No On Monster Mall Measure A – More Letters to the Editor


Editorial Opinion of the Ukiah Daily Journal

The Ukiah Valley has a lot at stake in the Nov. 3 election as the entire county votes on Measure A.

As mail-in ballots arrive at homes and as our readers think about what they will do at the polls, we urge a No vote on Measure A.

There is big money at stake here for the developers, and big changes at stake for this valley. Passions are high and we hope that means citizens are engaged and thinking carefully about their decision.

There are lots of things to discuss about whether to rezone the Masonite property for a mall of as much as 800,000 square feet.

But for us it comes down to one overriding issue: the local businesses that have worked hard and supported our community, businesses which would undoubtedly be harmed, if not destroyed, by a big new mall to the north.

Developers Diversified Realty, the mall developer, has promised Costco, Petco, TJ Maxx and Target right away. None of these stores has actually said they’ll come, but what if they do?

What will that mean to dfm Car Stereo? Mendocino Book Company? Schat’s Bakery? Poma TV? Rainbow Agricultural Services? Mendocino Barkery? Little Brown Bear? The Coffee Critic? The Crow’s Nest? Rod’s Shoes? Pardini Appliances? D. Wm. Jewelers? Lustre Jewelry? Jitterbox Music? Mendo-Lake Office Supplies? Thompson Party Rentals? and others like them?

These local businesses are successful because they have worked hard and contribute to the community. We have seen these businesses on Little League uniforms, scholarship awards, donations to local non-profits and in school programs.

Think about the ripple effect outside the valley in Willits and Fort Bragg where other small businesses will be crushed by the weight of competition with these four large mega-stores carrying everything from appliances and TVs to clothing and shoes, to pet supplies, books, gifts and music CDs. Not to mention all the other stores, kiosks and food outlets also in the plans.

Let us be clear: Big box retail is not the problem. But nor is it the solution. A mall of this scale is way more than this community can absorb.

We are told by DDR that Measure A is our only choice to keep this community vibrant and growing. We think our community’s character is what will keep it vibrant and growing.

It needs to be preserved.

Vote No on Measure A.
~
[Let ME be clear. Big Box Retail IS the problem!→. Locally-owned (not just "local") small businesses are the solution.What seems so obvious now, if Measure A passes, and given DDR's financial woes and the state of retail in general... what we'll get is the Mother of All Wal-Marts at the Masonite site. But thanks to savvy, caring Mendo leaders and voters, Measure A will be defeated, and then you got yer dead dino in the middle of the road, stinkin' to high heaven (see D.D.R.I.P. below) -DS]
~~

Letters to the UDJ Editor

From James Eddie
Potter Valley

For some time now I’ve been mulling over this notion of changing the zoning of the old Masonite property to allow a shopping mall to be built there. I’m against it. It’s not good for Mendocino County.

Mendocino County doesn’t need more retail. It needs industrial land for well paying industrial jobs. It needs industrial land that supports our resource base.

Land use decisions done by initiatives are too subject to influences of big money advertising and campaigning and always result in poor planning that in every case, cost local governments local tax dollars to correct the ill effects of these unwise decisions. This proposed zoning change will result in economic disaster for Mendocino County.

I’m voting No on Measure A.
~

[Stake through the heart.]

From Elaine Lindelef
Potter Valley

Recently I received a flyer from DDR urging me to vote yes on Measure A, to help my neighbors who are compelled to drive 200 miles round trip to Santa Rosa to shop.

However, I don’t see that Measure A helps them particularly. Nothing in the measure requires that a mall be built, let alone the eco-paradise mall that DDR has sketched for us. It seems more likely to me that this is the “Help DDR get a good price for their land” measure – that in the current economic climate, it’s not likely that they have the resources or the market justification to go forward with the original plan. The measure is a blank check to exempt it from environmental regulations and other county rules, and the blank check will travel with any new owners.

