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Petaluma plan may spark jobs vs. traffic debate

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  • 3/1 Santa Rosa Press
    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,
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 3, 2003
      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
      lengthy hearing.

      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,
      White said.

      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
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