Do you see what I see?

From Janie Sheppard
Mendocino County

Jeff Adams, the man on the ground for DDR (Developers Diversified Realty, aka, Mega Mall at the old Masonite site) resurfaced recently.  In a January 13, 2009 letter he informed the Governor that DDR intended to create a project that we could be proud of.  Looks like DDR isn’t going away any time soon.  I wonder why not when I contemplate what’s happening locally and on the national scene.  Why doesn’t DDR see what I see?

I see:  Lead article in the New York Times Sunday (2/1/09) Business Section, entitled Our Love Affair With Malls Is on the Rocks.  In the article, the reporter points to the nation’s bad habit of overspending as one of two causes of the economic crisis, the other cause being “mortgage-related financial insanity.”  But, the reporter informs us, because “personal consumption” accounts for 70 percent of the American economy, if we don’t spend, we don’t recover.  The reporter analogizes thusly:  “[T]he mall we married has become the toxic spouse we can’t quit . . ..”  So, why marry the mall?  If we can make DDR go away, we wouldn’t have to marry it and we wouldn’t end up paying alimony if things didn’t work out.  Seems obvious, doesn’t it?

I see:  Windsor Town Green, a mixed retail/housing development between Healdsburg and Santa Rosa, isn’t doing well.  When that development first opened, Laura Fogg and I visited it, describing what we saw  in an article published in the Ukiah Daily Journal (December 11, 2005).  Three years later, I revisited the area to see how it was faring in the face of the current economic downturn, depression, recession, whatever you want to call it.  I found lots of empty storefronts.  Why would DDR’s project, Mendocino Crossings, be different?

I see:  The localization movement is growing.  More and more people don’t like the idea of the money they spend going to distant corporate headquarters, never to be reinvested in Mendocino County.  Local shops reported good holiday sales while big chain stores mostly reported their sales were poor to awful.  We could continue our personal consumption without acquiring Mendocino Crossings, a toxic spouse.  So far as I know, it’s not even immoral to spend money locally . . .

So:  DDR’s matchmakers urge us to get married.  I say the odds are so against such a marriage working out that we should call off the romance.  Jeff Adams seems like a nice guy.  We could remain friends.

Citizens For Adequate Review Settles with Mendocino County and DDR

[Action quote, last paragraph. -DS]


January 21, 2009


Citizens for Adequate Review (CFAR)CFAR Member Antonio Andrade (707) 462-4930

Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, Attorney representing CFAR, Provencher & Flatt, LLP  (707) 284-2380

As a result of a law suit filed by Santa Rosa attorney Rachel Howlett on behalf of Citizens for Adequate Review (CFAR), CFAR, Mendocino County, and Diversified Developers Realty (DDR) have reached an agreement which requires environmental review prior to DDR proceeding further with their proposed Mendocino Crossings Development on the old Masonite site north of Ukiah. Under the terms of the settlement agreement between the parties, the existing slabs, buried footings, underground utilities and other improvements at the site of the demolished Masonite facility will remain in place and be included in the scope of environmental review for the proposed Mendocino Crossings Project.

This is an important victory for local control of our community’s development. This agreement confirms that, prior to work beginning, all development proposals must be reviewed, that sites be safe and clear of toxics prior to any permitted use, and that County approval must be obtained.

The issue emerged In July of 2007 when the County issued DDR a permit to demolish the Masonite facility. CFAR asserted the demolition was the first stage in the development of the site for commercial purposes, stating this was a piecemeal approach to development, and a violation of California environmental law. Validating DDR’s investment in the demolition by issuing the permit was setting a precedent to keep moving forward with the project. Concerned community groups and residents found it appalling that the demolition was able to proceed at all when the County had full knowledge commercial development in this area was controversial, including opposition by the City of Ukiah.

DDR identified the site as ‘under construction’ in their filings with the Federal Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), had a project application on file with the County, was holding public meetings promoting their project, and advocated for the project before the Board of Supervisors. Demolition was step one of a multi-staged project that the County should have known required review under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA.) The County Planning and Building Department ignored the magnitude of the structures on site, the air quality impacts from demolishing these improvements, the proximity of the demolition to a school, and also did not send the application to demolish the historic structures to all relevant County departments and agencies for review and comment.

