PETALUMA — A group opposed to the East Washington Place regional shopping center project has sued the city of Petaluma, asking for the City Council’s early February project approvals to be set aside and a new round of environmental-impact analysis be conducted because of alleged lapses in following the California Environmental Quality Act.
A group called Petaluma Community Coalition petitioned Sonoma County Superior Court on Thursday to set aside the City Council’s Feb. 8 approvals of a 364,000-square-foot shopping center and ancillary office space Florida-based Regency Centers plans to build on about 34 acres on East Washington Street near Highway 101, according to the 13-page filing.
Also sought is a halt to any further project activity Regency could take with the approvals.
“As certified by the city, the project’s final EIR fails to identify, evaluate and require mitigation for all direct, indirect and cumulative environmental impacts the project will cause,” the complaint said.
The coalition faulted the city for its CEQA process in analyzing and mitigating significant impacts on the environment, requiring “all feasible mitigation measures”, discussing project alternatives, responding “adequately” to draft environmental report comments, recirculating the report when “significant new information” materialized and supporting its statement of overriding concerns for approving the project despite any significant impacts.
In a separate statement, the coalition identified a possible Friedman’s Home Improvement store as the second anchor tenant in the center along with Target as the new information. Friedman’s was noted as having a letter of intent to lease space in the center in late November, as hearings on the final environmental report before the City Council were commencing.
Also claimed is that the city violated state planning and zoning law. The coalition claims that a mostly retail project goes against the “mixed use” land-use designation in the current city General Plan.
In its statement on the CEQA lawsuit, coalition members said a mixed-use project should have residences above retail and better transit and pedestrian access.
“What we’re getting now is a typical 1970s style big box strip mall that is completely auto-dependent,” said Paul Francis, co-founder of Petaluma Neighborhood Association. “There is no housing. This is not a mixed-use project. It’s opposite of what’s called for on this site.”
The project originally included housing by Pulte Homes, but that part of the project was deleted as the housing market soured since the project was first proposed in December 2004.
The coalition is led by former city councilman Matt Maguire, Dale Axelrod and Xander Robb and describes itself as a” collection of residents and community groups” such as Petaluma Neighborhood Association, the Petaluma River Council, Petaluma Tomorrow and the OWL Foundation. The coalition’s law firm in this case is M.R. Wolfe & Associates of San Francisco.
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