YOLO SUN OPINION :
Public interest sometimes becomes a remarkable phenomenon when subverted and sabotaged, especially if there remains in prominent public midst an obvious, enduring tomb memorializing such civic treason.
Indeed, the sheer prospect of such a malevolent monument may generate public disdain, abhorrence and foreboding.
Woodland’s much heralded, historic downtown is on the cruel cusp of such catastrophe, as its — “primary gateway” (according to its Downtown Specific Plan: DSP) — is swiftly approaching the strip-mall factory of Paul Petrovich.
___ Gateway Strip-Mall Design ___
That’s what happened out at Gateway Center, which is simply a — gigantic strip-mall design — a strip-mall on steroids — alongside an ocean of asphalt so vast that persons are inclined to operate their motor vehicles between its destinations.
It’s a sort of perpetual-drive-through brand of retail mall, arguably outdated on conceptual grounds prior to becoming occupied.
It’s the County Fair Mall of today; but — what about tomorrow?
An improved design concept might well have consolidated a multi-story retail center, with a focused theme and peripheral parking, and perhaps even mixed-use components — instead of a sprawling peninsular strip-mall jutting out into a titanic sea of asphalt.
Marvelous new conceptual designs exist for such retail complexes, and are commonly insisted upon by municipalities, but Petrovich wasn’t suitably (proactively) encouraged to pursue such improved options; so, relying on his own initiative, such ideas of course never materialized.
Connected with one of his current development projects in Sacramento, Petrovich has recently pleaded that he’s: “not evil.”
It just seems that way.
Delusional, arrogant developers running amuck present profound challenges to the genuine public interest — often not well protected and advantaged against them in relatively un-illuminated local political systems, susceptible to purchase and stealthy inside influences.
___ Rite Aid Takes a Long Time Coming to Wrong Spot ___
City Manager Mark Deven indicates that Petrovich’s installation of a cookie-cutter Rite Aid store upon the downtown’s — “primary gateway” — remains right on track, just delayed due to the sorts of funding bottlenecks to be expected in the current economic climate.
Around downtown and city hall a person often hears rumors that Rite Aid is going bankrupt, these thoughts seemingly serving as a desperate wish for relief from an impending Rite Aid – ruination of the “primary gateway.”
Apparently, about $5 billion in credit from banking giant CitiGroup has at least temporarily reeled-in Rite Aid from hurtling toward widely predicted bankruptcy cataclysm; however, a financial freeze-up remains for Woodland’s second Rite Aid on Main Street.
Petrovich is actually in no hurry at all, however.
Woodland City Council gave him a — stupendously lavish — six and a half years — from the date Costco opened at Gateway Center, until he must have made $3 million of (vague, unfocused, un-tethered) improvements to downtown property stock — or else forfeit $1 million in mitigation for impacts of retail sprawl arising from his Gateway Center.
So, Woodland may be suffering the behemoth blight of an immense vacant parcel upon its “primary gateway” — the incipient Rite Aid lot — for another five long years — only to have it then transformed into an even more macabre form of — civic blight — in severe aesthetic disharmony and upheaval with the Wiseman Building across Main Street: — the Stupidman Building.
Now — even more spectacularly obtuse — it suddenly appears that the new Yolo County Courthouse will become located on the block bounded by Main, Lincoln, Fifth and Sixth Streets.
Yet another massive, four-story edifice on the southern side of Main Street still further demands ( . . . frantically screams out for . . . ) architectural balance upon Main Street’s northern aspect.
Freeman Park, finally owned by the city after Petrovich pointed out that the school district has long owned this land (a fact he discovered while trolling for development gambits), isn’t capable of harmonious composure with the towering architecture blooming directly across Main Street.
Woodland’s downtown faces an aesthetic emergency.
___ City’s Consultants Exclaim Gravity of Downtown Gateway ___
Woodland’s Redevelopment Agency recently presented an outreach workshop (with the Woodland Historic Downtown Association) related to its planned application for a 80%+ federal funding match to move forward streetscape and traffic improvements to the eastern section of downtown Main Street (the western section, Elm to Third Streets, was essentially accomplished about twenty years ago).
Consultants (from Sacramento) presenting the new streetscape renovation program to this group — loudly, floridly and persistently — emphasized the overwhelming importance and gravity of: “downtown’s gateway.”
They weren’t aware that the Woodland City Council has already failed to protect downtown’s — “primary gateway” — by permitting Petrovich to Rite Aid it, tacitly undermining these consultants’ glowing admonitions concerning its huge (potential) value.
___ Community Legacy ___
Legacy is a central matter. A community permitting developers to disable its fundamental civic goals and dislodge its basic interests, to advance their projects of whatever nature, is a community which has confused its moral compass and imperiled its vision of identity.
Woodland’s identity is one of historically strong, architectural and agricultural integrity — superbly clashing with a conventional Rite Aid store squatting like a troll, a disagreeable dwarf upon the — “primary gateway” — of its historically and culturally valuable downtown.
Is this dreadful monstrosity of disequilibrium what Woodland wants to display at its downtown doorway — at its (very) welcome sign — all throughout the coming decades?
Will it become a constant symbol of something undeniably wrong, a piercing anomaly, an incisive injury, a forever glaring monument to selling-out / neglecting / abandoning a pivotal feature of downtown’s complexion?
Is it possible to tame Petrovich toward recognizing and becoming responsible for his moral obligations to civic interest?
Petrovich’s own interests (both financial and political) clearly would benefit from his re-conceiving these crucial affairs, and conforming to the publicly inspired vision of the DSP.
Does Rite Aid really desire to follow Petrovich down this particular trail, its new retail location tarred by meaningful civic transgression?
Will history recall as legacy that this became Woodland’s downtown gateway that got away?
___ DSP Vision Starkly Conflicts With Cookie-Cutter Rite Aid ___
An entirely superior alternative has always existed, against this absurd travesty of civic values.
The DSP repeatedly depicts an extension of the historically relevant and architecturally distinct, agricultural theme of the multi-story (mixed-use) Rice Mill complex — just across North Street from the site of the proposed Rite Aid — in order to serve as the northern base of this — “primary gateway” — already absent any components on its eastern side.
Extension of the Rice Mill’s architectural style and scale, plus its modern, mixed-use format, is obviously the vision and anticipation of the “primary gateway” — outlined within the very — Vision Statement — of the DSP.
Petrovich pranced through a (could fairly easily have been closed) loophole in the DSP, however, taking advantage of the city’s overlooking placement of this parcel within a zone and land-use matrix designation — requiring a conditional use permit — obviously essential to achieve this specific goal of the DSP.
Petrovich used this municipal neglect / oversight (or was it an intentionally produced loophole?) plus adverse influence within city hall to perform his end-run around the DSP.
___ What Woodlanders Can Do About It ___
At this late stage of circumstances (Petrovich already has municipal entitlements to build this Rite Aid) — there are only two ways to preserve Woodland’s historical integrity and civic interests toward realizing the DSP’s public pledge of a — “primary gateway” — that would properly reflect and dramatize the City’s heritage.
Residents must contact Rite Aid (at its regional and national headquarters) and vigorously complain about this situation, pointing out that Rite Aid itself is not the problem and that a Rite Aid may well be a component of a project on this site — of proper nature and dimension.
Residents must contact their city councilmembers and demand that enough (legal) — political heat / persuasion — be immediately applied to Petrovich, for him to reconsider his present plans, and rather to construct on this — “primary gateway” — site the land uses and architectural theme contemplated and announced by the DSP.
That healthy prospect would be worth waiting a few years to achieve.
Otherwise, Woodland will inherit an injurious legacy with various adverse consequences, from a truly regrettable failure of key civic leadership.