Monday, September 21, 2009

Battle in full swing in Mendocino County, CA: Corporate developer vs. local community

by Steve Scalmanini, Ukiah Valley Chapter

In June I reported on the campaign underway in Mendocino County, California, between one of the nation’s largest real estate investment trusts, Developers Diversified Realty ("DDR"), and the local community over an initiative on the November 3rd ballot. If passed, the measure would rezone a closed industrial plant site that DDR bought a few years ago, just outside the City of Ukiah, from industrial to commercial zoning so it could build the County’s first large shopping mall.

The developer and its local front groups, "Mendocino County Tomorrow" and "Yes on Measure A, Citizens to bring jobs, tax dollars and local shopping to Mendocino County—A coalition being led by Mendocino County Tomorrow with major funding by DDR DB Mendocino LP" (honest – that’s their full name; see if you can say it three times quickly!) have spent $297K through June on campaign activities to reach a total of 49,000 voters in the County. And all of that funding has come from DDR; not a penny has come from any county resident. The community opposition, Save Our Local Economy ("SOLE"), has spent a whole $654 through June, all from small local donations. Both campaigns have spent more since June but we won’t know how much until next month.

Each side is campaigning with a fundamentally different method. The developer is funding telephone calls (from outside the State) to voters. Their first mailer went to voters in August and touted the same allegations they’ve been saying for years – keep sales tax revenue local, create jobs, and shop locally. In recent weeks they’ve been paying some of the local unemployed to go door-to-door to deliver another flier.

On the other hand, volunteers for SOLE have been soliciting the public for endorsements and more volunteers one-on-one at public events and stores over the summer. Their number of volunteers is now in the hundreds and endorsers are several time that. Funding is still slim so they’re busy these days hand assembling their first mailer to reach voters. The developer’s sponsored web sites are, and SOLE’s site has changed since the June article to

The result of the election will determine the future of the retail economy and general character of the rural Ukiah Valley in Mendocino County, two hours drive north of San Francisco. Will the local retail economy, characterized by one quaint downtown and several strip malls scattered throughout the City and just outside its borders, be decimated by a new mega-mall a half mile outside of town? I’ll have the answer in November.

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