YOLO SUN OPINION :
Starbucks is stuck at Raley’s, lacking drive-through access anywhere in central or western Woodland.
Apparently, Dutch Bros. has for years been eating Starbucks’ local lunch.
This situation greatly bothers Starbucks (an enormoius international corporation).
Starbucks’ local friend, Paul Petrovich, invited by it, decides to intervene, seemingly convincing it that he can quickly resolve its commercial interest.
Petrovich has ridden to the rescue (Starbucks will never survive this).
Petrovich informs city council, relevantly, so far (in this century), within his utter control, that Starbucks must be immediately moved to a suitable location (no pun intended).
Woodland’s City Council (contacted through its Mayor) soon specifically directs its City Manager to facilitate this variously suspicious maneuver.
Petrovich’s pernicious influence (yet again) fabulously mangles city planning – as quite innocuously described (below) by city manager Paul Navazio – who rather inadvertently spills the beans about such pervasive, adverse influence against Woodland’s community development.
___ Divergent Views About Legal Reality ___
Relevant statements by Petrovich and legal counsel for Burger King reveal a difference of perspective regarding the resulting, inevitable lawsuit:
Petrovich (before city council on June 4, 2013) made the following remarks –
“So, what this boils down to is a very high-handed, high-powered, expensive lawyer attempt to flip this project on its ear on appeal through a CEQA suit. This is not a matter of whether this should be a Starbucks, whether it should be a drive-through, this is an anti-competitive maneuver by a well-heeled, multi-store franchise operator of various concepts.”
Interviewed by Yolo Sun, Timothy Taylor of Stoel Rives LLP, attorneys for Burger King, responded —
“While I am flattered by Mr. Petrovich’s assessment of my firm’s legal strengths, this is simply not a business dispute as he suggests.
“Rather, it is a very clear case in which a successful, existing business will be severely impacted by the environmental effects of the City’s cavalier approval of the project. That is precisely what CEQA is designed to address, but instead of taking a look through the CEQA lens, the City decided to bypass the environmental review process in its entirety, and they are now scrambling to justify that approach.”
___ Precious City Staff Time And Resources ___
Precious city staff time and resources have been squandered with this ill-advised Starbucks project — (yet again, previous examples:
(a) collapsed and adverse Rite Aid project at East and Main,
(b) collapsed and adverse cineplex project at Fourth and Main,
(c) adverse Gateway 1 project elements (city unusually paid $2 million commercially-based cost of its freeway ramp property, gave Petrovich eight and a half (8 ½) years to provide environmental mitigation for downtown, plus granted conditional permission for another, competing cineplex, etc.),
(d) Gateway 2 project, itself, in court for years involving alleged environmental violations)
— crazily diverted to Petrovich’s nut-cake (and often unlawful) development schemes — with recently expressed justification by the current city manager, Paul Navazio, that Petrovich’s vast local influence — as a matter of course) — simply demands it.
Woodlanders might well look back in time to the — curious fact — that their community interests regarding Petrovich’s Gateway 1 project, were (quite unusually and suspiciously) negotiated for them by the City Fire Marshall.
Woodland’s Fire Marshall usually has, of course, pretty spare experience with municipal development projects. What was really occurring here, in past years?
___ Petrovich And Davies — Joined At Hip — Control Navazio ___
Of course, to be fair, one should now read into pertinent statements and actions by Navazio, the brutal fact that: Woodland Mayor, Skip Davies, is way deep in Petrovich’s hip pocket and that Davies — on key votes — according to experienced local political observers, basically controls three City Council votes (himself, Sean Denny and Jim Hilliard).
Three adverse city council votes would instantly send Navazio looking for another job. He serves only at the pure pleasure of a council majority.
Clearly, this (at times) cruel political dynamic should be factored into any moral judgments about Navazio.
If directed by a capable and ethical city council, Navazio may be good.
Navazio once declared to Yolo Sun (early in his tenure) that Petrovich clearly has too much influence and power over this city’s planning processes: the usual problems with being — “the only game in town” — as he then put it; but, publically expressing those accurate sentiments could now easily result in Navazios’s swift ouster.
Navazio has seemingly realized this — since attempts at follow-up questions to his email interview with Yolo Sun earlier in 2013 — have found no response.
Nevertheless, Navazio’s on-the-record statements (further below) clearly indicate his acute attention and performance toward an adverse trend of city planning (represented by Davies) that will, if he so behaves, help keep him in the city manager’s chair — even at the expense of the public interest.
