YOLO SUN OPINION :
Cavalier panache quite peculiar to Sacramento-based developer, Paul Petrovich, peevishly imbues his letter of October 25 to Woodland City Council, in which he: “elect[s] to withdraw from the RFP process to build a theater at Main and Third Streets, [ ] based upon recent events.”
This Request For Proposals (RFP) process begun on May 5, 2010, was established to best pursue the 2010 priority project of Woodland Redevelopment Agency, as selected by a citizen advisory committee comprised of designees of Agency Directors (City Council): a multiple-cinema complex within the downtown area.
David Wilkinson, local authority on historic architecture and designee of Woodland City Council Member, Jeff Monroe, provided key leadership upon this citizen advisory committee toward moving forward this project-prioritization process and eventual agency RFP process — encouraging expectation that a viable proposal to restore and expand the historic and blighted State Theatre should / would from somewhere surface.
The redevelopment agency received proposals on June 10 from Petrovich and local developer Ron Caceres.
Caceres has publicly released most details of his proposal to renovate and expand State Theatre and enlisted cinema operator, Galaxy Theaters; while, Petrovich and his cinema operator, CinemaWest, have relied on their legal right to maintain material confidentiality during initial consideration leading to a recommendation by a subcommittee of agency directors: Vice-mayor Skip Davies and Council Member Martie Dote.
This recommendation will then be considered by the full city council, with the subcommittee scheduled to meet again prior to this matter being on a city council agenda, apparently: December 7.
A grass-roots-style association of local persons: “Friends of State Theatre” (- http://friendsofstatetheatre.org -) has demonstrated very significant community support for Caceres’ proposal; while, Petrovich’s proposal has received timely, but more or less lonely endorsement by the local (so-called) newspaper, The Daily Democrat.
“[R]ecent events,” noted by Petrovich’s letter to city council no doubt include various testimony by numerous Woodland residents in vigorous support of Caceres’ proposal, during an agenda item before city council regarding an RFP Status Report (- please see related articles, linked below -) at its meeting of October 5.
In stark comparison, Petrovich’s proposal received absolutely no visible support from Woodland community members at this city council meeting.
Also apparent at this meeting was a pattern of brazen misrepresentations by Petrovich to the city council, concerning plans for relocating the tenant of the building he hopes to demolish, Hoblit Chrysler-Dodge (- please see related articles, linked below -).
____ Petrovich’s Vast And Unique Pretentions ____
Petrovich purportedly wants to do the city council a special favor by withdrawing his proposal: “because I do not wish to put the City Council in a position of having to choose between the more viable project, versus the one that has created so much emotion at the State Theater site.”
So, Petrovich next: “elect[s] to sell the majority of my land to CinemaWest so they can proceed to build the theater themselves. As you know, [ ] they are more than capable and experienced to self develop and finance this theater[,] in full compliance with the Downtown Specific Plan [DSP] criteria so there are no discretionary approvals required. [I] will retain ownership of the land where the associated retail will be built and [ ] will address the development of that portion of the project at a later date.”
Spectacularly, Petrovich apparently intends an attempt to effectively forestall any practical ability of the city council — “to choose” — between the two theater proposals responding to the RFP process — by just ditching it and then swiftly facilitating his cinema operator’s simply moving forward — outside redevelopment authority — supposedly — along some already available, independent avenue within the DSP.
Such a development project purportedly moving ahead and being approved outside redevelopment authority may be capable of side-stepping, avoiding its regular requirements for relocating affected tenants (- please see related articles, linked below -).
There exists enough local market, of course, for only one such new downtown cineplex.
Petrovich will thus supposedly choose our new movie theater, so Woodland and its City Council will, according to Petrovich, be gratefully relieved of awkward burdens involving: “too much emotion[-based] contentio[n]” upending his allegedly “more viable project.”
Instead of abiding an RFP process already steeply sloped to his unique advantage, but now suddenly infused with the relative novelty of authentic community participation, Petrovich strategically falls back upon the prior, entire basis / need for this RFP — a blatant subversion of Woodland’s best interests — a customized planning-fix within the 2003 DSP — installed for him by City Hall when his political influence there was at its apex — but which is now clearly being recognized as such (- please see Yolo Sun articles: Petrovich Imperils Historic State Theatre Project ; Movieplex Muddle Displays Disordered, Subverted Downtown Planning Goals, Glaring Conflicts ; City Report Exposes Steep Slope Of Cinema Study & Hoblit: “I Want To Keep My Woodland Dealership — But Petrovich Has A Gun To My Head!” -).
____ The Big Fix ____
As described in detail within these preceding articles, word around city hall of a (potential) new courthouse parking-structure possibly able to be shared, within the eastern portion of downtown, soon provoked Petrovich to purchase the (former) Electric Garage Building upon the prospect of demolishing it and erecting such a related cinema complex and consequently a proximate: “entertainment district,” per 2003 amendments to the DSP.
