning for such a shift is based on democratic principles of maximizing voter participation.

Turnout in city council elections held at primary elections is less than half of voter turnout at general elections.  There is no legal or practical reason for using primary elections as venue for city council elections; the reason for doing so is purely political, to advantage conservatives on the basis of clear historical imperative: most voters prefer to vote in general elections and conservatives would rather avoid their participation.

This perverse political dynamic is on stark display within the recent primary election, where voter participation was sharply slanted toward the southwestern (wealthier, increasingly more conservative) portion of Woodland.

Of course, city council composition reflects this primary-election slant and will do so even more once municipal district-based elections are conducted in 2016.

Woodland must shift its municipal elections to general elections in November.  Democratic values insist upon it; only tired conservative rhetoric resists it.

This ballot initiative should be filed with the city during June, with circulation from July to January (six months from date of city issuance of ballot title and summary, which is no more than 15 days from filing date).

[Editor's note:  These two ballot initiatives (see second just below) are now being delayed until September, since they are intended to concurrently proceed, and the second ballot initiative is still in a process of final refinement.]

Persons wanting to help with this effort should email:  yolosun@gmail.com

Circulation (jointly) of a second ballot initative is also being planned, with sponsorship remaining to be achieved for reason of its nature, based on a ballot initiative filed with the city in February, 2012.  Circulation of this ballot initiative was subverted by the city refusing to issue a proper (lawful) title and summary.  The city demanded that it be titled a downtown traffic “prohibition” ordinance and refused to include the initiative’s purposes in its summary.

Informal appeal to city council members for a just correction of these problems was to no avail.  Seemingly, obstructing circulation of this initiative was the intent behind such an absence of city cooperation.  Court action would have been needed to correct this unjust obstruction.

Comments are now being solicited regarding this second ballot initiative (below), in order that some form of basic consensus be attempted related to its details (whether to include mid-block crosswalks, how soon this proposed transition should occur, etc.), prior to achieving sponsorship.

Comments will be received at:  yolosun@gmail.com  or by posting a regular comment on this blog.

 

NOTICE OF INTENTION TO CIRCULATE INITIATIVE PETITION

(Pursuant to California Elections Code, Section 9200, et seq.)

Notice is hereby given by the person whose name appears hereon of their intention to circulate this petition within the City of Woodland for the purpose of enacting amendment of Chapter 14 (Motor Vehicles and Traffic) of the City of Woodland Municipal Code and amendment of the Woodland Downtown Specific Plan, Chapter 8.2, Specific Plan Policies — Circulation.

A statement of the reasons of the proposed action as contemplated in this petition is as follows:

Woodlanders:  Our Downtown Specific Plan should be amended to help evolve community efforts for downtown revitalization.

With all its historic attributes, Woodland lacks an absolutely essential element of a successfully functioning small town: a city square.

Envision Woodland’s future with a multi-block long city square:  Historic Main Street — where pedestrian values are elevated and motor-vehicles subordinated, creating an atmosphere and gravity of public attraction. Several times during most months, various portions of Main Street are occupied only by pedestrians involved with civic / cultural events.

Music and entertainment regularly stretch-out into common space of closed portions of Main Street, merchants’ doors are usually open; sidewalk dining is thriving; human conversations have equity with subdued motor-vehicle noise and pace; a festive atmosphere prevails; pedestrians have priority.

People confidently step into the street at intersections and crosswalks without awaiting permission from automated contraptions. Pedestrians possess priority, using it to inhabit downtown, its closest neighborhoods (in old town, at walking distance), Gibson Road to Kentucky Avenue, becoming the vanguard of a vigorous revitalization of our urban core, reclaiming municipal space as cultural conduit, as imperative, vibrant venue, our versatile and celebrated civic square.

Woodland’s (2009) Street Master Plan indicates viable options exist for re-routing motor-vehicle traffic, so that downtown Main Street might become transformed into an authentically pedestrian-friendly zone, with: 4-way stop signs, mid-block crosswalks, diagonal parking.

Downtown Woodland, with its historical proximity to residential land-uses and former state-highway route, became concentrated primarily along Main Street, less traveled Court and Lincoln Streets aside it.

Woodland’s Downtown Specific Plan — five years out of date — contains conflicting goals of enhancing pedestrian values and efficiently moving as much traffic as possible up and down Main Street, recently measured at 1370 daily trips, while Court Street carries only about 1000, both Streets being projected for declining usage.

Traffic on Gibson, Kentucky and East Main Street’s freeway interchanges will dwarf that on Main Street, now designated: “minor arterial” roadway.

Downtown is the only platform through which to achieve this essential identity of small town culture: a functional city square.

Traffic conditions on downtown Main Street, however, are incompatible with true pedestrian values, essential for our downtown to become a general public destination point, where people feel a natural gravity, key attractions, customary, commonly prevailing and comfortable access. Pedestrians then rule, with genuine downtown Renaissance as result.

For municipal policy, this challenge means:  How is dynamic synergy between people, private commerce and public space to be optimized?  The most powerful tool available for policy-making is design and use of our public space, Main Street, through establishment of downtown streetscape that also capably functions as our city square.

Downtown revitalization moves on its feet. Since pedestrian values and interests don’t yet flourish, neither does Woodland’s historic downtown, for decades in a chronic condition of blight. Atrophy of Woodland’s once proud downtown pedestrian scene clearly has occurred, fashioned by a modern history of unmitigated retail sprawl. Evolution of Woodland’s downtown is necessary for fulfillment of community values and destiny.

I hereby request the City of Woodland to prepare and issue a ballot title and summary for this proposed initiative measure.

Woodland Citizens’ Initiative Measure Text:

This citizens’ initiative measure is submitted to the people of the City of Woodland in accordance with the California Elections Code.

This citizens’ initiative measure adds an ordinance article to Chapter 14 (Vehicles and Traffic) of the City of Woodland Municipal Code and adds amendments to the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland.

SECTION 1.  Article 16 is added to Chapter 14 (Motor Vehicles and Traffic) of the City of Woodland Municipal Code to read:

Article 16.  Section 14 – 16 – 1(a) This citizens’ initiative ordinance shall be known and may be cited as the Woodland Downtown Traffic Circulation Ordinance (WDTCO).

(b)(1) The people of the City of Woodland hereby find and declare the purposes of WDTCO as being to:

(A) Evolve community efforts of downtown revitalization by optimizing dynamic synergy between people, private commerce and public space;

(B) Restore community engagement with the downtown area, reversing atrophy of its once proud pedestrian scene, adversely fashioned by a modern history of community development of unmitigated retail sprawl;

(C) Provide this community with an essential element of small-town culture and identity: a versatile and capably functioning city square;

(D) Elevate pedestrian values within this community’s downtown area, optimizing design and use of public space for downtown revitalization;

(E) Create enhanced community venues and proper access for civic and cultural events within the downtown area, to establish and promote it as a community and regional destination point.

(b)(2) Within 30 days of the date that WDTCO is legally effective, the City of Woodland shall initiate a comprehensive study to determine optimum means and methods of successful WDTCO implementation. This study shall be completed and its final report adopted by Woodland City Council within 120 days of the date of legally effective adoption of WDTCO.

(b)(3) The study and report completed and adopted under section (b)(2) shall be the basis of an implementation program of the City to ensure the performance and effectiveness of all amendment by WDTCO of the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland. Woodland City Council shall annually review and, if needed, revise this program, consistent with WDTCO, to ensure full and continued effectiveness of such amendment of the Downtown Specific Plan and the WDTCO implementation program.

