YOLO SUN OPINION :

Woodland’s growth dynamics are suddenly and prematurely at a genuine crossroads, resulting from two political influences: the issue of flood control and the desire of Conaway Preservation Group (CPG, which controls the ~17,000 acre Conaway Ranch, lying between City of Woodland and the Sacramento River) to acquire from the City and develop a 900 acre parcel at the very easterly edge of town, southeast of Costco, near the sewage treatment plant.

A key and intricate political drama has begun playing out alongside consideration and eventual adoption of Woodland’s new (2015-2035) General Plan, a political drama which will decide where City growth will largely take place after (substantial, say 85%) completion of the recession-plagued Spring Lake Specific Plan (SLSP), ~1,100 acres, ~4,000 housing units, ~11,000 residents.

SLSP is currently only about a quarter built-out and Woodland would technically be able to meet its basic housing needs for the entire term of the new General Plan, simply on the basis of already approved zoning.  However, jockeying to best control the — post-SLSP horizon — has recently given rise to a truly lynchpin exercise over the basic direction of the City’s future development.

Transparent, Yet Non-Transparent

With an astonishing coincidence / convergence of both — transparency and non-transparency — CPG has recently launched — by proxy of a small group of locally well-connected, seemingly earnest folk (among whom, interestingly, some dissension exists concerning elements of this campaign), skippered by former mayor Skip Davies — a sophomoric, attractively glossy yet starkly misleading, public petition campaign intended to crucially influence impending update of Woodland’s General Plan.

Transparent, is that this petition campaign obviously represents the pure interests of CPG.  Non-transparent, is that CPG’s name or reference is found nowhere on it and CPG fails to respond to press inquiry regarding this quite public (and controversial) subject.

Significant resources were expended from somewhere, to produce several pieces of relatively sophisticated campaign material, which does not disclose its organizational status.  Have no doubt, CPG is clearly (transparently) somewhere behind / underneath this (non-transparent) political campaign: “Woodland Balanced Growth Boundaries.”

As we’ll see, even this campaign name itself is nonsensical.  There is no actual “balance” involved here and relevant “boundaries” are deceptively confused.

Altogether, considering this campaign’s catchy name and scrutinizing its stated goals, there is a distinct impression of the public being buffaloed toward supporting CPG’s design of community development.

City Hall has already received nearly 500 very colorful, beautifully designed postcards with bucolic settings, supplied by this petition campaign, expressing support for its quite curious list of goals.

CPG Campaign Goals

This petition campaign initially presents a series of eight goals, the first five of which are quite popular, totally uncontroversial: (a) preserve prime farmland, (b) revitalize / infill downtown, (c) accomplish flood-control. (d) promote railroad relocation, (e) complete SLSP prior to approving large new development.

But then, underneath these top goals, the campaign swiftly drifts into very strange territory: (f) encourage a ‘bring-your-own-water’ type of general plan incentive / provision for future city development proposals (contrasted by the fact that the city says all future development will be fully served by addition of its new surface water project — a cooperative venture with CPG); (g) purportedly, “Save jobs at Pacific Coast Producers [PCP] by relocating their organic wastewater” spray-field; (h) rezone PCP’s present 900 acre, city-owned spray-field for cannery production residue, to allegedly establish “a community asset and include job-creating land purposes.”

Glaringly evident intentions / interests of CPG, posed by the three goals at the bottom of the list, are here being cynically elevated through association with a series of straightforward, praiseworthy and undeniable community values expressed within the campaign’s initial five goals.  Subterfuge is here at work, as these campaign matters descend toward an exploitation of civic circumstances.

General Plan Updating Process

The general plan updating process is expected to release, perhaps by early May, various community land-use scenarios, representing analyses and evaluation of a broad scope of municipal consequences deriving from future growth options.  Eventually, Woodland City Council will adopt a — “preferred” — land-use scenario, approving a rather specific blueprint of future community development.  The City last fully updated its general plan in 1996.

CPG clearly wants to play a pivotal role within local political dynamics, leading to adoption of a new general plan, by using intertwined leverage:  (a) its cooperation / support toward both flood control and railroad relocation, (b) alongside its longstanding interest in swapping a piece of its vast land for the relevant 900 acre, city owned and annexed parcel at the city’s eastern extremity, presently being used as a spray-field for organic residue from the local tomato cannery, operated by PCP.

Cannery Spray-Field, Owned by City, At Very Core of Affairs

PCP, according to a reliable and knowledgeable source, is unwillingly, unhappily, yet quite abruptly caught-up in CPG’s political connivances regarding this campaign intended for influencing the general plan process.  PCP is prominently referred to, in large and slick campaign material resembling an hypnotic board-game, as somewhat urgently needing to move its spray-field to another location — potentially supplied by CPG (although CPG nowhere appears in this campaign material).

A prominent campaign claim is made that such a spray-field move will: “protect jobs,” as if without such a spray-field transfer, PCP will somehow cramp its labor force.

Reliable and knowledgeable sources indicate this central claim of the CPG campaign is pure baloney, explaining that: (a) PCP is investing millions of dollars in this cannery, acquired from Delmonte corporation in 2000; (b) PCP is in no form of labor bind due to current operations related to its spray-field; (c) PCP is strongly committed to remaining in Woodland, despite any future issues related to its (city owned and leased from) spray-field.

According to the view of one reliable and knowledgeable source, PCP is being falsely represented / used in this campaign by CPG, as a cynical device of hoped-for leverage toward achieving its goal of acquiring and developing this 900 acre parcel.

Both PCP and CPG were fairly requested to provide officially pertinent information, make relevant statements, etc.; both have failed (after a week) to respond to such requests.

