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  1. TopTop #1
    John Eder's Avatar
    John Eder
    Form Seb City Council Member

    How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    How CVS Conned Sebastopol
    by John Eder, former Sebastopol City Council Member

    Part 1 of 5

    I served on the Sebastopol City Council from 2012 to 2016, during the period when many of the events described in this account took place. I have attempted to present this information in the most accurate, complete and factual manner possible.

    Background

    Longs Drugs was founded in Oakland in 1938. After growing to 521 stores, they were acquired by CVS in 2008. Longs had a store in the Redwood Marketplace in Sebastopol for many years prior to their acquisition. The store is owned separately from the remainder of the shopping center. CVS independently owned the store at this location, and has most likely either sold or leased it at this point.

    Business Model Differences

    Most of Longs Drugs locations were in shopping centers or downtown business districts, averaging around 30,000 square feet, and did not include drive through windows. CVS, on the other hand, has concentrated on creating new locations at heavily-travelled, high traffic count intersections, averaging around 15,000 square feet, with drive through windows being a standard feature. As a result, CVS is in the process of relocating as many of these shopping center stores as they can to busy corners, most being equipped with drive through windows.

    As a sidebar, the largest competitor that CVS faces nationally is Walgreens. They have been battling it out with each other through the construction of new stores at high-visibility locations, often across the street or close by to one another. Currently, Walgreens is in the process of seeking approval to merge with Rite Aid, who has an existing store two blocks from the new CVS store in downtown Sebastopol. Thus, our downtown may be the next battleground for these warring corporations.

    CVS Comes to Sebastopol

    In early 2010, Armstrong Development (on behalf of CVS) submitted an application to the City of Sebastopol to develop a project consisting of a CVS drugstore (17,000 sq. ft.) and a Chase bank (3,800 sq. ft.) on the former two and a half acre Pellini Chevrolet site, which had been dormant since the end of 2008. The first proposal was stunning in its inappropriateness for Sebastopol. It was a generic, “as-seen-anywhere” suburban strip mall eyesore.

    Only 15% of the site was designated for buildings, with the balance paved over for parking, far in excess of City requirements (this is still the case). In a nod to our expressed concern over concealing parking areas, the CVS store was oriented so that the parking was behind it, with blank stucco walls and the drive through window facing Screamin’ Mimi’s. It was apparent that the applicant had likely never spent much (if any) time here, getting a sense of our town. To the credit of the City, CVS was essentially told, “Nice try- come back with an acceptable proposal.”

    Government Process 101

    In my opinion, Sebastopol has a really disjointed process for project approval. The Planning Commission looks at projects from a land use perspective, separately and, sometimes, prior to, the Design Review Board, which looks at projects from a design/aesthetics point of view. Rarely are the two merged. The Planning Commission has been asked to approve a project without the ability to see what it will look like.

    This occurred with the CVS project. I was at the Sebastopol Planning Commission meeting in May, 2011 (as a member of the public) when Commissioner Clare Najarian stated, “How am I supposed to approve a project that I have no idea what it even looks like?” A majority of her colleagues agreed, voting 4-2 for denial (the votes to approve coming from Commissioners Colin Doyle and Robert Green, the husband of then-Councilmember Kathleen Shaffer, a staunch advocate for the CVS project) of the Initial Study (IS) and Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) prepared by City staff for this project (an IS and MND are the basic documents required under CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act), a state law). They are the easiest route to satisfying the requirements of CEQA for project approval; otherwise, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), a potentially complex and expensive document, is required. Unfortunately, in the absence of direction from City staff at this meeting, the Planning Commissioners failed to develop adequate “findings” to legally support their denial. This floundering would come back to haunt the then-Sebastopol City Council.

    Having abandoned their initial “Anytown, USA” generic building design, Armstrong Development hired a local architect, Kevin Kellogg, to produce a custom design for Sebastopol, in an attempt to give the project a “West County” vibe, with actual glass display windows and doors that faced our public streets. Oftentimes, the project seemed to be going backwards with each successive revision. Ultimately, the Sebastopol Design Review Board (DRB), after several meetings, denied the project due to design issues and lack of compliance with Sebastopol’s Design Review Guidelines. It was felt by them to be too modern and overbearing in its presence, and incompatible with our downtown core.

    A Religious Calling

    My initial interest in this project was piqued by the appearance of a notice from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in a window at the defunct Pellini dealership, indicating that an application had been filed to sell alcoholic beverages on the site. I immediately started to closely monitor the proposed CVS project as a citizen. It was never my intent to stop this project- my goal was to help realize a better result.

    I attended every meeting and provided the developer (and City) with numerous photos of highly successful and inviting multi-story mixed use developments (some, ironically, containing CVS drug stores…), often with a vintage appearance, as inspiration to create a place Sebastopol could be proud of. An assortment of retail spaces, residential units and service providers that successfully integrated visually with our town, while expanding our economic base- a walkable place where you could comfortably meet your friends, shop and hang out.

    I advocated for a more efficient and intense use of the precious downtown land being consumed by this project. A higher return on the developer’s investment. A really cool place that just happened to contain a CVS drug store and a Chase bank, both as components, not as the centers of attention. All of these efforts fell on deaf ears. When it became obvious that the developers had no interest in intensifying the project, I turned my attention to attempting to improve the design of the buildings. The current building design reflects, in part, that effort.

