Quietly, without fanfare or fireworks, a land-use issue was resolved this past month in Santa Rosa.
You probably didn't hear about it because it didn't involve protests or lawsuits or contentious hearings before the City Council. It was settled with reasonable discussions among sensible adults looking to find a solution that would work for both sides and, more importantly, for all residents of Santa Rosa.
We want to share that good news.
At issue is the community connector bridge across Highway 101, a project that has been planned for several years to provide a safe way for people to cross the freeway without using their cars. The bridge would create a new connection between Santa Rosa's east and west sides, between Santa Rosa Junior College and Coddingtown, between northeast Santa Rosa and the SMART train station in the northwest on Guerneville Road.
For those reasons and more, the bridge is an important connection.
But plans for the bridge were bumping up against plans for retail development on the west side of the freeway. Dick's Sporting Goods, a national chain, plans to build a new store adjacent to Coddingtown on Cleveland Avenue. And the location of the store is right next to the preferred spot for the landing of the west side of the bridge.
There is not necessarily any conflict between these projects. However, during the city's review of the Dick's design, the location of the bridge was not considered even though the City Council already had unanimously supported a Caltrans study of the project. Because of a technicality, the Dick's store was approved as if the bridge would never exist at all.
This was worrisome because Dick's representatives have said the company chose this location largely based upon its visibility from Highway 101, and it is possible that the bridge may someday reduce that visibility. We worried that without a formal acknowledgement of the bridge today, the existence of the Dick's store might make it harder to build the bridge in the future.
We're part of a coalition of groups interested in preserving the city's options for a bridge that would provide a vital link between commerce, education, government, health care, neighborhoods and transportation.
We do not oppose Dick's. But because of our commitment to protecting the plan for the bridge, we asked representatives of Coddingtown — the owner of the Dick's site — to work with us to ensure those plans are acknowledged by Dick's ahead of the construction of their store.
Unfortunately, those initial meetings were not fruitful, and our group decided we had no choice but to file an appeal and ask the City Council to intervene. But as that potentially contentious City Council meeting approached, we and Coddingtown's representatives decided to try once more to find agreement on this issue.
We sat down and talked about crafting a win-win solution, and we found common ground.
The result: Coddingtown and Dick's will acknowledge the location of the bridge, and it will be reflected in plans for the store. As a result, we withdrew our appeal.
How does this benefit the entire community? First, it is always a good thing when individuals, organizations and businesses work out their differences without relying on government to intervene. But this agreement goes further by ensuring a vital piece of public infrastructure will not face unnecessary hurdles in its development.