(b)(4) The study and report completed and adopted under section (b)(2) and annual reviews by Woodland City Council pursuant to section (b)(3) shall establish and maintain within the WDTCO implementation program an effective plan to optimize permit-applicant accessibility and practical efficiency for temporary road closures consistent with amendment (CIR-2.5) by WDTCO of the Downtown Specific Plan of City of Woodland.

(b)(5) The study and report completed and adopted under section (b)(2) and annual reviews by Woodland City Council pursuant to section (b)(3) shall establish and maintain within the WDTCO implementation program an effective plan to optimize means and methods for instituting viable options of voluntary diversion of motor-vehicle traffic from downtown Main Street consistent with amendment (CIR-1.6) by WDTCO of the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland.

(b)(6) City of Woodland shall remove all traffic control systems existing prior to the date WDTCO is legally effective from all downtown intersections identified within CIR-1.5 of the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland as amended by WDTCO.

(b)(7) City of Woodland shall by relevant evaluations and actions reuse, recycle or dispose of all traffic control systems, existing prior to the date WDTCO is legally effective, from all downtown intersections identified within CIR-1.5 of the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland as amended by WDTCO, as directed by section (b)(6) to be removed from Main Street intersections identified within CIR-1.5 of the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland as amended by WDTCO.

(b)(8) City of Woodland shall remove all street paint and associated roadway detailing material, existing upon Main Street prior to the date WDTCO is legally effective, except pedestrian crosswalk paint consistent with amendment by WDTCO of the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland, from Main Street between and including its intersections with Fourth and Cleveland Streets and from downtown intersections identified within CIR-1.5 of the Downtown Specific Plan as amended by WDTCO.

(b)(9) City of Woodland shall install all stop signs, street paint and associated roadway detailing material consistent with amendment by WDTCO of the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland.

(b)(10) Woodland City Council shall prioritize and expend all needed General Fund resources within the Roads category of the Rehabilitation, Renovation and Improvements components of the City funding allocation schedule for (sales tax, ballot) Measure E and Measure B of 2006, for use within the processes of WDTCO implementation, including all municipal processes needed for amendment by WDTCO of the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland and the WDTCO implementation program.

(c) On the date one year after the date WDTCO becomes legally effective, all physical modifications, implementation program activities and municipal actions required either directly or indirectly by sections (b)(2) through (b)(10) having been fully accomplished by the City of Woodland, Chapter 8.2, Specific Plan Policies, of the Downtown Specific Plan of the City of Woodland is hereby amended to add:

CIR-1.5   Traffic Control

Four-way stop signs shall exist as exclusive traffic control system at Main Street intersections with: Fourth Street, Third Street, Second Street, First Street, College Street, Elm Street, Walnut Street and Cleveland Street.

CIR-1.6   Traffic Diversion

Means and methods, as well as informational programs, shall be used by the City to provide viable options and opportunities for voluntary diversion of motor-vehicle traffic from downtown Main Street.

CIR-2.5   Temporary Roadway Closures

The City shall establish and maintain an effective plan to perform temporary closures, based upon: fair, timely, economical process of permit application and consideration, of all and portions of downtown Main Street.

CIR-3.5   Traffic Lanes

Main Street between Fourth and Cleveland Streets shall contain one traffic lane in each direction and shall not contain a center, left-turn lane.

CIR-4.5   Mid-Block Crosswalks

Mid-block crosswalks, equivalently distanced from Street intersections, shall exist upon Main Street within each block between Fourth and Cleveland Streets.

CIR-7.5   Diagonal Parking Pattern

Diagonal parking (at 45 degrees) shall exist as exclusive motor-vehicle parking pattern upon Main Street between Fourth and Cleveland Streets.

SECTION 2. If any provision of this measure or application thereof to any person or circumstances is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications of this measure that can be given effect without the invalid provisions or applications, and to this end the provisions of this measure are severable.

 

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YOLO SUN OPINION :

Unlawful collusion between City of Woodland and Paul Petrovich has them now stumbling together headlong into a key legal and political bear-trap.  So, they are pulling an odd and meritless, public-relations stunt, by filing with the state Supreme Court an absurd request to draw a drape over their political and legal suffering.

The Gateway 2 legal case, lost by City of Woodland and Petrovich with a February 28 ruling of the state Court of Appeals for the Third District, has several levels of very keen public interest:  The Opinion itself, of major legal significance, statewide; quite curious reactions of the City and its relevant attorney; coverage being interestingly mishandled / slanted by the Daily Democrat.

This column will analyze and explain in (hopefully) accessible detail the fairly dense, often perplexing legal landscape presented by this court case, clearly the most legally significant in modern city history.

Legal Fame Comes Calling

City of Woodland is about to become famous, within statewide legal / political circles, as a municipal defendant guilty of more than a half-dozen violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), just from this one recent project — perhaps some kind of legal record.

Because of the breath, depth and flagrance of these multiple, often compound CEQA violations, eminent environmental organizations: Environmental Defense Fund, Planning and Conservation League, Sierra Club, Coalition for Clean Air, Center for Environmental Health, etc., etc., formally requested that our state appellate court publish (as significant precedent) its Opinion in California Clean Energy Committee v. City of Woodland (C072033), and the appellate court agreed, soon issuing its publication order.

Woodland has here and now attracted widespread legal / political attention usually associated with obtaining a deserved reputation as a small town where sly and crafty developers like Petrovich own City Hall, to the great and everlasting distress of both its community and environment.

Statewide CEQA litigation will soon be repeatedly recognizing and citing to courts and adversaries the various ways Petrovich and his political pals on Woodland City Council tried to undermine our legal processes and degrade our community future.

Such Fame, Since A ‘Zorro’ Came Calling

Because California Clean Energy Committee — literally, suddenly came out of nowhere, like a “Zorro, riding out of the night, when the full moon is bright,” capably protecting our community from such perpetual harms, we have by this hand escaped a grisly, community planning fate.

In fact, this occasion of the defeat of Petrovich is a true watershed event, portending a genuine emergence / vitalization of community awareness that civic matters have not been well for many years within Woodland City Hall.  So now, Woodland has an unfortunate legal reputation to show for it.

Apparently, such legal and political drama was required to help upend the pernicious influence of Petrovich upon our City Hall.  Otherwise, there was no stopping them transforming our city — according to his own designs.

Interestingly, a major, successful contention of this CEQA lawsuit — that a Gateway 2 project should receive planning consideration / designation as being – “mixed-use” — in nature (both commercial and residential) — has according to city planning staff now been (perhaps) accepted (so far) by Petrovich, within the city’s new (2015-35) General Plan.

The land upon which Gateway 2 would have been built, is quite likely to be designated for mixed-use in our new General Plan.  Petrovich has not yet objected, is likely cowed by his huge legal loss, demonstrating instant progress through this CEQA lawsuit.

Petrovich spent in excess of $200,000 defending his Gateway 2 project; according California Clean Energy Committee (CCEC) counsel, this case might well have been settled over a few of these sorts of concessions.

However, Petrovich demanded to dig an expensive, time / city-resource consuming grave for his Gateway 2 project; then, intimidatingly lashes out about an unfriendly business climate, complaining that he’s been unfairly treated.  Sliminess here reaches a new nadir.

The unlucky gamble attempted by Petrovich and City of Woodland, is one of expecting that no determined CEQA lawsuit would ever be filed.  But this time, they crapped-out, then doubled-down and crapped-out again.

