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Dispute sends scooter shop out of downtown


With its hip scooter vibe and emphasis on alternative transportation, Revolution Moto was viewed by many as the type of business downtown Santa Rosa needs to help kick-start its buttoned-up reputation.

But a series of disputes between city officials and shop owners Roy and Johnna Gattinella have led the couple to announce that they are shutting the store on the corner of 5th and D Streets and moving to another location.

Depending on who is asked, Revolution Moto's departure from downtown after six years is either a relatively minor dust-up over a permit issue, or a bellwether of what some say is the city's inability to meet its own stated goals of attracting unique businesses to its central hub.

Councilwoman Jane Bender, who has been privy to efforts to try and resolve the disputes between the city and the Gattinellas, suggested city ordinances may need to be rethought to accommodate a business like Revolution Moto in the downtown area.

"From my own perspective, I wish we could have kept them and I said that in the meetings," said Bender, who owns a scooter she purchased from the shop. "I would have bent over backwards to keep them."

In a letter to their property manager, however, the Gattinellas said scrutiny from Santa Rosa's parking and code enforcement divisions, as well as from outgoing City Manager Jeff Kolin, amounted to a "hostile campaign to remove us from your building from day one."

Kolin, who has accepted the job of city manager in Beverly Hills, did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.

In an interview at their shop, the couple described numerous occasions over the years when city employees arrived unannounced at the shop to take photos of suspected code enforcement or parking violations, which centered on scooters parked outside the store.

"Every time they came it cleaned out our shop because it made us look like we were an illicit business," said Roy Gattinella, a part-time business instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The couple also have not shied away from criticizing city officials for ideas to extend meter hours and for raising parking rates downtown, or for what they perceive as general anti-scooter sentiment.

City officials, however, insist they have nothing against the Gattinellas and that the issues amount to little more than standard permitting problems.

Mike Reynolds, the city's chief building inspector, said his staff has documented the Gattinellas putting scooters out for sale on the sidewalk and in the street in violation of their use permit, which he said only allows for inside transactions.

He said the department had received complaints about three near-crashes on the street corner involving scooters.

"They did not work with the city over the years to deal with that issue," he said. "The proper way would have been to apply for a use permit and have it evaluated by city staff. They never even made the application."

Deputy Parking Director Cheryl Woodward said her employees have not singled out the Gattinellas for enforcement actions.

She said the couple was cited once in six years for parking scooters on the sidewalk and received several citations for an expired meter at the parking spot where scooters were parked on the street.

But Woodward said none of that was unusual for a downtown business.

"I would hate to have these parking issues presented as significant issues here," she said. "I don't think the parking was dealt with any differently than for any other business."

The Gattinellas are hoping that Revolution Moto's move to 518 College Avenue will represent a happier chapter for the business.

They said the facility has the same amount of square feet as the downtown location, plus the added benefit of on-site parking.

"We're upset about leaving downtown, but we're not upset about moving our business," Johnna Gattinella said.

City officials say they wish the couple the best.

"I think the new site actually is better in that it doesn't offer the constraints of the location they have today," Woodward said.

The new store's grand opening is planned for Dec. 1.