Deceptive Campaign Angle About Preserving Prime Farmland

“Respecting growth boundaries means only building inside the voter-approved Urban Limit Line,” declares petition campaign materials, also misleadingly advocating in this context, for “preservation of prime farmland.”

However, this campaign crudely and confusingly ignores the stark fact that “prime farmland” is already located — inside — the Urban Limit Line.  This land is generally described as the Spring Lake Master Plan Remainder Area.

Woodland’s Urban Limit Line was constituted to protect farmland adjacent to the City — outside the Urban Limit Line — not to forestall development of the very limited amount of farmland which is fairly unavoidably contained within the Urban Limit Line.

CPG’s petition campaign fails to distinguish this salient difference, deceptively disorienting the public by obscuring the important fact that: “honoring our voter-approved Urban Limit Line” is wholly consistent with developing the small slice of prime farmland left remaining within it.

In fact, prioritizing future development toward the southern extent of the Urban Limit Line, rather than the eastern edge as CPG desires, may indeed be in the city’s best interest.

The CR25A interchange exists not to support farmland preservation, but to make feasible future community development toward what was eventually chosen by local voters (2006) as the Urban Limit Line.  Davis is only a very few minutes away.  Properly designed commercial / residential zoning at / nearby the CR25A interchange would help elicit and invigorate participation of Davis-connected persons within our local economy, best enhancing positive synergy between these two cities.  Land (soil) quality is high in this general area and these southern parcels are out of the flood-plain.  SLSP’s overall planning goals obviously anticipate further southerly development and its infrastructure was designed to accommodate such annexed growth; developing here means using an already invested value which the city greatly needs to optimize.

Also, if you were presently / potentially a Davisite, considering Woodland as a prospective (re)location option, would you want to live within these convenient southerly areas, or within the 900 acre parcel CPG covets, to the east, much further away, on much worse (alkaline) soils, nearby the sewage treatment plant and I-5 traffic?

CPG’s challenge to overcome (through campaign influence on city council members) is that city annexation and development of the Spring Lake Master Plan Remainder Area could effectively dislodge for decades its own fervent hope to acquire and develop the 900 acre parcel of city-owned land now leased by PCP.

Thus, CPG wants to publicly foster beliefs that — as well as by saving (non-)threatened cannery jobs, by deceptively alleging that threatened prime farmland will ultimately be saved by the new general plan directing city growth into the eastern-edge property it intends to acquire and develop — its own plans can be viewed as consistent with civic interest.

CPG Campaign’s Position On Urban Limit Line Is Essentially Flawed

The basic problem CPG cannot overcome is that the Urban Limit Line properly and logically includes this limited amount of prime farmland, outside of the flood-plain, which may surely be preferred for development because of a wide variety of strong justifications (above), as should be reliably reflected within the process of updating the general plan.

Is the position of this campaign that the Urban Limit Line should be moved (must be by ballot action) to exclude such farmland from municipal development, or rather — only — that development of this farmland should occur — after — development of the 900 acre parcel CPG craves?

If the latter, such simple delay appears inconsistent / hypocritical with its grave sentiment against developing farmland.  If the former, such ballot action must become realistic; until then, official city policy holds this farmland open for potential / eventual development and the city predicates its overall activities upon this basis.  Either way, CPG is here pursuing quite suspect, even fraudulent, campaign advocacy.

This CPG campaign is attempting to subtly contravene / undercut sound, ballot-box-established city policy, as the core dynamic of its approach to this city’s new general plan process.  Could anything be more imprudently, unreasonably awkward?  Let’s just hope it’s unsuccessful.

Why does CPG believe it can buffalo Woodland in this fashion?

Flood Control As Another CPG Device / Gambit

Another layer of great and genuine curiosity, if not political / civic negligence, exists in irresponsible city council direction, that — only — land-use scenarios premised upon achievement of a flood-control solution will be considered within this General Plan update.

Such a patently unbalanced and foolish premise plays directly into CPG’s conniving hands, as well as disserving municipal interest.

There is no form of guarantee that the city will have any kind of successful flood-control remedy within the time-frame of this new General Plan.

All its eggs in one basket, alternative options ignored, city planning therefore will plainly be flummoxed / undermined, if final and effective flood control is delayed for any significant period of time.  This is not smart policymaking; in fact, it’s pretty stupid.

Why is the city council directing such an unbalanced, possibly untenable approach to this important general plan process?

There is no good reason for the city to rest all of its community planning upon such an unbalanced platform of relative uncertainty.  Clearly, this sort of mistake has happened before, with SLSP.

Talk around town, though, is that a flood-control solution may be only a few years away.  After all, Woodland has applied to the state Department of Water Resources for $150 million to help resolve the Cache Creek flooding potential and the federal Army Corps of Engineers is involved (at its usually plodding rate).

Yet, the huge and unsolved problem is that the city will need to come up with — at least $40 million, on its own — in order to move forward this flood-control solution.

The city doesn’t presently have this money; so, the apparent gambit being waged by CPG, is to offer to purchase the city-owned, PCP spray-field, while providing a sufficient PCP spray-field space amidst its vast acreage.  Revenue from such a sale would then be used to finance the city’s instantly needed (acting in the short term), ~$40 million portion of some anticipated flood-control solution.

CPG’s gambit seemingly assumes the city can be enticed, in the face of soon achieving a flood-control solution — to short-sell its 900 acres — which flood-control would then make exponentially more valuable, while the city rezones this land toward development by CPG.

What a clever squeeze / swindle — unless the city council manages to protect civic interest in a creatively cogent manner.

Also, is there really any price for which profound deviation from this community’s best interests is ever warranted?