City’s Attorney, Whitman F. Manley, Files A Very Curious Request

Getting their thorough and well-deserved, legal clock-cleaning at the state appellate court, Petrovich, Woodland City Council and its Gateway 2 attorney, local resident Whitman F. Manley (alongside relevant interests representing local agencies), remain in an obvious state of childish denial.

Manley, on behalf of: Himself, his law firm, the City, the League of California Cities, plus the County Supervisors Association of California, has on May 2 filed with the state Supreme Court a Request for Depublication of the Gateway 2 Opinion.  This Request does not challenge the Opinion (supposedly), only the legal ability to refer to it as a judicial precedent in other cases.

This ten-page Request by Manley is truly an astonishing legal document, below examined and explicated in substantial detail (alongside appellate court Opinion), since it reveals so much about these sordid legal affairs.

Manley’s repeated accusations, if they had any merit, that the appellate court supposedly erred on at least three important issues, would certainly predicate a Petition for Review to the state Supreme Court.  However, these sour-grapes complaints by Manley don’t hold water; so, it seems that desperately contrived swinging at legal straw-men in this Request becomes a way to wrap affairs in a spin of denial.

Denial here has already had some public-relations-type traction, with the Daily Democrat news article headlined with the utterly bogus claim that the Gateway 2 Opinion of the appellate court was somehow being: “Revisited.”

Manley Upbraided Ten Times By Appellate Court

Of immediate and revealing interest along these lines, is the stark fact that Manley (representing the City and Petrovich) — is upbraided ten separate times — by this appellate court Opinion, for either: Repeatedly and strangely misreading the administrative record of this case, or else for unconscionably misconstruing basic legal precedent within his arguments.

Here again, we may have a new legal record:  Judicial admonishment / criticism, on the verge of an accusation of bad-faith practice, averaging every five pages of this forty-nine page Opinion.

A vivid example: “[T]he city’s additional assertions of forfeiture of the CEQA issues are troubling because they are contradicted by the record.  In a case where the appellate record is 18,010 pages, claims regarding failure to assert a point during the EIR process should be more carefully presented.”

“[T]roubling” is a polite way of the appellate court saying to Manley: Because of your serialized misrepresentation of the case record, you appear to be in bad-faith with your legal work.  Perhaps, Manley needs some rest, with which to best clear his legal head from these awkward travails for Petrovich.

Publication Request From Lozeau Drury LLP

The Gateway 2 Opinion was issued on February 28.  On March 14, Richard Drury of Lozeau Drury LLP sent a Request for Publication to the state appellate court, representing seven prominent environmental organizations: Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment; Center for Environmental Health; Coalition for Clean Air; Fix the City, Inc.; Natural Resources Defense Council; Planning and Conservation League; The Sierra Club.

Quoting from Drury’s Request:

“The Opinion meets the criteria for publication because it involves several legal issues of continuing public importance to California citizens, applies several existing legal rules to a new set of facts, and makes a significant contribution to the legal literature. [Citation to relevant state court rule.]

“The Opinion specifically addresses six critical issues under the California Environmental Quality Act [  ], that, if published, would provide important guidance and clarification to members of the public, environmental organizations, and public agencies.”

Drury’s Request continues, in pertinent part:

“First, the Opinion makes a significant contribution to CEQA law by providing guidance on the level of detail required to exhaust issues during the administrative process under CEQA[,] clarify[ing] that an issue is exhausted [preserved for appellate review] so long as the ‘specific objections’ are raised by any member of the public.

“Second, the Opinion provides a significant contribution  to CEQA law by specifying that implementation of a mitigation measure may not be delegated to the private project proponent [Petrovich]. This holding is a logical extension of [a major CEQA precedent].

“Third, the Opinion provides a significant contribution to CEQA law by defining the scope of improper deferred mitigation.  The Opinion holds that a mitigation measure for urban decay is inadequate since it was ‘lacking an “criteria for success” in abating urban decay, the measure does not ensure any actual mitigation.

“Fourth, the Opinion provides a significant contribution to CEQA law by defining the scope of ‘fair share fee-based programs.  [  ]  The Opinion makes it clear that fair-share fee-based mitigation is insufficient if it ‘does not estimate the cost to prepare the fair share plans,’ or identify the ‘mitigation measures or strategies called for in these plans.’

“Fifth, the Opinion provides important guidance in the area of ‘alternatives analysis.’  The Opinion clarifies that a lead agency [City of Woodland] must analyze a reasonable project alternative proposed by the public, and if the agency rejects the alternative, the rationale for rejecting the alternative must be supported by the [CEQA Environmental Impact Report].

“Sixth, the Opinion provides important guidance on the analysis of energy impacts under CEQA — an issue of heightened importance due to well-established concerns related to global warming.  The Opinion clarifies that a lead agency [City of Woodland] may not disregard energy consumption impacts by blindly referring to compliance with state energy standards [which] do not address several impacts that are within the scope of CEQA[, and] analysis is required of a project’s energy consumption as well as mitigation measures and alternatives[.]

“The Court’s Opinion is clear, well-written, and rich in factual detail and legal analysis.  Its publication will greatly assist California’s public agencies and the public by providing direction in several area that require clarity.”

Manley’s Request For Depublication

Manley describes the Gateway 2 Opinion as “inconsistent with settled law, [  ] not grounded in CEQA, the CEQA Guidelines, or existing case law[, claiming that it] will create unwarranted difficulties for municipalities [and counties].”

Manley goes on to write that: “[T]he Opinion is an unproductive addition to CEQA precedent,” and that “three erroneous conclusions [  ] warrant depublication.”

These three conclusions involve major aspects of this Opinion: Urban decay mitigation, alternatives analysis and energy analysis.  If such conclusions were actually “erroneous,” they would clearly establish solid legal grounds for a Petition for Review to the state Supreme Court, rather than simply requesting depublication.

Manley On Urban Decay Mitigation

On his first count, Manley argues that:  “[T]he City adopted mitigation measures that would lessen the significant and unavoidable urban decay impacts to the extent feasible.  [  ]  Public agencies ought not to be punished for taking this approach.”

The whole legal point here involved, is whether these mitigation measures “would [indeed] lessen” impacts “to the extent feasible.”

As shown just below, the Opinion rules that these measures plainly — did not – lessen urban decay impacts — to the extent feasible.

Thus, Manley brazenly mischaracterizes this basic issue to the state Supreme Court.  There is here no “erroneous conclusion” by the appellate court; it properly concluded that Gateway 2 mitigation processes were variously and egregiously unaccountable for protecting the environment.

Manley reiterates using case law about “all feasible efforts / steps” being taken, “a sufficient degree of information” being considered by the City regarding Gateway 2 — when the Opinion firmly and obviously rules directly to the contrary.

“In simple terms, the City never claimed to have solved the urban decay problem,” asserts Manley.  But, did it lawfully consider this basic subject and take all feasible steps to reduce the severity of significant environmental impacts?

The Opinion says: No.

Manley adds, threateningly:  “Because the Opinion makes it legally risky to adopt mitigation measures of uncertain efficacy to address significant unavoidable impacts, some agencies may simply choose not to do so.”

So, if local agencies are no longer able to circumvent CEQA with sham mitigation measures, they won’t do anything at all, simply depending upon aggressive statements of overriding considerations to shove through adverse projects, the more difficult / risky to mitigate, the more likely mitigation will be ignored?

This plainly is a very awkward policy path for the League of Cities, etc., to advise be taken: If we cannot be sloppy and unaccountable, we won’t address adverse environmental impacts of development.

