YOLO SUN OPINION :

Because of a recent policy of unreasonable constriction of press access to city staff-persons, in order to best cover city hall Yolo Sun has recently relied upon reliable and knowledgeable sources, but persons who regrettably had to remain anonymous  [-  Redevelopment Agency Being Manuevered Against Proposal For Renovation Of Historic State Theatre -].

Using such sources is a conventional journalistic practice in situations where it is deemed to be justifiable under particular circumstances.

Revealed by these dependable sources is grave cause for concern among persons who believe that restoration / renovation of the State Theatre is or should be a downtown planning-policy imperative.

Professional advice of Woodland Redevelopment Agency Manager, Cynthia Shallit, is reportedly being overruled and disregarded, purportedly in a generalized effort to frustrate the quite recent and relatively popular proposal of Ron Cacares and associates to implement an original (1993) and key goal of Woodland’s Downtown Specific Plan (DSP): State Theatre Renovation.

____  A Tale Of Two City Proposals  ____

DSP amendments a decade later (2003) — seemingly premised upon early (even inside) information regarding likely future construction of a new Yolo County Courthouse within the eastern portion of downtown — provided for a movie theatre complex proximate to the former (and historic) Electric Garage Building, apparently requiring its demolition.

At that time, indeed until early 2010, the leading planning rationale for this creation of a competitor for the original DSP goal: State Theatre Renovation, was one of some sort of shared-use of a potential parking structure (with “retail and food court” on ground floor) which should accompany this new courthouse.

Consultants for the city, though, eventually produced a report (early 2010) which determined that no need actually exists for such a parking structure.

The 2003 DSP component relevant to the new notion of a cinema complex on the Electric Garage site reads like a big pep-rally script for a new local ideal: “a great [new] concentration [of] theater / entertainment venue;” while, the historic State Theatre is relegated to: “continued utilization [as] conference center, niche films or foreign language films, reuse as a community theater, art gallery, and so forth.”

“An expansion of [the State Theatre] could establish an anchor at this end of the Downtown,” continues the DSP, as if its newly cast, subordinated profile could ever be presumed to become an “anchor” within the most blighted portion of the downtown area, after being emasculated by this suddenly conceived “concentration [of the downtown] theater / entertainment” district.

The obvious dynamic of direct competition for –“first run movies” — being strongly inclined toward this abruptly compressed entertainment district in the eastern portion of downtown — is never analyzed or noted by the DSP.

Indeed, the DSP assumes “first run movies” will (somehow) continue at State Theatre, perhaps along with its other potential cavalcade of alternative functions (above).

Interestingly, providing insight into whatever influences transpired within this policy-making setting, is the patronizing atmosphere of a disclaimer: “While a new theater site is included within the alternatives presented in the plan, the continued use or expansion of the State Theater remains an allowed use in this district.”

“Allowed” — but no longer viable, no longer feasible, undercut and consigned to demotion as an inferior, less important community goal — a ghost “anchor” within the more blighted western portion of downtown.

Eclipsing this key goal of the original DSP in such a fashion truly amounts to a real sweetheart deal between the city and Petrovich.

____  Petrovich And City — In Yet Another Sweetheart Deal  ____

Paul Petrovich, the Sacramento-based property developer invested in this newer project, which is in direct opposition to an original vision of the DSP: State Theatre Renovation, needs to satisfy a legal condition related to his Gateway shopping center at the municipal outskirts.

This condition compels Petrovich to build something worth $3 million somewhere in the downtown area within another four or so years, or forfeit about $1 million to the city.

This — sweetheart development agreement — between the city and Petrovich permits him: Six and a half years (78 months), from the opening date of Costco, until he has to actually accomplish any mitigation benefit at all for Woodland’s downtown area.

Petrovich owns / controls two potential building sites within the eastern portion of the DSP. He owns the vacant property on the NW corner of Main and East Streets, one leg of the DSP’s “primary downtown gateway,” where he was somehow (operating on a technical loophole in the DSP) granted a city permit to build a regular Rite-Aid store, a rather bizarre choice to complement the existing Wiseman Building: a ‘Stupidman Building.’