 

YOLO SUN OPINION

The newly proposed Prudler project involves a prime and uniquely urbanizable parcel of 38 acres, bounded by the County Fair Mall and Woodland Community & Senior Center, within the City’s East Street Corridor, a fundamental element of enhancing municipal urbanization.

“The previous [Planning Commission] petition [for this project] submitted on August 5, 2005, from K Hovanian Homes,” describes a relevant letter by (then) community development director, Nick Ponticello, “was specifically designed as an active senior housing development [containing 246 dwelling units]. If the revised project is not in substantial compliance with the previously approved petition, then a new petition is required to be submitted and reviewed by the Planning Commission.”

Ponticello’s letter (Nov. 4, 2011) to Prudler project proponents refers to formal City policy adopted by Woodland City Council, regarding General Plan amendments (Resolution No. 4516-B – February 17, 2004), “outlining a process to allow initial consideration of an amendment to the General Plan.”

Prudler project proponents have ignored this clear direction by Ponticello, predicated on basic city policy, for unknown reasons; such reasons should be made public within the consideration process for this project. A subsequent petition would have required that Prudler project proponents present a new developmental “narrative” and “justification as to why and how a change in the approved General Plan would provide benefit to the community.”

Reasonable folk may easily view the newly proposed Prudler project (189 conventional, low density housing units), identical to much of the Spring Lake Specific Plan (an immense, adjacent, already approved and crucially underperforming project, whose adverse financial condition drains $2 million annually from the city’s Measure E budget), as wholly unnecessary and totally at odds with current city goals and vulnerabilities. Doesn’t the city already have enough Spring Lake, etc.?

Despite any argument that city planning process will serve to correct whatever problems may arise from project proponents’ eschewing of straightforward city policy, the intended value of submitting their revised concept for “initial consideration” in a setting of de novo review, has now been lost; the CEQA process is here underway, absent such supposedly beneficial (“required”) process. Why have such a city policy, if it may be (perhaps unreasonably) disregarded? Do not the project proponents desire to prudently receive initial approval of their new, altogether altered developmental concept, prior to engaging in CEQA process?

A significant environmental effect of the Prudler project (as presently proposed) is delayed / circumvented responsibility for, and satisfaction of, consequences of key land-use imperatives recognized and adopted by Woodland’s voters in 2006, by means of an Urban Limit Line Ordinance (ULLO). The ULLO set a maximum legal perimeter on the size of Woodland, partially purposed with promoting local housing “diversity.” To make reasonable and feasible this provision, the ULLO demands a two-tier strategy toward emphasizing and determining “the potential for increased residential densities / higher density residential uses.”

The ULLO establishes that: “The City shall continually reevaluate residential land use densities, housing policies and zoning to determine the potential for increased residential densities for both infill and undeveloped land within the permanent urban limit line. The City shall continually review existing non-residential zoning to determine the potential for conversion to higher density residential uses within the permanent urban limit line.”

The Prudler project is all three developmental categories noted by the ULLO: “infill,” “undeveloped land,” and an “existing non-residential zoning [  ] conversion.” “[C]ontinually reevaluate” indicates that such specific review clearly will occur upon pivotal planning occasions, such as consideration of the Prudler project.

Consequent to the city ignoring the ULLO in approving the Prudler project, located on a prime and uniquely urbanizable parcel (a keystone location for municipal urbanization) would be unavoidable, unwise and unlawful shifting of obvious burdens and responsibilities involved with the ULLO, to other / future land-use development scenarios.

In order to manifest the ULLO process regarding the Prudler project, the required California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Environmental Impact Report for this project must include and properly analyze a “range of reasonable alternatives” (CEQA Guidelines, Section 15126.6). Circumstances related to the ULLO make plain that “the potential for increased residential densities / higher density residential uses” must be reasonably reflected within this CEQA “range of [  ] alternatives.”

YOLO SUN OPINION :

Coincident with planned renovation and expansion of State Theatre, the City of Woodland is moving forward a “preliminary feasibility study” for using $1.4 million (about one-third) of reaquired redevelopment funds to improve Main Street and its sidewalks proximate to this project, as well as to install a palm-tree studded traffic median between Walnut and Elm Streets, purportedly to calm traffic and establish a “sense of place / entry” for this project and the western edge of downtown Woodland.

The city council took action on November 4 to allocate about 10% of these funds ($130,000) for developing a specific scope, design and extent of such proposed improvements.  Council consideration of these improvements will then occur on the basis of this preliminary assessment and presentation.

Improved Sidewalks, Parking Are Good; Median Is Doubly Problematic

Sidewalks on Main Street between Elm and Cleveland, especially on the northern side, certainly must be replaced / improved to complement the new State Theatre complex.  Parking is unavailable on the northern side, due to an abundance of driveways associated with historical use of adjacent property as motor-vehicle dealerships.  Dave Hoblit (who now owns this huge property) has, according to city staff, recently accepted removal of all but one of these several driveways, making parking possible on the northern side of this block.

Planting a row of full-sized palm trees in the middle of Main Street, though, clearly is not so dire a need, as improving this block’s sidelined sidewalks.

The notion of lodging palm trees in Main Street references existing palm trees near East and Main Streets, which “sort of frame the eastern gateway[, by now] attempting to create a compatible and complementary entry feature” at the western gateway of downtown, suggests city staff.

Thus, two basic reasons are being suggested for justifying construction of this palm-tree containing center island, traffic calming and various forms of locational identity.

This notion is to combine (purported) traffic calming effects with a western, downtown gateway / boundary feature, reflective of existing palm trees at its eastern fringe.

Neither of these basic premises withstands actual scrutiny.

Palm trees, while relatively decorative and attractive in certain settings, are non-native to Woodland.  They are not historically authentic as any proper symbol of the City’s identity, or that of its downtown, which should eventually be provided with appropriate gateway features.