    Tomorrow, Part 2 starts with 'CVS Pushes Back'
    Last edited by Barry; 02-08-2017 at 06:58 PM.
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  3. TopTop #2
    Shepherd's Avatar
    Shepherd
    Supporting Member

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Thanks, John, for the beginning of communicating the history. Long's was so much better than CVS. I look forward to your other 4 parts.
    Last edited by Barry; 02-08-2017 at 06:58 PM.
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  5. TopTop #3
    John Eder's Avatar
    John Eder
    Form Seb City Council Member

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    How CVS Conned Sebastopol
    by John Eder, former Sebastopol City Council Member
    Part 2 of 5

    (See Part 1 here)

    CVS Pushes Back

    CVS likes to construct stores that conform to their standard designs as often as they can get away with, especially in towns with “lazy” or grateful, welcoming city governments. As a result, the resistance encountered in Sebastopol was pushing them way out of their “comfort zone”. The Armstrong representatives acted as if we were presenting the most outlandish requirements that they had ever heard. Their higher-ups were shocked that we were so demanding. They were polite, superficially compliant, but, most of all, slick. In the face of the continued rejection of their custom-commissioned “West County” design by a majority of the Design Review Board, Armstrong Development brought in higher management officials to threaten the DRB in a “good cop/bad cop” scheme, hoping that they would eventually capitulate. The Design Review Board remained resolute in its judgment.

    Appeal Of Planning Commission Denial

    Armstrong Development filed an appeal on behalf of CVS with the City Council to overturn the Planning Commission’s denial of the project. After determining that the Planning Commission had failed to develop

    Kathleen Shaffer
    Former Seb City Council Member
    and proponent of CVS project
    adequate findings to support their denial (due to the lack of staff direction to do so), on July 5, 2011, the then-City Council voted 4-1 to uphold the appeal and approve the City staff-produced Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the project, thereby clearing the way for it to proceed. Former Mayor Guy Wilson, Councilmembers Kathleen Shaffer, Michael Kyes and current Vice Mayor Patrick Slayter cast “Yes” votes. Current Councilmember Sarah Glade Gurney was the sole “No” vote. The late Michael Kyes eventually confided in me that he regretted his vote on this matter. Ironically, Patrick Slayter went on to later make the motion to approve a moratorium on new drive through facilities in Sebastopol, thereby triggering a costly lawsuit brought against Sebastopol by CVS. He also participated in and supported all aspects of the City’s defense efforts against the lawsuit.

    The MND

    To insure that a project is approved, a Mitigated Negative Declaration (based upon the Initial Study) can be written to conclude that a project either has “No Significant Impacts” or that all identified impacts can be successfully mitigated. If “Significant Impacts” are found and cannot be mitigated, then the project is either dead or on hold until an EIR is produced, and even then, approval is not assured. The conclusion of the MND prepared by City staff for this project was that all impacts noted could be mitigated- essentially, there would be no detectable difference between a dormant Chevrolet dealership and an operating CVS/Chase Bank.

    After receiving the “green light” to proceed from the then-City Council, the weirdest thing happened- Armstrong/CVS went silent. It was a mystery as to why they didn’t aggressively pursue completion of the approval process. In this period, Armstrong had the primary approval required to move forward, and could have easily done so, getting everything that they wanted, including both of their coveted drive through windows. Instead, the now-fenced property went into a protracted period of decline, creating a massive eyesore in our downtown.

    During the public comment period for the MND, a number of citizens, including me, had submitted, in writing, what we perceived to be obvious flaws in the City staff-prepared MND for this project. All of these concerns were essentially ignored by the City-seen as non-existent, not significant and/or easily mitigated.

    The truly sad irony here is that it was eventually determined, after the appeal period had lapsed, and unbeknownst to the public, that the City’s MND contained a significant flaw, rendering it illegal. The approval tendered by the then-Sebastopol City Council for CVS, based on the City-prepared MND, was actually invalid and there was nothing that the City could do to remedy it at the point the problem was recognized.

    Small Town Sebastopol (STS) Lawsuit


    Helen Shane, member
    Small Town Sebastopol

    On August 8, 2011, a group of local citizens, the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol, filed a CEQA lawsuit against both the City of Sebastopol and CVS/Armstrong Development. Their suit contended that the traffic study performed for the project (upon which the recently-approved MND was partially based) was both flawed and inadequate, and that a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR), including an expanded traffic study, should be required by the City. They believed that an EIR would conclude that the project had impacts that were not capable of being mitigated, and, thus, should be denied by the City. It should be noted that the setting of a date for the hearing of this suit was delayed by CVS numerous times, ultimately ending in a CVS-requested settlement agreement.

    Sebastopol eventually found itself as co-defendant with CVS in the STS lawsuit while simultaneously defending itself against the lawsuit brought by CVS. It is important to note that the City of Sebastopol did not initiate any litigation.

    Appeal Of Design Review Board Denial

    A second design for the CVS building was put forth by Armstrong Development. It incorporated a fake brick exterior, with detailing that gave it a “vintage” look, more in keeping with the feel of our downtown. While much more successful than the previous design, the Design Review Board continued to find the building and site plan lacking, and it was ultimately rejected by them.

    Once again, Armstrong/CVS appealed the actions of a Council- appointed city advisory body to the then-City Council. The Council gave Armstrong/CVS final design approval on August 21, 2012. This cleared another large hurdle in the approval process. The vote was 3-2, with late Councilmember Michael Kyes and Councilmember Sarah Glade Gurney voting “No”.

    A number of additional conditions were imposed by the Council, and it was agreed that the then-City Council would retain all future design approval authority. This move eliminated Sebastopol’s Design Review Board from the process from that point onwards. The result of the two major actions to date by the then-City Council (MND and Final Design approvals) was to seriously tie the hands of the succeeding Council to negotiate changes- the project was, in essence, approved and ready to move forward.

    Tomorrow, Part 3 continues with The 2012 City Council Election...
    Last edited by Barry; 02-08-2017 at 06:59 PM.
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  6. Gratitude expressed by 3 members:

  7. TopTop #4
    Shepherd's Avatar
    Shepherd
    Supporting Member

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    My appreciations to John for all he did as a Council member and for this part 2 history of the ongoing CVS struggle. I assume that Barry probably added the photos and appreciate his good work as a moderator to get these important stories to us and to illustrate them with appropriate graphics.

