YOLO SUN OPINION :

Woodland’s modern saga of cineplex development vividly displays staggering city council weaknesses, failures and absence of basic vision in the civic interest.

Miraculously — at this moment in time — there exists an excellent (and rare) opportunity to boldly recover both our original community vision about the site of future cinemas and our community integrity in the face of historical inabilities and failures of our city council leadership during the previous quarter-century.

Such opportunities don’t often arise, where ordinary citizens’ voices can swiftly be effectively orchestrated to gain a very important result and send a beneficial political message, overcoming confusion and constraints of current political shenanigans within city hall and establishing a concrete civic success and important victory for our downtown’s future.

Galaxy Theatres (- http://galaxytheatres.com -) is presently quite interested in immediately constructing a new cineplex directly across Main Street from State Theatre, on property (2.6 acres) currently controlled by local developer Ron Caceres and associates.

Such a project would clearly satisfy most (perhaps all) relevant, original downtown planning goals related to cineplex development, which will otherwise soon be lost (to corrosive influence peddling within city hall).

CEO of Galaxy Theatres, Frank Rimkus (- frimkus@galaxytheatres.com -), would like to better understand the encouragement and delight of Woodlanders, at the prospect of our now working together to best accomplish this very accessible goal (thus protecting our downtown from injurious and disharmonious cineplex plans of Paul Petrovich).

Woodlanders are now requested to soon respond, with whatever brief or digressive note of public encouragement they may desire to muster.

Please read on for further details.

____  A Quarter-Century Of Downtown Cinema Failures  ____

During the late 1980s the County Fair Mall project arose, an early local episode of commercial sprawl. Its developers were rigorously determined to include a cinema complex within its site, southwest of the intersection of East Street and Gibson Road.

This notion was steadfastly criticized by many persons concerned with the best interests of our city’s downtown area (consequently, the entire city), arguing that such bedrock — “entertainment” uses as movie theaters — must surely be reserved and only be zoned for downtown, to preserve and evolve its dissolving / declining commercial viability, clearly confronted with profound erosion of diverse other historical retail uses toward the new County Fair Mall at the edge of town.

Political attitudes among city council members of that day erroneously deferred to influence and demands of these mall developers, for the reason that powerful landowners / developers: “Have rights to build about whatever they desire on their own property,” even if it grossly undermines and virtually cripples future cohesion and viability among commercial uses of our downtown area.

“Downtown is only one part of the city(!),” was the classic, trademark (Chamber of Commerce – type) political line of that day (circa 1990), always reiterated upon any challenge to the sheer land-use lunacy of permitting such fundamentally cultural (and historically) downtown uses to be flung out at the municipal periphery.

Allowing location of cinemas at the mall twenty years ago severely (and foolishly) undercut downtown’s historical / logical position in the local movie-market and has for many years prevented key realization of perhaps the most prominent single project outlined within the original Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) of 1993: Renovation and Expansion of State Theatre, an example of Art Deco style, constructed (1937) during the Great Depression.

This project expressing the founding vision of the DSP was based on having such a large and vital entertainment venue serve as an anchor facility for downtown’s western gateway, perceived as a key ingredient within a comprehensive and cohesive downtown plan.

Such plainly disastrous and inconsistent public policymaking — caving in to prominent land / project developers, against our basic civic interest (soon to be so expressed within the DSP), while — somehow pretending — to be acting in its service — is a seriously adverse trend continuing until this very day.

____  Woodland’s DSP:  Ten Years After  ____

By the early years of the new century, Sacramento developer Paul Petrovich arrived in Woodland, with new notions of commercial sprawl and lots of brash dinero.

City hall under Petrovich’s new influence suddenly turned fully around over then existing beneficial plans for helping implementation of our downtown plan (DSP) by locating a convenient and attractive auto-mall along the interstate highway, where local (downtown) motor-vehicle dealerships might be enticed to relocate, making available an enormous volume of very valuable land within the core of our downtown upon which to best predicate a broad, genuine urban renaissance.