The reality is that Mendocino County consists of around 80,000 residents, somewhat lower in income than other areas of the state. There are going to be some stores that are not, and may never be, tenable here. Yes, you have to go to Santa Rosa for high fashion. How many times do you and your fellow residents buy evening wear? Yes, I go to Santa Rosa to buy specialty English riding equipment. Truth be told, when I lived in Los Angeles, I traveled just as far. Many of these big malls are anchored with a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I admit, every five years or so, I need new sheets, and I didn’t find them locally. The Santa Rosa store didn’t have what I wanted anyway; I finally bought them online. Do we really buy enough housewares in this county to support such a store?

DDR says they have “a letter of intent” from Costco and Target. I don’t know what that letter says, but I find it, uh, optimistic, to believe that this county can support Wal-Mart, Costco, AND Target. And if they all try, I don’t think it will be Wal-Mart who will be the loser. Indeed, it might well be that our new commercial development is a larger Wal-Mart surrounded by a strip mall, echoing the center currently anchored by Raley’s.

People have written enthusiastically about the great new restaurants we’ll get. Again, the problem isn’t that we lack real estate, but well-heeled diners. If you want more and better restaurants, eat out more. We have had many quality restaurants come and go due to economic issues; a big box mall won’t do much to help with that.

It may well be that eventually that space should be zoned commercial/mixed use. However, I think that should happen within the same regulations that apply to every other developer and development. I see no reason this development or this developer should get favorable treatment. If a local landowner with a vineyard or a pear orchard on 101 asks for commercial/mixed use zoning with no EIRs or other normal development procedures, why should they not have the same?

Over time, I’ve concluded that traveling to Santa Rosa to shop isn’t worth a special trip. I stop there when I have other business that takes me south, but, for me, driving an hour each way and using half a tank of gas to save $10-$20 isn’t really a good deal. Your mileage may vary, of course.

But, instead, my neighbors who drive the 200 miles might want to take note that for those everyday items, Internet shopping might work even better for them. (Fort Bragg to Ukiah still uses a lot of gas and time.) For example, Target.com has free shipping to my door for any order over $50, they’re never out of stock, and the sales tax is accounted to the recipient’s address. Indeed, with the retracting US economy and the rise of Internet commerce, it may well be that the days of Mega-Retail every 30 minutes down the highway are over.
~

From Dan Hamburg
Ukiah

In 1911, populist Governor Hiram Johnson added initiative, referendum and recall to state government, giving California a degree of direct democracy unmatched by any other state. The idea of these progressive reforms was to give the little guy an opportunity to stand up to the powers-that-be.

Proponents of Measure A argue that their initiative is in this tradition.

But the “little guy” in our local scenario would be none other than Developers Diversified Realty Corporation (DDR), among the largest real estate investment corporations in the United States. DDR claims that Mendocino County has given them nothing but grief. They claim that getting through the approval process in Mendocino County is akin to climbing Mt. Everest. They claim to have been victims of a stalling campaign executed by local officials. Most recently they claim to be the victims of a deceitful campaign by opponents who question their rosy financial projections and worry about potential burdens on local government.

Poor DDR!

This initiative constitutes ballot-box zoning; in other words, trying to do at the ballot box what you can’t do through normal channels. This is not the kind of precedent we want to set in Mendocino County. Nor is it what Hiram Johnson had in mind!

Vote no on Measure A.
~

From Phil Baldwin
Ukiah

Measure A is a threat to Ukiah. It threatens our ability to provide adequate police and fire protection as well as our ability to maintain roads and parks. It threatens traffic jams 9:00 to 6:00 on State Street and far less serenity in north Ukiah neighborhoods. If passed, it will allow a massive project to go forward without environmental review. Please vote No on A.
~

From Dotty Coplen
Ukiah

If you like living in Mendocino County and believe in local control, then your No vote on Measure A is important.
~

From Stephanie Hoppe
Ukiah

Voting for Measure A is like spitting in the face of all the landowners and developers who participate in an orderly review and public debate over the merits and consequences of their proposed projects — whether they do so willingly or for lack of the megabucks to buy themselves out of the existing procedures. If Mendocino Crossings is such a wonderful project, shouldn’t it be able to face such a review? And if it’s so obviously wonderful, why does it apparently require a million dollar ad campaign to convince the citizens of Mendocino County?