___ Starbucks Desires Escape From Raley’s ___
Starbucks believes Dutch Bros. is ripping-off its own rightful riches and thus contacts its good friend, Paul Petrovich, to plan an escape from Raley’s — to somewhere else on the west / central side of town – to a place affording its desired feature of drive-through access.
Reasonable persons might think that the long-abandoned and blighted Long John Silver’s site in central Woodland would be a perfect fit for such renovation by Starbucks (a huge international corporation with mucho dinero).
Conveniently (it seems) for him, though, Petrovich owns a half acre parcel between Rite Aid and Burger King on West Main Street near Ashley.
He wants to swiftly shoehorn Starbucks into this site.
___ Serious (Petrovich) Problems Are Apparent ___
Problem is: Petrovich has previously promised Woodland Planning Commission (2009), to alleviate its serious traffic concerns, that he will not place yet another drive-through (restaurant) on this specific parcel and he has also formally recorded such legal restrictions with the county in order to induce purchase from him of the adjacent parcel on which Burger King is now located.
Late in 2012, claiming that Starbucks is somehow — not a restaurant (although his plans call for 36 patron seats, which one might expect to be used for eating) — and despite his former promises and legal pronouncements, Petrovich impulsively applies for city permission to relocate Starbucks to his little half acre parcel — which would put — three (3) — separate drive-through features (one on east side of Rite Aid) upon about an acre.
No planning professional involved with or related to this project has ever seen such concentration of drive-through traffic outside of freeway commercial zoning.
Clearly, this is an aspect of this project which could under relevant state (environmental) law be accurately characterized as: “unusual circumstances.”
___ City Initially Pays For Environmental Study ___
Incredibly, Petrovich claims to the city that there is no need for any traffic study (for which he would regularly pay and which may determine needs for project alteration / mitigation) and he also abruptly threatens that he will — “kill” (quote of Woodland City Manager) — this Starbucks project unless the City pays for any required environmental studies.
The city pays.
Only a day or so prior to Woodland Planning Commission consideration of his project in April, however, Petrovich pays back to the city this (~$5000) cost of the traffic study — attempting to prevent this tawdry item from becoming an issue related to project approval.
This item is raised only through public comment (by Yolo Sun) — not as a result of any form of expressed Planning Commission concern regarding Petrovich’s ethical comportment.
___ City Grants Bogus Exemption From Environmental Law ___
The city then (affirmed on city council appeal by Burger King) quite unusually grants Petrovich’s Starbucks project a — “categorical exemption” — from any substantive consideration under state environmental law.
The city approves this (obviously unlawful) project — combined with what can only be described as: “mitigation measures.”
State environmental law forbids use of “mitigation measures” in cases of “categorical exemptions,” in that such classifications logically preclude such intervention to resolve any significant environmental effects, since it has been found that there are no significant environmental effects.
If a project is exempt, there is no need to mitigate. If mitigation is needed to resolve its environmental effects, a project cannot be lawfully exempt.
This is a clear legal premise — which the city has plainly ignored.
___ Burger King Sues ___
Stoel Rives LLP (Timothy Taylor), legal counsel for Burger King, has on July 11, 2013, filed a verified petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief from city approval of this project.
Yolo Superior Court has since (please see news report, below on scroll) issued a temporary restraining order forbidding any construction of this Starbucks pending consideration of this lawsuit.
In order to legally succeed with obtaining a restraining order, Burger King established that it would likely prevail in court on the merits of this case.
Quoting from the text of its legal filing: “Projects subject to [ ] categorical exemptions [ ] have been determined not to have significant effects on the environment. [The city’s] determination that a project is categorically exempt [ ] will, therefore, only be upheld if the determination is supported by substantial evidence.”
Due to “unusual circumstances [ ] if there is a fair argument or a reasonable possibility that the project will result in a significant effect on the environment,” exemptions from state environmental law cannot apply, according to Timothy Taylor of Stoel Rives.
Burger King’s lawsuit continues, relating that this project cannot be lawfully exempt because: (a) substantial evidence does not support the city’s determination of an exemption, (b) there is a fair argument of a reasonable possibility that the project will have a significant effect on the environment due to unusual circumstances, and (c) the city improperly relied on mitigation measures and conditions of approval as a basis for concluding that the project is categorically exempt and/or that it will not have significant effects.