Petrovich, though, persuaded the city council to rezone this proposed auto-mall site to become yet another massive retail magnet (albeit with many Woodlanders’ gratitude for including a Costco), further injuring downtown retail uses. He was given a lavish, six and a half years (78 months) to provide any balance of legally required mitigation for seriously and irreversibly adverse impacts of his Gateway project upon our downtown area.

No auto-mall has materialized, and Petrovich’s stated intention to include one within his next proposed project — quadrupling the size of his Gateway project — has been met with disinterest / opposition from local dealerships.

Mitigation for the Gateway project required of Petrovich is the construction of property improvements constituting $3 million of assessed value within the downtown area or forfeiting of $1.1 million to the city, by 78 months from the opening date of Costco / Target.

There is absolutely no form of civic / municipal guidance or management over precisely what mitigation occurs.

Recently, Petrovich almost had a one-story, strip-mall Rite-Aid stationed upon our eastern downtown gateway (Main and East Sts.), which would have satisfied this mitigation through a fantastic civic disaster, the four-story Wiseman Building matched at this downtown gateway with Petrovich’s Stupidman building — an ironic and eternal monument to lunacy and lethargy of the city council.

____  Petrovich Wanted Cineplex At His Gateway Projects  ____

Similar to historical city council perspectives (outlined above):  When confronted by Petrovich’s desire to repeat the complete and utter lunacy of permitting cinemas to locate on our municipal outskirts (at his Gateway project(s)) — the (relatively undisclosed) city council compromise arrived at was that Petrovich would then build a cineplex within the downtown — but where he wanted — even if his notion was directly contrary to the DSP, which envisioned a cineplex related to State Theatre.

Thus, in 2003 the DSP was crucially altered — with absolutely no documentary explanation or justification — other than (a) potential joint-use of an anticipated (now absent) parking structure associated with a proposed new county courthouse, far (a decade) in the future, and (b) the extremely bizzare / ridiculous notion of narowly focusing an “entertainment district” within only the eastern half of our six basic blocks of downtown.

Downtown’s interests were thereby made subservient to Petrovich’s personal plan, substituting his determination for that of the authentic, original vision of the DSP.

Made waiting a decade for a never-to-arrive parking garage, so that upon this absurd and injurious division of downtown, Petrovich’s project would eventually prevail, Woodlanders have been very badly served by city council(s).

Proof of this is public record. The very cineplex developer now associated with Petrovich, Dave Corkill of CinemaWest, attempted to redevelop State Theatre per the DSP several years ago, but was rebuffed by a city hall attitude wedded only to Petrovich’s various schemes.

Woodland would have — by well before today — duly accomplished the original plan / vision of our DSP: Renovation and Expansion of State Theatre, but for unwise collusion between city hall and Petrovich.

Blatant deception occurred within the 2003 version of the DSP, for example somehow, spectacularly ignoring and even deriding the historical structure which housed the very first motor-vehicle dealership in Yolo County (circa 1910): the Electric Garage Building.

Apparent reasoning behind such historical hanky-panky was that Electric Garage was a likely spot for Petrovich to pounce with his cineplex plans. His development application now pending before the city proposes that Electric Garage be immediately demolished to make way for his cineplex.

____  Improper Redevelopment Agency Behavior  ____

Prodded by Petrovich’s intentions to move forward his cineplex plan, Woodland Redevelopment Agency on May 5, 2010, released a Request For Proposals (RFP) to develop a downtown cineplex — because its citizens advisory committee was determined to provide some potential avenue of consideration for the original DSP plan regarding State Theatre.

After six months of this intensive and expensive process, pitting Petrovich against Carceres’ (State Theatre) proposal, on December 14, 2010, city hall collapsed the RFP without genuine justification and in a suspicious manner with disingenuous reasoning — clearly echoing response to an October 25 letter from Petrovich formally quitting the RFP process — apparently after obtaining an understanding that, by so doing, he would in effect select his own project for municipal approval.