The crazily flawed premise, the ‘Big Fix’ buried within all of this planning-jargon driven boondoggling is that a city with a downtown the size of Woodland’s needs to especially designate an: “entertainment district” — effectively including / excluding about half of the (roughly 6 block) downtown area.
Corollary to this absurd axiom — is the 2003 DSP action — inherently lacking properly supportive elucidation — declaring this upstart cineplex plan to be: “Prioritized” — above restoration and expansion of the historic State Theatre.
Supposed balance of planning perspective was evidently (fraudulently) obtained by suggesting the obviously — false choice — of an: “entertainment district” being soon centered around the derelict State Theatre, a too remote (viewed as unnavigable by pedestrians) scuppered jewel under a deep and depressing sea of blight.
Thus, 2003 DSP notions of designating an: “entertainment district” and “Priority” for this new cineplex plan were corruptive planning devices cynically engineered to best lever municipal attention and action toward Petrovich’s plans and away from State Theatre.
Another vivid and pivotal fraud within the process of 2003 DSP amendments is omission and outright distortion of the planning context of the historic Electric Garage Building.
Petrovich’s little black, patent-leather loafers are plainly suspected of brashly trampling all over this sadly contorted and denigrated municipal planning scene.
____ The Big Un-Fix ____
Petrovich seems to believe that there exists some planning path within the DSP — absent community discretion and outside redevelopment authority — permitting his theater operator, CinemaWest, to develop the same cineplex Petrovich has planned, with his retail properties attached.
This quaint, erroneous notion is apparently based upon the concept of DSP “Performance Standards,” the purpose of which “is to allow an applicant or project sponsor to avoid the CUP [fully discretionary – conditional use permit] process by meeting specific requirements for project design and operation.”
“Entertainment uses” within the downtown corridor are susceptible to relevant “performance standards (detailed within the DSP);” however, satisfaction of these standards does not necessarily result in automatic approval.
The relevant DSP excerpt reads (plural emphasis in original): “Compliance with all of the performance standards listed for each land use category / use may allows [sic] a project to be processed as an allowed use instead of a CUP, subject to review and additional conditions required by the Zoning Administrator [Director of Community Development].”
The key phrase herein, is: “may allow.”
Approval is thus — not mandatory — not automatic upon satisfaction of generalized, boilerplate conditions — but rather remains fully discretionary.
Clearly, under this DSP text there exists no automatic, nondiscretionary municipal planning path (to demolishing Electric Garage and constructing a cineplex, etc.) for CinemaWest.
Municipal discretionary approval within a complete CUP process would be required, period.
Otherwise, at this point in time (if not before) seriously adverse political winds would certainly begin to blow.
____ Best Municipal Option ____
Since this RFP process was established for the purpose of selecting a downtown cineplex proposal and Petrovich’s long-planned ploy has now defaulted (and been amply exposed as devious and wrongheaded), leaving Caceres’ proposal enjoying broad and vibrant community support — the city council should strongly consider demonstrating some civic leadership by dismissing any development application from CinemaWest (by insisting on resolving the related RFP process) and moving forward with timely approval of Caceres’ proposal.
____ Caceres’ Response To Petrovich’s Letter ____
“I think they are trying to circumvent the RFP process now because they know that the will of the people is to restore and expand the State Theatre. They do not want to participate in the process and feel they can ramrod their development through the city,” explains Caceres.
Caceres applauds the basic concept of an RFP, but faults what he views as a “flawed process” of unmet deadlines; while, “the city seems to want to have all of the answers up front,” alluding to perhaps premature (even obstructive) demand for complete “site control, financing and parking” resolutions.
“After they choose the site and development,” argues Caceres, “the[se] issues can all then be addressed.
“The delays are frustrating and unnecessary. This first stage of the RFP process should really be about which site meets the needs / goals of the redevelopment agency and the needs and will of the people of Woodland.
“If the project had not been delayed so long by the process, I am convinced we could have obtained the Tovar parcel [large, long- vacant lot immediately west of State Theatre — which has long been identified within the DSP as pivotal / essential for its restoration and expansion],” explains Caceres.
Chase Bank now has this property in escrow and is proceeding on its plan to build a branch bank on it; however, in response to expressions of concern by community members (some cardholders of this bank), a sudden avenue of negotiations is apparently opening that may serve to relocate this bank.
Caceres had been relatively ignored by Chase Bank, prior to this specific expression of community interest and activism, despite his offer to assist this needed relocation.
“I have spent a lot of money responding to the RFP since May and still have no idea when the city will make their decision,” describes Caceres, adding that, “I have been very forthcoming with all of our plans from day one. Given a chance to move ahead, we can bring a great project downtown. We have a great operator with Galaxy Theaters and we are ready to go.”
Caceres indicates that the only redevelopment-related financing required for this restoration and expansion of State Theatre is a loan of $2 million. $4 million is presently budgeted by the redevelopment agency for such a project.