That Rite-Aid project is now dead, a rare but fortunate benefit of the Great Recession, before which this corporate drugstore outfit was feeling so flush, spunky and bullish it wanted locations on both ends of Main Street.

The city should now take immediate action to require a DSP-relevant “conditional use permit” process for any future development proposals involving this northern leg of the “primary gateway” of the DSP, best preserving its original intent.

Alternatively, Petrovich has his proposal to demolish the former (and quite historic) Electric Garage Building and construct a movie-theatre complex, supplanting the original DSP goal: State Theatre Renovation.

His Rite-Aid project scuppered, Petrovich now advances his cinema complex proposal, as potential satisfaction of his legal obligation to mitigate impacts of his Gateway shopping center upon Woodland’s urban core.

Petrovich’s development strategy may thus be seen to potentially imperil two key elements of the DSP. He is also alleged by quite knowledgeable sources to be very influential within city hall.

____  Strangely Convenient Redevelopment Outcomes  ____

A string of strange outcomes — all tilted against this important DSP goal — indicates a durable cause for grave concern about the strategies and plans of Petrovich.

First is the very fact / occasion of this 2003 DSP amendment, to begin with, which seemingly eclipsed State Theatre renovation prospects, simply on the basis of a thinly disseminated perception (now baseless) of an eventuality of conveniently enhanced parking feasibility related to a suddenly arisen alternative, combined with its proximity to Woodland Opera House.

It was once believed that — rather than so tightly concentrating a downtown entertainment district — the Opera House would be an “anchor” at one side of such an area, while the State Theatre (renovation / expansion) would eventually establish an “anchor” at the other side, expanding a circuit of vitality throughout the entire downtown.

Where were the “Friends of State Theatre” at that time? Where were municipal efforts to identify and preserve essential site opportunities surrounding it?

This is not the only time such an adverse scenario has played out.

The State Theatre as an historical resource was initially impaired, of course, by inadequate municipal protection from forced removal of its marquee by state action in the 1960s, a now obvious absence of vision and advocacy during this decade when much valuable local architecture was senselessly destroyed.

Then, 1990s brought the advent of County Fair Mall, rupturing the planning possibility of a then inherent “entertainment district,” exclusively within the downtown area.

City fathers and mothers of that primitive time argued that:  ‘Plenty of folks will always be participating in mall-life and those people certainly deserve a chance to catch a convenient flick.’

They felt (prior to the DSP) that: “The downtown area shouldn’t be allowed to monopolize movie theatres. If these (now long-gone) shopping mall developers wanted to include a cinema complex, it was their (property) right to do so. That’s the Woodland way.’

Now, its (way past) time to extend our city redevelopment zone to include this severely under-attended mall and its so convenient theatre complex.

____  The Odd Case of Corkill  ___

The second strange item is the odd case of Dave Corkill of CinemaWest, an experienced developer of renovation-based, movie-theater complexes throughout this region, who a few years ago attempted to purchase the State Theatre to accomplish — precisely the nature of renovation — anticipated by the DSP.

This attempt by Corkill, though, occurred after the time when Petrovich had succeeded in provoking this DSP amendment approving location of a cinema complex at the Electric Garage site and apparently swinging various city officials along in that prospect, effectively subverting the former priority of redevelopment attention to State Theatre.

Developers like Corkill are not plentiful. Co-opting him would be a splendid advantage for Petrovich. And he did so.

Corkill was met by our city (redevelopment agency, etc.) officials with near insurmountable parking obstacles related to any State Theatre renovation proposal, according to — his own personal account — reliably relayed through local resident and community activist Davis Wilkinson.

Of course, Woodland Redevelopment Agency — whose very job it is to resolve such obstacles — might well have adopted a more accommodating approach toward satisfying this vitally important DSP priority — but it didn’t.

Corkill is now the cinema-complex developer associated with Petrovich’s competing redevelopment proposal at the Electric Garage site.

