The Santa Rosa Planning Commission will be holding a public hearing on June 9th to consider the application from Sprouts Markets, a natural food chain headquartered in Phoenix, Az., seeking a General Plan Amendment to develop a store on the corner of Bicentennial and Mendocino Avenues.
I would like to add Oliver’s Markets voice to those who object to rezoning the parcel on the corner of Mendocino Avenue and Bicentennial. The current Santa Rosa General Plan 2035 describes a city's general plan “as its constitution for development – the framework within which decisions on how to grow, provide public services and facilities, and protect and enhance the environment must be made.” When making location decisions for our company, we rely on the General Plan and the zoning ordinances to assess future risk for the investments we make in a community. It is akin to a prospectus for a stock market investor. It allows us to evaluate current competitive supplies and identify the risk future developments may hold. As such, we believe that General Plan Amendments should be rare… that they should be born of profound community needs, not by the desires of developers and out-of-town corporate interests.
We do not feel that this proposed development offers the community anything that warrants breaking with its Constitution. The proposed Sprouts would compete in a saturated trade area that overlaps that of at least nine existing stores; five of which are homegrown and independently owned. People do not eat more when a new market opens. The demand for food in a trade area is a zero-sum game in which the sales at a new store come at the expense of others in the trade area. There is no population growth in the trade area that warrants a General Plan Amendment to satisfy an increase in demand. The Sprouts format offers no products or services that are not currently available within the trade area at other retail formats. It will provide no additional sales tax revenue.
A recent study conducted by Robert Eyler, at Sonoma State University concluded that buying locally made products from a local market, like Oliver’s … or Community Market, or Pacific Market, or Traverso’s or the Molsberry’s, all of which whose trade areas overlap that of the proposed Sprouts, has TWICE the economic benefit as buying national brands at chain stores. In a time when our communities are struggling economically, handing over business that has been hard won by locally owned retailers to out-of-state operators is a step in the wrong direction. Allowing out-of-state retailers to come into our community and cherry-pick non-conforming locations, chosen with the intent to maximize the sales they can steal from existing stores in a saturated trade area is unfair to those of us who have developed our businesses in concert with existing zoning laws.
Furthermore, the proposed General Plan Amendment is being considered without the benefit of an EIR and if passed would allow Sprouts to develop by right, without appropriate environmental review during the development stage. Given all of the geotechnical problems encountered with the Yardbirds development across the street, the traffic impacts that a development of this nature would create, wetlands issues surrounding Russell Creek, and the displacement of affordable housing, this lack of oversight seems unwise.
We ask the city to stand by its commitment expressed in the General Plan. The proposed project does not provide benefits for the city that warrant changing a plan that was developed thoughtfully, with intense community feedback and environmental review. If Sprouts indeed wants to locate in Santa Rosa, we believe they should look for property that is zoned for the use they intend, instead of asking for the city carve out a SPECIAL place for them where they can feed off others that have built their businesses in accordance with prevailing law.
Let your voice be heard. June 9th, 4pm, Santa Rosa City Council Chambers, 100 Santa Rosa Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA.