More than 100 concerned residents and business owners packed Cotati City Hall Tuesday night for an informal presentation on to revamp Old Redwood Highway — dubbed "Village Main Street" and "City Boulevard."
Following a hasty Design Review Commission meeting Oct. 20 that outlined aimed at transforming Old Redwood Highway north of La Plaza into a pedestrian and bike-friendly downtown, fervent opposition surfaced by scores of merchants who said one plan, that includes round-abouts, would "kill" their business. Others were in favor of a slower downtown, with one vehicle lane in each direction instead of two.
That's when local resident Jenny Blaker and Clarie Fetrow, who owns The Hub Cyclery on Old Redwood Highway with her husband Chaz, to hold a public meeting for residents and merchants to listen to eachother's concerns, get the nuts and bolts of the plans firsthand from the city and to hear from Oliver's Market. It was standing-room only by the time the three-hour meeting kicked off at 7 p.m.
"The purpose of this meeting is to inform the public about this project," said City Manager Dianne Thompson. "The revitalization of Old Redwood Highway has been a top priority for many years."
A storm of media coverage following the originally proposed "Village Main Street" design, which includes two round-abouts — one at the intersection of the new St. Joseph Way and one where William and George streets meet Old Redwood Highway — and two traffic lanes instead of four, amplified statement's from Oliver's that the long-standing, wildly popular market would have to leave Cotati.
Tom Scott, who co-owns Oliver's, addressed the crowded City Hall Tuesday night.
"We're not leaving Cotati — not if we can help it." Watch more public comments in the video to the right.
Thompson and dozens of public speakers Tuesday night thanked Oliver's for being flexible, and working with the city on alternatives to both the City Boulevard and Village Main Street concepts.
Randy Figueiredo, an Oliver's architect who worked with the city on a compromise for the two proposals, said the new plans depart from the Village Main Street in that the round-about leading up to Old Redwood Highway and St. Joseph Way would be wider and include a right turn only lane, for people to get to the newly-proposed grocery site quicker.
The main difference a compromise presented by Oliver's, for the City Boulevard alternative, is a break in the proposed tree-lined median on Old Redwood Highway, giving vehicles better access to surrounding shops, neighborhoods and Oliver's itself. Cars wouldn't have to drive to the stop light and make a U-turn, Figueiredo said.
Both alternatives are being studied to implement the city's Downtown Specific Plan, and what Thompson called the "community's vision" that was drafted in 1998.
- Preservation of Cotati's small town character.
- Building complete streets, that address the needs of all users, including pedestrians, children, motorists, pedestrians and the disabled.
- Increasing safety and efficiency, by reducing car speeds from 40 to 25 mph, and shortening pedestrian crossings.
- Economic revitalization — inviting more development to town and building a place that encourages people to stay and eat and shop at local businesses.
"Our goal for the Northern Gateway is to improve it in a way that would make it similar to the southern portion on the historic downtown," said Vicki Parker, the city's community development director. "That includes slower, calmer streets with lots of opportunity for public gathering spaces, things like outdoor cafes, and not just a channel for vehicles."
But, both Parker and Thompson, told the crowded room, "your community, your choice."
"What do you want the town's character to be?" Parker said. "New restaurants, shops, housing and other independent businesses, or higher traffic speeds, chain stores and street pattern that make it difficult to walk and bike."
City staff were on hand to answer questions from the public about traffic counts and public safety.
Damien O'Bid, Cotati's public works director, said both visions would accomodate motorists during peak traffic hours. Currently, according to city traffic engineers, there are between 1,800 and 2,200 car trips per hour, and the redesign would accomodate 2,400 trips.
Police Chief Mike Parrish said round-abouts reduce traffic collisions by 51 percent, reduce injury collisions by 73 percent and nearly elimate traffic-related fatalities.
"That's significant," he said.
Highlights from Village Main Street: One lane in each direction, new parallel parking on both sides of Old Redwood Highway, two roundabouts, bike lanes, traffic calming due to round-abouts, shorter pedestrian crossings, tree-lined medians spearating travel lanes. Cost: $3.5 million, paid for in part by a $1.1 milion grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and redevelopment funds.
Highlights from City Boulevard: New bike lanes and on-street parking, no median, which allows vechiles to make right-hand turns, two new signalized intersections, 40 mph travel speeds anticipated, more car traffic can be absorbed.
Editor's note: Don't miss the video to the right, we included a snapshot of the meeting's public comments. Also find an attached PDF that compares the Village Main Street to the City Boulevard. The Planning Commission will take on the redesigns at their next meeting Nov. 17 at 7 p.m .