That these palm trees are being donated by the railroad, is no justification for their unwise / unwieldy use.

Is Median Effective At Slowing Traffic?

Traffic calming is clearly needed upon all of downtown Main Street, much more so than simply a block-long median could ever deliver.  It’s not at all clear, as well, that such a median would even slow traffic stubbornly barreling down what used to be a state highway.

Council member Sean Denny excitedly describes that, when he is visiting his bank between Walnut and Cleveland Streets, “people are going by at 35 and 40 MPH” on Main Street.

Denny strongly believes that Main Street traffic “need[s] to be slowed down before [it] hits Cleveland and Walnut; otherwise, they’re still going too fast before they get to” Main Street having only two lanes, rather than four lanes available west of Cleveland Street.

Tenacious traffic must be greatly slowed / calmed, according to Denny, prior to arriving at the proposed, tree-stippled center-island, purported to accomplish such calming.

This needs to be “looked at hard,” he exclaims.

And well it should be examined; with the obvious solution being installation of stop signs, instead of palm trees.

Stop signs are the original traffic-calming device, genuinely devoted to pedestrian convenience and safety.

Denny Seems Confused

Denny heralds “public safety” associated with the proposed tree-spiked median; yet, he insists that traffic be calmed before this median serves such a purpose.  Something is awry with his contradictory view.

Correct about the urgency of slowing downtown traffic, Denny confusedly applauds this proposed median as the answer, while at the same time contending that the actual slowing of traffic must be done elsewhere.

The city is planning to station a new traffic signal (acquired with federal money) at Cleveland and Main Streets, intending to promote use of Cleveland as an optional traffic diversion from Main Street.  This plan is based on commercial (rather than residential) properties predominating there, while Walnut has more residential uses between Main and Lincoln Streets.

Stop signs at Walnut and Elm Streets (as well as on through downtown to Fourth Street) would surely augment this planned traffic signal at Cleveland, by ultimately resolving the problem of calming / slowing easterly traffic entering downtown.

Council member Jim Hilliard expressed an endorsement of the overall proposal, including the palm tree filled median, despite his occasional statements in support of replacing traffic signals with stop signs upon downtown Main Street.  Such replacement, especially in concert with diagonal parking, would eliminate traffic calming as a justification for this median.

Parking Doubled With Diagonal Use

Increased parking on Main Street, between Elm and Walnut, was also mentioned by Denny as a benefit of these various improvements; however, inclusion of a center median disallows diagonal parking from this key, lengthy block.

Diagonal parking would double available parking, hugely aiding the new State Theatre complex, whose patrons would realize an important “sense of place,” by more easily and conveniently parking their vehicles.

So, it seems quite evident that best serving public safety and improving parking, means eschewing the proposed tree-laden median and instead, relying on standard stop signs to control traffic flow, as well as using diagonal parking to best supply such space and convenience.

Council member Bill Marble indicated, during consideration of this “preliminary feasibility study,” that:  “As we look at the ultimate objectives that we’re trying to accomplish, there may emerge other ideas, and we should look at them all; making sure that, moving toward a final decision, the process has included all of the input that we welcome and we so much need.”

On that basis, perhaps Woodland’s downtown may yet receive the nature of traffic calming and parking which has long been demanded, in order to properly elevate pedestrian values, essential for a flourishing downtown.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

Alongside considerable political drama related to proposed (30 year) property tax measures, S & T, representing $97 million for school repairs and improvements, the local 2014 general election ballot contains a fascinating contest for Woodland Joint Unified School District (WJUSD) trustee in District One, encompassing Woodland’s northern edge (from Beamer Street) and stretching northwesterly into the rural county.

The Candidates

Two-term Woodland Mayor, Art Pimentel, appointed by WJUSD trustees to fill a vacancy created by recent election of former trustee Angel Barajas to City Council, is being challenged by Tania Tafoya, who had sought that same trustee appointment, a former substitute teacher, coordinator of an elementary-level after-school program (2003-07) and speech pathologist, motivated to yet again seek this trustee seat by having parents who were educators and her recent participation on a committee at the middle school attended by her step-daughter, where she “saw the board opening as an opportunity to give back to my community.”

Tafoya seems quite determined to obtain this seat as WJUSD trustee; while, Pimentel has declared that, had he not received this appointment, he wouldn’t seek the seat only a few months later, through election.

Tafoya has since 2007 been employed by Cache Creek Casino, initially as a human resources representative, later promoted to a position of certified training specialist in the gaming / resort industry.  Pimentel directed a wide variety of student support services (academic tutoring, career counseling, etc.) at Woodland Community College for more than six years before becoming Executive Dean at the Clear Lake campus of Yuba College and most recently, Dean of West Sacramento Center of Sacramento City College.

“In all my [educational] experiences I was directly involved in supporting students of diverse backgrounds, supervised faculty and staff, managed a budget, and implemented local, state, and federal regulations governing the community college systems,” expresses Pimentel. “I worked very closely with all the high schools in our service areas to provide information about the programs offered by our institution in basic skills, career technical assistance and general education.  I have worked in higher education for the last nine years and I am the only candidate who currently works in an educational setting.”

Pimentel, thus familiar with access requirements for higher education, “applied for the position because I feel I can make a real difference in increasing the schools district’s partnerships with city, county and other educational agencies.  Public education is one of the most important issues facing our communities and society.  Access to high quality education is absolutely critical for us to build healthy communities.”

Tafoya indicates that “as a board member I want to make sure all students have the opportunity to learn and excel by providing them current instructional materials, safe facilities and highly qualified teachers.  [Our] challenges are to increase communication and information between board, parents, schools and the community, providing students the best learning environments for student success.”  Tafoya also emphasizes transparency as a goal of her candidacy.