It seems to me if the supporters of Measure A think the existing procedures are so flawed, they should be working to improve the process for everyone, not just a single large corporation.
~

From Linda Francis
Redwood Valley

I recently received a phone call in support of Measure A. I asked the caller who was sponsoring the call and she said Mendocino Tomorrow and Developers Diversified Realty (DDR).

When asked if I was in favor of or opposed the measure, I indicated that I was undecided and asked her several questions about the project, which she diligently answered after a brief search through whatever source of information she was using.

I then asked her where she was calling from. She replied “a call center.” I asked where the call center was located. Her candid response — “Florida.”

Hmmm. What a microcosm of the issues this call turned out to be. I’m pretty sure that the “No on Measure A” call that I will get, will be made by one of my neighbors here in Mendocino County, someone volunteering their time to help shape the future of our valley, not from someone being paid to make the call from Florida

In fact, after getting a call from Florida, that caller could well be me.
~

From John Moon
Mendocino County

Why are a lot of people voting “Yes” or “No” on Measure A. I ask that question frequently because I want to know the pros and cons. Unfortunately, I find many are voting against the past record of either the City of Ukiah City Council or the County Board of Supervisors rather than for some logical reason. They seem to want to cast a vote against one of these two organizations claiming one or the other has botched things up. Use another vote to get rid of them, don’t waste your Measure A vote.

Also, I hear concern expressed about businesses coming from outside the area taking advantage of some poorly written laws to win their point of view regarding the development at the old Masonite site. Don’t worry about them; there are enough individuals within the County trying to do the same thing.

Regardless, the initiative is now on the County ballot and we need to be smarter than the average bear about how we are going to vote. Understand both sides of the issue and vote conscientiously. I read two opposing views written by Sharon Larsen of Potter Valley and Ingo Wagner of Ukiah in the UDJ tonight. Each writer presented their case logically and unemotionally and those are thoughts we all need to weigh before filling out our ballots. When I synthesize the information down to a hand full of considerations, I feel we definitely do need more employment opportunity in the valley and I don’t see where the DDR project specifically excludes the potential for higher paying positions when the business climate is more conducive.

However, I do have two major concerns that cause me to arrive at my conclusion: I can not accept that a “Yes” vote on Measure A will allow the developer to circumvent the County planning process and eliminate the requirement for an environmental impact study on this site. It wasn’t that long ago a fair number of residents in the valley wanted Masonite to go away because of the perceived pollution being generated. I’m not saying there is pollution at the site but let’s find out one way or the other and not give the developer a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption. The second concern is the availability of water to service the project. Very little information of substance has been written about the adequacy of water being made available for the project. As arduous as it may seem we must complete the environmental study before this project is allowed to move forward. I must vote “No” on Measure A because I believe the developer exemption is inappropriate.
~

From Charles N. Hudson
Redwood Valley

A recent mailing from the supporters of Measure A would have us believe that passage of Measure A will stop local people from shopping in Santa Rosa. I think that’s highly unlikely.

I’ve lived in Redwood Valley since 1953, and as long as I can remember people have been going to Santa Rosa to shop. When Montgomery Ward moved from their downtown store into a big new store in the Deep Valley Shopping Center, people didn’t stop going to Santa Rosa. The Yokayo Valley Shopping Center at South State Street and Gobbi didn’t stop them. When Orchard Plaza was developed with stores like Long’s, Sears, PV Ranch, and Toy and Model, that didn’t stop them. The Pear Tree Shopping Center brought us Big 5 Sporting Goods, Albertson’s, J.C. Penny, Mervyn’s, Home Depot, and others, but people still kept going to Santa Rosa. When the Airport Industrial Park east of the airport became Redwood Business Park and we got Wal-Mart, Staples, Friedman’s and Tractor Supply, that didn’t stop them. At the north end of town in the Ukiah Crossroads Center came Raley’s, Kragan’s, Gap, and others, but DDR says shoppers are still going to Santa Rosa. Why should anyone expect passage of Measure A to stop them?

