2013 Letters to the Editor

Argus Courier, March 28, 2013

Questioning PetRP by PATRECIA GRAHAM, Petaluma

EDITOR: Petalumans for Responsible Planning (PetRP) has been using rhetoric and hyperbole, however false, to convince people that the housing development at the corner of D Street and Windsor Drive is a bad idea. Really, though, they are just homeowners who have their piece of paradise, and don’t want anyone else to share it.

I have lived on D Street, just down the street from Windsor Drive, for more than 20 years. If I were to have put up the fuss about the Victoria subdivision that PetRP is putting up against Davidon, these homeowners would not live there now.

The property is not unique. There is a seven-acre ranch just like it across the street. It even has a red barn. The same beautiful creek runs through, visible from D Street. It is private property, but if Davidon isn’t allowed to develop the Scott property, it too will remain private, and no one will get to enjoy the barn or the land. There is no danger of losing our rural atmosphere.

PeTRP neglects to recognize the benefits that Petaluma would receive from the development of the Scott property. Park land is expensive and County Parks doesn’t have the resources to acquire or maintain new facilities. The Davidon group would donate land for parks—150 feet on each side of the creek and a trail that connects to Helen Putnam Park. They will build a 30 car parking lot. They have asked to move the red barn, but in return they will upgrade it to a usable building.

Property taxes from the sale of the homes on the Scott property would support the school system, possibly to the tune of $3 million per year. (This assumes about 70 houses at $600,000 in taxes.) Developer fees would fund street maintenance with another $2 to $3 million. How can the PetRP be so selfish as to try to stall or stop a program that, if the economics are evaluated, is beneficial to parks, schools, roads and every single person in Petaluma?


Against Davidon by DONNA EMERSON, Petaluma

EDITOR: It warmed my heart to be among more than 100 people who attended and 35 Petalumans who spoke against the Davidon Homes EIR on Tuesday, March 12 at the Planning Commission hearing. Not because we made a strong case for open space, for reining in traffic for the wildlife, and cows we know by name.

Not because of the careful details citizens provided about current flooding in their homes and yards, due to the heavy cumulative load on Kelly Creek from current developments, or the several landslides that have already damaged yards from hills the same size in Victoria as those that Davidon wants to fill with houses.

Davidon’s large residential footprint will lead to the decline and decimation of the red-legged frog and the removal of black oaks, including “98 trees whose diameters exceed 4 inches.”

I will remember the young man who counts traffic at El Rose and D Streets.I will remember Sigrun finding a frog in Kelly Creek, her research to identify it as a red-legged frog. I will remember the man who wants traffic speed limits lowered at this gateway because he knows the group of turkeys and herd of eight deer who walk across that road “barely make it.”

I will remember that we moved to a rural place to live a different life from Walnut Creek and Marin, that we want not a roadside plaque remembering the red barn and farming in Petaluma, but to see the red barn with the yokes for milking cows, where real cows walk and feed every day. This proposed development will divine our community.

The descendants of the owners of the Arnold Scott ranch before Arnold Scott have told us they never wanted homes filling this pristine and fragile valley.

We will continue to fight for this remnant of wild land, the south side of Windsor Drive, because there is nowhere in Sonoma County more beautiful or more part of our dairy and farm history. Ansel Adams photographed these hills. We must not destroy them. They are wild, rural Petaluma.


Argus Courier, April 4, 2013

Fiscal Concerns about Davidon Development by DAVID POWERS, Petaluma

There are strong concerns among various citizens’ groups about the proposed Davidon development at the red barn site. They affect storm water runoff down Kelly Creek, increased pressure on an aging sanitary sewage system, and intensified usage of the D Street traffic corridor. Comments by the members of the Planning Commission about mitigations offered in Davidon’s Draft EIR suggested that proposed mitigations fall short of the mark. The City Council will review these comments in its upcoming meeting. At least two other significant issues are woven into the fabric of Davidon proposal that are not simple to mitigate.

The first is the fact that the D Street entrance to the city is the last remaining unspoiled gateway from the rural area that surrounds Petaluma. Every other city gateway has been severely compromised by previous development initiatives. This one remaining gem is what separates Petaluma from so many other small cities which have been homogenized by the relentless pressure to extend sprawl away from the center of town.

The pressure to develop is based on the assumption that adding new homes means adding new revenue to the city coffers. While this is true, the revenue also falls short of the mark.

A March 28 letter to the editor noted that the Davidon project would support the school system, “possibly to the tune of $3 million per year.” The assumption in this statement is that Petaluma receives every dollar paid out in property taxes. In fact, the county only reimburses the city somewhere between 11 and 14 cents per dollar assessed. That makes the city’s take on a fully built (and sold) development of 70 homes (the writer’s scenario) somewhat less than $70,000 per year. Accrued over a 25 year period, that’s $1.75 million, less than the cost of infrastructure within the project in today’s dollars. The city will assume liability for maintaining the infrastructure at a loss once Davidon leaves.

This fiscal shortfall makes the Davidon project a very bad investment for the entire community, not just the residents of Victoria. Couple this with the fact that you can never recover the unique character of the gateway, and you are shortchanging Petaluma in two ways.

David Powers, Petaluma

Argus Courier, April 11, 2013

I must comment on the recent letter to the editor (March 28th) that favors the development of Petaluma's Scott ranch by Davidon Homes of Walnut Creek: It was a very insensitive assessment of one of the most beautiful areas in Sonoma County.

It seems to be the normal course for our species to look at only the dollars and cents of everything; often at the cost of the things that make our lives more whole. In regards to the Scott ranch, I don't believe there is anyone, from within Petaluma or without, from the most spiritual to the most hardened and cynical, who hasn't passed that property on any given day and experienced an uplifting of the spirit, or a moment of hope in the rat race we have come to know as "modern life."

Indeed, let's develop it from one end to the other. Let's be pragmatic and "unselfish." We could gain so much in revenues for everyone. (Won't the near-term openings of two huge "big box" store complexes in Petaluma offer more than enough in this regard?)

So why should we care about this little valley? It's "not unique". After all, the next beautiful valley lies just beyond it...waiting to be developed.

"Wild honey smells of freedom,

The dust; of sunlight

The mouth of a young girl, like a violet

But gold; smells of nothing."

-- Anna Akhmatova

Peter C. Bordiga, Petaluma

Argus Courier, April 11, 2013

The housing crash that began seven years ago caused home prices to plummet. The resulting recession created a dearth of demand and glut of supply. How then can the developers defend introducing further supply of homes until equilibrium has been reachieved?

Can Davidon provide the people of Petaluma an estimate of how much increased housing supply will reduce the value of existing real estate?

We have a right to know the impact of the development on our single largest investment.

Ransom Stephens, Petaluma