    Speaking about important issues before the Sebastopol City Council, the Graton Day Labor Center is mobilizing workers to attend the Council meeting this evening at the Youth Annex on Morris Street. Please consider joining us there to support immigrant workers, Muslims, and others threatened with deportation. The meeting starts at 6 p.m.
    Last edited by Barry; 02-08-2017 at 06:59 PM.
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  9. TopTop #5
    Goat Rock Ukulele's Avatar
    Goat Rock Ukulele
     

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Now that the store is in all we can do is try to mitigate some of the negatives. When I was younger I would have just taken my 22 rifle some late night and shot out those stinking glowing red signs. But I'm not like that anymore. Man those signs are jarring and horrible on a rainy night. They need to dim them down some at the very least.
    Last edited by Barry; 02-08-2017 at 06:59 PM.
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  11. TopTop #6
    John Eder's Avatar
    John Eder
    Form Seb City Council Member

    Re: How CVS conned Sebastopol

    How CVS conned Sebastopol
    by John Eder, former Sebastopol City Council Member
    Part 3 of 5

    (See Part 1 here)
    (See Part 2 here)

    The 2012 City Council Election

    Five candidates ran for office in the November 2012 Sebastopol City Council election. It was essentially a single issue event- you were either a supporter or opponent of CVS. Two candidates, incumbent Councilmember Kathleen Shaffer and former Councilmember Kathy Austin, ran as supporters of CVS, with Robert Jacob and me running in opposition. Robert and I won seats on the City Council, thereby creating a majority on the Council critical of the project. The eerie silence from Armstrong/CVS continued after the election.

    The Drive Through Moratorium


    No Drive throughs, please
    A prohibition on new fast food drive through facilities existed in Sebastopol at the time of the CVS project’s initial application. On December 18, 2012, the City Council initiated a moratorium on any new drive through facilities. This would allow them time to study the ramifications of an expansion of the existing prohibition on fast food drive through uses to include all drive through uses except gas stations, car washes and oil change facilities. The purpose of the moratorium was to preserve the existing status quo at the time of its imposition. Existing drive through facilities were protected, unless they ceased operation for a defined period of time.

    It is established state law that cities are completely within their rights to amend their laws. What they cannot do is attempt to apply new regulations retroactively to previously-approved and vested projects. Many people incorrectly perceive that this is what the City Council did to CVS by invoking the moratorium and, ultimately, a prohibition against most new drive through facilities.

    The reality is that Armstrong/CVS, due to their own inaction, had failed to achieve “vested rights” in the project. Having vested rights is defined as a legal status accorded to a project once the applicant has performed substantial work and incurred substantial costs after having obtained a building permit. Armstrong/CVS failed to achieve any of these requirements at the time the moratorium was implemented; thus, they had no right to expect immunity from any changes to existing City regulations. I am curious if Armstrong, being the savvy developers that they are, knew this when they sued Sebastopol.

    Once the moratorium was initiated, the City was not obligated to process any additional permitting paperwork for any project that included a drive through component during the life of the moratorium. Thus, Armstrong/CVS was unable to proceed further at this point if they intended to retain the two proposed drive through windows. As before, they could have easily continued the permitting process, although no longer with the drive throughs.

    A ban on all new drive through facilities (with exceptions as noted) was signed into law on Jan 6, 2015 by the Sebastopol City Council.

    Merry Christmas, Sebastopol
    “While visions of lawsuits danced in their heads…”

    On December 24, 2012, representatives of Armstrong/CVS slid down the chimney at City Hall and served Sebastopol with paperwork initiating litigation against the City in state court. They accused the City Council of “depriving them of their civil rights”, seeing the moratorium as directed solely at their project. Thus began the legal confrontation, created by CVS, which ultimately cost the City of Sebastopol more than $360,000.00 to defend. The case was soon dismissed by CVS in state court, refiled by them in federal court on March 28, 2014 and eventually settled in September, 2014.

    Negotiations Continue

    On August 20, 2014, the City Council met with Armstrong/CVS to resolve final design issues.

    At this meeting, CVS resisted the Council-imposed requirement for a second entrance at the corner of Sebastopol and Petaluma Avenues, citing security concerns. When confronted with photos of existing CVS stores with similar entry configurations, they agreed to the door, which is to remain open during all hours of operation.

    From the beginning, CVS had insisted on a driveway on to Petaluma Avenue. The previous City Council had converted the driveway to an Emergency Vehicle Access (EVA) pathway, inaccessible to the public. The Council had also approved a provision that CVS could come back 90 days after opening to petition the City to convert it back to a driveway (this is still the case).

    There is a major flaw with this (now existing) location. Emergency vehicles would need to take the most inefficient route possible, or drive opposing one way traffic on Petaluma Avenue to utilize it. At this meeting, an alternative EVA route was approved by the Council that led directly to the project site. This was fully resolved to the satisfaction of all involved, including the Fire Chief.

    Finally, the Council was told by the Planning Director at this meeting that all signs for the CVS building would come back to the Design Review Board at a future date.

    Sebastopol was now a defendant in two lawsuits. It should be noted that the members of the City Council directly participated in very few of the negotiations between the City of Sebastopol and CVS/STS. Negotiations were typically conducted between the City Attorney, with assistance from outside council, and the attorneys for CVS and/or Small Town Sebastopol. The Council provided direction to our attorneys, who took those proposals to the attorneys for CVS and STS.

    During this phase, the Council proposed to CVS that the building be reconfigured from one to two stories, with the upper story occupied by City offices, library, housing, senior center, or any number of other uses. Part of the building was already configured to have a second story office area for the store. To our complete shock, they indicated agreement with this requirement. However, they were clear that they did not want next door/upstairs neighbors (as they have elsewhere), so the proposal was modified to only require an actual, useable, but unoccupied second story. The Council’s thinking was that, should CVS fail at this location, the building could be repurposed, including the possible division of the first story into several retail spaces, and the upper floor utilized for yet to be determined purposes.

    Overall, I would say that the City Council succeeded in getting CVS to eventually agree to most of its proposals regarding this project during the negotiations.