Does Manley genuinely represent the public-policy positions of these statewide public-agency organizations upon this key point?

The Opinion On Urban Decay Mitigation

Quoting from the Opinion:  “When a project will result in an adverse change to the physical environment, CEQA instructs that ‘the agency “shall provide that measures to mitigate or avoid significant effects on the environment are fully enforceable through permit conditions, agreements, or other measures. [  ]  The purpose of these requirements is to ensure that feasible mitigation measure will actually be implemented as a condition of development, and not merely adopted and then neglected and disregarded.”  [Citation to statute and case law.]

The Opinion continues:  “[The City Council] Resolution approving the project does not identify any specific mitigation measures nor does it provide any standards [  ] in deciding whether the developer-proposed mitigation is sufficient.  ‘This is inadequate.  No criteria or alternatives to be considered are set out.  Rather, this mitigation measure does no more than require a report to be prepared and followed, or allow approval [  ] without setting any standards.”  [Citation to case law.]

“Given the City’s recognition that Gateway II will cause urban decay, it was required to do more than agree to a future study of the problem,” states the Opinion, “Even if [such a] study is subject to administrative approval, it is analogous to the sort of post hoc rationalization of agency actions that has been repeatedly condemned in decisions construing CEQA.”  [Citation to case law.]

“A showing of sufficient demand for the goods sold by a particular planned tenant for Gateway II does not address the issue of whether urban decay in downtown has been sufficiently alleviated.  Moreover, the City’s solution to “either require additional mitigation or require an alternative use” lacks any standard to ensure sufficient abatement of urban decay.  [  ]  Lacking any ‘criteria for success’ in abating urban decay, the measure does not ensure any actual mitigation.”

After reviewing several other relevant issues, the Opinion declares that “the City has failed to adopt adequate mitigation measure to address urban decay impacts as required under CEQA.”

CEQA Mixed-Use Alternative Analysis

“Alternatives Analysis” is at the very core of CEQA.

As the Opinion states: “The California Supreme Court has explained, “CEQA’s substantive mandate that public agencies refrain from approving projects for which there are feasible alternatives or mitigation measures is effectuated by [the legal provision that] a decision-making agency is prohibited from approving a project for which significant environmental effects have been identified unless it makes specific findings about alternatives and mitigation measures.  [  ]  This requirement ensures there is evidence of the public agency’s actual consideration of alternatives and mitigation measures, and reveals to citizens the analytical process by which the public agency arrived at its decision.”

It is starkly apparent that this fundamental element of CEQA has been slyly circumvented with City approval of Gateway 2.

The City unlawfully shifted its legal rationale for declaring the supposed “infeasibility” of having residential uses within the Gateway 2 project, from economic reasons, to environmental reasons, without admitting it or explaining why.

Manley argues through case law, that the City can depart from this project’s Environmental Impact Report, at its sheer discretion, making its own separate findings, upon “substantial evidence in the record,” as the legal basis for declaring infeasibility / inferiority of the mixed-use alternative.

The key to this dispute, about which Manley fails to be persuasive, is the word: Substantial (evidence in the record).”

Thus, the Opinion strongly disagrees:

“Although the draft and final EIRs rejected the mixed-use alternative on grounds of economic infeasibility, the City approved the project on grounds the mixed-use alternative was environmentally inferior.  The City did not acknowledge it switched from the rationale of “economic infeasibility” due to “leakage of sales” to one of “greater environmental impacts” as the grounds for rejecting the mixed-use alternative.  The administrative record does not indicate the City discovered additional information showing the mixed-use alternative to be an inferior environmental alternative.

“The City attempts to explain its shift by asserting that ‘[t]he determination in the EIR that the Mixed-Use Alternative failed to meet project objectives was the opinion of the City’s EIR consultants.’  The City continues that ‘[a]s such, the feasibility conclusions in the EIR were not binding on the City Council, and the Council had discretion to reach conclusions that differed from those in the EIR.’

“We disagree.

“The City adopted a rationale unsupported by its EIR analysis.  The City’s unexplained switch form a rationale of economic infeasibility to environmental inferiority as the basis for rejecting the mixed-use alternative conflicts with CEQA requirements to ‘disclose “the analytic route the . . . agency traveled from evidence to action.”’  [Citation to case law.]

“Here, the City administrative process sheds no light on how it came to reject the mixed-use alternative based on environmental inferiority instead of economic infeasibility in the draft and final EIRs.  Consequently, the City has failed to comply with CEQA in rejecting the mixed-use alternative on grounds of environmental inferiority to the project as approved.”

Is this a situation of an “erroneous conclusion” by the appellate court, or one of sour-grapes denial by Manley, Petrovich and the City?

CEQA Energy Analysis

Manley basically attempts in his Request to create a linguistic dispute with the Opinion, about the words “link” and “overlap,” referring to what legal standard of review should be adopted by the court to address energy issues.  The Opinion correctly relies of the notion of “overlap.”

The City did not analyze or consider transportation energy impacts of Gateway 2, according to the Opinion:

“The City does not deny its EIRs do not assess transportation energy impacts.  Instead, the City argues its reduction of the size of the project as approved necessarily means some of the transportation energy impact was mitigated.  The City also asserts it has mitigation measure designed to reduce vehicle trips.  Of course, the City cannot way how much less transportation energy is needed for the project as approved because the issue has never been assessed in an EIR.  CEQA EIR requirements are not satisfied by saying that an environmental impact is something less than some previously unknown amount.”

“We conclude the City’s EIR analysis is deficient insofar as it does not assess or consider mitigation for transportation energy impacts of the project.”

The Opinion also finds fault with the City’s sheer use of the state building code, as proof of environmental integrity, when this code clearly does not address significant matters under CEQA.

Manley misconstrues basic case law, relating to the fact that: “Potentially significant energy implications of a project shall be considered in an EIR to the extent relevant and applicable[,]” instead focusing on the use of the word “should” at a later point in the relevant law. Manley incorrectly argues that permissive language of this aspect of the law must control.

Of course, the Opinion strongly disagrees with his reading of legal precedent.

The Opinion also continues:

“[T]he City did not properly assess the construction and operational energy impacts of Gateway II.  Tellingly, the City concedes the draft EIR ‘did not consider the potential energy impacts associated with [  ] three hotels, a 20,000 square foot restaurant, three fast food restaurants, an auto mall, and 100,000 square feet of office space.”

“[T]he City’s EIR’s for Gateway II do not indicate any investigation into renewable energy options that might be available or appropriate for the project.  [  ]  The City responds that it “was not required to incorporate any renewable energy features[;] CEQA is violated when an EIR contains no discussion of a potentially significant environmental consideration.”

Is it any wonder that Gateway 2 was voided by the court?

Conclusion

There are no “three erroneous conclusions” within the Opinion, as Manley argues.  The Opinion should be published, as ordered by the appellate court.

 

YOLO SUN OPINION :

Below are the remarks and responses of Bobby Harris, candidate for Woodland City Council, during League of Women Voters’ Forum on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

Opening Remarks, LWV Forum 2014, Bobby Harris

Woodland greatly needs a progressive voice on City Council.  Progressive means someone with knowledge, aptitude and civic loyalty to advance the public interest against entrenched malfeasance and corruption.

Indeed, civic malfeasance and corruption has been plentiful during recent years, reaching apex under city manager Deven, who was an unmitigated disaster, repeatedly engineering adverse actions for the City Council, seriously damaging our community development, such as: Gateway 2 project, Chase Bank project, downtown theatre fiasco, no city budget for two years (including secret briefings for Chamber of Commerce), violation of the city’s ballot-based, urban limit line ordinance, undue roll-backs in development impact fees, ignorance about our city library, closed-door dealing, catering various corruptions for city council cronies, etc. etc..

