Saturday, November 27 2021

To the councilor and mayor of Vallejo:

Dr. Matyas gave an excellent talk at the city council meeting on July 13th. None of this is new information, but it’s good to keep it in the foreground rather than prevailing on denial. I hope you haven’t lost the irony of our recently missed opportunity to clear the food wasteland of South Vallejo. We are not helpless. Yes, we should pressurize Solano County for more resources, but we should do a lot to move Vallejo in the right direction. The first is to stop people putting the interests of the great developers above the peoples’ interests. The staff has a “tin cup” attitude that we have to take whatever is on offer, and they treat our assets like someone trying to marry off an ugly stepdaughter.

The calls for studies of our imbalances to help us plan better in the future were… interesting. Yes, more knowledge is useful, but don’t forget we have this thing called the general plan. The city hired professional planners and invited the public to brainstorming sessions. We had already identified our food deserts and already knew Vallejoans want walkable communities when the staff sold us to the Oakwood apartment developer. Staff stressed that it is not illegal to ignore the master plan (Oakwood Apartments Hearing, June 22). Do they see the wishes of the citizens only as an obstacle and not as a guide? Who do you think they work for?

Then we heard from the “let them eat cake” guy who told us that desserts are a thing of the past because now you can have your groceries delivered. Let’s examine that. To have groceries delivered, you need a bank account with a balance to cover the minimum order value. Do you see all of these payday loan companies in town? Lots of people don’t have a bank account. Lots of people don’t have the internet either. It doesn’t appear that our local grocers accept Safeway and Railey’s EBT. And in addition to the luxury of running down to a bottle of milk at 9 p.m., pedestrian-friendly communities have other perks, such as getting to know your neighbors. But we were told by an arrogant guy who has probably never starved or had to rummage through his sofa cushions in search of enough change for the bus fare, we should just have our purchases delivered.

Our own city workers prepared us for this deal. I agree with Melissa Swift – anyone on the Nyhofff team who puts developer interests above our own people has to leave. I also hope that we can move beyond the legacy of Bob Sampayan – viewing commentators like Swift as a small group of discontent to be ignored – behind us. If you had listened to Jimmy Genn in time, you would have had Dr. Matyas can say: “Yes, we are working on our problem with the food desert.”

Dr. Matyas also mentioned small business ownership as a way out of poverty. Nyhoff only seemed to care about big business. Do you know how much it means to open a business in Vallejo? Companies like Costco and In-N-Out can afford to spend two years planning and approving processes, but small businesses cannot. Our planning department is a goat rodeo. Each time you visit you will be told something different. The first time you might think you know what to do and how much it costs, only to find out from another employee in the following week that you actually have to do something else. Then, after weeks or months of planning, Building and Fire come to the site (which you’ve been renting for weeks or months) to let you know that the exit door isn’t wide enough or that the bathroom sink is too big for the ADA code 2020. How many times have you seen a “Coming Soon” sign on a shop front, only to disappear and empty again after a few months? Each of them means that someone lost a lot of money trying to open a business and failed. Our downtown area is a deserted embarrassment compared to the neighboring small towns of Crockett and Martinez. Why is that? I’ve heard that Redwood City has a very lean and helpful application process, and that applicants can get it all done in a couple of weeks. Let’s look at other cities for small business best practices. Let’s make it as easy as possible for people instead of just throwing hurdles.

During your application for more resources at the district, please pay close attention to what we can do for ourselves.

– Gretchen Zimmermann / Vallejo

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