    Tomorrow, Part 4 starts with The Settlement
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  13. TopTop #7
    Sara S's Avatar
    Sara S
    Auntie Wacco

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Oh, if only every topic (here, or anywhere) could be covered like you have done here! Thank you so much.
    Last edited by Barry; 02-08-2017 at 06:59 PM.
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  15. TopTop #8
    John Eder's Avatar
    John Eder
    Form Seb City Council Member

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    How CVS Conned Sebastopol
    by John Eder, former Sebastopol City Council Member
    Part 4 of 5

    (See Part 1 here)
    (See Part 2 here)
    (See Part 3 here)

    The Settlement

    While negotiations were still in process, CVS approached both the City of Sebastopol and Small Town Sebastopol in May 2014 seeking a settlement of all litigation. As a result, on October 6, 2014, the City Council voted to authorize the Mayor to sign the Settlement Agreement that had been negotiated between Committee for Small Town Sebastopol, CVS and the City of Sebastopol.

    Among the items contained in the agreement:

    • All drive through facilities in the project are eliminated.
    • The CVS building is to be redesigned to allow an actual functional second story, unoccupied at present, but suitable for future use.
    • Left turns are prohibited into or out of Barnes Avenue off of Highway 12 (Sebastopol Ave).
    • Solar panels are to be installed on CVS building roof.
    • Five electric vehicle charging stations are to be provided, one at CVS, with four located elsewhere
    • $150,000.00 is to be paid to Sebastopol and Small Town Sebastopol to compensate STS for legal costs, with the balance to be used for traffic mitigation measures (Note: the City is legally prohibited from recovering its legal expenses at any time, even if it prevails in a case). CVS admonished the City not to refer to this sum as “recovered legal fees”, for fear of the appearance of Sebastopol setting a precedent.
    • Emergency Vehicle Access to be relocated on Petaluma Avenue to make it actually useable.
    • Additional glass display windows to be provided on Highway 12 (Sebastopol Ave) face of building in lieu of solid brick wall.
    • A greater setback for CVS building from the intersection of Hwy. 12 and Petaluma Avenue.
    • Division of the project site into five parcels to allow future infill development at the site.

    CVS Cons Sebastopol

    A critical aspect of the Settlement Agreement for the City Council was the two-story CVS building design. The Council had made clear that they had three requirements for the second story: a load-bearing floor, an electrical service panel and a means of access (any other second story improvements were not the responsibility of CVS). Based upon negotiations, it was understood that these were to be provided. A line in City of Sebastopol Resolution 6007, dated October 9, 2014, in summarizing the terms of the settlement, refers to, “…provision of building features that would allow for a future second story for the CVS building…” Correspondence related to the negotiations had contained language such as “…true second story”, “A redesign of the CVS building including a second story…”, “Second story on the CVS building”, “…the second story have the opportunity to be used at some point in the future.”, “…a load-bearing floor on the second story of the CVS building…” Many more references to this essential item can be found elsewhere in relevant legal paperwork. It was clear that the City had received a commitment from CVS to build a two story building.

    The City Council had requested updated, detailed drawings from Armstrong/CVS for months prior to the settlement, but we were told that they were not available. The City repeatedly requested cross-section drawings, as it was unclear exactly what CVS was proposing.

    The requested drawings were finally received by the City Council on the day that we were due to sign the settlement Agreement, date stamped by the City as received on October 6, 2014 . The first thing noted by the City Council was the date on the drawings- August 15, 2014- two and a half months prior to the settlement date (contrary to CVS statements). The absence of cross-section plans was also noted. These were received electronically during the meeting where the signing of the Settlement Agreement, per the previous negotiations, was to take place.

    While awaiting the cross-section plans, it was noted that the two story building elevations were now annotated “Glass in thickened parapet wall”, with an arrow pointing to the upper story windows. This was the first time that the Council had seen this annotation. The cross-section plans confirmed the Council’s suspicions. The upper story was fake- much like a Hollywood set. There was no roof above the first floor, the “thickened parapet” merely being first floor walls that extended upwards to hide the mechanical equipment on the first floor roof. The upper story windows are non-functional- in the completed building, their latches and hinges are on the exterior of the building. If they could be opened, they would open outwards. Lights are provided to give the appearance of the upper story being occupied at night.

    At this point, it was obvious that the City Council and citizens of Sebastopol had been misled- conned, actually, by CVS. The Council indicated to our attorneys that the fake second story was a “deal-killer”- the settlement was off. We were informed by our legal team that if the settlement was not signed that day, CVS was prepared to go to court the following week to restart their litigation against Sebastopol, with an initial estimate of “next phase” legal costs of $500,000.00, and possibly more. While our attorneys felt that we would likely prevail in court, the Council realized that the City could not sustain continued litigation costs of this magnitude (don’t forget, per state law, the City cannot recover their legal costs, even if they prevail).

    The next unilateral revision depicted in the CVS drawings was the relocation of the Emergency Vehicle Access (EVA) pathway, from a Council-directed functional location back to its original illogical location. This reinstated the ability of CVS to approach the City Council at a future date to easily reconfigure it back into a driveway off of Petaluma Avenue, which was perceived as a traffic hazard by the previous Council.

    But their con didn’t stop here. The CVS building signs had yet to be reviewed or approved by the Council as of the date of the settlement. When this was brought to the attention of CVS, they responded, “The signs that you see on our drawings are the signs that you are going to get.”

    The con continued. The second, smaller building in the project, which had always been slated for a financial institution and designed as such, was now labeled “Retail or Bank”, a change made without agreement from the City. This unilateral redesignation is significant. It opens up the possibility of a future conflict over this building’s use. Does CVS feel that it is “grandfathered” in regards to Sebastopol’s Formula Business Ordinance, passed into law after the settlement agreement? In the view of CVS, is this a potential already-approved fast food location without a drive through?

    I can’t help but wonder if CVS pulled the last minute con on Sebastopol as a means to extract retribution over the loss of their drive through window.

