Land Use For Taxes: Churn Creek Bottom Shopping Center Benefits are Short-lived, Short-Sighted

Unfortunately, it appears that at least some people involved in local government do not understand what a bad idea it is to allow short term fiscal gains to dictate long term land use policy. What that does is to create land use that makes no sense except to those who will benefit directly from the decision. Generally, they will only be around for the short term. Frequently such land use is approved by those who are supposed to be looking out for the long term good of the community only because of short term fiscal gains for the particular political body they represent.

The most recent example of this kind of policy error is the approval of a large shopping center in Churn Creek Bottom. The primary direct beneficiary of this decision will be the out of state developer who will make a ton of money out of the project. There will be some short term benefit for the people who do the construction, some of whom will probably be from this community. There will be a number of relatively low paying retail jobs created there, many of which will be filled by people leaving relatively low paying retail jobs in adjoining areas either because the business they work for has moved to the new center or has been undone by competition from similar businesses in the new center. There may be a net gain in these relatively low paying jobs, but that will be more than off set by the economic havoc that will be suffered by other businesses.

Long term residents will recall that the core of downtown was turned into the Mid Town Mall in the early 70’s as a redevelopment project. The sales tax revenue from the retail businesses there was supposed to pay for the parking structure that was constructed along California Street. As that was being planned, Shasta County approved the Mt. Shasta Mall. That company immediately lured JC Penny’s from its location at the south end of the planned Mid Town Mall by giving Penny’s the land on which to construct a bigger store than they had downtown. That started an exodus that resulted in the downtown falling on evil days from which it has only recently started to recover. The effect was to transfer sales tax revenue from the City of Redding to Shasta County. That lasted for a few years until the city annexed the part of the county the MSM occupied.

The Churn Creek project has one advantage for the county which seems to have trumped all other concerns: Sales tax revenue that is generated there will go to the county. That seems to have completely overcome legitimate objections about what it will do to the rural nature of the area, how it will create adverse traffic issues, its effect on the environment and what it will very likely do to existing businesses. If the project goes through, it will completely change the look and feel of a lovely piece of real estate permanently. It may be that is a good thing, but I don’t think so – but that is just my opinion.

What I know is this:

The Board of Supervisors did not approve it because it was good long term planning. It was approved as a revenue generating vehicle.

Those who looked at it from a “Is it good for the community in the long run?” seem pretty much in agreement that it is not.

The economic benefits will be short lived. The county will have to provide police and fire protection. The streets will have to be maintained and so forth and so on. A number of studies tend to show that expansive, spread out development becomes a burden over time. Why do you think the City of Redding built the now closed fire station on Placer Street?

There will be more vacant retail space in Redding. My guess is that most of that will be along Hilltop, Churn Creek and Dana. I doubt that it will have much effect on the downtown because businesses that wanted to be in strip mall locations have had no lack of locations to choose from up to now. I expect that Anderson will take a hit as well.

Another opinion: The idea that there will be a lot of business dragged off of I-5 is simply wishful thinking. Somebody ought to hire a limo to take the Board of Supervisors to the outlet stores in Anderson to see the number of vacancies there, reminding them that Ralph Lauren has announced it is throwing in the towel, even though the last time I checked, it had not yet closed. Redding is not like Vacaville. The large development there has a sizeable local population to draw from. In addition, if you are leaving the Bay Area, you are in the early stages of your trip, so stopping may seem more reasonable. If you are going to the Bay Area, you are close to the end of your trip, so you may be less resistant to a stop.

Why is the stage of the trip important? Caveat: I have no data gathered in any scientific way to back this up, but I suspect the Supes don’t have any either, which is the issue. I would expect that most people who are on I-5 are from some distance away and are not headed for anywhere around here. Note the number of license plates from Oregon and Washington that you see on the freeway. My experience is that a significant number of people who are in the middle of a long trip are not interested in stopping to go shopping. Someone driving from the Bay or Sacramento areas is going to be 2-5 hours into a trip that is going to take several more hours when they get here. Stopping for anything besides food, fuel and a bathroom break is not going to be on the agenda. They just want to get where they are going and get the drive over with. If anyone has data about that either way, it would be interesting to see it.