It seems especially unlikely since there is nothing in Measure A that guarantees that any new stores will even be built, much less which stores they might be. All Measure A will do is change the General Plan Land Use Classification and zoning on the old Masonite property, eliminate the possibility of any future industrial use of the property, and give some future developer a free hand to develop whatever they want without going through the regular environmental and public review processes — and with no assurance that anything will ever be developed. All the pretty drawings in the DDR exhibits accompanying Measure A contain warnings (they look like the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarettes) advising that the drawings are “conceptual only,” and may never be realized.

The Yes on Measure A mailings make me think of the Emperor Who Had No Clothes. Lots of hype, but upon looking more closely, nothing there — at least nothing of any benefit to Mendocino County residents.

Please vote No on Measure A.
~

From Sheila Jenkins
Willits

The predatory, opportunistic corporation – DDR – would purportedly like to continue with its previously successful formula of building big box store malls across America and build another one in Ukiah. Apparently, they would like us to believe that we can continue the same growth formula that has wrecked local retail economies all across this nation and made a lot of corporate executives rich, at the expense of everyone else.

All too often when you go to small American towns today you find a shiny Walmart and a Target by the highway, and the rest of the town in shambles. They would like us to believe that we should sacrifice our town and our planning process for bargain shopping, but this phase of our history is coming to a close now with the end of cheap oil and abundant credit. We have no more capacity to suburbanize, and I would bet that DDR’s declining balance sheet and request for a $600 million bailout with public monies is a reflection of this fact, whether they wish to admit to it or not.

On Nov. 3 I urge you to support our elected leadership and vote no on Measure A, to send these guys packing. After that, we can begin the process of re-inventing local networks of interdependency that will serve our community better in the challenging years ahead. Local retail economies will employ a lot more people, conserve oil by reducing shipping, and afford us more control over our commercial destiny. The old model is failing but on Nov. 3 we have the chance to embrace a new, more sustainable model.
~

From Manina Harris
Redwood Valley

I’ll say up front as a resident who loves the county and city I live in, I am opposed to Measure A for the simple reason that this is a clear attempt to circumvent the normal process of Environmental Review mandated by California citizens in the California Environmental Quality Act.

Why would a developer want to circumvent the process? It’s simple. Because a review of the merits of such a development could show there are many problems that the developer hasn’t addressed and doesn’t intend to. It makes sense from the developer’s side to try to get around the normal process.

Of course DDR wouldn’t want pay for problems with water, sewer, fire and police and traffic. But it doesn’t make sense for us as a community to pass a measure that circumvents the process. It is the community tax dollars that will have to be channeled to pay for the problems that arise. I would rather know in advance if I am going to have to pay for something like this. Wouldn’t you? And wouldn’t you also like to retain some leverage with the developer instead of handing them the equivalent of a blank check?

Let’s defeat Measure A, have the normal environmental review and then judge the project on its merits and what it would really mean for us as a community.
~

From Ace Barash
Ukiah

One of the things I’ve always liked about our little community is our self-determination and relative freedom from outside corporate influences. It seems to be gradually changing as we attract the attention of big money from the outside. These are corporations who simply manipulate to make money, making no distinction between right and wrong as they have had lots of opportunity to hone their skill at telling people what they want to hear toward getting their own way. DDR’s ‘vision’ will never come to pass and, in fact, their involvement in our community will cost us local people a lot more money to help pull their corporation out of debt. We will get our CostCo, Target, and Trader Joe’s anyway, if they want to come here, and will be able to determine our own course cleanly, without being manipulated by a lying corporation which has no interest in us, whatsoever. I will be very pleased if we manage to defeat them.
~

From Madge Strong and Tom DeMarchi
Willits

Campaign promises are Not Reality!