Addressing these challenges, Tafoya suggests “informal meetings in my neighborhood schools, rotating board meetings to different trustee areas within the district and finally including board action items and proposals in school newsletters sent home to parents.”

Pimentel believes “there are many challenges to fully prepare ALL of our students to be work or college ready[;] involving parents by reaching out to them and visiting our sites on a regular basis will also be important and is something I am already doing as a trustee.”

Both candidates were asked the question:  If Measures S & T were to fail voter adoption, how (specifically) would you respond?

Tafoya states that:  “We as a board and administration would look for federal and state grants, community partnerships with City and County agencies and would review and prioritize building and maintenance budgets.”  Pimentel states that:  “If the bond measures fail then we are going to have to continue to place band-aids on the multiple facility problems all our schools are facing.  It will also be important for the Board of Trustees to make every effort to communicate the needs and develop a more collaborative relationship with our City, County and local community organizations.”

Both candidates favor intense and comprehensive implementation of the new “Common Core,” curriculum, designed to help create educational progress among K – 12 students.

Candidate Qualifications Controversy

Tafoya’s candidacy emphasizes that she “is not a career politician and her motives are sincere[;] what sets her apart from her competitor is her experience in the schools and classrooms of our community[;] Tania is one of us,” implying that Pimentel is “a career politician,” perhaps with insincere motives, who lacks direct classroom experience.  Attempting to distinguish herself from Pimentel, Tafoya states that her “work and volunteer experiences in our schools has prepared me to make a real difference in our schools and community.”

Pimentel’s resume, however, includes more than six years of directly managing provision of a comprehensive scope of basic educational curriculum, especially related to student retention and graduation.  He has earned a M. A. in Educational Leadership from CSUS.  On the basis of his performance within this continuous educational foundation, he has been twice appointed to a position of Dean, lately for the campus of Sacramento City College in West Sacramento.

By contrast, Tafoya’s professional experience in local “schools and classrooms” ended in 2007, when she accepted a position in human resources and eventually as a certified training specialist for Cache Creek Casino.  Her ballot designation describes Tafoya as an “educator / training specialist,” based on her current occupation in the gaming industry, because she teaches what she refers to as “Hotel English” to employees of the Casino.

Tafoya has earned a B. S. in Speech Pathology and Audiology, as well as being a certified trainer in what she describes as “Emotional Intelligence, Hotel English and Franklin Covey courses.”  The Daily Democrat has wrongly reported that she has a M. S. degree in Speech Pathology.

Tafoya intends to portray herself as an “educator,” while portraying Pimentel as a perhaps insincere “career politician,” not “one of us,” seemingly attempting to deny him the (decade-long) credibility he surely deserves as an educator.

“Career politician” is an easy accusation to recklessly fling, in an attempt to entice knee-jerk voter reactions; but factually, no local-level politician could ever base a career on such prospects.  Woodland City Council membership pays only $250/mo. and county supervisors most usually have a career separate from their elected office.

Added Aspects Of Interest

Another strange aspect of this contest is the local, political currency of the name:  Tafoya.  Tafoya’s Market (once near East and Main Streets) was for generations a local Latino landmark and Xavier Tafoya was the first Latino elected to serve on Woodland City Council, during the mid-1980s, when few folk thought such political success was possible.

The Tafoya name evokes a long heritage in Woodland, clearly one of political value.  Xavier is presently the most senior trustee at Yuba / Woodland Community College.  Many persons may have an impression that Tania is perhaps Xavier’s niece, etc.; however, despite her carrying the Tafoya name by recent marriage, Xavier is strongly supporting, walking precincts for, and endorsing Pimentel.

“Art has demonstrated his commitment to our diverse community,” announces Xavier Tafoya, “He deserves to continue to represent our children, parents, and community on the school board.”

Tafoya (Tania) also has very deep community relations, a daughter of teachers / educators, for instance, Evelia Genera, her mother, recently retired as principal of Woodland High School and heavily involved in Tafoya’s campaign, which is headquartered at Genera’s home.  Genera’s name appears regularly within Tafoya’s campaign filings and anecdotal information describes her as vigorously active in this campaign.

Genera has been, though, conspicuously unable to persuade very many of her friends and associates within local educational / political circles, to back / endorse Tafoya.

Even Genera’s neighbor, Carol Souza-Cole, Yolo County Office of Education, Trustee-Elect, is supporting and endorsing Pimentel:  “Art’s leadership and experience on the City Council along with his demonstrated skill in finding effective solutions to community issues will be a benefit for the students, parents, teachers and staff of the Woodland Joint Unified School District.”

By contrast, Pimentel wields endorsements from a very long series of elected / appointed officials, retired educators and both current and former WJUSD trustees.

Apparently, county supervisor Duane Chamberlain is the only elected official to endorse Tafoya, as well as donating to her campaign.

Yet another novelty of Tafoya’s campaign is that her lawn-signs are showing up a lot outside of the district, especially in southern Woodland.

Stark Difference In Anonymous Campaign Contributions

Quite interestingly, Tafoya reports receiving more than 72% of contributions ($4305 of $5955) as being anonymous and under $100 (the contribution amount at which public disclosure is legally required).

No other campaign on the relevant ballot has anywhere near this sky-high proportion of low-level, anonymous donation.  Pimentel reports $1183 of $9508 being in this contribution category; while Yes on S&T, which has raised more than $50,000, shows only $372 in this category, and No on S&T lists only $1075 of about $20,000 raised from such sources.

Tafoya has sparked a truly remarkable and unprecedented outpouring of small donations, or else her campaign contribution filing is fraudulent.

