Wednesday, February 15, 2006

We Don't Want No Stinkin' Progress!

The latest copy of the Novato Advance was flung onto my driveway at some indeterminate time this morning. When I bent down and picked it up mid-way through the afternoon, I noted a yellow square in the upper right hand corner that read: "Whole Foods Project Petition Sparks Letters To the Editor."

I should mention that I've driven by the alleged site of the Whole Foods project several times throughout the last couple of months, looking for signs of a construction site: a bright yellow Caterpillar, or a crew, or a mound of overturned earth at the very least. To my repeated dismay, I haven't seen a single thing. The Trader Joe's building is nearly complete, and now it seems that it was the lucky one that slipped under the radar.

Apparently, a minority of Novatoans (would Novato-ites be more poetic? I can't decide) have raised consistent and stubborn opposition to the project. Even though the developers have secured the venerable Book Passage as a tenant (be still, my heart!), the naysayers will not be silenced.

I regularly trek down to the Whole Foods in San Rafael for organic foods. It is a round trip of twenty miles, and I assure you that this matters to me. And so it was that I ran inside with the paper and eagerly leafed to page A-4, where the drama was explained in more detail.

Here, my fellow foodies, is the scoop: it appears that the Novato Whole Foods project is still being held up by appeals and petitions. The Letters to the Editor section showcased a tennis match of opinions. The main arguments against the project seems to be that the building will be "too high" and that the development will not be "in keeping" with the character of Old Town Novato.

Which all sounds terribly sentimental and might even be touching, except that Old Town Novato is a ghost town. It is dead. It is pathetic. To drive through it is to wonder at what might have been as one passes boarded-up storefronts and shabby liquor stores and the odd television repair shop. What character is in danger, I ask? What, exactly, is being lost? And where were these righteous opponents when the sprawling, mortifying spectacle of the Vintage Plaza took shape, with its Target and Marshalls and Starbucks and Costco all strung out in a terrible, endless row?

I want to be able to run to the store for a head of organic lettuce without having to drive thirty minutes. I religiously shop the farmer's market at the San Rafael Civic Center on Thursdays, but there is the occasional Thursday when I simply can't make it! And what then...?

The cost of a house in Novato is downright obscene, and there is no corresponding sense of civic pride. I feel like I got thrown back into some backwater country. I'm experiencing whiplash here, and to find out that the natives are still drumming to an old, tired beat is like a slap in the face.

The Advance reported that there is a signature petition taking place in front of Safeway and Albertsons to curry support for the Whole Foods opposition. I haven't seen it, because I avoid those places like the plague. But God help the petitioners if I do walk by, because I am absolutely furious, and I will not hesitate to give them a piece of my mind. The business climate in Novato is downright oppressive and claustrophobic, and bringing in Whole Foods is a much-needed step in the right direction.

Deep breath. I know: it's going to be okay. I'll be fine tomorrow. I will.

22 Comments:

At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Michelle said...

I hear ya Jennifer! Just know that when you go running down the street screaming 'Get me out of here!', you are not alone!
I would like to know how many signatures they will get??? As an anti Safeway/Albertsons I would never run into them either. Perhaps canvas in front of the Whole Foods in San Rafael? I'm sure we would get a lot of fellow Novatans signatures - hehe!
What about the lead story in the Advance - wild cat sightings. I couldn't figure out if it was a joke or if it was a serious story! When you read on you find out it was, in fact, - a large cat! Anyone missing a 30 pound orange tabby?!?!
By the way, I thought that Trader Joes was supposed to be done already? It looked to me (yesterday) that it still needs A LOT of work before completion...

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger Greg said...

I really believe they will have a hard time getting the needed signatures. This project is a Godsend for Novato.Unfortunatly there is a group of no growth people who say I got mine now stay out.Go Wholefoods!

 
At 3:18 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Michelle, I was giggling over that "tabby cat" story, too... this is front page news?! I drove by the TJ site on Thursday - it looks LARGE! So exciting. Most of the exterior work looks done, but I'm guessing mid-March?

Greg - you're right about the "I got mine" people. Ah, well. I think it will happen.. eventually. :-)

 
At 4:46 PM, Anonymous kudzu said...

Jennifer --

I know I took you to task recently about the Novato image, but I have to say I do agree with you about the dubious Save Our Charm campaign being waged against the Whole Foods project.

Novato used to be genuinely charming, if scruffy, with tree-lined Old Town and its little shops. I much preferred it -- even though I once went sprawling across one of its sidewalks when I tripped over the uneven pavement (no, I wasn't drunk and it was the middle of the day). I really hate the "new look" that resulted from gentrification.

