Monday, December 8, 2014



Thanks to Jane Nielson, Helen Shane, and Paul-Andre Schabracq

CVS Chase Project: Anatomy of a Flawed City Process

The CVS project, consisting of a CVS store and Chase Bank building on the abandoned Pellini Chevrolet site, is the most recent project to strain the Sebastopol Community, but we hope it will never be repeated. To learn from the experience, the undersigned have investigated the process and present the results of that investigation in the following, along with suggestions for future improvement.

1. The City Process
Jack Griffin

According to the City Manager, his predecessor, Jack Griffin,  was in "full control of all staff decision-making."  Griffin could have decided that the CVS project's CEQA document would be a Mitigated Negative Declaration. We do not have a record to establish whether the Planning Director initially recommended an MND vs. an EIR or if this decision was revised by Griffin.

Kathleen Shaffer
According to our records, on June 14, 2011, Sebastopol's Planning Commission (PC) voted 4-2 to reject the CEQA document prepared for the proposed project. A principal concern behind that vote was the traffic study for the traffic-generating project at the intersection of two busy highways in the City's Core district. The traffic study had omitted consideration of the City's largest proposed project, only a short distance from the Pellini site. We are not informed whether Griffin or Planning Director Kenyon Webster had made the decision to omit The Barlow project from this study.

The CVS-Chase CEQA process went into failure mode because no findings were prepared or submitted to the City Council to explain the bases for the lopsidedly negative PC vote. In a digital recording of that 6/14/11 PC meeting, the vote's aftermath sounds chaotic; no order is imposed by the PC chair (Colin Doyle). One Planning Commissioner can be heard pleading for the chair to recognize her motion to have "comments" on the vote submitted for the City Council to consider. Neither the PC chair, the vice-chair (Bob Greene, husband of then-City Councilmember Kathleen Shaffer), nor Planning Director Kenyon Webster responded to that Commissioner's motion, or her statements about the need for comments (the required findings.)

Sarah Glade Gurney
Preparing those findings was the City Planning Department's responsibility. No explanation has ever been proffered for the Planning Director's failure to prepare findings that the Commission could forward to the City Council as required by the Government Code.
At the next City Council (CC) meeting (July 5, 2011 and continuing to early the next morning) four Council members (Guy Wilson, Michael Kyes, Kathleen Shaffer, and Patrick Slayter) rejected pleas from Councilmember Sarah Glade Gurney and members of the public, to send the issue back to the PC, with a request for findings to explain the vote. The CC instead overturned the PC recommendations and approved the project's Mitigated Negative Declaration on a 3-2 vote. The Mitigated Negative Declaration was based on a perception that the project's environmental impacts would not warrant a full-blown Environmental Impact Report. During the break at that meeting, the AeCOM traffic consultant informed Helen Shane that the Planning Director had designated which street intersections were to be studied.

The Council granted the project a permit, but requested modifications to the design and retained jurisdiction over final design details.

During August, the City's Design Review Board (DRB) rejected the project's design, largely due to the inclusion of a drive-through window at both the pharmacy and bank, which raised severe questions about the safety of its parking lot entrances and exits. At that same DRB meeting, panel members brought up the subject of submitting findings to explain their vote. This time, Planning Director Webster quickly asserted that the Planning Department staff would prepare findings from their notes of the debate, and present them to the DRB for approval or modifications.

Later in 2011, during a City Council hearing on the DRB finding that the proposed CVS project does not meet its guidelines based on General Plan policies, City Councilmember Shaffer opined that the General Plan is only an aspirational document, and the City Council must follow the zoning code, which is the actual law. Ms. Shaffer appealed to Planning Director Webster, asking him to confirm her opinion. Mr. Webster responded that the Zoning Code states and implements City policies, which did appear to affirm Shaffer's statement.

Kenyon Webster
Mr. Webster's assertion dodged the fact that the state of California has established General Plans as the controlling documents for development of its cities and counties, however - guidelines on State websites confirm that whatever form of zoning a community adopts, that ordinance must be consistent with the General Plan, and if the Zoning Code is inconsistent with the General Plan, it is the Zoning Code that is invalid.