Most of our citizens are unaware of these huge problems, since we don’t have a city newspaper with allegiance to journalism in the public interest, leaving it for blogs to try to rake the mountains of muck.

An older item: Does anyone know that the city paid Petrovich $2 million at commercial real-estate rates for the land containing the on-ramp for Gateway Center?  It should have been dedicated to the city, per regular planning process.

Deven left town (warmly thanked by the city’s political class / elite), leaving an interim city manager the grim task of beginning clean-up of this mess.

Finally, we have a city manager who seems a champion of public interest, Paul Navazio, with whom the city should be able to make civic progress.

Bill Marble has a lock on his seat in this election, he’ll be our next mayor.  The real political contest is among three candidates.  I am the one who is independent of the entrenched political cliques that have long used their influence within a twisted leverage of at-large, primary elections, to control the city council and exploit our community.  That’s plain and simple truth.

Where have been these other two candidates, while I have been for many years continually monitoring city conduct and defending our community interests, outside of the influence of these political cliques, that these two candidates depend upon to grease their sleds.  I don’t use such grease, I carry my sled to where the public interest provides gravity for progress.

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LWV Question 1:

The City of Woodland is currently redoing their General Plan.  A major component of the Plan is “How much growth should the Plan accommodate for the next 20 years?” Please state your position on growth alternatives for the city including where and when it should occur? 

Response

Community development demands a wise balance of measures designed to evolve consistent with our interests, values and opportunities.  General Plan provisions are our basic planning document, our cultural blueprint.

Since redevelopment authority is gone, primary support for amenities of essential infill opportunities, such as downtown revitalization / urbanization is through negotiations over peripheral development.  A wise balance of development provides economic leverage for Woodland’s urbanization.

The political question is if the City Council is able to wisely act in the public interest; if history is indication, it is not so capable.  It needs serious help, which I propose to provide, as a progressive voice to balance what exists.  My proposal is to:  Develop the Hwy 113 – Road 25A interchange using regional commercial uses and business park opportunities, as outlined in the draft General Plan, allowing residential development to occur within Specific Plan 1A boundaries — when ~50% of permits are pulled for SLSP.

38 acres south of the mall (Prudler project), now in our planning process, violates our urban limit-line ordinance, which requires formal evaluation of potential for increased densities, as well as being proposed without parks.  This project should be re-negotiated and re-designed to best suit its parcel, between the mall and the community center on the key East Street transit corridor.  Infill development should also substantially assist and fund our paramount goal of city urbanization.

Proposed General Plan consolidation and modernization of zoning is long overdue.

Flood risks have now diminished with new mapping, inducing food-processing related enterprises to begin considering locations within Woodland’s industrial area – as well as general, agriculturally related enterprises — central to our local economic interests.

Mixed-use development should occur upon the formerly proposed site of Gateway 2, as outlined within the draft General Plan, consistent with our urban limit-line law.

No movie theater should ever be allowed at Gateway Center. Clearly, this is a discretionary issue for City Council (upon review of the CUP), despite contrary concern.

Flood protection may now be on the planning horizon, due to our ability to apply for state (Prop. 1A) funding, meaning that we may have a flood solution within a decade or so.

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LWV Question 2:

How do you think sustainability should be incorporated in all actions taken by the City Council including but not limited to the General Plan, transportation, and water? Include in your remarks your view of a Climate Action Plan for the City of Woodland.

Response

Walking around town the other day, I met a 21 year-old bike rider who is getting one for his girlfriend.  “I make $9 an hour,” he said, “I can’t afford a car or gas to put in it.”  Fossil-fueled transit impedes sustainability of our community; we must invigorate alternatives in every possible manner.

Water conservation is a clear priority, as well as our surface-water project, establishing well-storage uses and marketing our treated-water supply.  Solar-energy installations are now planned for city facilities, a key trend, which is expected to annually produce more than 5 million kwh of power.

Our Climate Action Plan, presently being developed, will provide us with policies articulating in great detail our quest for community sustainability.

The City Council should endorse and promote a state / national carbon tax, rebated directly to each citizen and outside of all political influences.

Wise land use is also a prominent element of community sustainability.  Peripheral development must not only pay its own way and contribute to city urbanization; it must also meaningfully help accomplish sustainability.  Infill projects must also serve local sustainability goals, wherever relevant, upon establishment of municipal codes to better implement such policies.

On key a land use matter, worth recognizing is that only one Woodlander defending against Gateway 2, now voided by the state appellate court for multiple violations of environmental law, was quoted for this cause within the court’s opinion: Me, monitoring and objecting against this bad project.

Court records indicate that the City Council defended this project with its announced policy that the City: “Has no power to distribute or control the distribution of commercial potential,” an outright abdication of our zoning authority, having implications for sustainability.  Such nonsense must end.

Finally, we should recognize that there is a cultural component basic to any notion of community sustainability.  We now exist in a hot, class war, wherein the City Council must possess a scope of experience outside of its present ability for political understanding.  “Diversity” is more properly understood as class-based, contrasted with the usual focus on ethnicity.   I am the only City Council candidate of the city’s economic underclass.

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LWV Question 3 :

The City Council has made the decision to ask voters whether to move to electing Council members by District.  This may be the last election for electing Council members at large.  What is your position on District elections and when should the election for city council be held?

Response

Are we a real democracy; or are we a plutocracy, perhaps an oligarchy?

Most citizens want to vote in November general elections, so why are City Council elections held when only half of our citizens vote?  Elites among us demand it, to best protect various interests of local political cliques.

As earlier stated, our primary political challenge is class-based inequality, rather than that of ethnicity, which currently carries such identification.

Discerning that the City Council would attempt what amounts to another unlawful, at-large, primary election in 2014, knowing a politically inclined Latina mother of six, desiring to become a legal petitioner, I decided to contact a prominent Bay Area firm specializing in civil rights issues.

During our discussions, there suddenly arose a quite strange situation, of which local citizens should now be made aware.

Out of the blue, Jesse Ortiz contacted this Bay Area law firm, for purposes of dissuading it from assisting CVRA reform in Woodland.  At the same time — Ortiz postured as a primary advocate for Latino voting rights, with Skip declaring in open council session that: “Jesse knows what’s best for Woodland,” by cooperating with unconscionable delay in CVRA reform.

Why did Ortiz (a prominent Latino) thusly behave, seeking to obstruct local CVRA reform (he has long ago been afforded an opportunity to respond)?

In the first place, he is running for county schools chief and must appeal to the basic political quotient within a primary election scenario — which he is not willing to challenge.  Ortiz seems not to perceive the obviously inherent conflict-of-interest involved with presuming to be a strong leader of Latino voting rights and running for county schools chief.  But then again, unless this situation surfaces, he might expect to hide such a complexion.

Secondly, CVRA reform would complicate / upset long-made plans for Angel’s candidacy.  Another Latino, Joe Romero, wanted to run; but, he was told to stand in line, to await his turn — since CVRA reform had been delayed.  Such behavior is repellent to democracy, much rather being the nature of politically conservative, clique behavior, from which we suffer.

