Friends of Davis Take Their Case to Court

Introduction to Law Suit

The citizens' group Friends of Davis is asking a California Superior Court to force the City of Davis to honor the series of zoning, planning and environmental laws the City has flouted in its undisguised fervor to build the Aggie Village shopping mall. The strip mall would have as its centerpiece a highly controversial Borders bookstore which in May revealed that it has signed a long-term lease with project developer Mark Friedman. The mall would be located a stone's throw away from numerous independently owned bookstores, music stores and coffee houses in downtown Davis.

The Davis City Council and the City Planning Commission flatly rejected the most recent appeals of members of Friends of Davis and other Davis residents to re-examine the development's questionable design.

The lawsuit, filed August 12, asks the Court to require the City to finally perform necessary environmental studies of the mall, including its expected impact on traffic, pedestrian and bicyclist safety, and to analyze Borders's impact on the economic health of existing downtown businesses.

Borders is renowned as a "category killer" type of business that has been oozing into towns and cities across the United States over the last several years. Like other mega-stores, such as Wal-Mart, Borders often decimates many smaller, independently owned businesses within several miles of its growing number of locations. 4,500 Davis shoppers and about 60 downtown businesses are on record against Borders locating in the mall.

Amazingly, City officials profess that the mall will "complement" Davis's downtown business district. Developer Mark Friedman and City planning department staff have been trying to convince Davis residents that the mall's jarring strip-mall architecture will "blend in" with the existing, older downtown. (Despite its obvious, ubiquitous mall design City planners, together with the pro-development Davis Enterprise newspaper, have carefully avoided using the word "mall" throughout the approval process, referring to it variously as "Aggie Village," "Davis Commons," "a retail development," and other euphemisms.)

In addition, city administrators adamantly claim they carefully followed requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in granting Mr. Friedman—who recently built a similar strip mall in Roseville, CA—approval to build his Davis project.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Friends of Davis by attorney John Gabrielli, who says the City has "misrepresented" the CEQA process to the public.

"It appears to me that city staff has its own agenda to promote growth and development," Gabrielli said in a statement. "They are willing to twist the letter of the law and cut corners so that the project will get through faster."

The suit seeks no financial damages. The Friends of Davis only wants the City to follow the law for the benefit of the community.

What follows is the lawsuit petition filed August 12, 1997 in Yolo County Superior Court, the State of California. We post it with the hopes its wording may help others who are facing similar invasions of unwanted strip malls and predatory superstores into their communities

Petition filed August 12, 1997

[A meeting between the two parties of this suit (Friends of Davis and the City of Davis) was held on September 21, 1997; no resolution of these issues came from that meeting and the court action is on-going.]

For Further Information Contact:

Nancy Price 758-0726

Keith Prior 753-9774

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