The bottom line here is that land use decisions should not be driven by short term tax revenue. The leaders of the Cities of Redding, Anderson and Shasta Lake need to sit down with the county leaders and hammer out an agreement that equitably splits up the tax baby so that decisions like this can be made on a what is best for the community basis and not in order to shift tax revenue from one political entity to another.

Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. The offices of Barr and Mudford, LLP, are at 1824 Court St. in Redding and can be reached at 243-8008.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Dugan Barr
Dugan Barr has practiced law in Redding since 1967, primarily in the areas of personal injury and wrongful death. He has tried more than 200 civil jury cases to verdict. He is married and has five children. He can be reached at Barr & Mudford, 1824 Court St., Redding, 243-8008, or dugan@ca-lawyer.com.
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32 Responses

  1. Avatar rmv says:

    Thank You Dugan Barr!!!!!! 🙂

    Your words ring LOUD & "TRUE" !! 🙂

    Let the GREEDY find another place to RUIN.

    GOD Bless Redding, Northern California, &

    GOD BLESS AMERICA (and her children!) 🙂

    • Avatar Daryl says:

      This good news always makes me wonder why we elect local politicians who give in to "mall builders" from outside our area. These short term financial solutions seem only to create long-term positions for our leadership who then leave short-sighted development.

  2. Randall Smith Randall Smith says:

    Many thanks to Dugan and A News Cafe for turning light on this dark subject. The vote coming in June is a chance to undo a serious mistake and keep it from happening again for a few years. "No" on A and "Yes" on B will preserve Class One soil of which our county has limited amounts, will stop sprawl, untie CalTrans from a lawsuit they are sure to win, allow already planned Oasis to develop where none of the concerns exist which are so rightful about Churn Creek Bottom. The sales tax issue is often not completely understood. Counties share money generated there. Counties get the whole charge, if the sale occurs outside a city. In this case, the wishes of locals, the best policy for precious and productive land, safety of a nearby school, smooth functioning of I-5 and blight concerns for Redding and Anderson have been ignored. Not the first time thirty pieces of silver have clouded judgment.

  3. Avatar mike mathews says:

    Right on, right on, right on!!!!

    There may not be a lot of data concerning travelers stopping and spending their cash at malls along the route but there is plenty of data concerning the empty promises that the promoters push. That mall is a bad idea plain and simple.

  4. Avatar Bob Grosch says:

    The proposed mall is wrong for all the reasons stated in this article. I'm now worried abouit it, however, because I believe the people of Shasta County are wise enough to overrule the Supervisors on the June ballot.

    What frightens me more is that we continue to elect people who do not see the long term results of today's decisions, and who still think it makes sense for the City and county to try to steal tax dollars from each other.

  5. Avatar Sue says:

    Good questions to ask those folks running for Supervisor. Thanks Dugan.

  6. Avatar Name says:

    Very good points all. Also, it is not likely that people in Redding, or North/East/West of Redding are going to want to jump on the freeway south in order to go to another strip mall.

  7. Avatar Phyllis Lawler says:

    Thank you, Dugan Barr, for hitting all the issues on the head. Wish we could hit the planners on the head with the issues. The StrongTowns USA forum on April 11 pointed out that these developments in "undeveloped" areas such as Churn Creek Bottom, even if wildly successful, don't generate enough taxes to pay for the ongoing future maintenance of the road improvements, sewers, safety services, etc. Guess who gets to pay for it?

  8. Avatar lotsaluck says:

    Dugan,

    While no one knows whether a shopping mall would be successful, your arguments are fairly weak. Under "What I know is this,"

    paragraph 1: I would be curious to know if the supervisors would agree with the position you've stated on their behalf.

    Paragraph 2: When you say those, who exactly are they?