 

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TEXT: WAVE TV’S CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE VIDEO, BOBBY HARRIS

(–  To view video on internet, go to:  wavetv.org  –)

 

Thanks to Wave staff at Channel 21, for this election opportunity of a publically sponsored nature, where all candidates are on equal ground, rather than being boosted by money from only a very few of about 25,000 voters in Woodland, the political cliques that have for decades controlled our City Hall by using at-large, primary elections.  This election should have been held by districts at the general election in November, but these political cliques, both conservative and supposedly liberal, wouldn’t let that occur, because it threatens their control.

No cliquey bankroll for it, but Woodland desperately needs a progressive voice on its City Council, for the first time in its modern history, because times are changing much faster than a politically one-legged Council can ever keep up with.  Improved dialogue of wider political experience and scope is needed for our community evolution, and that will occur only if I am elected to the Council.

Diversity is needed, class-based diversity on City Council, and the only way this progressive diversity will begin to exist, is by my election, since I am the only under-class candidate.  As a member of the economic under-class, I’ve successfully advocated and innovated two major, statewide public-policy reforms; poor people can help get the job of justice done, for they best understand it.

Bill Marble will run away with this election and be our next mayor.  The actual political choice is which of the other three of us becomes elected, whether the cliques will prevail with their usual methods of control — or whether we actually bring fresh ideas and experienced vision on our City Council.

I believe Angel and Steve are earnestly endeavoring for election; it’s simply that progressively diverse values are best represented by someone with such life experience.

Angel was born and raised here; I’ve been a Woodlander for those same thirty some years, as an adult involved in civic affairs. Steve, successful conservative businessman;   but now, we profoundly need progressive diversity.

Both of them should run again from districts at the next election, but neither has the political character needed to pursue an experienced balancing of Council perspectives.  Marble is the candidate of maintaining our consistency; I am the candidate of our progressive change and evolution.  Such political balance is essential for success.

Durable political independence and experience is what I bring to council decision-making, garnered from a lifetime of involvement and understanding, a complex seasoning.

When our community needed defense against Petrovich’s now defeated Gateway 2 project, I was on the front line, with my criticisms recognized by the state appeals court.

So, what are some prominent community challenges?

Economic development:  Agricultural and food-processing enterprises should be attracted, since our heritage is so valued, as is our location on primary transportation routes.  We are presently receiving attention for this development, as new flood-maps reveal minimal impacts in some areas.  Several such businesses are now actively inquiring about their potential location in Woodland, says City staff.

Let’s develop the Highway 113 – Road 25A interchange, with business-park and regionally commercial uses, both likely attracting increased participation of Davisites within Woodland’s economy.

Let’s focus on creating a long-delayed Renaissance in our downtown, altering our Main Street traffic pattern toward pedestrian values with four-way stops, diagonal parking and a reasonable program for Main Street being our city square, where regular events attract foot-traffic needed for our downtown merchants to succeed and flourish.

Let’s spend a substantial part of remaining redevelopment funds for what this community has long desired, creating a renovation and expansion of our State Theatre, which should have already occurred, but for bad Council actions.

Public Safety:  Woodland needs a Council member of the underclass, to best comprehend and transform challenges into established justice and community progress.  Needed are innovative programs to manage these matters and an experienced attitude devoted to community protection.

Housing:  Home ownership is fundamental to a healthy and happy community; yet, the City Council is not properly challenging housing developers to serve this great need.  Let’s find ways to bring home-ownership within the reach of working-class Woodlanders, using innovative planning designs to foster sustainable community development.

Library:  Our library needs more city support.  Measure J is simply a beginning.  A way must be found to expand our library in a proper manner; yet, the City Council will have taken thirty years to finish its current renovation plan.  We need dynamic, innovative leadership to discover the way for best expanding the library toward future demands.

Climate Action Plan:  Woodland must have a successful climate action plan as a pivotal General Plan component, fully integrated into developmental decision-making.  The City Council should endorse, promote a national carbon tax, rebated to each citizen, outside of any political use.

Transparency:  This has obviously been a huge challenge for the City Council, with its prevalent backroom deals and handshake agreements, which are grossly undermining community development; from Gateway 2, to Chase Bank, to the downtown theatre fiasco, to violation of ballot-based planning policy for residential developers, to sweetheart deals for council cronies, to undue impact fee roll-backs.

Flood Control:  City staff are now working to obtain state bond funds, to be allocated in 2016, which would totally resolve Woodland’s flood issues, since the Cache Creek drainage is becoming realized as the key to regional flood solutions.  We may now have comprehensive flood control within a decade or so, without compromising community integrity by premature, peripheral development schemes.

 

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YOLO SUN OPINION :

For a variety of reasons (as will be expressed), it has become necessary to temporarily transform this publication into an election accessory with the hope of expanding and balancing key political discourse, leading up to the Woodland City Council election on June 3, 2014.

Mingling politics and journalism, as a candidate in this election, appears to be essential for purposes of serving the public interest, which is my goal.  As will become apparent, this goal easily takes precedence over playing pretty, perverse, self-serving / clique-serving political games which more and more consume a greater and greater portion of local election process.

Future columns will focus on topics relevant to these circumstances, with this initial entry concerned with basic background and the Daily Democrat.

Contrasting City Election Processes

An extraordinary absence of public process accompanies contemporary city council elections, as compared with how they were conducted a few decades ago.

Then, the city would hold an open orientation session for council candidates, introducing key city staff members and providing an overview of city operations, so that all candidates might have balanced and convenient access to basic / updated understanding of local municipal function.

This seemed to be the least our city could do for the relatively few persons who each two years applied as council candidates.

Today, only a few city departments practice candidate outreach.  There exists no organized effort to accomplish it, leaving city council candidates to whatever independent, likely unbalanced and inequitable measures are available.

Our fundamental commons of local political process has been significantly eroded.

Another example of such an adverse trend is the requirement that candidates must pay the ~$1500 cost of publishing their ballot statement.  This basic, equitable political platform was revoked about the time the new century dawned, making it more difficult for ordinary, lower economic-class citizens to participate as candidates and easier for Woodland’s upper-crust, political class, as it were, to better control the local candidate field.

What about local election forums and debates (although debates, per se, are clearly out of bounds, somehow perversely considered uncivil)?

There used to be several city council candidate forums (though, no actual debates worthy of that name), often three events, hosted by the Senior Center, the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtowners, Latino interests, the Daily Democrat, etc..  Recently, the League of Women Voters provides the only remaining election forum venue.

The Daily Democrat used to host a lengthy interview with its publisher, etc., for each city council candidate, as grist for endorsements and relatively extensive and detailed candidate profiles (although separate staff interviews were also conducted).  The paper would (to a limited extent) also cover the various candidate forums.  The paper’s election coverage is now only a pale reflection of its past process.

The Daily Democrat’s ethical performance, though never very good, recently approaches a nadir.

Serial Election Misbehavior

In 2012, the Daily Democrat refused (or failed, however stated) to report news about the politically relevant fact that City of Woodland did not have a budget for two fiscal years (2010-11, 2011-12).  The Daily Democrat also refused to sell Yolo County Supervisor, Duane Chamberlain, political ads making reference to this fact.

The reason the Daily Democrat behaved thus, is because it backed candidates who would be politically harmed, if it reliably reported the huge and hidden news about the absence of a public, city budget, within the time-period city council members were still unethically keeping from public view that half ($2 million) of annual Measure E money was being used in violation of its advisory guidelines, to fund (defaulting) bond service on the new community center project — using money promised for capital improvements to fund out-of-control debt, arisen from this extravagantly designed and imprudently implemented boondoggle, from which it will take the city decades to financially recover.

But hey, why should a newspaper report such things?