Queried about this rather odd circumstance and asked for some estimate of the number of small donations that amounted to $4305, more than 72% of her campaign contributions, Tafoya responded:  “As this is my first campaign all I can say is that I reached out to my community and they contributed what they were able.  I am very grateful and I continue to be humbled by the level of support I have received from throughout our community, city and rural.”

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

The development agreement between City of Woodland and Paul Petrovich, related to Gateway Center (~sixty-acre commercial project at City’s eastern edge), may soon be amended by the City Council to extend its deadline for his construction of $3 million of assessed property value within the City’s downtown area — or else pay the City a penalty of slightly more than $1 million.

The relevant provision of Gateway Center’s development agreement is intended to help mitigate this peripheral project’s adverse impacts upon the downtown area; the downtown is prioritized by basic municipal policy to remain the city’s “central business district.”

The city council originally gave Petrovich quite a long time, eight and a half years from the opening date of Gateway Center, to accomplish something toward such civic balance.  That ample amount of time runs out at the end of 2016.

On July 18, 2014, Petrovich renewed his prior (2006-08) goal of building a suburban-style, single-story (fake two-story) structure at the northwest corner of East and Main Streets.  His new planning application (obviously intending to satisfy his obligation under the development agreement) proposes stationing a gussied-up back-end of a suburban strip-mall, absent pedestrian entryways, along uniquely crucial Main Street frontage.

Entrances to commercial space of this project would be only through its parking lot, located between Main and Court Streets.

As well, Petrovich’s (initial) planning application ignored 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.

Petrovich’s Application Conflicts With Downtown Specific Plan

The City’s Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) plainly states its basic “vision” for the key element of a: “Primary gateway” at East and Main Streets.  Downtown Woodland is the urban heart of Yolo County and its “Primary gateway” should capably display such identity, evoking urban, not suburban, heritage, contemplates the DSP.

The DSP’s vision is of: “[C]ontinuation of the old Rice Mill design, carrying the agricultural heritage reflected in this design directly onto Main Street.”

The DSP’s clear policy is 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.

Oddly, several city council members have recently expressed their unawareness of these key provisions of the DSP, combined (of course) with their willingness to review this fundamental policy document.

Petrovich Agrees To Consider Withdrawing Application

Reliable sources indicate that Petrovich was approached by city staff, several weeks ago, in an attempt to discover if he would be open to withdrawing his current application in return for an extension of the present development-agreement deadline, which was apparently motivating his determination to  move forward this application.

Petrovich responded in the affirmative, according to these sources, stating that he would consider accepting suitable language for amending the development agreement, which would then be adopted by the city council.

These sources described Petrovich as being somewhat surprised at such cooperation by the city.

Such amendment language is apparently now being prepared by the city attorney, with Petrovich soon to receive it.  Speculation exists that Petrovich will be given an extra two years (until late 2018) to satisfy this obligation under the Gateway Center development agreement.

City staff has been requested by Yolo Sun to provide a statement regarding this situation and related reasoning / predication.

Expectations are that the city council will have this item on its agenda before the end of 2014.

 

 

YOLO SUN OPINION :

What does it mean when Woodland City Council is in utter denial about the community planning disaster of its Gateway 2 project?  It means that the City is so politically weak and civically disoriented that really — anything still goes — in terms of future failures of project management and resulting legal predicaments.

Woodland Mayor Tom Stallard has often been heard to exclaim that he doesn’t like to make excuses.

As the City Council rescinded its approval of Paul Petrovich’s Gateway 2 project, however, Stallard’s comments launched into a bizarre legend of lame excuses for this project’s judicial annulment: Maligning the Third District Court of Appeal, Denying that the City was blameworthy for this community planning fiasco, Ignoring more than five years of staff time and resources meaningfully diverted to it (even if Petrovich was billed for related City expenses, City staff time and resources were expansively used for this very badly managed project, thus unavailable for well managed projects).

Petrovich submitted an obtusely crafted letter to the city council on the occasion of this project annulment, indicating that he has lost about eight years of effort and $2 million over this failed deal, while Stallard expressed his “personal regret at the [  ] unfortunate waste of such a significant amount of money [which] produced a lot of frustration.”

Gateway 2 Anew?

Commiserating with councilmember Sean Denny over Petrovich and the city suffering such a sound defeat and Denny’s view that the city should again “get the ball rolling” for another Gateway 2 project, Stallard responded that  he shares Denny’s view and that:  “We’d like to get it right next time.  But, that isn’t to say that I’m blaming the city for this; it’s just one of those unfortunate things.”

Stallard went on to relate that: “Courts can do what courts will do. litigants are free to bring lawsuits and they do.”

“It’s very hard to predict the outcome of environmental lawsuits; it’s very difficult, and sometimes it’s a matter of which judges you get assigned,” opined Stallard, implying that some other distinguished and unanimous three-judge panel of the appeal court may have somehow vindicated the city in this case.

“[It’s a] matter of which judges you get assigned[;] I’m not blaming the city for this; it’s just one of those unfortunate things[;]” all together, starkly display a municipal attitude of blunt denial by the mayor, about the circumstances and consequences of this community planning calamity.

One may suppose that catering to local chamber-of-commerce atmosphere is one crass predication for Stallard’s inability to express any form or manner of municipal responsibility for the city’s variously unlawful actions related to the Gateway 2 project.

How is our community character exhibited by the city council’s flat refusal to publicly recognize its prior (judicially affirmed) relinquishment of civic interests and values by using a series of unlawful environmental processes?  It rescinded this project amidst a dense cloud of denial, hiding its guilty head in the sand, while flinging frivolous objections and politically self-serving distortions in an effort to deflect its lonesome blame.

