The proposed CVS/Chase bank project that I have written about before has a new twist. The project is proposed on a prominent intersection at what is essentially the gateway to downtown Sebastopol. The project went through a long drawn out entitlement process that included the Planning Commission denying a use permit only to be overturned by the City Council and the Design Review Board rejecting 2 proposed designs the final of which was also approved on appeal by the City Council. There was a great deal of public comment about the project, some in support, but a vocal majority against the proposed project which included a drive-through pharmacy window and drive-through ATM.

A local citizens group, the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol (CSTS), sued the developer of the project and the city over what they perceived to be a flawed Mitigated Negative Declaration. The group felt the project should be required to go through a full Environmental Impact Report because of the impact on traffic at this congested intersection. Subsequent to the approval of the project, the Sebastopol City Council implemented a moratorium on new drive-throughs in town. This applied to any project that did not already have a building permit, which the CVS project did not. CVS then filed a lawsuit against the city stating the city violated their civil rights when they implemented the drive-through moratorium.

CVS/Chase Site Plan - May 2012

CVS/Chase Site Plan – May 2012

CVS approached the CSTS and the City of Sebastopol to settle both lawsuits this spring. All parties sat down to negotiate a settlement which will hopefully result in a better project. Some of the items CVS, CSTS and the City of Sebastopol (the City Council has not yet officially signed-off on the settlement as of the writing of this blog) agreed to are:

  • CVS agreed to eliminate both the drive-through pharmacy and the drive-through ATM (during the entitlement process they repeatedly said would be a ‘deal-killer’ when they were asked to eliminate the drive-through).
  • CVS will be required to prohibit left turns into and out of the project driveways.
  • The property will be divided into 5 separate parcels which will allow future development of what will largely be a parking lot.
  • The CVS building will be 2 stories to allow for more redevelopment options in the future (the developer had repeatedly rejected this request during the entitlement process as well).
  • Both buildings will be required to install solar panels on their roofs.
  • The CVS building will be required to be setback from the corner. I’m not sure this is a good idea. Generally buildings in urban areas should be built up to the sidewalk. I guess the devil will be in the details and how far back the setback is and what is done with the space in between.
  • The CVS signage will be ‘discreet’

While I think the best outcome would have been for CVS to walk away from the site entirely, I think it is generally a good compromise. I have heard that Chase is no longer interested in the site so maybe CVS will also come to this conclusion in the end. They already have a location in Sebastopol, in a strip shopping center at the north side of town, which will be closed when this store opens. We already have a Rite Aid and Safeway with a full pharmacy downtown, both about 3 blocks away from this site so it’s not like we are lacking in pharmacy options downtown. Many people I know no longer shop at CVS and have vowed to continue to boycott them if/when they build this new store. They haven’t had any of my business since this all started.

It’s interesting to me that the perseverance by a citizens group and the actions of a small town city council were able to fight back and get some fairly significant concessions from a corporate behemoth. You don’t hear too many success stories like this and it is heartening to know it’s possible. Hopefully other communities will take action against assaults on their urban environments like this.