Choosing a future for the Masonite Site

Ukiah City Council
Opinion, Press Democrat

Developers Diversified, or DDR, is one of the country’s largest developers of shopping malls. The proposed zoning change would allow it to override Mendocino County’s ongoing general plan update, giving it the green light to develop a 500,000- to 700,000-square-foot mall just outside the city limits of Ukiah — perhaps without any environmental review.

Since DDR purchased the property, its representative, Jeff Adams, has been attempting to change the zoning to allow for retail use.

Adams began more than a year ago, at a time when a majority of the Board of Supervisors was favorable to the zoning change. In November, however, two new supervisors were elected (Carre Brown and John McCowen), and there is now at least a 4-1 board majority opposed to the project.

DDR’s project was a major campaign issue, and there has been significant community mobilization in opposition to it. The reasons for opposing the project include:

• Sprawl development right outside historic downtown Ukiah is bad for the environment and bad for small, locally owned businesses.

• The project would support mostly low-wage jobs. We should reserve the site for industrial land uses that provide jobs at a living wage.

• Depletion of sales tax revenue for the city of Ukiah would lead to a severe cutback in public services to the county seat.

DDR’s petition for a ballot initiative changing the zoning of the former Masonite site to retail/mixed use ignores the fact that Ukiah Valley voters have already expressed opposition to the project by electing supervisors Brown and McCowen. Moreover, DDR is sure to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a campaign to convince voters that a mega-mall is in our best interest.

In fact, DDR began this campaign almost a year ago by sending attractive mailers about the mall on brown recycled paper, appealing to Mendocino County residents’ “green” values. More recently, DDR has conducted telephone surveys around the county, gauging our values so they can spin their message in a way that they believe will win their cause.

Infusing large sums of non-local corporate money into a campaign that undermines the general plan process, with its environmental controls and public input, usurps local control and self-determination. We must firmly oppose this strategy.

I predict that Mendocino Tomorrow’s initiative will galvanize opposition to its mall project. Mendocino County is a very progressive place, full of activists, grass-roots organizers and independent thinkers. We are wise to the ways of large corporations in their efforts to try to sell us something that the majority of us do not want.

We were the first county in the country to ban genetically-modified organisms. We did this through a ballot measure, overcoming strong opposition from Monsanto, whose campaign outspent the local one 6-to-1.

I plan to actively oppose this ballot measure and will rally voters around the county by educating them on the facts of this project. Once you look closely at the proposal, I am sure you too will agree that a Masonite mega-mall is bad for Ukiah and bad for Mendocino County.


A few Responses:

“Sprawl development right outside historic downtown Ukiah is bad for the environment and bad for small, locally owned businesses.”

The only semi-historic shopping area in Ukiah is School Street which is nowhere near the Masonite Site.

“The project would support mostly low-wage jobs. We should reserve the site for industrial land uses that provide jobs at a living wage.”

After watching everyone complain about the steam coming from the Masonite Boilers for years I don’t see anyone being happy about any industrial business moving in. Not to mention we also blew our chances years ago with Hewlett Packard. Ukiah residents simply want zero growth which is why our streets, schools, and neighborhoods are becoming further run down.

“Depletion of sales tax revenue for the city of Ukiah would lead to a severe cutback in public services to the county seat”

At least it would increase sales in Mendocino County instead of everyone driving to Santa Rosa every time they need something. And since Ukiah is the County seat I would think there may be an added benefit to the county government and thus the surronding Ukiah area.

If done correctly this development could be the first step toward getting higher paying jobs and better growth within the city limits of Ukiah. Just make sure they do a beautiful development that embraces the original look of the Masonite Plant and includes a town center area with park benches. We do have a say in how it is developed, you can use the Palladio Mall in Folsom as a guideline to how a shopping center can create both beauty and personality.

    1. Nowhere near the Masonite Site? Silly!
    2. We support light green industry, i.e. non-polluting, sustainable, high-paying jobs.
    3. Everyone does NOT drive to Santa Rosa every time they need something, but some do. Monster shopping malls drain city and county of profits that are now kept locally. By colonizing our county, the big boxes move closer to another population they can suck revenue from, and exploit workers with low wages.
    4. If done correctly? You’ve got to be kidding! Please see: Big Box Swindle a href=”” rel=”nofollow”

    Please read the other posts on this blog for further education.

    Dave Smith

I have been in Ukiah for a very long time. No need to get defensive. I know more about this development itself than you probably do seeing as I have followed it from before the land was even purchased. I also grew up having the wonderful ability of my family having sold the land to Masonite initially. I am very well informed.

1. It is not silly bt a fact that it is about a 10 minute drive from school street to the Masonite Plant site. That’s not all that close.

2. Being a LEED Certified Building professional I have no disagreement whatsoever on sustainable building and growth. In fact I have helped in the commissioning a number of high density building projects in SF, another City that dislikes big box retailers.

3. Growing up in Ukiah myself, my friends, my family and most of the families that I knew went to Santa Rosa numerous times every year to shop for many items that are either not found or are difficult to find in Ukiah. There is also the increased revenue from residents of Cloverdale who would travel in our direction before going the added distance to Santa Rosa.

4. Please elaborate on why I mst be kidding about being done correctly. I am confused why you feel shopping centers cannot be done correctly. There are at least 6 shopping centers in Ukiah right now that I have no issues with. Were these done incorrectly in your opinion?


Hi Nick,

“Silly” because you went on to say that everyone goes down to shop in Santa Rosa, so it is illogical to argue that the Masonite Monster Mall would have no effect on small businesses only 10 minutes away.

You also stated that Ukiah residents wanted “no growth” when the Smart Growth folks supported a CostCo in Ukiah where retail land had already been set aside, and have been clear that they are not about “no-growth.”

But we differ fundamentally over whether big box shopping centers are good for small rural communities or not. I say no because of all the many reasons stated well in the book and website Big Box Swindle which you can google for your edification. As can be seen across this country, when profits are taken out of a community to who knows where, and minimum wage jobs replace living wage jobs, that community and civic life and infrastructure spirals down and dies.

Instead, we need to protect our jobs here in the U.S. with strong tariffs, begin raising the minimum wage, allow strong unionization (i.e. workplace democracy), keep revenues and profits in our communities, and encourage entrepreneurial small, diverse green businesses and shops that are unique to our place. Both peak oil and climate change will force this on us anyway. Being smart will give us a head start on the future, and the future ain’t going to be malls.

Dave Smith