We’ve received numerous requests to explain our motivations to build a new store in Cotati and our position regarding the various road designs being contemplated for Old Redwood Highway that may effect our decision to move forward with that development.
Our plans to build a new store on Old Redwood Highway close to the intersection of Hwy 116 originated from years of failed attempts to negotiate an extension for our current lease that expires in 2014. We had tried for several years to schedule a meeting with the landlord to negotiate an extension, but the landlord was unwilling to even meet with us to that end. In addition, we were frustrated with the deteriorating condition of the Rancho Cotati Center and lacked confidence that our landlords would make appropriate investments in the center to support our long-term business goals.
In seeking a solution, we became aware of a 6.2-acre parcel that was for sale on Old Redwood Hwy. Before we purchased the land for our new development, we consulted with the Cotati City Manager and Assistant City Manager. They were very supportive of the idea of Oliver’s building a store in this location. After much thought, we purchased the land and began a one and a half year process of developing plans to build a store, two commercial buildings and 14 apartments.
We worked closely with the City Staff while designing our project, complying as closely as possible with the City’s Downtown Specific Plan (DSP). We designed our project around a road design for Old Redwood Highway that is specifically prescribed by the DSP: a four-lane boulevard with the capacity to handle 4,000 car trips per hour. In our discussions with the City’s Staff, we were told that the road design was a product intense public input and environmental studies pursuant to the DSP approval process, and that Cotati had secured the necessary financing and intended to make the improvements to Old Redwood Highway called for in the DSP by 2013.
A shopping center like the one we have designed requires a lot of traffic to be successful. Our investment in this property looked to leverage the adjacent traffic on Highways 101 and 116 to add customers from other communities to those already shopping in Cotati. We relied on the DSP prescribed design in determining that Old Redwood Highway would have the capacity to serve the center’s demand.
We submitted our project to the City of Cotati in June. In August we were first approached by the City Manager and City Engineer regarding their intention to promote an alternative design for Old Redwood Highway that reduced the number of lanes to two and utilized round a bouts to “calm” traffic. According to our traffic engineer, the round a bout plan that is currently being advocated by City Staff reduces the capacity of Old Redwood Highway by 32 percent from its current design and 40 percent from the capacity the road would have using the DSP design. In addition the round a bout design does not have the capacity to handle the future demand that the DSP EIR forecasted for this section of Old Redwood Highway, with or without an Oliver’s development.
We don’t oppose round a bouts per se. Round a bouts work and serve a myriad of purposes. In this case, they serve to constrict the flow of traffic on Old Redwood Highway. We believe that the round a bout design that is currently being evaluated does not serve the needs of the business community that relies on traffic to provide customers for our businesses. We believe that the proposed round a bout design will hurt business throughout Cotati, including those at the Rancho Cotati Center.
We feel that if the current round a bout proposal is adopted that there will not be enough traffic to support our project, and we will abandon it. If that happens we will continue to try to negotiate an extension on our current lease. We want to stay in Cotati. We love doing business in here. In the mean time, we hope our opinions inform the decision making process in town. We have offered to work with City Staff towards some compromise design that may serve a broader constituency then either plan currently under consideration.
See the link on our website showing a semi-truck trying to negotiate a 113 1/2 ft round a bout. The round a bout plan includes a 115 ft round a bout at William/George and Old Redwood Hwy. See what you think.