In 2010, the Daily Democrat attempted to unethically extort advertising money from community supporters of Measure V, telling them that it would not publish so many of their letters to the editor, saying that they rather needed to buy expensive ads in the paper for purposes of disseminating their political message.

Shaking-down community interests in such a manner is unconscionable, and led to the paper’s editor being described as “a despot” (please see June, 2012, Yolo Sun article).

Newspapers are by principle supposed to abide with what’s often referred to as — “a firewall” — between its potentially conflicting editorial and advertising components.  Violating this traditional journalistic standard seems to be a regular specialty of the Daily Democrat.

Twisted News Coverage

News coverage often suffers the same general fate as these letters to the editor, in my experience with this paper, whose posture is often that of a lap-dog for entrenched city-council / chamber-of-commerce type interests.

Let’s take the recent case of its reporting news that Paul Petrovich’s Gateway 2 project — approved by the city council and rubber-stamped by the local superior court — was on appeal (unanimously) found to clearly be in multiple violation of state environmental law.

The Daily Democrat article’s lead referred to the Gateway 2 project being: “Kicked in the teeth.  Again.”  The “again” seems to refer to the lawsuit (by California Clean Energy Committee) being filed in the first place.

“Kicked in the teeth,” implies an unjustified assault had been committed upon this project, rather than the Daily Democrat simply stating the plain truth, that the city (council) and Petrovich colluded to violate key state law with Gateway 2, a significant aspect of which involved urban decay.

Other examples of such slanted reporting are fairly prevalent.

Recent Misreporting

Lately, the Daily Democrat (yet, so many say: Daily Disappointment) elevates its penchant for slanting of its reporting, to the extent of spending its column inches attempting to pillory yours truly, rather than focusing on what the public actually needs to know.

Instead of duly reporting that two members of Woodland Planning Commission (Fred Lopez and John Murphy) voted with strong voices in opposition to Paul Petrovich’s application for expansion of allowed commercial uses at his Gateway Center, and explaining the solid reasons for their opposing votes, the Daily Democrat spills ink about me that demands retraction, seriously mischaracterizing affairs, jumping to anxious conclusions to see only what it wants to see.

The Daily Democrat is content to ignore slanderous misrepresentations by Petrovich to the Planning Commission, related to his and the city’s recent state appellate court loss, voiding Gateway 2 — while sensationally highlighting my being unfairly refused a rebuttal by the Planning Commission chairperson, who is clearly in Petrovich’s camp, and in frustration calling “bullshit” against such slander.

Petrovich’s attitude and statements starkly displays a likely intention to renew his Gateway 2 proposal — a vital reason for the city to require an environmental impact report regarding expansion of allowed uses at Gateway Center.  That’s a hugely crucial news story, passed-up by the Daily Democrat.

Journalism in the public interest is obviously a challenge for this paper.

Another such example, is the context of Petrovich’s remarks before the Planning Commission regarding his failure to continue with plans of a downtown theater complex, after the city collapsed consideration of an alternative project.

Petrovich claims that the cost of a city requirement for an environmental report on that project ($100,000), “would kill me.”

In actuality, the relevant city staff report was falsified to state that no further city processes were required in order for Petrovich’s theater complex to move forward, this falsification being at the center of the city’s collapsing consideration of an alternative project.

More Curious Problems

The Daily Democrat got off on the wrong foot, regarding my city council candidacy, on March 19, with its editorial review naming all political candidates relevant to Woodland, except me.

Then, its brief article about city council candidates included everyone’s picture, except mine (which the paper certainly has on file).  It’s also worth noting that the feature story in that day’s paper (about soil studies) was longer than the article about the city council race.  The paper expects city council candidates to pay it, in order to play their message.

Below is my demand letter to the Daily Democrat, issued on the day its article hit the street :

Elizabeth Kalfsbeek (and Jim Smith),

Re: Daily Democrat article of April 19

I don’t believe my remark about not being allowed to rebut — as Petrovich was allowed to do — constitutes being “unruly.” “Unruly” means much more than that, and I believe you were slanted with this report.

Plus, Petrovich actually “baited” me at the press table (and why was he even there?). He started that exchange — not me.

I just leaned over a moment later and told him that his repeated (slanderous) characterizations of the Gateway 2 lawsuit and the appellate court were “repellant.” That’s all I said to him and that’s when he jumped up and fled.

His slanderous statements in this regard were a primary reason I requested a rebuttal. That was the actual reference of my calling him “bullshit.”

You have misreported these matters. You should have checked with me to learn the truth, rather than jump to conclusions.

I firmly object to your slanted coverage of these items and demand a published retraction.

 

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YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Another odd twist has emerged involving the evolving community planning context of Gateway Center, the 50 acre, big-box strip-mall at Woodland’s eastern edge.

Paul Petrovich, whose Woodland Development Company LLC owns Gateway, has filed an application to “clarify and allow additional flexibility in the nature and types of uses [ ] for the small tenant spaces (under 4000 square feet),” according to the relevant city staff report. “This request is to allow additional professional service uses, as support to the overall center, and to clarify what uses are allowed in the smaller tenant spaces.”

Petrovich is requesting that the center’s conditional use permit “be modified to allow uses that are consistent with the City’s C-1 Neighborhood Commercial Zone[,]” continues this community planning staff report.

City planning staff contends that existing environmental approval for Gateway Center and the need to complete and reinforce project build-out support Petrovich’s application.

This matter is set for public hearing on April 17 before Woodland Planning Commission.

Dozens Of Businesses Involved

City planning staff indicates that Gateway Center is already — generally permitted — to allow retail shop spaces under 4000 square feet, for the 77,200 square feet of space requested for zoning clarification by Petrovich.

“The requested changes do not increase the size of the center or significantly change the retail uses,” argues this staff report. “The changes do not increase the intensity or overall use of the center and do not raise any environmental issues that were not addressed in the earlier environmental review, or cause new or substantially more severe significant environmental impacts.”

The pertinent planning issue is: Currently determining what specific zoning categories are interpreted as being properly implicated by the vague and broad, eight-year old, conditional use permit of Gateway Center.

In practical terms, this amount of total space (located at southeastern part of Gateway, near the Pet Extreme store) would provide room for about 25 businesses which would perhaps otherwise locate within Woodland’s downtown area or at County Fair Mall.

The city staff report admits that, by its (perhaps now outdated) 2006, pre-recession, environmental analysis and evaluation, Gateway Center’s “most direct competition would be with the County Fair Mall,” while still arguing that its impact “would not be significant because [various market areas] still presented the County Fair Mall with a sizable market.”

“Further, the [2006, pre-recession, environmental] analysis concluded that with or without the Gateway Center, the County Fair Mall would need re-working to compete regionally. ‘That there is still investor interest in the mall, even with the Gateway center and therefore the project would have less than significant impact on existing businesses due to urban decay,’” recites the current staff report (emphasis in original).

“Staff’s assessment,” continues this report, is that “impact to the vacancy rate [caused by city approval Petrovich’s application for zoning clarification and flexibility] would be relatively small and would not affect the overall health of [County Fair Mall or Woodland’s downtown area].”

County Fair Mall: Impacted, Protests

County Fair Mall ownership describes its vacancy rate as about 40%, and that its “foot traffic is extremely small,” continuing, “ Wal Mart [at the Mall] owns their own building and related land, [and] insisted on closing off the entrance into the Mall, so this major retailer does not generate much shopper traffic after their customers buy groceries.”

