Petaluma plan may spark jobs vs. traffic debate
- Published Saturday, March 1, 2003, in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Petaluma may face debate over jobs vs. traffic
Business park could employ 1,000 workers, but would aggravate commute
By Jose L. Sanchez Jr.
The Press Democrat
Petaluma City Council members may be asked to decide whether good
jobs are worth bad traffic.
A proposed business park could bring 1,000 jobs into a community hit
hard by Telecom Valley cutbacks.
But city planners warn those jobs would come with a price --
aggravated traffic congestion on Highway 101 and Old Redwood Highway.
The proposal comes at a time when the vacancy rate for office space
is approaching 20 percent in Petaluma, but developer Matt White said
he is betting on a comeback in the telecommunications industry.
However, construction isn't likely to begin soon.
White, the president of Basin Street Properties, said he won't build
until there is demand for the space, even if he wins council approval
"We want to be ready to break ground at some point when the industry
turns around," he said.
The 14.4-acre development, called the Redwood Technology Center,
would include four office/light industrial buildings and a restaurant.
White presented it to the City Council in June, but action was
postponed after concerns, including traffic, were raised during a
Despite the potential traffic impact, city planners are recommending
approval of the project because of the jobs it would bring into the
Councilman Mike Healy said the estimated 5 percent increase in
traffic on Highway 101 "could be very significant."
And, with big state deficits, he said there is no telling when there
might be money to widen the highway between Novato and Petaluma.
Highway 101 isn't the only potential traffic problem.
Despite mitigation fees to be paid by the developer, city planners
say Petaluma still wouldn't have enough money to widen the Old
Redwood Highway bridge over Highway 101 from two to four lanes.
If the business park is built, traffic on the overpass
will "deteriorate to unacceptable service levels," city planner Jayni
Allsep wrote in a report to the council.
The council may ultimately have to choose between jobs and traffic,
That's a choice Mayor David Glass said he doesn't want to have to
"If this thing is going to be approved, it's got to be approved in a
way to that deals with that traffic impact," he said.
Glass said he wants to explore ways of funding the overpass widening,
perhaps by issuing bonds backed by redevelopment district property
taxes generated by the project.
On Monday, the council is scheduled to review a joint environmental
impact report for the Redwood Technology Center and the adjacent
Pacific Theaters property.
It could take final action on the business park.
However, a specific plan for redeveloping the theater isn't expected
to go before the Planning Commission for several months, Allsep said.
Pacific Theaters is proposing to demolish its vacant theater building
and replace it with 160,000 square feet of retail space, including a
big-box store with an adjoining garden center and restaurants.
You can reach Staff Writer Jose L. Sanchez Jr. at 707-762-7297 or