Mendocino County Voters Beware!

From Janie Sheppard

3/30/09 Ukiah, North California

In April, a group calling itself Mendocino County Tomorrow will launch an effort to get enough signatures on a petition to allow placing an initiative on the ballot.

The initiative, if passed by a majority of Mendocino County voters, would allow building an 800,000 square foot mega mall on the old Masonite site, just north of the Ukiah city boundary.

Diversified Development Realty, better known by its initials “DDR,” realizing that the Board of Supervisors would vote 4-1 to defeat the attempt to change the zoning from industrial to retail, will now go to the voters.

The initiative, a 310-page document, would become the law on the Masonite site without environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act.  Once passed, the developer could do anything it pleased, provided what it wanted to do fit within the very loose parameters of the initiative.  The county would have no leverage to get changes.  Now, when the county finds a builder’s plans would damage the environment, the county planners can get the plans changed.  Not so on the Masonite site if the initiative passes.

DDR, if it remains the developer, has very little capital.  It would skimp on the fancy stuff that you likely saw in the appealing mailers.  We know this because on Friday, March 27th, Fitch Ratings, the same rating agency that downgraded the county’s debt, downgraded DDR’s debt.  DDR debt was downgraded to the lowest investment grade.  Its preferred stock now has “junk” status.  And, it has a “liquidity shortfall” of 300 Million Dollars.  DDR’s broke.

Alternatively, what DDR may be trying to do is put the Masonite site up for sale, recouping its 6 Million Dollar investment and then some.   In which case, the county would not be dealing with DDR, but with some other developer that would be so leveraged after buying the site, it too would have no money for niceties.

Don’t sign DDR’s petition.  Just say NO.

Let’s save the Masonite site for industry and real jobs.

We can do it.  Si se puede.

See also Is the American mall dying? at MSN Money→