Several community groups are worried that a planned Dick's Sporting Goods near Coddingtown Mall may make it harder to build a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Highway 101.
An alliance calling itself the Community Connector Bridge Advocacy Group says the city's Design Review Board failed to take into consideration plans for the bridge when it granted approval of the Cleveland Avenue retail development earlier this month.
The group last week filed an appeal of the board's decision, meaning the issue will have to be decided by the City Council in the coming weeks.
The project is located in an area that is considered the best location for the western landing of the span, said Dennis Rosatti, executive director of Sonoma County Conservation Action, the county's largest environmental advocacy group.
The groups appealing, including the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition and Friends of SMART, are worried that once the retail development is built, developer Codding Enterprises and its new tenants will try to block a bridge that has been on the drawing board for years.
"We want to make sure that they are aware, and that it's written down somewhere that they acknowledge that they are aware, that the bridge is coming," Rosatti said.
Officials at Codding Enterprises say they are supportive of the bridge in theory, but don't know enough about its design or location to take a position on it.
"We can't just give a blanket endorsement on it because we really don't know how it affects us," said Kirstie Moore, the firm's development and property manager.
If the bridge design would block motorists' views of the store from the highway, that could pose a problem, Moore said.
"That site was chosen by Dick's Sporting Goods for visibility from Highway 101, for sure," Moore said. "Visibility would be a concern."
The appeal is the latest effort to keep alive a controversial plan for a curvaceous span over Highway 101 linking the Santa Rosa Junior College neighborhood to Coddingtown Mall and a future Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit station.
Several council members have expressed concern about the costs of the studies, which have run approximately $800,000 to date, and the bridge itself, which has been estimated at between $14 million and $20 million.
Supporters, who call the span a "community connector bridge," view it as an east-west link vital for a city divided by Highway 101. Critics, who tend to refer to it as a "bike bridge," view it as an extravagance catering to a narrow interest group.
The latest iteration of the project envisions a 15-foot-wide span from Elliott Avenue on the east side of Highway 101 to Edwards Avenue on the west, precisely where Dick's is being proposed.
Rosatti and others tried to get the Design Review Board to consider how the development might affect the future bridge. But city staff told board members the bridge plans weren't firm enough to require the developer to change its plans to accommodate it.
"We just don't have a specific enough design that would allow us to attach development conditions," said city planner Bill Rose, echoing guidance he gave to the board.
The city has been working for more than a year to get the state Department of Transportation to sign off on the bridge. But the precise design and layout won't be determined until after community meetings and negotiations with property owners.