Petrovich’s Letter To City Council, Cozy Council Response

Petrovich’s letter to the city council is an undaunted, vitriolic rant against the legal process, made by a person clearly familiar with only what they want to know, spewing an enormous fountain of legal gibberish and preposterous distortions of this situation.  He complains about the prevailing counsel (for California Clean Energy Committee) being on “a crusade under a misrepresentation of environmental correctness[;] he saw an activist judge at the Appellate Court level as an opportunity to impose his will on the project and the City through a misuse of the CEQA process.”

Petrovich also mounts a spectacular attack against one of the justices (Hogue) on the appeal court panel in this case, claiming raw nepotism surrounding their seat on the court.

Petrovich indicates that:  “Looking forward, the one major point I want to make is the three issues the court ruled on are easily addressed in the General Plan update . . .”  Judging from the reception by the city council of his relevant letter, a new Gateway 2 project is soon to be undertaken.

City officials are in such a condition of denial, seemingly no one is able to rebut this letter’s vast mountain of drivel.  Combined with an intention to renew Gateway 2, there exists a profound potential for further developmental shenanigans to ensue.

Petrovich’s letter, his bombastic effort to deny his own and the city’s blame for the debacle of Gateway 2, while advancing his intention to proceed amidst the city council’s plainly favorable response, adds up to trouble, but more trouble than Petrovich or the city expect.  His letter vividly demonstrates the need for continued judicial monitoring regarding compliance with CEQA and the opinion of the appeal court in this matter.  Reliable sources suggest that this is precisely what should now occur, any future development projects resembling Gateway 2 must proceed only under court supervision.

YOLO SUN OPINION :

Woodland City Council on September 16 is expected to formally annul its various approvals of the Gateway 2 project, facing a judicial writ of mandate after being soundly thrashed by a precedential, published opinion of the Third District Appellate Court.

Gateway 2’s environmental processes were comprehensively rigged for Paul Petrovich’s benefit, using a half-dozen serious violations of law.  Inadequate, unreliable and improper mitigation for Gateway 2’s impacts upon Downtown Woodland was a prominent violation.  Only decisive intervention by California Clean Energy Committee as a plaintiff repelled this compound assault upon state and local environmental protections.

Clearly, Woodland City Council was simply hoping that no lawsuit would challenge such subversion, a monstrous and perpetual sell-out of this community’s interest, heritage and values.

Despite councilmembers Marble and Stallard voting against Gateway 2, neither of them stated any form of legal concern or relevant and sound basis for their votes.  Marble was incensed that Petrovich had welched on his promise to build a downtown movie house, while Stallard complained that it was just “too much too soon.”

No city councilmember properly analyzed and understood this development plan, identifying its obvious and severe flaws. Collegiality, it seems, in this fashion got in the way of our civic interest.  Since there was a council majority in favor of a detrimental, injurious Gateway 2, why become incisive or robust in its criticism?

That’s the pandering, political shadow-play which unfolded for this key matter, risking huge and permanent impacts on this community, only avoided through timely and meritorious litigation.

The appellate court’s opinion continuously upbraided the city and its attorney, Whitman Manley, for a “troubling” presentation of the administrative record in this case, revealing the city’s desperate need and desire to obstruct its prosecution.

Councilmember Hilliard was heard to remark about Gateway 2, prior to the appellate court’s opinion, that the city would “get’er done.”  Well, the city got done, alright.

What future contexts of such pandering to Petrovich are now lurking within the City’s planning processes?  For one matter, there is his recent application for development of the key site which is the northern leg of Downtown Woodland’s Primary Gateway, at East and Main Streets.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

During the August edition of the regular, city-county (2+2) meeting, Yolo County Supervisors Matt Rexroad and Duane Chamberlain, plus Woodland Mayor Tom Stallard, began engaging extraordinary (and, as it turns out, fiscally compelling) new policy of the federal government about homelessness issues, referred to as: “Housing First.”

The most recent (January, 2013), reliable estimate of the number of homeless persons in Yolo County is: 474.

Housing First is concisely described as: “[A]n approach that emphasizes stable, permanent housing as a primary strategy for ending homelessness,” at a related website,  http://endhomelessness.org, which further articulates these matters in detail :

“Housing First is an approach to ending homelessness that centers on providing people experiencing homelessness with housing as quickly as possible – and then providing services as needed. This approach has the benefit of being consistent with what most people experiencing homelessness want and seek help to achieve.

“Housing First programs share critical elements:

  • A focus on helping individuals and families access and sustain permanent rental housing as quickly as possible without time limits;
  • A variety of services delivered to promote housing stability and individual well-being on an as-needed basis; and
  • A standard lease agreement to housing – as opposed to mandated therapy or services compliance.

“While all Housing First programs share these critical elements, program models vary significantly depending upon the population served. For people who have experienced chronic homelessness, there is an expectation that intensive (and often specialized) services will be needed indefinitely.

“For most people experiencing homelessness, however, such intensive services are not necessary. The vast majority of homeless individuals and families fall into homelessness after a housing or personal crisis that led them to seek help from the homeless assistance system. For these families and individuals, the Housing First approach is ideal, as it provides them with assistance to find permanent housing quickly and without conditions. In turn, such clients of the homeless assistance networks need surprisingly little support or assistance to achieve independence, saving the system considerable costs.”

Yolo County Supervisors will begin to consider this new federal (Housing First) policy during their October 7 meeting.

___ A “Sea Change” In Yolo County Policy ___

Supervisor Rexroad expresses that: “The county is [now] figuring out how to implement the Housing First programs.  It is a sea change in many ways for the way we do business and the way our non-profits operate.”