Taylor also raises in Burger King’s legal pleadings separate and incisive causes of action regarding city noncompliance with its General Plan and Zoning Ordinance.
___ Judge Maguire Has Case ___
This case is the second local case involving state environmental law to come before Judge Daniel Maguire. He got the first case wrong (Petrovich’s Gateway 2 project, currently on appeal for alleged violation of state environmental law).
If Maguire also gets this case wrong (which on the basis of his ruling on the temporary restraining order — is rather unlikely), it will certainly raise grave concerns about his competency in this legal area.
That won’t happen. The law is clear and Maguire can’t miss this one.
Petrovich is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and wasting vast amounts of city staff time and resources on — a stupid and greedy pipe-dream.
The court will (hopefully) wake up both the city and Petrovich.
Starbucks is still stuck at Raley’s (after a year of city and court process), with Petrovich’s expert help.
Starbucks may be for several years in court before this matter is fully resolved, depending upon it and Petrovich, who insists to that Starbucks must immediately move in the direction he indicates, even though that was all very much – just a stupid and greedy pipe-dream.
How much longer must Woodlanders endure these inane city council and planning commission pranks? Is this a City — or a junior high school?
___ City Manager Spills Beans ___
Navazio describes / explains his relevant experience (emphasis added):
“My involvement with the Starbucks application began in the context of several meetings — including meeting with Paul Petrovich — to discuss and learn about the long list of past, present and future Petrovich Development Corp. [PDC] projects in Woodland.
“The primary issues for which I have been engaged with PDC are [ ] related to conditions of approval for the Gateway I and II projects[,] Re Gateway I we are in the process of resolving issues related to the cost-sharing of off-site improvements as well as cost-shares for pending landscaping work for the I-5 / 113 interchange.
“In addition, we are continuing to have discussions with PDC related to the downtown — in context of the requirements of the Gateway II Development Agreement as well as related to the property located at Third and Main (the site identified previously as a potential sate for a downtown theater). These discussions are occurring at the staff level, within context of the council-appointed Downtown Sub-Committee, as well as with individual, interested council members,
“In the context of all of the above discussions — many of which relate directly to City Council goals [ ], I was advised of PDC’s interest in submitting an application for a Drive-Thru Starbucks at Ashley and Main . . . ostensibly to relocate the existing Starbucks located at the Raley’s center.
“[Petrovich] argue[s] that it is [a waste of money and] highly unusual for a traffic study to be required for this type of project submittal.”
City staff, though, insisted on a traffic study, at least.
The city’s planning file on this item indicates that city staff actually advised that a categorical exemption not be granted, rather that state environmental law be followed.
“After it was conveyed to PDC that that City would still require a traffic study [although no: noise or air pollution studies], I was advised that this was problematic for the project applicant. Citing the cost and timeline required for a traffic study, it was conveyed that the project would likely not proceed, and that there may be the risk of losing the existing Starbucks location if a new, drive-through location could not be accommodate within a short time-line window.”
Starbucks remains at Raley’s, long past its “short time-line window.”
“Once established that a traffic study would be required by the City, the applicant continued to assert that requiring a study would kill the project, and our disagreement also impacted our larger discussion of Gateway and Downtown issues, with the recurring theme of the high cost of doing business” with the City, and the recurring perception that the city applies subjective, arbitrary and costly requirements for projects with clear economic benefits.
“In an effort — on my part — to balance the discretionary application requirements, the larger scope discussions to other projects important to the City, and the desire to advance streamlining the City development review processes (where appropriate) I suggested a compromise that I believe is clearly within my authority as City Manager.
“Specifically, I proposed the notion that a traffic study would be performed; however, to ensure that the project would at least be submitted for review, I offered that the City would initially cover the cost of the traffic study.
“Furthermore, I believe that should modifications and mitigations be required for the project, the cost of conducting the study would likely be readily passed-on to the project applicant as part of the fees assessed for project review.”
Navazio’s plain remarks clearly reveal that Petrovich is bullying the city into processing unlawful projects, because of threatened impacts involving his other projects.
“Mitigations” were needed for this project, because of the existence of significant environmental effects, and Petrovich eventually paid the study cost.
Navazio plainly ignores the legal conflict between “mitigations” and “categorical exemptions.”
Because of having Davies on his side and effectively controlling Navazio (and former city manager Mark Deven), Petrovich succeeds with this community planning extortion and devastation.