    Tomorrow, the series concludes with "The Future"
    Last edited by Barry; 02-09-2017 at 10:33 AM.
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  17. TopTop #9
    John Eder's Avatar
    John Eder
    Form Seb City Council Member

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    How CVS conned Sebastopol
    by John Eder, former Sebastopol City Council Member
    Part 5 of 5

    (See Part 1 here)
    (See Part 2 here)
    (See Part 3 here)
    (See Part 4 here)


    The Future

    The City Council fought tenaciously for the best and highest use of this very visible site, always seeking an improved result. Is the behavior of CVS as described herein something that you condone? In my view, this is implied if you patronize their new store. If you don’t agree with the actions of CVS in this matter, the best action that you can take is to boycott the store, and encourage all of your friends to do the same. This store serves a market estimated to be in excess of 30,000 people in Sebastopol and the West County. As you can see, it is going to take a lot of “word of mouth” to have an effect.

    If you don’t agree with
    the actions of CVS
    in this matter,
    the best action that
    you can take is to
    boycott the store
    There are viable alternatives for prescriptions nearby, including locally-owned stores. Express your opinion with your dollars by withholding your business from the new store. Also, per the City’s Conditions of Approval, "It is noted that the application allows members of the public unrestricted parking in all on-site spaces." This means that the CVS parking lot is a free public parking lot. I encourage you to use it often while shopping elsewhere or visiting our downtown- no patronage of CVS is required.

    Some have stated, “CVS had the right to buy the land and develop it.” This is true, but doesn’t the manner in which they went about it cause you to question whether or not you support their actions? Armstrong/CVS was combative from the very early stages and proved their lack of trustworthiness throughout this process, creating suspicions that linger still. Close monitoring is required to insure that they actually meet their commitments to Sebastopol.

    Others claim that the drive through ban discriminates against the disabled, the sick, parents with children, etc. To this I respond, “Just use the Sebastopol drive through pharmacy that you have always used.” Their typical response is, “We’ve never had one.” Somehow, since Sebastopol was incorporated in 1902, we have survived without a drive through pharmacy. There are alternatives. Forestville Pharmacy, for example, will deliver to your home in Sebastopol for a nominal charge.

    My hope is that the new store, due to poor access issues, traffic congestion and active opposition, will become an “underperforming” location for CVS, leading to its closure. While they may operate the store at a loss for a while, possibly to demonstrate their disdain for Sebastopol and our neighbors, sooner or later it could draw the attention of higher management. CVS is slated to shutter 70 locations in the first part of 2017. Could the new store find itself on a corporate “hit list” sometime in the future? You can personally increase the chances of that happening.

    I am told that the fake two story building cannot be economically reconfigured for a true upper story. If true, Sebastopol is stuck for the foreseeable future with a Hollywood set on one of our most prominent corners. It is likely that this building will need to be demolished to make way for a more intense and appropriate use of this precious land in our urban core.

    Conclusion

    For years, every time that I passed the dead Pellini dealership, I intuitively knew that it was going to be developed, and, given its size, likely by a deep-pocketed developer who wouldn’t necessarily have the best interests of our town as their first priority. I, along with many others, was “asleep at the switch”. Preoccupation with my own life allowed me to ignore the looming potential of inadequate, substandard development at this site. Sebastopol could have gotten out in front of this project by visioning the future use of this property, and then taking the steps necessary to insure a successful result. They couldn’t afford to purchase the property, but they could have crafted parameters that would have provided a potential developer with a statement of our expectations. As a result of this experience, the City of Sebastopol took a more proactive route with the former Diamond Lumber Yard/Sebastopol Tractor Supply site adjacent to the Plaza. That process resulted in the current proposal for the Sebastopol Hotel. While many people are not pleased and worry, with justification, about the gentrification of Sebastopol, in my opinion, this process worked and the result is a success. For some time, there were unsubstantiated rumors that an Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar was going to be developed there. True or not, you can imagine all of the possibilities that would be much worse than the proposed hotel.

    The City of Sebastopol had a solid case, and, based on the courts’ tendency to rule in favor of cities in similar cases, it was felt that we had a very high probability of prevailing in court. The cost, however, would be staggering. It was also felt by the City that the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol (STS) may have found the “smoking gun”- a flawed traffic study. Had an EIR with a more thorough traffic study been required, it likely would have divulged the inability of the CVS project to legally comply with CEQA due to traffic impacts, thereby killing it. It was also felt by the City that the settlement overture from CVS was motivated primarily by the STS lawsuit. It likely was of greatest concern to CVS, as they may have recognized the extent of their exposure to a loss in court should the case ever be heard. Unfortunately, STS was unable to continue to challenge CVS due to the enormous potential costs involved. The only other plausible explanation for their request for settlement discussions was recognition by higher management at CVS of the costs and time delays that had been incurred by them to that point. It is thought that CVS conceivably spent the better part of a million dollars on litigation to this point, with additional significant costs yet to come.

    While the City Council fought hard, in the end we were outspent, out lawyered, out maneuvered and out smarted by CVS. This is what they do for a living. They fight battles in many communities like ours, and even the slightest appearance of a victory by the “little guy” is unacceptable to them, as it gives courage to their current and future foes.

    Finally, as I stated in my farewell remarks when leaving the City Council last December, I truly feel that City staff and two successive City Councils failed the citizens of Sebastopol on many levels in this matter, and for that I am sorry.
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  19. TopTop #10
    Barry's Avatar
    Barry
    Founder & Moderator

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    So there's the whole story, according to former City Councilmember John Eder.

    To recap, the city had an existing moratorium on drive through windows for fast food restaurants at the point of CVS's initial application was filed. The city then extended the moratorium to all new drive throughs after the project was approved but before it had "vested rights". CVS then sued the city and eventually reached a settlement with the city that included a requirement for a "functional second story" which would make the building more suitable for future uses should CVS move out.

    CVS waited to supply the final design until the day the agreement was to be signed, and the design did not include a functional second story, along with other design aspects that had been agreed on but not delivered, plus attempting to re-designate the abandoned Chase bank as "Retail or Bank".

    CVS threatened the city to continue to pursue their lawsuit, even though it was destined to fail, with their big corporate budget unless Sebastopol signed the agreement that day. The city caved under financial pressure.