    Paragraph 3: No one has a crystal ball and knows the long-term economics of this project

    Paragraph 4: No one knows the future commercial vacancy rate.

    But there is a much more interesting question to be asked. Shasta County has far more conservative Republicans then liberal Democrats. The Republicans have stated – On the record- that they believe in letting a free market determine the economy. Where are all the conservative voices for this free market position? Could it be they live in, or have friends who live in Churn Creek bottom and this is really a NIMBY issue?

  9. Avatar Jenni Middleton says:

    Well written. Thank you!

  10. Avatar david kerr says:

    The best use for Churn Creek Bottom farmland is growing high value crops like blueberries. UC Davis Ag School is the brains behind many economically successful farming operations of that size in the North State. It does not have to be large scale, capital intensive, low value, highly mechanized, subsidized crops like alfalfa, corn, rice or potatoes. That site would work to grow grapes and actually make the wine in Shasta county. I would rather see a Mondavi winery there than a shopping mall.

  11. Avatar Saras says:

    Great article, Dugan. People that are traveling through from far away I'm sure will have better shopping than what this "promises" anyway, so I doubt they'd stop. We want people to stop and experience our local beauty – trails, waterfalls, mountains and bridge instead of a quick gas, food, and shopping stop. We want them to see this area as a destination they'd like to come back and visit. The roads and interchange this mall would require is also a huge financial burden to us tax payers (I don't believe the developer is paying for this). Instead of hiring a limo to take the BOS to the Anderson outlet mall, I suggest RABA. Most, if not all of them probably have not been on the local bus system, and it goes to the outlets.

  12. Grew up here in Redding. Went to EHS. My family owns part of Churn Creek.

    The best farmland in the North State is the rich dark living soil of this river loam valley. My Uncle Tom Carnes easily grew his garden. His fruit trees were phenominal! Bing cherries galor!

    CHURN CREEK BOTTOM IS REDDING'S NATION TREASURE.

  13. Avatar Paul Badu says:

    Given the points you made, I wonder how the proposed retail center at Oasis Road will fair. Not too mention the impact the two would have on on another.

  14. Avatar Margaret Rooker says:

    Thank you Dugan Barr! You have voiced the cocerns of common sense and of the many people in the community with whom I have spoken. Most people agree that Redding and the surrounding towns are having a hard time keeping businesses open as it is.
    Even more crucial is the terrible use of land.this proposal would make..
    Futhermore, how many times must the citizens of this county have to revisit this issue in order to stop it for rhe forseeable.future.
    I have no vested interest in any way other than hating the ghostly sight of closed store fronts and the love of delicious, locally grown produce!

  15. Avatar Buster says:

    Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so I'm not that surprised that Dugan finally got something right. There is no reason to build anything at Churn Creek Bottom, or Oasis either for that matter. At least not now. When the empty retail buildings around town start filling up, and the empty homes around the county are full again, then MAYBE we can look at some expansion. Right now we need manufacturing jobs, not retail jobs.

  16. Avatar pmarshall says:

    Thank you for that article, Dugan. I heartily agree with you! It's definitely not the best use for that land. We don't need anymore bad investments. The economy is far from recovering. Sometimes I wonder about our "politicians".

  17. Avatar Gloria Randall says:

    Regarding the Churn Creek Farming – I will give you some points to ponder. I am a CC farmer – we get water from ACID every 2 weeks which isn't enough for most crops in this area. We are overrun with gophers and moles despite our best efforts. The dam bluejays ate all our blueberries which by the way need frequent watering. We also have a commercial olive grove on the freeway in Corning in which transients from the freeway camp in and steal our fruit. We have had several fires caused by freeway people throwing cigaretts. So all you armchair farmers that have all these wonderful opinons about what wonderful farm land that mall land is. My answer to you is buy it and preserve it. Put your money where your mouth is. Private private rights should not be interferred with. Wait until you go to sell your land with the disclosure that the passage of Measure B will require. When your property sells for a fraction of what it's worth, you can tell me what a sucessful farmer you are.