Take heart! I know enough people there who are very eager to get a WF going. They have managed to win a few battles against the entrenched grouches before, and I hope they will win this one.

 
At 10:00 AM, Anonymous kudzu said...

Thursday morning ---

YES --I knew it could happen! The opposition group failed to get enough votes and didn't even show at the city council meeting and so the plans for Whole Foods will move ahead.

 
At 12:28 PM, Blogger Jennifer said...

That is great news! They didn't even show up?! This whole thing is sooooo bizarre... Thanks for the update!

 
At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Bruce said...

Jennifer, you got an ally here. I moved to Novato 1 1/2 years ago to be close to my son's school (MSA), and have been dissappointed by Novato ever since. I joke to my friends: If I want to get organic food I go to Safeway, If I want to by a book I go to Target, and if I want to a specialty store where there are high end items I go to Costco.

Yet in this humor I am very much whining. So let me whine more: I still have not adjusted to Novato. Having Trader Joes come in will be a God-send (for me anyhow). But I would much prefer Whole Foods (I like to shop on the day I eat the food). That fact that the project is delayed bothers me a great deal. (I had the same experience reding the article from the Advance - isn't that an ironic name of a paper). There is more backwards thinking in Novato than anywhere in Marin (perhaps the whole Bay Area). But what is a person to do?

I know there are forward, smart thinking people in Novato. I have seen them (in my son's school and other places). But they are still a minority. Much of Novato come from the old school farming approach. Don't get me wrong - I think there is value in these thoughts (very much so), but I just don't resonant with it. Come 2 1/2 years from now when my son graduates MSA I am so out of here (unless major changes occur).

 
At 3:27 AM, Blogger <-<--esoder<---<----<----- said...

Wait, let me get this straight- you people are agonizing over whether or not Novato will get a Whole Foods? You let giant big box stores define where you live? Do you realize how ridiculous you sound? It sounds like you have all recently relocated to the area. It's like coming to stay at my house and demanding I replace my kitchen appliances with Stainless Steel and faux paint my living room.

What kind of car do you drive when you trek down to Whole Foods to buy organic? I hope it's a Prius. And I hope you do it off commute. If a TJ and a Whole Foods will bring meaning to your life, you should probably take a hard look at it. Or maybe stop by the MCL church across the freeway from the Target on a Wednesday.

Civic Pride gets run over by big box stores and a planning commission in bed with developers. This all got started long before you got here. And downtown is about the only thing left.

I remember visiting my cousins in Novato when 101 was a two lane road, there was more open space than developed land, and the now trendy San Marin neighborhood was almost brand new. I moved to Novato in 1976. I saw Star Wars at the Novato Theater. At that time, there was a home improvement association and EVERY house had to have an olive tree. Sure, they were messy, and everyone I went to school with hated raking them up every year. But it gave the whole neighborhood some character. All it took was a few people like you to come along and demand to cut the tree down. Then the whole association started falling apart. Then they bought up school property and put these ridiculous tract mansions in on upper San Carlos where we used to have Little League practice. They built more ridiculous mansions in the hills we used to hike in. Then they encroached on Mt. Burdell. Then that stupid Buck Center went in - an eyesore that damaged the homes below.

The worst thing about growing up there was there wasn't much to do. Now there's even less. Where are the kids supposed to play today?

Do you know anything about the history of the town you live in? Been to the Miwok Indian Museum? Did you know that Novato used to be covered with apple orchards and barges used to run up Novato Creek from San Francisco? There used to be open space and a Renaissance Faire where that over priced mediocre golf club now stands? Know much about the farms on the way to Stafford Lake? Ever even been to Stafford Lake?

You mention Target and Costco and Village Plaza- but that whole area was flooded open space before they went up. It had no impact on the character of the town. It was something of a wasteland between Novato proper and what used to be called Ignacio. And that is miles from downtown. We had our reservations, but generally, we were fine with it.

Why not expand across the freeway from Birkenstock and get them to widen the freeway or a park as a condition of building? Developers should bring something to the table and not just take dollars from the community.

My parents still live in Novato, as do a lot of my friends. In fact a circa 1970 ranch sounds like you could be their neighbors. I ended up in Petaluma because Novato got too big for my tastes. But people like you moved in there too. And as much as I dislike what they've done to the downtown in Petaluma, it's better than what they are doing in Novato.

And even Petaluma got too big for us. So we bailed out of the Bay Area to Lake County. My parent's 1,400 sq ft house appraises at around $725,000. We got twice the house, twice the yard, with a Lake View for about half the price. And an 18 hole golf course. I love to cook too, but I don't want Whole Foods here. I particularly like cooking Indian food. So I spoke to the manager of my local grocery/hardware store (yes, it's both), and guess what? Two weeks later, there was more Garam Masalla and Curry than you could shake a Chicken Tikka skewer at. And when we had a friend from England stay with us he even got us Marmite. I want to encourage you to support the businesses that supported the town before you got there.

And when people here start rallying for Target, I'm going to be one of those "backwards," "backwater" people trying to stop it. I'm running out of places to move to. When I travel, every town looks the same when you get out of the city - Chicago, Dallas, D.C., Des Moines, Indianapolis, Nashville. It's the same strip malls with the same crappy restaurants (Olive Garden, Outback), Costco, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, TJ Maxx, Target - it's disgusting and sad.

I'm not trying to disparage you - I just want to point out that there are a lot more people who have been there a lot longer than you who have valid opinions and are sad to see there small town slipping away. And if as one of the comments says, the smart forward thinking people are the minority, then who should get their way on issues like this? Every time we try to fight growth and we lose, there is less and less to fight for. And we fight harder for what little is left.

If you want that Whole Foods lifestyle, live in Emeryville, or San Ramon, you know? If you want the Novato lifestyle, try planting a garden or going to the Farmer's Market, or get your local market to carry it. Is it Bell Market still? Or Apple? It's still Roger Wilco to me.

As for food - is Cacti still open? It wasn't bad. Owned by the same folks who own Harris' in S.F. and the HArris ranches. I think you'd like it. And Capra's is OK for Italian. Tagliaferri's is the closest you can get to a North Beach deli without paying the $5 toll. And I went to high school with their son. And Shelley's is great for breakfast if you can deal with the crowd.

The Art and Wine Festival is a hoot in the Summer. Adam might be bored, but try to get excited about it. Train played there right before they broke in to the big time and the Grammy awards. You never know who you're going to get.

Last thing - if possible, please go to Peet's and not Starbucks. Starbucks bought up the old Pizza Hut building and drove the local cafes under. Peet's came in after the damage was done to compete with Starbucks and has better coffee. Try the Garuda blend.

 
At 10:57 PM, Anonymous C.I. said...

I noticed that you said that you go to the Farmer's Market in San Rafael on Thursdays. Did you know that there is a Farmer's Market that goes on, on Grant Avenue (in Novato) on Tuesday evenings? I am almost sure they have your organic lettuce.
I lived in Novato for over 24yrs until I recently got married and we wanted to buy a home. Unfortunatly we couldn't afford homes like our parents. I always wanted to get out of Novato b/c I thought it was so boring...aks Slovato! We bought a place in Rohnert Park, and now, every day, I wish we could have bought a home in Novato, as I really miss it. It has more of a "hometown" feel versus a city, where I don't think I could ever live...especially San Francisco.

I wish you luck with your life in Novato, and I hope you appreciate the beauty and wonder of the town.

 
At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that no-growthers mistake preserving local life and livelihoods with staying stuck in the past. Instead of planning ahead about how to have a decent friendly city and heading off 'box-stores' at the pass, they provide the kind of fossilised "let's-stay-stuck-in-the-stone-age" opposition that is easy-pickings for the Walmarts of the world. Be careful about what you try to preserve - you may end killing it off.

 
At 6:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, I grew up in Novato and honestly it needs something new and something exciting. It seems to me that """""ESODER""""" should do their homework before he/she goes blogging comments on areas that he/she has no facts on. Did you know that one of Whole Foods Values is "Giving Back to the Community". They do Community 5% days and other various things for their community.

This is propobly one of the best things that could happen to Novato. I just dont understand why their is so much of "I dont want them here" or "we dont need it". When TJ's went in not a single person was opposed their was no big hooo haaa about it. TJ's is a corporate company as for WF's it is still owned by one man, and all their Team Members aka Employees are treated like one big family. It really is the best place to work... I hope to see all of you soon when it opens as I will be transfering to that store also I know I will see a little selection of the same people that are complaining about it going in..... Thank you all for supporting the great company I work FOR!!!!!!!!

 
At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then move out of Novato

 
At 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

your a bitch novato has character. i enjoy that it is deaad at night. what other town is like that? fuck you and i hope you move far far away.

 
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At 5:15 PM, Blogger 123 said...

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At 5:15 PM, Blogger 123 said...

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At 5:16 PM, Blogger 123 said...

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At 1:58 AM, Anonymous 網站設計 said...

hooray, your writings on theater and writing much missed!

 

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