    Now what do you think? Will you shop at CVS? Will you boycott or accept it?

    And how do you feel about the building, parking lot and traffic effects??
    Seems like lots of people are making left turns on Hwy 12 into the parking lot. Is that causing trouble??
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  21. TopTop #11
    John Eder's Avatar
    John Eder
    Form Seb City Council Member

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Barry,

    Thanks for putting up with me on the telling of this account. It is important that as many people in Sebastopol and the West County know what a crappy corporate neighbor they have with CVS...
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  23. TopTop #12
    JimmyL's Avatar
    JimmyL
     

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    I never understood the logic or science that the City has on drive throughs. Certainly one for a pharmacy is a better use than for fast food places. Which all have them. If it's greenhouse gasses, what about all the cars idling into and through town every day, hundreds.

    I always felt that those folks who wanted a park or a more "appropriate" use for the site should have done something about it.So we have CVS.
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  25. TopTop #13
    rossmen
     

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Thanks John for a clear and concise presentation, both facts and analysis. I hope it helps other towns battle this corporate rapist. My only critique is for the word conned. Screwed is more apt. Cvs waited, planning their moment, then twisted the city over and shoved it in.

    Quote John Eder wrote: View Post
    How CVS conned Sebastopol
    by John Eder, former Sebastopol City Council Member
    Part 5 of 5

    (See Part 1 here)
    (See Part 2 here)
    (See Part 3 here)
    (See Part 4 here)


    ...
    Last edited by Barry; 02-11-2017 at 08:41 AM.
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  27. TopTop #14

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    I agree, Sebastopol was outsmarted by CVS. I do think John and co-council owes us a Mea Culpa. After all it was us voters who got conned into thinking that we would be protected against this behavior by their election. Instead we now have a precedent and open invitation to more harm by other big companies to come to town and do the same.

    Why weren't there penalties or retainers build into the permit process to overcome these kind of confrontations? Where was the due diligence, I doubt this was the first time CVS has done this.

    I also would like John to explain why you would force a builder to build a 2nd story that they didn't want, but telling them that it would help the City in case the store fails.... Is that Sebastopol's welcome to our town now? It's akin to telling a teenager that they can only buy a van since they might get pregnant and then they would need it for their kids.

    Quote rossmen wrote: View Post
    ... My only critique is for the word conned. Screwed is more apt. Cvs waited, planning their moment, then twisted the city over and shoved it in.
    Last edited by Barry; 02-14-2017 at 12:12 PM.
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  28. TopTop #15
    Shepherd's Avatar
    Shepherd
    Supporting Member

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Bob,
    You seem to be blaming the victim, in this case John and others on the City Council. They fought heroically against one of the largest, most powerful, wealthy corporations in the world. They and we lost, but not because we did not try. We lost because at least one City Council member, Kathleen Schaefer, sided with CVS and Chase Bank at that time, seeking their benefits. She wanted to be mayor. She was defeated in the following election and quickly moved away in disgrace. John represented the majority of us, and still does.

    We were not "outsmarted." We are a small town and we were out-spent. John is out there weekly with his Boycott CVS signs. And you? We were not "conned," as you say. We were well-represented by John and others, who did the best that they could, under the circumstances. There is no "open invitation to more harm." We will continue to fight. Join us, rather than blame the victims.

    BOYCOTT CVS! RUN THEM OUT OF OUR SMALL TOWN!

    Quote Bob2 wrote: View Post
    I agree, Sebastopol was outsmarted by CVS. I do think John and co-council owes us a Mea Culpa. ...
    Last edited by Barry; 02-15-2017 at 09:53 AM.
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  29. TopTop #16

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Victims? Maybe more like sheep that were led astray Shepherd? How were we well represented if CVS did what it wanted to do? Come on, they didn't do their due diligence. If they had and used good legal counsel, they could have put all kind of penalties or retainers build in to the permit process with a building that was obvious over their head. It DOES create an open invitation for anyone with deep pockets to THREATEN to sue the town and get what you want.......
    I've seen John out there and admire that he continues to fight, not so sure what he's fighting though, does he want another empty store there? His presence actually has the opposite effect. It attracts attention to the store that to the casual observer looks closed with those dark tinted windows. At least that's what it looked like to me.
    So we didn't get an unoccupied 2nd story, is that really a crime? The added traffic is a joke. The most perilous traffic situation in Sebastopol is right in front of WF! I don't see anyone protesting that intersection or admonishing WF that they don't have enough parking for the size of the store, but I bet anyone who drives in Sebastopol has a story about a close encounter in that stretch of traffic turmoil.

    Quote Shepherd wrote: View Post
    Bob,
    You seem to be blaming the victim, in this case John and others on the City Council. ...
    Last edited by Barry; 02-15-2017 at 09:55 AM.
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  31. TopTop #17
    rossmen
     

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Are you aware you are writing about two city council configurations? And do you get the legal restrictions governmental authorities have in us? If you did your critique would be far more entertaining. Cvs has strongarmed a wasteland into the heart of our town and the people who fought to mitigate it (with demonstrable positive effect), you chose to trash. Please try to make your point again. I really do think you might have something worth the time to read.

    Quote Bob2 wrote: View Post
    Victims? Maybe more like sheep that were led astray Shepherd? How were we well represented if CVS did what it wanted to do? Come on, they didn't do their due diligence. ...
    Last edited by Barry; 02-15-2017 at 09:56 AM.
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  33. TopTop #18

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Yes, Ross, the 2nd council was voted in to FIX the CVS deal!
    Yes, Ross, I'm aware of the legal restrictions governmental authorities have in US. Have you ever pulled a building permit, Ross? Did you feel restricted or did you feel the town was restricted?
    So now tell me, Ross, how Sebastopol can FORCE an owner of a store to put up a 2nd story it's not going to use??? Would they have to pay taxes for that? Would they be forced to develop it? is that what you mean by " legal restrictions governmental authorities have in us"?
    Right now this is a personal vendetta for John who has stated that he wants CVS to fail!
    What good would that do for Sebastopol, please tell me that, Ross. I think that would be entertaining.....
    Quote rossmen wrote: View Post
    Are you aware you are writing about two city council configurations? And do you get the legal restrictions governmental authorities have in us? If you did your critique would be far more entertaining. ... Please try to make your point again...
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  34. TopTop #19

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    John, my apologies for my hastily written reprimand. After rereading your final conclusion it appears that we have come to the same conclusion a) The council could have been more pro-active and " they could have crafted parameters that would have provided a potential developer with a statement of our expectations"
    b) The city of Sebastopol did not do due diligence, "I truly feel that City staff and two successive City Councils failed the citizens of Sebastopol on many levels in this matter, and for that I am sorry."
    John, I never questioned your integrity or dedication to the project, just the experience or competence to take on the big boys.