2. The Legal Tangle

Michael Kyes
August, 2011, a group called Committee for Small Town Sebastopol sued CVS-Chase, charging the Mitigated Negative Declaration was invalid because it had been based on a flawed traffic study that did not consider The Barlow or traffic beyond High Street to the east, and Fanning to the south on Hwy 116. By that time, Councilmember Michael Kyes had changed his stance on the project. Having heard the recording of the June 14 PC meeting, Kyes declared that he had been misled about the lack of findings.

During May of 2012, CVS began the process of applying to CalTrans for an encroachment permit to allow access to and from the project site. The permits would have allowed left turns across oncoming traffic at the corner formed by the intersection of CA State Highways 12 and 116.


Small Town Sebsatopol (STS) urged local residents to contact CalTrans and oppose the encroachment, stating that traffic would be further exacerbated by the many left turns close to that corner. Cal Trans had to assign a Community Outreach officer to respond to everyone who sent in a complaint. STS also began to communicate its own concerns to CalTrans, which then sent a team to evaluate the situation. They queried CVS representatives and asked for more details.

John Eder, Kathleen Shaffer

Evidently, CVS did not fully satisfy CalTrans because the permits were never issued.
In the 2012 election, one pro-CVS Council member declined to run, and Shaffer was defeated. In 2013, the newly elected Council imposed a temporary moratorium on drive-thru windows for downtown businesses. On December 24, CVS filed a suit against the moratorium in California Superior Court, but subsequently withdrew that suit and filed again in Federal District Court, claiming that it discriminates against the project proponents, and so violates their civil rights.

In May, 2013, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring solar photovoltaic energy systems on new or substantially remodeled commercial projects. Notified of the ordinance and the requirement that they must comply, CVS claimed that the ordinance could not be applied retroactively.

During the year 2013, 13 different court hearing dates were scheduled for the STS lawsuit, but each was postponed at the request of CVS/Long's Drugs. Without ever having a formal hearing, the suit eventually went into settlement talks, as did the Federal CVS/Long's Drugs lawsuit. Chase Bank pulled out of the project during this interval of settlement negotiations.
Eventually the City of Sebastopol, CVS/Long's Drugs, Armstrong Development Properties Inc., and STS hammered out a legal settlement. On October 6, 2014, the Sebastopol City Council voted unanimously to accept the framework for a settlement to end the 2011 STS suit over the flawed CEQA process, along with the 2012 suit filed by CVS/Longs Drugs against Sebastopol's temporary moratorium on drive-thru windows.

3. The End Game

At the regular City Council meeting on October 7, 2014, the CC voted to approve the settlement of the lawsuit that CVS/Longs had brought against the City, due to the improvements that Mr. Webster said that project proponents had promised. The Council put off the vote on a formal resolution accepting the settlement until October 9, when the Community would have a final chance to comment.

Concessions supposedly agreed to by CVS included abandoning the drive-thru and drive-up windows, adopting more refined building designs with larger, more numerous windows and variable roof heights; extensive landscaping and site design improvements; prohibitions on left turns into and out of the project site; installation of rooftop solar panels, and provision of five electric-vehicle charging stations.

On October 9, 2014 the Council voted 3-2 for a resolution accepting the settlement. Mayor Robert Jacob voted against the settlement, acknowledging that the City could not afford to prolong the lawsuit but expressing a concern that CVS/Longs Drugs had not been negotiating in good faith. Drawings that the City had requested repeatedly from CVS arrived just minutes before the start of the October 7 meeting, the first public hearing on the settlement. The plans did not show a two-story building, but a single-story retail store with high exterior walls and false windows that only suggest the presence of a second floor. CVS representatives did not attend the October 9 meeting, and a representative from CVS's agent, Armstrong Development, did not address the council.

4. Analysis

Why has Sebastopol experienced so many struggles over proposed projects? Could it be that Sebastopol lacks a well-defined process, one that is understood by PC, Design Review Board, and CC members alike, allowing them to easily review a project and make the decisions?
If so, how can Sebastopol establish a more transparent and defined process, to avoid more failed processes?

