YOLO SUN NEWS REPORT :
Woodland Redevelopment Agency’s involvement regarding an RFP process to determine the location of a new cinema complex within the downtown area is revealed to be prejudicial against a recently surfaced proposal to restore the historic State Theatre alongside a modern cinema complex, according to reliable sources close to City Hall.
“Both the City Manager [Mark Deven] and City Council, Vice-Mayor Skip Davies in particular, have been ignoring the sound advice of Cynthia [Shallit, Woodland Redevelopment Agency Manager] and are clearly skewing the RFP [Request For Proposals to develop a new downtown cinema multiplex] process toward [Paul] Petrovich’s proposal,” describes one such source.
____ Redevelopment Manager Undermined ____
“[Shallit] advised conducting an open, unbiased and transparent process of RFP consideration — involving consideration of the whole downtown area — with the basic question being: Where is the best place for a downtown movie theatre complex to be developed?
“Instead, the council opted for designing a kind of competition between Petrovich and [Ron] Caceres, that Petrovich will win, for a number of reasons,” indicates this knowledgeable source.
“Opening up this process to the whole downtown and taking larger stock of things would have created a more exhaustive approach and intensity of evaluation, benefitting the State Theatre proposal in the end.
“The way [Shallit] wanted to do it would have erased whatever special position or inside track Petrovich had, by renewing this question with a larger scope. That’s why Skip and Mark rejected her advice.
“All Caceres really has solid to work with is the State Theatre site, itself, while Petrovich has much better immediate site control for his entire proposal, and site control is very important,” expresses this source.
“That’s the real reason they [city council and manager] vetoed this more broadly scoped approach — overruling [Shallit] — who they pay to provide them with the most experienced professional advice.
“I expect she’s very frustrated,” describes this experienced source around city hall, “with essentially being told how to do her job by unqualified city officials who are firmly determined to have it their way against her seasoned judgment, in an effort to slant this RFP process in favor of Petrovich.
“She could do much more than she’s being allowed to do, because she’s being pushed to suit certain interests other than those of the public, its pretty much that simple.”
____ Key EDA Funding Torpedoed ____
Another perspective from an equally reliable source around city hall indicates that Shallit has also lost a second big policy battle with Woodland’s council and manager, over the subject of up to $7 million in federal funding from the Economic Development Administration (EDA).
This money was originally arranged to potentially complement the new Yolo County Courthouse by providing a parking structure / garage for this facility and other uses within the eastern section of Woodland’s downtown.
Consultants for the city eventually determined, however, that no parking structure would be required in this part of downtown for such purposes.
“[Shallit] put a lot of redevelopment time and effort into obtaining this valuable funding stream for the city [from $5 to $7 million]. The application required travel to Seattle to formally present the city’s interests and opportunities before this federal agency, and updates and monitoring of this resource program to keep it in motion,” relates this knowledgeable source.
It is widely known that following the failure to need these federal funds in relation to the new county courthouse, Shallit designated infrastructural assistance for the former City Center Lofts project as a qualified use, prior to that project entirely unraveling and plunging into foreclosure.
Shallit assigned this money for the prospective use of creating a public parking structure / garage on the eastern portion of the block bounded by Main, Walnut, Court and Elm Streets, which would qualify on the basis of being infrastructure (public parking) which is significantly helping to generate local economic activity.
Using these federal funds for assisting a proposal to renovate the State Theatre was an obvious option that city officials derailed, according to several reliable sources around city hall.
“[Shallit] fought hard to keep this $7 million of EDA money, from what I know,” depicts one source, “because she understands how important that piece might be in our downtown redevelopment puzzle. The problem is that certain council members want to please Petrovich.
“[Shallit] is interested in what’s best for the community in general, while some city officials are more interested in how to take care of their friends, such as Petrovich.
“Look at how they treated the property owners in the [county] courthouse project, paying them so much [$310,000] over appraisal out of the agency’s pocket. It gives an impression of a deep pocket that some are allowed to pick,” this source explains. “That kind of behavior puts the agency at a disadvantage when it already has a hard task to do.
“They claim it was a ‘fair and amicable’ negotiation, but it’s the appraisal that establishes the ‘fair’ price, and that’s all the state will [reimburse] the city for real property. Cronyism is usually ‘amicable,’ so I guess that much may be true.
“Over [Shallit’s] objections, they killed this $7 million of EDA funding. She kept raising the issue and they kept telling her to shut up and move on, until she finally did.
“Turning off an approved federal program in this way injures the city’s future chances of obtaining such funding,” adds this source. “The [EDA] has also ended up wasting its time and effort.