    Quote John Eder wrote: View Post
    How CVS conned Sebastopol
    by John Eder, former Sebastopol City Council Member
    Part 5 of 5
    ...
    Conclusion

    For years, every time that I passed the dead Pellini dealership, I intuitively knew that it was going to be developed, and, given its size, likely by a deep-pocketed developer who wouldn’t necessarily have the best interests of our town as their first priority. I, along with many others, was “asleep at the switch”. Preoccupation with my own life allowed me to ignore the looming potential of inadequate, substandard development at this site. Sebastopol could have gotten out in front of this project by visioning the future use of this property, and then taking the steps necessary to insure a successful result. They couldn’t afford to purchase the property, but they could have crafted parameters that would have provided a potential developer with a statement of our expectations. As a result of this experience, the City of Sebastopol took a more proactive route with the former Diamond Lumber Yard/Sebastopol Tractor Supply site adjacent to the Plaza. That process resulted in the current proposal for the Sebastopol Hotel. While many people are not pleased and worry, with justification, about the gentrification of Sebastopol, in my opinion, this process worked and the result is a success. For some time, there were unsubstantiated rumors that an Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar was going to be developed there. True or not, you can imagine all of the possibilities that would be much worse than the proposed hotel.

    The City of Sebastopol had a solid case, and, based on the courts’ tendency to rule in favor of cities in similar cases, it was felt that we had a very high probability of prevailing in court. The cost, however, would be staggering. It was also felt by the City that the Committee for Small Town Sebastopol (STS) may have found the “smoking gun”- a flawed traffic study. Had an EIR with a more thorough traffic study been required, it likely would have divulged the inability of the CVS project to legally comply with CEQA due to traffic impacts, thereby killing it. It was also felt by the City that the settlement overture from CVS was motivated primarily by the STS lawsuit. It likely was of greatest concern to CVS, as they may have recognized the extent of their exposure to a loss in court should the case ever be heard. Unfortunately, STS was unable to continue to challenge CVS due to the enormous potential costs involved. The only other plausible explanation for their request for settlement discussions was recognition by higher management at CVS of the costs and time delays that had been incurred by them to that point. It is thought that CVS conceivably spent the better part of a million dollars on litigation to this point, with additional significant costs yet to come.

    While the City Council fought hard, in the end we were outspent, out lawyered, out maneuvered and out smarted by CVS. This is what they do for a living. They fight battles in many communities like ours, and even the slightest appearance of a victory by the “little guy” is unacceptable to them, as it gives courage to their current and future foes.

    Finally, as I stated in my farewell remarks when leaving the City Council last December, I truly feel that City staff and two successive City Councils failed the citizens of Sebastopol on many levels in this matter, and for that I am sorry.
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  35. TopTop #20
    robert777's Avatar
    robert777
     

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    The threat of a lawsuit against KOWS Radio and the City Council was also the deciding factor in KOWS loss on the issue of building an antenna. This, unfortunately, is the trump card played by wealthy groups.
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  37. TopTop #21
    rossmen
     

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Yes i do have significant experience building and pulling permits, even development. It a crazy game. I don't know if the city had the right to require the structure have a developable second strory, they certainly tried. And i think in the long run it would be good for both town and company. Why cvs chose to play the bully endgame to avoid this requirement i don't know, but its a clear example why so many communities struggle with cvs.

    Quote Bob2 wrote: View Post
    ...Have you ever pulled a building permit, Ross? ...
    So now tell me, Ross, how Sebastopol can FORCE an owner of a store to put up a 2nd story it's not going to use???....
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  39. TopTop #22
    applefan's Avatar
    applefan
     

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    I will never shop there and will encourage my friends and contacts to do the same.
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  40. Gratitude expressed by 5 members:

  41. TopTop #23

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    LOL this reminds me of a friend of mine who lives on Hurlbut. She protested the Longs/Lucky shopping center and was very active in trying to prevent the development and encroachment on her neighborhood. She vowed to never shop there and kept her word for a couple of years until she realized that it was costing her money and time to go elsewhere and she slowly started to go whenever it was convenient until the protests were all forgotten.
    Tell me applefan which stores are you going to shop at instead?
    Quote applefan wrote: View Post
    I will never shop there and will encourage my friends and contacts to do the same.
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  42. TopTop #24
    John Eder's Avatar
    John Eder
    Form Seb City Council Member

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Mr. O'Foole,

    Welcome to Wacco. I have compiled a list of alternatives to CVS for applefan and everyone else, shown below. These should more than adequately meet your needs as well, Bob.

    Pharmacy alternatives to CVS in Sebastopol and the West County:

    1.) Rite Aid Pharmacy 218 N. Main Street Sebastopol (707) 829-3007
    Store Hours: 8 am-9 pm Pharmacy: 9 am-9 pm (9 am-6 pm Sat/10 am-6 pm Sun)

    2.) Safeway Pharmacy 406 N. Main Street Sebastopol (707) 823-1937
    Store Hours: 24/7 Pharmacy: 9 am-8 pm (9 am-5 pm Sat/Sun)

    3.) Forestville Pharmacy 6652 Front Street (Highway 116) Forestville (707) 887-2268
    Store and Pharmacy Hours: 9 am-6:30 pm (M-F) Store Hours: 9 am-5 pm (Sat/Sun) Pharmacy Hours: 10 am-5 pm (Sat) Closed Sun (They deliver to Sebastopol and the West County for a nominal charge.) Local business.