The Best Management Practice for processing highly controversial projects is to ensure thorough, comprehensive analyses of significant environmental impacts, and identify impacts that can be mitigated. The jurisdiction starts with an Initial Study Checklist for deciding whether to require a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) or an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), subject to public review and appeal.

A City's Planning Director is responsible for Planning Department decisions and actions. S/he is the City's environmental coordinator, with the responsibility for ensuring that work products from CEQA consultants are adequate, and to fully inform the public, Planning Commission, and City Council of the significant impacts and necessary mitigations for proposed projects. But Planning Directors' decision making can have backups.

Many jurisdictions have adopted comprehensive CEQA Guidelines, which supplement State procedures and provide officials and citizens alike with an overview of the process. Marin County has created an excellent CEQA Guideline that City Agencies and Departments can use for carrying out their responsibilities, see:

To assure completeness and a high standard, California counties and cities also may require peer review of all technical reports (including traffic reports) by independent consultants, with costs borne by the project proponent. Any deficiencies identified in the original draft reports are revised.

Having full disclosure of environmental documents serves all stakeholders. The public and the City's decision makers can have confidence in the process.  The information provided will allow for evidence-based project review, and the opportunity to identify all significant impacts and implement feasible mitigating measures. Well-founded CEQA documents reduce the level of public controversy during the review process, and protect both lead agencies and project proponents from CEQA lawsuits.

To assure completeness and a high standard, California counties and cities also may require peer review of all technical reports (including traffic reports) by independent consultants, with costs borne by the project proponent. Any deficiencies identified in the original draft reports are revised.

Having full disclosure of environmental documents serves all stakeholders. The public and the City's decision makers can have confidence in the process.  The information provided will allow for evidence-based project review, and the opportunity to identify all significant impacts and implement feasible mitigating measures. Well-founded CEQA documents reduce the level of public controversy during the review process, and protect both lead agencies and project proponents from CEQA lawsuits.

As Sebastopol's experience shows, obfuscation only exacerbates potential pitfalls, creating costly delays and legal problems.

Assembled from public and personal records of: Jane Nielson, Helen Shane, and Paul-Andre Schabracq.


Join us this Wednesday, Dec. 10th. @ 7-8:30pm
Magick’s House
7602 Huntley St. @ Jesse St.
Sebastopol Blue house on corner
707 327 7940
Dear Community,
We are organizing to picket, boycott and petition CVS to stop their attempt to force their way into our town at the busiest intersection of Hwy 12 and 116. If you cannot make the meeting but want to help with the picket email:
Robin Latham  

There is a new petition on and we are working on a Facebook page.
Across the nation cities and towns are fighting these corporate bullies, (Nantucket won!) that have an appalling tract record concerning the environment, selling drugs illegally, and even a case where a store employee murdered a homeless person whom he assumed was stealing a tube of toothpaste. That was five years ago and there have been no indictment. For the whole story on these travesties see:
When you can't stop greedy corporations with the current laws then take it to the streets and let the people decide! Remember you can vote with your dollars!

In October, the Sebastopol City Council refused to give up and say their hands were tied just because there were no further legal options. Instead they did something so rare in the political arena, they said we will use our voices and our platform to advocate for our town! This is the opening of an article on the issue:
Please contact: Magick
 Jeremiah Garcia
Please send responses to Robin, Magick or Jeremiah

Sunday, November 16, 2014


City Council Meeting
6 pm, Youth Annex  425 Morris Street
Tuesday, November 18

Our City Manager states that the best way to get the proposed multiuse trails moving forward is to demonstrate to City Council strong public support for the trails.  The Council's meeting on Tuesday night is the time and place to show this support! If you believe these trails will have a positive impact on our community, please come to the Council meeting. Better yet, make your support stand out in a crowd -- bring your walking stick or wear your bike gear. 

It is important that Council take positive steps, and follow the procedure used by the County and most of the State — 1) Add these trails to the Sebastopol Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, and 2) Start the Feasibility Study to work out the many details. These steps are very low cost and are required to get the projects moving.