    • Avatar Leonhard Ott says:

      I agree with Gloria. More regulation will only hurt us in the long run.

      I still feel bad for that dairy farmer just south of there that had to shut his doors because the NEW residences to the area could not handle the smell of a dairy farm.

  18. Avatar CoachBob says:

    My god, Gloria Randall. Thank you for the first smart blog on the Barr's rant. All the people above you seem to have a need to stroke the big lawyer. You're the first person to speak honest truth about this stretch of land. I've been here forever (1953) and cannot remember one thing grown on that land especially since the freeway came in. So, to all you "arm chair farmers" (great line, and accurate), DO put your money where your mouth is. Buy it and grow something.

    Truth is, the CCB folks (most) just don't want anything built. Period! They bitched about the freeway; they bitched about the truck stop; they bitched about the extension of Knighten Road. They bitch and bitch. Just buy the land and grow something. I dare you.

    Talk is so cheap. But, Dugan, you got patted on the back by all your loyal followers. Should feel pretty good.

    PS: Gloria Randall for Board of Sups. Just my opinion.

    CoachBob

    • Bob, IMHO, just because people agree with Dugan doesn't necessarily mean they are stroking him, or patting him on the back. It just might be because they happen to share his viewpoint.

      And the beauty of this site is that we can all express our opinions about a topic, and even disagree, free of personal attacks. Right?

  19. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Once beautiful land is covered up by a shopping mall, it's gone forever.

  20. Avatar Gloria Randall says:

    Hi Doni I have a practical solution for the CCB people. Dugan Barr is a smart lawyer and I'm sure he could figure this out. Set up a fund for all the people who don't want the land developed to contribute to and buy the land. This way the rest of us won't be burdened with that awful Measure B. We are old and may want to do something with our land besides farm. We do not want a restrictive measure that will curtail our use or ruin our property value. We came from a city 30 years ago that passed a similar measure and it completely ruined our property values. This measure will only add more restrictions and make it harder to do anything with our pproperty. Thanks for the kind comments Coach Bob

    • Gloria, I hear the frustration in your post. And I applaud you for coming up with one solution. Thank you. I truly wish you the very best. Hang in there.

    • Dugan Barr Dugan Barr says:

      Gloria,

      I am neither for or against the CCB shopping center. I don't live there or own property there, so I don't have a dog in this hunt. My point is that there are severe, potentially disastrous, consequences from allowing short term tax benefits drive land use decisions. The things I talked about in my article are at least some of the considerations that need to be aired in making this kind of decision.

      I agree that Measure B is probably also a lousy idea for a lot of the same reasons that I believe the shopping center may be a lousy idea. Both will determine the use for this property ( and therefore adjacent property) for a long time no matter what the needs of the future may be.

      It may be that after a thorough review that is not revenue driven, it will develop that this center is exactly what the Doctor ordered. If so, it should go forward. If anyone has done a thorough review, I have not been able to find it. County government is supposed to look out for everyone in the county, not just those who live outside of the city limits. I believe that the impact of this development on the City of Redding will be huge. The county government has an obligation to do a detailed risk-benefit analysis before it approves something like this, and it has not been done

      • Avatar CoachBob says:

        Dugan, we agree! However, a thorough review that isn't revenue driven? Don't think that will ever happen. Every party to this has a dog in the fight, be it revenue or just emotion.

        And, Carla (below me here) I couldn't agree more.

        CoachBob

      • Avatar Anonymous Heckler says:

        If anyone has done a thorough review, I have not been able to find it.

        Obviously the decision the supervisors made is controversial, but the project did go through an extremely thorough CEQA process.

  21. Avatar Carla Sanders says:

    And screw Bob Moore of Moore's Flour Mill. He's just some guy with a dream to have a grist mill on his OWN land. And teach kids how to bake bread. I hate people who dream big and want to have the right to their own property.

    What a big baby he is for not wanting Measure B to pass.