    4.) Lark Drug Pharmacy 16251 Main Street Guerneville (707) 869-9055
    Store and Pharmacy Hours: 9 am-6:30 pm (M-F) Store Hours: 10 am-6 pm (Sat) 11 am-3 pm (Sun) Pharmacy Hours: 10 am-4 pm (Sat) Closed Sun Local business.

    5.) Safeway Pharmacy 16405 Highway 116 Guerneville (707) 869-0613
    Store Hours: 24/7 Pharmacy: 9 am-7 pm (9 am-5 pm Sat/Sun)

    If at all possible, GO LOCAL- keep your dollars in our communities.

    Quote Bob2 wrote: View Post
    LOL this reminds me of a friend of mine who lives on Hurlbut. She protested the Longs/Lucky shopping center and was very active in trying to prevent the development and encroachment on her neighborhood. She vowed to never shop there and kept her word for a couple of years until she realized that it was costing her money and time to go elsewhere and she slowly started to go whenever it was convenient until the protests were all forgotten.
    Tell me applefan which stores are you going to shop at instead?
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  44. TopTop #25

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Yeah, I figured you would recommend safeway. Here's an article so you know what you are supporting now John...
    http://www.mercurynews.com/2014/03/0...-make-changes/
    Just making sure you want to support the gun lobby, John!

    Now, the grocer is in the hands of a savvy private equity group that is perhaps best known not for its supermarket holdings but for its stake in gun and car companies and military contractors. Cerberus owns the country’s largest gun company, Freedom Group, and in 2003 bought two of the largest rental car companies — Alamo and National. Then in 2007, it bought Chrysler, the car company that two years later required a taxpayer bailout.
    Last edited by Barry; 02-18-2017 at 08:35 AM.
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  45. TopTop #26

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    And Rite-aid/Walgreen, are they any better than CVS?
    http://nationalpainreport.com/story-...s-8823345.html
    Walgreens' management noted that it also would seek to merge some Rite Aid locations into Walgreens stores and viewed Rite Aid stores as "generally inferior" to Walgreens stores, Mushkin wrote.

    "Perhaps even more important is that after listening to management, we expect that as Rite Aid's leases come up for renewal, (Walgreens) would look to actively prune Rite Aid's store base," he said.
    Last edited by Barry; 02-18-2017 at 08:34 AM.
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  46. TopTop #27

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    John, I have a few more questions for you.

    Were you on the City council when Whole Foods took over the video store? Was there a traffic impact study done or required at the time of the expansion? As I mentioned before The WF traffic congestion is a major obstacle in downtown Sebastopol. Will this ever be addressed or just accepted? CVS is NOT downtown but on the outskirts with minimal foot traffic (there are no other walk-in stores on that side)

    Who allowed the mess that is the Barlows? To have a "shoppingcentre" with cars driving through it while they could have created a pedestrian haven/ open space in the center with building surrounding it instead. What it is now, is pedestrians dodging cars to get from one store to another. The barlows could have been a major open air event/ hang out space in town instead we got What?

    So John what I'm saying is that maybe CVS is not the problem but the building permit/planning/design people in Sebastopol are the real problem. Ask Ross what it takes to pull a permit if you don't believe me.
    Last edited by Barry; 02-18-2017 at 05:41 PM.
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  48. TopTop #28
    Weiser's Avatar
    Weiser
     

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    To be clear. KOWS and the City of Sebastopol WERE sued! KOWS voluntarily withdrew it's application out of consideration for the city. It is very likely KOWS would have prevailed on the merits of the case. However the station and the city simply didn't have the money to spend to defend themselves. Especially after what happened with CVS. As it turned out the plaintiff was able to extort concessions from both the city and the station regarding ever trying to reapply for a permit at the same site. Remind you of anyone? Sad!
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  50. TopTop #29
    Tiann's Avatar
    Tiann
     

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    Quote Barry wrote: View Post
    ...And how do you feel about the building, parking lot and traffic effects??
    Seems like lots of people are making left turns on Hwy 12 into the parking lot. Is that causing trouble??
    John, Barry?

    I thought there was to be no left turn allowed into CVS from West-bound Hwy 12?! It is a problem. There's back up there for the signal at Petaluma Ave and Hwy 12 and it's hard enough to get through that intersection during high usage times. I'm concerned that drivers will try getting around cars stopped there for a left-hand turn and more traffic jams will occur (and frustration, too).

    And a side question about the moratorium on drive-throughs: I asked at the library why they don't have a drop-box for those of us that just have books and media to return. As it is, the parking near the library is so impacted that I am often circling 2 or 3 times before finding a spot to park and am sometimes idling while I wait for a spot to clear. I could walk to the library, but I am often dropping off my books as part of a full day of work and errands an it's right along my route.
    The librarian I asked about a drive-by drop box told me it is considered a drive-thru and would not be allowed. Wouldn't it help with traffic congestion and flow and pollution if the library had a drive-by drop box? I imagine this issue has been explored before . . .

    Thanks guys,
    Terriann
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  52. TopTop #30
    Shepherd's Avatar
    Shepherd
    Supporting Member

    Re: How CVS Conned Sebastopol

    The left and right turns from Highway 12 into CVS are far worse than the traffic outside Whole Foods, in spite of the claim by one person. One can get backed up for a long time and further than Llano Rd. to the East, and pass the library to the West. Traffic alone should be enough to condemn CVS, a pharmacy which should be helping heal people, rather than make our lives worse.
    BOYCOTT CVS!

    Quote Tiann wrote: View Post
    John, Barry?
    I thought there was to be no left turn allowed into CVS from West-bound Hwy 12?! It is a problem. There's back up there for the signal at Petaluma Ave and Hwy 12 and it's hard enough to get through that intersection during high usage times. ...
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