The routes of the trails are not set in stone, and need not be in order to add these trails to the Master Plan. There is lots of time for reasonable discussion by the community.

We hope the number of people who support the trail will convince the Council to recognize the importance of these trails to the community. Hope to see you there on Tuesday, November 18!
The Sebastopol TrailMakers

View the videos:

More information about the TrailMakers (and trail maps) available at:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Multiuse Trails Across Sebastopol will be discussed at the GPAC this Wednesday (see below)...
The Joe Rodota Trail - SUCCESS!

General Plan Advisory Committee

Wednesday, November 12 at 6:30 pm

at Sebastopol Center for the Arts
Veterans building at 282 South High Street
The proposed trail site through St. Stephen's Church
Will discuss circulation: vehicles, transit, walking, bikes, etc.  Agenda materials are posted on the City web site at:
The General Plan update web site is at:
If you have any written comments on circulation issues for the Committee, feel free to email them to or come to the meeting and speak to the Committee.
Proposed trails take advantage of existing back roads.
Then the Council takes up this matter...

City Council Meeting

Tuesday, November 18th at 6:00PM
Youth Annex   425 Morris St.
The Gravenstein Trail
 Join us in urging the City Council to create cross-town multiuse trails.  A strong showing of public support is essential to get the Council to adopt these trails as part of the Sebastopol Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan on November 18th. 
With the full support of the Council, our community could have safe scenic trails connecting neighborhoods, the town core and the Joe Rodota Trail.  The Apple Blossom and Gravenstein Multiuse Trails are possible only with the amazing cooperation of many private property owners.
The Apple Blossom Trail
What we need:  Most Sebastopol destinations are within walking or biking distance from home, but in our community people drive their kids and themselves everywhere.  That is because we have no safe alternatives. This can change.
The Answer: The Apple Blossom and Gravenstein Trails will provide safe, scenic routes to town.  These multi-use trails will make Sebastopol a better place to live.  It starts with the City Council adopting these trails into the Sebastopol Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan.

View the videos here:

Feel free to contact us:  We would like your email address to add to our list of supporters. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


What follows is a note from Helen Shane.  Please join theGravenstein and Helen in voting for our incumbent City Council candidates to continue to move Sebastopol in a responsible and progressive direction.  Though we support the following candidates, we urge everyone to get out and VOTE!

We support: 
Una Glass
Sarah Gurney
Patrick Slayter
for Sebastopol City Council.

And Jim Horn for Palm Drive Health Care District

They are are gutsy, knowledgeable and battle tested. They can be trusted to govern our city and represent our entire community with honesty and forthrightness.
They found a way to repair, if not cure, the mis-steps of the Council that was in place in 2011, when we were sucked into the CVS debacle we’re now, at long last, resolving.
They have grown into a cooperative Council, who through exchange of ideas during Council meetings to working on sub-committees together to further our goals.
Sarah and Patrick working together on the development of two downtown sites:  the large parcel immediately east of the Plaza, and the large parcel almost totally city owned parcel immediately south of Round Table pizza, etc.
As a group, they oversee and participate in maintaining a balanced budget.
The General Plan update is underway, under their guidance, as are new Design Review criteria,

Patrick brings to the mix his expertise as an architect; he served on the Sebastopol Planning Commission and Sebastopol Business Outreach Committee as well as being a founding member of BikeWalk Sebastopol and the Sebastopol Entrepreneur’s Project.  He is a member of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, sits on their Advisory Board, and volunteers with the Sonoma Humane Society.  

Sarah’s legal and mediation skills are frequently brought into play as a Councilperson. She is a proven leader; represented Sebastopol on the Sebastopol Health Action 2020, and assisted in obtaining a $25,000 grant to help our youth and families. She is deeply involved with the planning of our downtown.  She’s chaired the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and the Regional Climate Protection Authority. She’s the California State Senate Appointee to the California Coastal Commission for our area. She knows the town and the community well. 