Rexroad continues: “Right now, all we have is a general agreement that this is the way we want to go from Oscar [Villegas, supervisor from W. Sac.] and me.  We have not really discussed it with the full board.  This is still in flux right now.

“I can tell you that it was made very clear to me that the federal government is going down this road… and if locals are not on board, then funding is not available.  They seem absolutely convinced it works.   I am working to understand this but probably agree with their conclusion.”

Rexroad explains, when asked, “How much federal funding is (generally, in future) involved with these matters?” :

“Could be quite a bit.  Don’t know exact numbers but I can tell you that if we don’t go that route… our number will be zero.”

Asked about timing of such policy implementation, Rexroad adds that: “We will get some board guidance this year.  I don’t know if we will have any units in place this year.  We have to change the way we think about this issue.”

___ National Alliance To End Homelessness ___

The National Alliance to End Homelessness, a non-profit organization representing this new federal policy, conveys that:

“The Alliance has devised best practices for approaching homelessness for families, veterans, and youth, as well as for those experiencing chronic homelessness[,]” and that, “[t]he Alliance works toward ending homelessness by improving homelessness policy, building on-the-ground capacity, and educating opinion leaders.”

Villegas, Rexroad and five relevant county staff members attended the predicative, Washington, D.C., symposium for this remarkable new federal plan, The National Conference On Ending Homelessness, held on July 29 – 31.

Rexroad indicates that: “The group us that went to DC met a couple of weeks ago to outline the presentation to the board[,]” that will occur on October 7.

Yolo County recently (June, 2014) released the report, “Homelessness in Yolo County, Strengthening the Community-Wide Homeless System (please see:   http://www.yolocounty.org/home/showdocument?id=26136 ), which relates :

“In Yolo County, many jurisdictions, organizations, and residents are showing a renewed interest in addressing issue of homelessness. In response to this interest, this report identifies best practices in the homeless field, discusses the prevalence of homelessness in Yolo County, describes the community’s existing system of care, and makes recommendations for strengthening the system of care for the homeless in Yolo County at both the County and community-wide levels.

“National homeless organizations have recently begun advocating for a new approach to addressing homelessness, which couples strategic and efficient local response with use of the Housing First model. This approach was developed using a growing pool of national data on the issue, which indicates that it reduces the prevalence of homelessness, improves quality of lives and communities, and results in net savings for service providers and jurisdictions.

“Nationwide best practices suggest that the communities most successful at significantly reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness engage in several essential steps or behaviors as a part of the new approach.”

Such “essential steps” will apparently soon be the subject of key implementation decisions by the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :

At its meeting on August 20, the Board of Trustees for Woodland Public Library and Library Services Director, Greta Galindo, discussed plans for using funds from Measure J, a quarter-cent sales tax adopted in the June election.

Measure J is expected to annually raise about $2 million, 20% of which (~$400,000) is anticipated to be allocated to the library.

Library service priorities for Measure J money are determined to be access hours, alongside programming and collections for children and teenagers.  The library is currently open 44 hours weekly, closed on Fridays and Sundays, with a half day on Saturdays.

On January 1, 2015, the library will begin opening 51 hours weekly: Monday – Thursday, 9 am to 7 pm; Friday, 12 pm to 4 pm; Saturday, 9 am to 4 pm.

Mondays and Saturdays are usually the busiest days for the library, indicates Galindo.

Children’s programming will: increase weekly storytime offerings; add a baby / early literacy storytime; engage parents through early literacy education; book clubs, lego clubs and special events; literacy based activity play groups for babies and toddlers school-age reading programs and outreach for every second-grader to have a library card.

Teenagers’ programming will present events and opportunities to engage the library and community, through: book clubs, a Teen Library Council, volunteering, SAT and ACT preparatory workshops, the Summer Reading Program, and outreach efforts with schools and parents to educate about library resources.

Collection materials and books focusing on both of these demographic groups will significantly increase, according to Galindo.

Homework and research help, as well as writing assistance and test-related preparation, will be other focuses of the library’s enhanced programming.

Added staffing to support increased library open-hours and enhanced programming will include: a Teen Services Librarian, two Library Technical Assistants, a Literacy Coordinator and expanded temporary and seasonal staff, annually accounting for about $300,000 in personnel expenses.  Budgeting for an estimated $420,000 in Measure J funds, Galindo and the trustees will also allocate $50,000 each for databases and books, with $10,000 for programming support and the same amount for operational and maintenance expenses.

For contrast with the present situation, the recent fiscal year (2013-14) had Young Adult Collection spending at only about $7,000, while Children’s Collection spending was more than $37,000 and Adult Collection spending was almost $56,000.  Teenager demographic needs have for many years been the weakest portion of library services.  Measure J, now in place for eight  years, should create an enormous growth and upgrade of such services.

Various furniture, several computers in the Children’s Area and updated circulation desks will be one-time expenses related to library improvements.

Galindo expresses that she is investigating possibilities for replacing the library’s well aged carpet, but isn’t yet able to discover funding for this purpose.

Recent quarterly statistics for the library reveal that being closed two weeks last August for re-painting and having its elevator disabled for four and a half months (August – December) had an impact, with library visitors diminishing by 13%.  However, materials circulation showed only a 1% decline, indicating an increased usage rate for library resources.  There are now nearly 28,600 library card holders, of which about 8,300 are juveniles.

Already, the library has demonstrated important attention to these two (juvenile) demographic groups.  Annual increases in school-age, family programs are 311% for events being held and 66% for attendance (~4000, up from ~2400); while, programs for teenagers increased 80%, with attendance up 121%.

Measure J money should provide key support for further improvements in library services, building upon these recent advances, believes Galindo and library trustees.

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.

March 2015
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