____  Current Machinations Of Petrovich’s Influence  ____

Quite recently, reliable city-hall sources indicate that professional advice of Woodland Redevelopment Agency Manager (Cynthia Shallit) is being ignored / rejected, in several ways directly relevant to this subject.

Design of the basic decision-making process involved with this RFP (Request for [relevant] Proposals) has apparently been cast in a manner tending to improve chances for Petrovich to maximize his RFP point-score against Caceres’ proposal regarding the State Theatre.

Shallit is said to have desired to predicate this process upon — a “downtown-wide” RFP consideration — to achieve a comprehensive answer to the basic question: Where is the best location in the downtown for a cinema complex?

This approach would have produced a setting of consideration wherein Careres’ proposal might have received benefit of its genuine community status and priority, rather than assuming that the highest score on some narrower, RFP-defined categories, will necessarily identify and present an optimum community outcome.

Analogy may be understood as, not a competition within a smaller scope (ring), but a re-predicated challenge toward an ideal, an optimum community outcome, against which any proposal must be measured.

Resolved that State Theatre restoration within a cinema complex is genuinely that optimum outcome, Caceres’ proposal would then receive city support, and Petrovich’s scheme fall by the wayside.

Based on this present avenue of consideration, however, vital community interests are being subordinated within a non-optimum process of consideration, wherein Petrovich is better able to elevate and manifest his strengths.

____  Squandered Opportunity For Improved Feasibility  ____

Another strange feature of recent redevelopment developments, is the apparent squandering of up to $7 million in federal (Economic Development Administration – EDA) funds that might well have been used to promote the feasibility of Caceres’ proposal.

Reliable city-hall sources describe that Woodland Redevelopment Agency Manager, Cynthia Shallit, strongly objected to such squandering to no avail.

If the question Shallit wanted to use as process predication (according to familiar sources) was in place — along with these $7 million of federal resources to forever resolve potential parking issues within the western portion of downtown — State Theatre renovation would have become an enhanced prospect.

Petrovich didn’t want to play upon such a field, and he isn’t. Again, things just seem to oddly work out in his favor, as broad community interests are continually eroded..

____  What Else Must Now Be Done  ____

Of course, persons faithful to the original scope and vision of the DSP should express vigorous support for the pending proposal to finally renovate and expand the State Theatre.

Meanwhile, Cacares’ proposal is threatened by Chase Bank’s present plan of constructing one of its branches on the site (vacant lot on SE corner of Main and Walnut Streets, adjacent to State Theatre) which is relatively imperative (as visually depicted) for his proposed cinema complex.

Chase Bank will be initially (publicly) moving its plan through Woodland Planning Commission — likely during October –within a Design Review phase of process.

Do we want / need a — ‘cookie-cutter’ bank  — use of this key parcel, from an historical downtown design perspective?

If this deal goes forward, we’ll have a relatively small, regular  bank footprint — with a massive asphalt parking-lot & drive-through area.

Is this design what we want to realize within our historic downtown?

Insisting on an improved (urban) design, such as a two or three story, mixed-use building with a bank as an element, may provide an avenue of legitimate, process-oriented advocacy which may well serve to disincline Chase Bank from this venture.

Plainly put, if this technical, Design Review phase before Woodland Planning Commission becomes too uncomfortable for Chase Bank, if it truly hits rough sledding in a way which genuinely advocates / advances the broad interests of our historic downtown area, it may have to reconsider its options.

Chase Bank has this key property within an — escrow phase of purchase — which may well be conditioned upon its ability to negotiate a desired path through our municipal planning process.

This venue (public comment section, at planning commission meeting on this item) now presents an essential battle in the larger war to finally win renovation for the State Theatre.

Caceres has requested a turnout of supporters before / at city council consideration.

Now, this request for supporters of State Theatre restoration to attend municipal venue and express themselves to public officials, must immediately include Woodland Planning Commission.

Also, look for the Woodland Historic Preservation Commission to become a venue for advocacy.

Alongside this new action, persons interested in preserving and expanding the State Theatre in the manner portrayed by the proposal of Ron Caceres should continue to make their thoughts known to members of the Woodland City Council.

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