Una, while new to the Council is a long time Sebastopol resident. She has experience as CEO of the non-profit Coastwalk. She’s been a small business owner, which honed her financial knowhow. In her job as aide to former 5th district supervisor Mike Reilly she developed local and statewide contacts that all add to the Council’s basket of resources.
They all have unimpeachable integrity that we can count on. 
We can put our trust in them.
Vote for Glass, Gurney and Slayter for the experience, honesty and integrity they bring to the City Council.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


Congressman Jared Huffman
At The Barlow
When: Wednesday, October 29, 2014
12:30 to 1:00 p.m.
Zazu Kitchen + Farm
6770 McKinley Street #150
Sebastopol, CA 95472
Congressman Huffman will be dropping by the Barlow to learn more about the unique community of food producers, wine makers, brewers, distillers, and artists who have helped to make the Barlow a resounding success. While at the Barlow, Congressman Huffman would like to meet you too.
Contact Matt Olhausen at or 415-308-8678 for details.
This event is free and open to the public.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Shepherd Bliss

Why I Endorse

Gurney, Glass, and Slayter

For Sebastopol City Council

I endorse and contribute to incumbents Sarah Gurney, Una Glass, and Patrick Slayter’s campaigns to continue their effective service to our larger community as members of the Sebastopol City Council. At this unpredictable time in history, we need the continuity they offer, as well as the diversity of their experiences and perspectives. They have served Sebastopol and the West County well.

During my 24 years living and farming here and attending many City Council meetings, this has been the most effective and progressive City Council. They deserve the chance to continue their good work on behalf of our larger community and the opportunity to implement programs on which they have been working. Change usually takes time. Gurney, Glass, and Slayter work well as a team, which is what we need at this time of economic and political uncertainty.

As an activist opposed to CVS’s proposed downtown store, which Slayter supported, I disagree with him on this matter. However, I have come to respect him. Slayter has proven himself to be a collegial collaborator seeking consensus. He effectively represents an important constituency in Sebastopol and West County. Slayter has proven himself able to represent Sebastopol as a whole. Once elected by a democratic process, one needs to represent the entire town and its surroundings, not just those who voted for the candidate. Slayter cares for Sebastopol. As vice-mayor, he deserves to be our next mayor. I hope that the politically experienced Glass may be given the opportunity to bring her substantial experiences and credentials as an environmentalist to the vice-mayor role.

Patrick Slayter
Slayter was the most visible Council member at the ten-day Village Building Convergence (VBC), which I helped organize. He and his wife Teresa were at the opening and at the last evening of presentations. Architect Mark Landman of Portland’s City Repair, on which the VBC was based, spoke that evening. Slayter is an architect, which is one of the many skills he brings to the Council.
Also, my puppy has learned things from the Slayters' more mature dog, as I have learned things from Patrick.

I have also worked with their challenger, my friend Jonathan Greenberg. I support many of his good ideas, for example on expanding library hours and working to keep the hospital open. This excellent writer describes himself as an “effective whistleblower.” I think Greenberg can be more effective by questioning the City Council than by stepping into a governing position.

Jonathan Greenberg
I wish that Jonathan had run for the Palm Drive Healthcare District Board, which could have provided him experience inside a governing body about both their possibilities and limitations. A common way of getting such experience is to apply to serve on the Planning Commission or the Design Review Board, where one can “learn the ropes.” Perhaps after living here for a while longer and making more of a transition from a big city to a small town and serving in some public role, Greenberg might make a better candidate for an elected position.

There is a big difference between criticizing ideas, which I support doing, and attacking people. I teach my college students not to attack individuals, which is described as the ad hominen fallacy. It would be helpful to elevate political discourse, especially in small towns where we need to build community among people who have political and other differences in order to deal with crises that may come our way.

Jordan Burns
I also support Jordan Burns to be on the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees. Burns, 30,  impresses me as someone to replace the man closer to my 70 years, who has been on that Board for 29 years. We need some new blood closer to the age of the majority of the JC students. He frequents West County gatherings, at the Grange, for example, and could be a rising figure in Sonoma County politics.

(Shepherd Bliss {} teaches college part-time, owns Kokopelli Farm, and has contributed to 24 books.)