Fighting Corporate De-Ruralization
Rural America. Though most of us live in cities and suburbs, we know those sweet natural rural places will always be there, a few miles down the road. Here in Northern California’s Mendocino County, Redwood Valley is a little burg nestled between the coastal hills — home to small farms, orchards, and private residences. In the rainy season, a river runs through it, fed by small creeks that trickle down through the hills. The “center” of town is a single stop sign at a rutted T-intersection. A post office, fire station, one gas station, and a handful of small, locally-owned businesses cluster at that corner. Down the narrow road are vineyards, rangeland, organic gardens, and ranches. We like it this way.
A few months ago, we were blind-sided with the news that the Dollar General corporation would be building a 9100-sq. ft. box store and 30-car parking lot next to the sheep ranch at the intersection. The County of Mendocino had issued a building permit, and there was nothing we could do about it. It was a “permit by right.” Despite fierce opposition throughout Redwood Valley — including a petition signed by over 1700 local residents — our county’s Board of Supervisors declared their hands were tied by zoning that has been in place since 2009.
Dollar General (Dolgen), a multi-billion dollar corporation based in Tennessee, plans over 1000 stores for California. Professing a mini-Wal-Mart corporate model, Dollar General’s garish yellow signs are marching across California like fire ants, designed to undercut and bankrupt the local stores along the way. All their revenues are siphoned off to Tennessee; none remain here. Each DG store features cheap alcohol, cigarettes, and junk food as loss leaders to lure customers. Understaffing and low pay without benefits for most workers keep costs down. Profit margins are increased by goods and hazardous materials manufactured overseas to inferior and unsafe standards. It’s a business model that flies in the face of Mendocino County’s General Plan goal of “Smart Growth.”
Redwood Valley is still fighting the Dollar General, supporting a lawsuit by the local Redwood Valley Market. The suit alleges failure to comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act in the issuance of the permit. We are determined to stop the Dollar General store from being built. But if it is, we will be ready. Working alongside our Board of Supervisors through the initiation of such changes as a local Municipal Advisory Council, we are advocating and embracing the concept of “Smart Growth” for the common good of all people who live here. Big box, chain or “formula stores” do not belong in Redwood Valley or any other rural area of the County. Nor do asphalt plants. Nor strip malls. We the people of Redwood Valley and Mendocino County have established Smart Growth Rural Mendocino. We are on the road toward establishing policies for sustainable growth throughout the County, while empowering local residents to establish standards for each of their own communities.
Smart Growth means that development must consider preserving and enhancing the air, land, water, and critters that live here with us. It’s about quiet roads and starry skies that stay dark at night. We mean to support environmental and community diversity, local business development, and discovering the best way to a future that we can pass proudly to the next generations. Good models exist throughout Mendocino County and Northern California for creating sustainable economic and environmental systems. It’s time for the people to reclaim America from the corporations, and we have begun our effort right here in Redwood Valley. We hope you will find this new website useful and that you will participate in it as well. Please join us.
— Christine Boyd, Editor