By stark contrast, this city planning report states that: “[I]t should be noted that the Mall appears to be undergoing transition and has experienced the recent positive addition of the WalMart grocery store.”

Its 40% vacancy rate “is not feasible to continue,” asserts mall ownership, seemingly contradicting the city’s 2006 environmental review, upon which the present city staff position is based.  This review found that Gateway Center “would have less than significant impact on existing businesses due to urban decay.” (Please see excerpts quoted just above.)

According to city staff, the legal (case law based) “standard of significance” for urban decay includes property deterioration “directly or indirectly” caused by retail “vacancies.”

For reasons which are curious / unclear, Radio Shack and Payless Shoes, presently located at County Fair Mall and both around 3000 square feet in size are described by city planning staff as “already allowed uses in the Center,” — regardless of the requested planning contours of Petrovich’s suddenly desired clarification of allowable, small tenant uses.

These businesses remain relevant as “awaiting approval of the City to move to Gateway,” according to Raymond Arjmand, managing owner of the Mall, despite whatever specific planning distinctions are applied by city staff, regarding any parsing of specific zoning categories involved with Petrovich’s application.

“We are protesting the expansion of the Gateway Project,” plainly declares Arjmand in his April 4 letter to the city.

Interestingly, public notice of this matter was not published until April 6, by The Daily Democrat, which has come under suspicion for leaking such information.

Two Letters From County Fair Mall Ownership

Arjmand actually wrote two separate letters to the city on April 4, one protesting Petrovich’s request and another letter objecting to any “potential future construction of the Gateway II project planned to be developed by Paul Petrovich.”

Gateway II, a proposed, adjacent doubling of Gateway Center, was struck down and voided by a state appellate court ruling on February 28, because of multiple violation of environmental quality law, as a result of legal action brought by California Clean Energy Committee.

Apparently, Arjmand greatly fears that Petrovich will soon attempt to resurrect Gateway II, despite its enormous and expensive failure, as this project was discerned as unlawful following several years of litigation.

Arjmand complains to the city that Target (90,000 sq. ft.), Mattress Outlet (3000 sq. ft.) and General Nutrition Center (2000 sq. ft.) have already left County Fair Mall for the existing Gateway project, and that the Mall’s movie theaters (owned by Cinemark, a huge corporation) “is awaiting approval from the City to move to Gateway.”

Gateway Center’s Development Agreement permits insertion of movie theaters, after their location downtown, potentially creating commercial confusion / inhibition / competition against a downtown theater location.

“The effect of your efforts is to monopolize all new business at the Petrovich development site,” writes Arjmand to the city. “This is totally unfair business practice and clearly demonstrates favoritism to one developer [: Petrovich].

“We suggest that your efforts would be more beneficial to the community you serve by promoting redevelopment and helping business owners who have already been damaged by Gateway I.  You have a fiduciary responsibility to be serving all of the members of the City of Woodland,” admonishes Arjmand (emphasis in original.)

“We think that one of the most important jobs of the City Council is to seek to create net economic growth in this community,” writes Arjmand, pointing out that merely transferring businesses from one location to another will not achieve “new net sales to Woodland,” as described by city staff report.

Arjmand believes that: “This kind of business decision making must be stopped.”

“A successful [Gateway Center] requires synergy created by a diverse tenant mix through a variety of merchandisers and service providers,” announces city planning staff. “Providing a range and depth of tenant mix will support the center’s success and resiliency[.]  But at the same time, the center should not overly compete with other key neighborhood and community retail centers in town.’

What: “overly compete[,] success[,] resiliency” actually amount to and how such retail commercial purposes and zoning are best viewed, assigned and implemented, are clearly at the core of this city planning controversy.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Paul Petrovich has recently applied for an adjustment of the Development Agreement for Gateway Center, an expansion of allowed uses to include Neighborhood Commercial, a zoning category which has previously been disallowed because of direct conflict with Woodland’s downtown area and County Fair Mall.

If approved by Woodland Planning Commission at a public hearing on April 17, retail spaces of less than 4000 square feet would become available at Gateway Center, limited to 20% of the total retail space of this project.

Knowledgeable sources indicate that the owner of County Fair Mall, Raymond Arjmand, is livid with objection and contacted Woodland City Hall even prior to public notice being issued about this proposed modification of the Gateway Center Development Agreement.  Speculation has arisen that the leak of this information to Arjmand has resulted from its submission to The Daily Democrat for publication as a legal notice.

Yolo Sun will soon publish a detailed report about this matter.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

City of Woodland and Paul Petrovich (real party in interest) have lost their lawsuit defending the Gateway 2 Development Project, a doubling of the size of the existing Gateway Center at the eastern edge of the City (California Clean Energy Committee v. City of Woodland, Case Number C072033).

The City of Woodland is now under an appellate court order to soon rescind its planning certification and void its approval of Paul Petrovich’s proposed Gateway 2 Project, for multiple violation of the California Environmental Quality Act.

California’s Third Appellate District has today issued this initial statement of the disposition of this case: Pivotal for the future of Woodland, Reversal of the Yolo County Superior Court, Brought by California Clean Energy Committee to enforce the California Environmental Quality Act (another Yolo Sun News Report on the full opinion will follow):

Disposition date (YYYY-MM-DD):          2014-02-28
Disposition description:                        Reversed & Remanded to trial court w/directions
Disposition status as of 2014-02-28:    Final

[Court] Notes:

The judgment is reversed, and the matter remanded to the trial court to grant California Clean Energy Committee’s petition for writ of mandate on grounds (1) the City of Woodland’s urban decay mitigation measures are insufficient under the California Environmental Quality Act, (2) the final environmental impact report violates the California Environmental Quality Act by not properly assessing the feasibility of the mixed-use alternative, and the City of Woodland’s rationale for rejecting the mixed-use alternative is not supported by substantial evidence in its environmental impact reports, and (3) the City of Woodland did not properly assess transportation, construction, and operational energy impacts in its environmental impact reports.

The trial court shall vacate the award of costs to the City of Woodland as the prevailing party and shall retain jurisdiction over this action by way of a return to the writ of mandate demonstrating the City of Woodland has rescinded its final environmental impact report certification and project approval, after which the City of Woodland shall exercise its independent judgment as to how to proceed.  (Pub. Resources Code, § 21168.9, subd. (b).)
California Clean Energy Committee shall recover its costs on appeal.  (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.278(a)(3) & (5).)

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YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

In the wake of recent theft and recovery of the Library’s historical (1905) brass handrail, Trustees of Woodland Public Library met on February 19 and considered, among other matters, various subjects related to security.

Bicycle theft became a topic, since library patrons are chronic victims of such criminal behavior.

One library staff member speculates that bike thieves sometimes operate in teams, using a truck to collect bikes locked-up with only regular cables, which can easily be cut with relatively concealable tools.

During consideration of potential remedies, library trustee Bud Goding came forward with an innovative solution.  He proposes welding suitable lengths of 3/4-inch thick chain to the library’s bicycle racks, so that each bike frame can be wrapped with such a chain and secured using only patrons’ hardened locks.

Goding also volunteers to do the welding.

“It would take someone more than a half-hour to hack-saw through a 3/4 inch chain,” indicates Goding, who adds that bolt cutters big enough to break such a chain / lock would be difficult to conceal.

The library has spaces for about 25 bicycles, in four racks at either side of its front entrance.

Although the specific time-frame is uncertain for Goding’s installation of such chains on library bike racks, this security measure should soon become available for library patrons, so they may confidently use bicycles to frequent the library.

August 2014
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