Suddenly, very substantial (previously undisclosed) municipal / redevelopment agency subsidies (totaling far in excess of $1 million) have emerged to advance Petrovich’s CinemaWest project application.

When the RFP was collapsed, city halls’ story-line was that Petrovich would develop his cineplex without any such funding.

Perhaps this was simply meant to be: Without any timely public disclosure of such funding.

Another choice (seemingly pivotal) canard contained within relevant redevelopment agency statements was:  Petrovich’s project application could proceed absent any requirements for discretionary municipal approval.

Several venues of actual and potential municipal (discretionary) approval obviously exist regarding such a project application, including the need to process it as a conditional use because of parking issues (and more).

A thick layer of disinformation about relevant funding and discretionary municipal process was required to accompany improperly collapsing this RFP — in order to follow Petrovich’s lead in this city hall waltz.

Alongside these civic capers, city hall slipped Chase Bank’s involvement, with the parcel which the DSP identifies as pivotal to its State Theatre project opportunity, under public notice until September of 2010, and then injuriously shoehorned its project into place in compound violation of the DSP.

Very recently, a grassroots citizen effort fell just barely short of time and money for filing a solid lawsuit against this injurious project and thereby simply dissolving it — since city hall would never litigate over its patently ridiculous planning conduct related to this project obtaining approval.

Circumstances are rudely that — unless city hall is sued — it cavorts as it pleases.

____  Primary Issues Of This Moment  ____

Woodlanders could bring these civic shenanigans to a stunning, screeching halt — by just briefly expressing to Galaxy Theatres their desire for it to immediately develop a new, state-of-the-art cineplex at Main and Walnut Streets — directly across from where our (original, unpolluted) DSP envisions it.

Be keenly aware — unless this soon happens — it may be many, many years before another edifice of sufficient gravity becomes feasible to serve as a proper anchor at downtown’s (actual) western gateway (Main and Walnut Sts.).

Without such a pivotal development, downtown’s once bright prospects for comprehensive, cohesive evolution will become severely diminished or irretrievably lost, Petrovich’s selfish (likely delusional) planning ploy to subvert it will succeed, effectively dividing our downtown.

Following good reasoning of our original DSP, locating a cineplex at the western gateway to our downtown would promote travel throughout it, instead of travelers (largely from eastern freeway access) simply stopping at its eastern portion.

Weaving its plan with congruent and cohesive equity throughout our entire downtown area was a paramount concern of the original (1993) DSP, baldly subverted by its now gravely outdated, Petrovich-infliuenced (2003) version.

Woodlanders concerned about such important matters must now act to inform Galaxy Theatres of their civic support for it immediately moving forward to win what has now become a sudden race to develop a new downtown cineplex.

____  Chase Bank Could Now Transfer Its Location  ____

Perhaps, even Chase Bank will suddenly wise up before it’s too late and duly consider relocating its (improperly approved and nearly sued) project to abide within potentially cooperative parameters now made available through Caceres’ acquisition of this 2.6 acres of adjacent downtown land.

This outcome may well fully preserve the specific vision of our original and unadulterated DSP.

Otherwise, this Chase Bank location is doomed to become forever observed as famously at odds with deep community interests and desires, becoming an eternal monument to ridiculous municipal planning given sway by unreasonable and outrageous behavior of city hall.

Chase Bank should think again and hard about pursuing such an adverse local legacy, against which a myriad of community opposition exists.

Anecdotes abound of such local opposition to Chase Bank. It’s difficult to discover residents who approve of it.

___  Woodlanders Should Voice Their Support To Galaxy Theatres  ___

Similar to a reverse-takedown in wrestling, Woodlanders can now act to successfully defeat Petrovich’s plan and begin to restore our civic integrity and properly adopted intentions of our DSP.

Frank Rimkus, CEO of Galaxy Theatres is interested to learn if Woodlanders genuinely support its inclination to immediately apply for development of a cineplex upon the downtown parcel owned and made available by Caceres.

Please soon advise him of your views at:   frimkus@galaxytheatres.com

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