“As far as I know, this EDA funding source is now dead, and that’s too bad because it clearly could have performed a pivotal role in this sudden State Theatre restoration proposal.
“Just look at Davis, where they have parking structures connected to their [movie] theatres, . . . there’s a good reason.”
Ron Caceres, potential developer of the State Theatre proposal, indicates that property immediately south of the Theatre is currently being considered for cinema multiplex parking. If EDA funds were now available to instead construct a public parking garage associated with this proposal, its feasibility would appear to be significantly enhanced.
____ Chase Bank Obtains Caceres’ Key Parcel ____
A reliable source around city hall has confirmed information provided by Caceres, related to the present obstacle to redevelopment of the State Theatre. As visual depictions of this project portray, plans call for a new 8 to 10 screen cinema complex to be located on the vacant parcel to the west of the Theatre.
This vacant parcel, however, has recently been sold by the Tovar family of Woodland to Chase Bank, which is currently active within a Design Review phase of development on this site.
Sources within city hall predict that this Design Review element for construction of a new Chase Bank — being planned for the same parcel which is obviously critical for success of State Theatre redevelopment — will be presented to the Woodland Planning Commission, likely during an October meeting.
A knowledgeable source around city hall indicates that, although this item on the Woodland Planning Commission is of a nature that doesn’t necessarily include a provision for public comment — that opportunity certainly exists for this meeting in general.
Thus, public comment upon the Design Review status of this Chase Bank project — in terms of its suitability within Woodland’s downtown planning environment — will be available in a manner that may attract involvement from “Friends of the State Theatre,” a recently organized advocacy supporting its restoration.
____ Chase Bank Had Another, Preferred Site ____
Chase Bank actually had a site that it preferred more than the parcel adjacent to the State Theatre: the southwest corner of Main and Cleveland Streets — making a bank location upon all four corners of this intersection.
Plus, many more banks are located in this proximity.
“Banks seem to like that sort of situation [congregation], sort of like auto malls, where you can shop around in a small area,” observes one source.
Problems negotiating with these property owners, though, pushed Chase Bank over to the vacant lot where Caceres hopes to build, according to familiar sources around city hall.
“For one thing, the existing Union 76 gas station would have to be relocated, already an expensive proposition, combined with potential costs of cleanup on its former site.
“For another thing, the gas station site itself is too small, but the large lot to the south of the station is a lot more land than [Chase Bank] want[s]. So, these property situations don’t easily fit together.
“Add to this situation the fact that Norman Williams [property owner involved] insists on keeping the old smog-shop [/ auto shop which has evolved from the former LK Liquor location near Main and Walnut] behind their new bank — and you can see why [Chase Bank] simply walked a block away and purchased this other vacant parcel.”
____ State Theatre Proposal Must Be Elevated By Public Action ____
Several knowledgeable sources paint a grim picture of the fate of Caceres’ State Theatre proposal — unless that is: broad and deep community action arises in an unprecedented manner to engage and support it.
“Petrovich already owns all his property outright, and he can fairly quickly tear down the (former) Electric Garage and build his [movie] theatre complex. Relocating Hoblit [present tenant, auto dealer] has been his plan all along. He has all these pieces [purportedly] together — while Ron Caceres is scrambling to secure his basics,” perceives a source familiar with the relevant circumstances.
“Petrovich won’t need anywhere near as much help from the city [redevelopment agency] as [will] Caceres.
“The only thing that will save the State Theatre proposal at this point, is if the city council [redevelopment agency board] somehow decides to use eminent domain process or something close to manipulate all of these odd angles into a proper box or shift Chase Bank into another, even more preferred location and then provide that [necessary] property to Caceres.”
Caceres has expressed that he genuinely hopes for something this dramatic — and politically difficult to achieve.
“Also, the agency would need to provide feasibility support, like it might have done with the [intentionally abandoned] EDA funding.
“For the city to do this requires political muscle be applied, in a way that it just hasn’t been up until now, so I’ll be surprised if it happens.
“Petrovich will win the RFP because, working behind the scenes, he has the slanted process he wants. Just like he says [in other words: ‘wrong-headed’], at this point [without unusually strong city redevelopment support] Caceres’ prospects are practically unworkable.
“Petrovich will win the game, because the city officials making the rules and staging the process are on his side.”
Questioned about the topic of whether other relatively adjacent property was potentially available, as some alternative(s) upon which to locate the new cinema multiplex element of Caceres’ State Theatre proposal, Shallit has recently observed: “[such] property is usually available — for a price,” implying that its cost may well strain the feasibility of Caceres’ proposal.