We have major concerns about Measure A:

1.         It would bypass public involvement and local government decision making, including an Environmental Impact Report.  This is a horrible precedent on how to make land use decisions.  It could also leave tax-payers holding the bag for traffic and other impacts.

2.         The so-called Specific Plan that Measure A would approve is a blank check, since it is only “conceptual” but allows for any and all potential uses.  It could be a mega-mall or all residential, or lie vacant for years.  It would not necessarily provide any jobs, sales tax revenue or public amenities.  Campaign promises are not reality!

3.         It’s extremely unlikely a mall would be built, since malls (and DDR itself) are going belly-up in this economy.  If it were, it would draw business away from existing stores, thus offsetting its purported jobs and sales tax benefits, while decimating downtown Ukiah (not to mention Willits and other towns).  All profits from the mall would leave the County.

4.         The current zoning of the Masonite site offers the best, perhaps only, opportunity for industrial uses in the County.  Green industries (solar, energy efficiency, etc.) could bring much greater economic benefits to the community – better jobs and keeping more of the dollars local.

Any one of these concerns is enough to warrant a NO vote on A.
~~

From Jon Spitz
Laytonville

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty ticked off by all these ‘Yes on A’ glossy mailers I’ve been receiving from an ersatz ‘local’ group called ‘Mendocino County Tomorrow’ and funded by an Ohio based real estate developer called ‘DDR.’ They seem to believe they can come into our County and by dangling their idea of a consumer paradise in front of the voters, buy this election. Of course, the truth is that in Measure A, DDR makes no actual commitment to build anything at all on the old Masonite site, (and in today’s depressed retail market, there is little likelihood they ever will); in fact, the sole purpose of Measure A is to exempt DDR from having to comply with Mendocino County’s zoning rules or the State’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the very laws that exist to protect the general public against unscrupulous developers like DDR. In other words, the ‘Yes on A’ campaign is a classic ‘bait and switch’ scam operation. I resent this out-of-state mega-corporation coming into my little rural County and trying to buy this election by stuffing our mailboxes full of sugar coated lies. Please join me in voting no on A at the ballot box and feel the satisfaction that comes along with having helped to kick this blood-sucking corporate carpet bagger out of our County!
~
Thanks to Steve Scalmanini
~

D.D.R.I.P.
Apologies to Loudon Wainwright

Crossin’ the highway late last night
He shoulda looked left and he shoulda looked right
He didn’t see the S.O.L.E. brother’s and sister’s car
The dino got squashed and there you are!

You got yer
Dead dino in the middle of the road
Dead dino in the middle of the road
You got yer dead dino in the middle of the road
Stinkin’ to high Heaven!

Take a whiff on me, that ain’t no rose!
Roll up yer window and hold yer nose
You don’t have to look and you don’t have to see
‘Cause you can feel it in your olfactory

You got yer
Dead dino in the middle of the road
Dead dino in the middle of the road
You got yer dead dino in the middle of the road
Stinkin’ to high Heaven!

Yeah you got yer dead cat and you got yer dead dog
On a moonlight night you got yer dead toad frog
Got yer dead rabbit and yer dead raccoon
The blood and the guts they’re gonna make you swoon!
You got yer
Dead dino in the middle of the road
Dead dino in the middle of the road
You got yer dead dino in the middle of the road
Stinkin’ to high Heaven!

C’mon stink!

You got it!
It’s dead, it’s in the middle
Dead dino in the middle!
Dead dino in the middle of the road
Stinkin’ to high heaven!
All over the road, technicolor man!
Oh, you got pollution
It’s dead, it’s in the middle
And it’s stinkin’ to high, high Heaven
~
[Rest In Perpetuity...]
~~

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