Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The ongoing fight against big box developers

Last night was the latest installment of an ongoing tug of war between Regency (an out of town development company), the city government, and many in the community who continue to resist the invasion of big box stores, draining of our local economy, environmental destruction, low wage jobs, and the privatization of every inch of our town. The Planning Commission met to approve the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and the initial map of the project, which would be anchored by a Target store. For those who don't know, there are existing Target stores in Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, and Novato, which makes for three, count em three, Target stores all within a 20 minutes or less journey from Petaluma.
Many on the Planning Commission had serious doubts about the EIR as well as the proposed project, which would include no housing, little to no pedestrian walkways, very little office space, 1,500 parking spots, and tons of the same generic chains stores that you are seeing line this country's highways more and more every day. After 4 hours of discussion and a myriad of lies and deceits from Regency's representatives, the Commission reluctantly approved the EIR (most likely a political move to make it look like there's some progress), but held off on making a decision regarding the project itself as is now proposed.
This is an important fight for our community. It boils down to one key question: who has control? Regency has been able to buy off a few representatives (Councilman David Rabbit being one of them) and gain a few dupes who know how to make a lot of noise along their way (check out the Argus Courier website forums to see what I mean).But in the end, the community wants something better. Building another strip mall would destroy our downtown, lead to a dramatic increase and traffic and air pollution in a pre-dominantly working class area (Payran neighborhood, East D. St. area, and the neighborhood on the other side of the free way, where several IMPACT! members live). , create more low-wage service jobs without benefits (further exploiting the labor of our town), and take away more space that could be used for public gatherings, food growing, and other such activities which would build and sustain our community. Let us not be fooled into thinking this community wants a strip mall. In the last city election in 2008, two candidates were voted in who promised sustainable and smart growth, David Glass and Tiffany Renee, replacing the two council members who received the most donations from developers. Now, while IMPACT! does not support electoral politics or politicians in general, we have to be clear about what this means. If we wanted a strip mall, would we not have voted for those candidates would have easily delivered us one?

This fight will continue, as the EIR moves to the City Council for approval in early January, and as Regency continues to attempt its theft of our community and our resources. We must be vigilant and GET ORGANIZED. This is about democracy, who gets to say how we use the resources that we have, and what is in the best interest of our town. Regency has nothing except lust for money and a handful of dupes. We have the numbers, and the ideas on our side. Let's stay informed about this project, and start talking about what we can do. There may be no chance of stopping it at this point, but if we get organized now, if we start bringing together environmental organizations, working people and unions, local businesses, students, and local musicians, and more, we will be able to make sure our community doesn't become some hell-hole, abandoned strip mall town with shit jobs, shit air, and shit culture.

Stay tuned to the blog for more updates on this important issue

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