Rather, they treated the demolition as similar to a homeowner wanting to take down a garage, claiming they simply issued a valid ministerial permit with no environmental review being required. Without benefit of a clear and comprehensive review of its potential deleterious impact to the environment, and the community, the County abdicated their responsibility to protect the environment. There was no recognition by the County that by issuing the permit they were effectively eliminating existing manufacturing capacity for future use, and opening the door for DDR to move ahead with a project in an area not zoned for retail commercial use.

CFAR thanks all those who demonstrated their commitment to the quality of life in the Ukiah Valley by funding this costly effort. With the public being taxed by the County to fund its oversight responsibilities and services, an enormous burden was created when citizens had to then undertake suing the County to compel compliance with state law.

Hopefully, with a newly constituted Board of Supervisors, Mendocino County will put aside a ‘development at any cost’ mentality, cohesively organize County departments and agencies so they do not piecemeal their review but rather systematically and comprehensively apply legally established 21st century environmental standards to projects. We live in a beautiful environment characterized by small town values and our governing bodies need recognize its inherent value, and to become vigilant, conscientious stewards.

See also The People’s Business

This and That and DDR


From Janie Sheppard

This post will most likely turn out to be a bit of this and that, locally inspired. A bit of this: I wish someone would tell us exactly what DDR, would be developer of the old Masonite site, is up to. Are they folding their tent? All I know is that Jeff Adams, DDR’s local man-on-the-scene, isn’t answering phone calls, even from people who were (are?) working with him. We do know that DDR, apparently without any qualms on the part of the Board of Supervisors, tore up all the railroad track on the property, which would be a strange thing to do if DDR was thinking of unloading the property, or maybe not. Mysteries abound. On a related matter, could someone who attended the December 14th meeting of Mendocino County Tomorrow report on what’s going on with that group?

The larger question posed by DDR’s plans is: Who does DDR envision its customers would be? Mervyn’s couldn’t make it, Kohl’s thinks it can even while more county residents have less money to spend. I’m curious how they figure that. Long suspicious of marketing studies I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that whoever conducted the original DDR marketing study was using made-up numbers, just like Ponzi scheme master, Bernie Madoff. Likewise, whoever conducted the marketing study for Kohl’s.

On the subject of made-up numbers one memorable scene comes to mind: Supervisor Colfax expressing disbelief that DDR’s proposed development would result in an increase of 26 eating establishments hereabouts. Disbelief seems too mild a word; astonishment perhaps? And yet on the basis of patently ludicrous numbers shopping centers get built. Not all succeed. In the end, I suspect their success or failure has little to do with the forecasts in a marketing study and more to do with elusive factors such as feng shui. There isn’t a lot of feng shui at the Mervyn’s site, which is owned by DDR, as Evan Johnson’s ironic photo shows. If Kohl’s succeeds, obviously I’m wrong, but I’d rather see the building demolished and a community garden established on the site, growing vegetables for the local food bank, Plowshares, and the Ford Street Project. The feng shui would emerge, people would eat, and profits would be in the form of healthier local residents.

The local farmer’s market at Alex Thomas Plaza has quite a different vibe: Local merchants selling fresh, locally grown food, handmade toys, beautiful woolen hats and scarves, and cosmetics, some of which I captured in a photo post. I’m spending whatever I can afford there, where the local merchants are appreciative and helpful and the profits stay at home. Why should I help DDR or Kohl’s when their profits go to huge out-of-state corporations? And what the local merchants don’t carry (yet) I will try to do without, or buy at a thrift shop, where the profits stay right here.

For a winter vacation we went to Mendocino to stay at the Stanford Inn, within 50 miles of our house, but with all the amenities of far-away fancy resorts. There, the profits do not get sucked up by a big corporate chain, but are plowed right back into the business and the county. It is a great way to get away while keeping your money at home . . . My grandson was drawn like a magnet to the electric train set up under a lovingly adorned Christmas tree; Bill and I loved the imaginative food, and my daughter and son-in-law loved the huge swimming pool and the hot tub. The dogs loved the strange smells, the other dogs, and the cats (well, love isn’t quite the right word for the cats, but their tails did wag).

And that’s it for today.

See also The Mall Man’s Dreams For Ukiah at the AVA→


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