Editorials and Articles 2017

Petaluma Argus-Courier, Thursday, May 4, 2017

Reject Davidon development

By Don Frances

Hilly edge of Petaluma is the wrong place for luxury homes project

There are many good reasons – first and best being financial – for City Council members to reject a proposal for dozens of huge new luxury homes on the western edge of town.

The proposal, by developer Davidon Homes of Walnut Creek, would pulverize 58 acres of Arnold Scott Ranch at D Street and Windsor Drive to make way for 63 to 66 single-family homes. Those numbers may get scaled down – they usually are – but not by enough.

Anyone heading west on D Street has seen this rolling grassland, with its cows and red barn and creek running through it. And everyone already knows what the houses would look like, because we’ve all seen them on similar cul-de-sacs in towns across America.

These houses are more of that. The smallest would be 3,500 square feet, the largest 4,500 square feet. The price per home? Not cheap.

“The main arterial street that provides access from the freeway to the project area is D Street,” notes a draft environmental impact report that came before the Planning Commission earlier this month. That means construction crews and equipment would be using D Street as well – for years.

The report, with public comments, may come before our City Council as early as next month, and sooner or later the fate of Arnold Scott Ranch will be decided by these seven elected leaders. How will they rule?

In general, council members should weigh development proposals with one thing in mind: The wellbeing of Petaluma and its residents, now and in the future. And by this standard, they should reject outright the Davidon proposal as bad for the city financially and in other ways.

Why financially? Sprawling low-density developments like this one are always a net loss for cities, which collect one-time fees during the development process but then pay out forever in infrastructure costs – sewer, water, roads, schools, police and fire, and so on. If our city is concerned about fixing potholes, it should reject low-density development at the edge of town in favor of high-density, transit-friendly projects in the center of town, which generate more in tax revenue than they cost to maintain.

But don’t we need more housing to increase supply and meet demand? This common argument ignores how housing markets work, especially in desirable places like Petaluma – places which remain desirable specifically because they are not covered in endless housing developments. At any rate, the Davidon project’s million-dollar homes would do nothing to meet our market-rate housing needs.

The costs of this project are not just financial. In terms of public safety, the prospect of heavy trucks and equipment rumbling up and down D Street for an estimated 39 months has west side residents on edge. Then there’s the loss of yet more beautiful open space, critical habitat – including for the endangered red-legged frog – and the storied Arnold Scott Ranch itself. (Side note: Petalumans should not become too focused on the red barn; saving the barn is not saving the ranch.) Some locals believe Petaluma’s legacy is not worth trading for any number of luxury homes.

Let’s remember that City Council members are under no obligation to approve proposals just because a developer submitted them. To the contrary, their obligation is to Petaluma’s health and wellbeing, nothing more. That’s why the Davidon proposal – expensive, destructive and backward-looking – should be thrown out once and for all.

You can tell the city your thoughts on the Davidon proposal by sending emails directly to Council members or to Alicia Giudice, senior planner, at agiudice@ci.petaluma.ca.us.

Don Frances is a Petaluma writer and journalist.

Argus Courier, May 11, 2017

Argus Courier, May 18, 2017

Argus Courier, May 25, 2017

Save the red barn

EDITOR: The red barn at D and Windsor is a beauty, the prettiest spot in town, my artists’ eyes tell me.

Yes, it needs some TLC, that’s one point on which Trevor Pitts (Letters, May 4) and I agree. He has done so much for our community. But we can still advocate for our vision of the meadow being parkland and the buildings being restored in their current historic location.

The fate of the Scott Ranch brings to mind our folksinger friend Tom Paxton’s words, from “Whose Garden Was This?”: Whose Garden was this? It must have been lovely. Did it have flowers? I’ve seen pictures of flowers and I’d love to have smelled one.

Whose river was this? You say it ran freely? Blue was its color? I’ve seen blue in some pictures and I’d love to have been there.

Ah tell me again, I need to know. The forest had trees, the meadows were green, the oceans were blue, and birds really flew. Can you swear that was true?

Pat Spitzig


Argus Courier, June 8, 2017


No Davidon Homes

EDITOR: I am strongly opposed to the proposed building of “mega mansions” in the beautiful rural open space that now exists. As a cyclist, I am frequently riding in and out of Petaluma on D Street. The countryside is beautiful.

The red barn is iconic and a reminder of times gone by. Although I am carefully watching the road and traffic, I am aware of the birds, the grasses, the hills.

Having reviewed the report, it seems the damage to the environment is huge.

This was a bountiful water year, but after our prolonged drought, it seems unconscionable that these homes should be built. They will of course require water and sewage and electricity and leveling of hills and building of roads.

There will be other dry years. When I came to California in 1970, the population was 19 million. It is now 38-39 million. We will always need to be stewards of the land and our diminishing natural resources.

Barbara DiCostanzo

Argus Courier article, June 15, 2017

Battle resumes over west Petaluma housing development

The Press Democrat, June 19, 2017

Petaluma Housing Plan

Addressing a meeting Sunday night, Petaluma community leader Greg Colvin stressed the right of Davidon Homes corporation to propose luxury homes in the pastoral open space adjoining Helen Putnam Regional Park. I join Petalumans for Responsible Planning (PetRP) in advocating their right.

I also join them in advocating for our City Council vigorously to exert the rights of our community to have our current General Plan, zoning regulations, community interests and the California Environmental Quality Act upheld. What’s fair is fair.

I emphasize this because even though Davidon's Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on the Council agenda for Monday, June 19, is sufficiently inadequate to appear insulting, it does not disqualify Davidon from an honest hearing. For reasons I have detailed and cited in May 1st formal testimony to the Petaluma Planning Commission, our Council must reject the DEIR and require a significant revision based on current data and complete facts.

The reasons include using out-dated surveys, failing to include previous legal testimony of citizens and experts, and hiring a consulting company whose principal has been criminally convicted for illegal removal of the federally-listed red-legged frog from a project.

Barry Albert Bussewitz

Argus Courier, July 20, 2017