The Barlow

15 thoughts on “The Barlow”

  1. What I don’t understand about typical commercial development is how it can pencil out when it goes “bad” so quickly. Buildings just 20 or so years old are considered “obsolete” and replaced with ever more elaborate edifices. And do we really need even more office and retail space?

    1. Builders put up structures because it’s profitable at the time. The people who buy these buildings have a fifteen year event horizon that conforms to the tax depreciation schedule. Twenty years in buildings start to look dated and need upgrades and repairs, particularly since buyers pay for short term amenities rather than longer lasting features. In places where demand is strong existing structures are retrofitted and a new fifteen year depreciation cycle begins. In places with week demand the properties begin the long slide into evangelical ministries and wig shops.

  2. Wow….always….always. You’re a voice of reason in a room full of Donald Trumps. I never tell people what to read or what movie(s) to watch. Never. And especially a blog, however, lately I have broken that rule and told people(s) to read your blog. See….people can change.

  3. I really enjoyed this, thanks. You’re right. They’re everywhere. And more. The world is a brownfield. Now comes the fun in revitalizing all these places. Gonna take a while…

  4. I live in Sebastopol and appreciate the vitality The Barlow has brought to town. My biggest complaint about it is that I wish they had included a residential component. I’m concerned there are not going to be enough people around to keep some of those businesses open. Looks like you took photos on Thurs. night when they close the street and have live music and food trucks. It’s not always so lively. We also need to work on the connection between Main Street and The Barlow. It’s not far, but there is a large vacant property and the large empty wall of the movie theater between The Barlow and the plaza.

    1. The lack of a residential component (apartments above the shops as in the traditional Main Street development pattern) is a direct result of the aforementioned zoning, codes, financing parameters, and let’s not forget NIMBYs. The Barlow isn’t perfect. But on a bad day it’s head and shoulders above most commercial developments. The hotel that’s under construction will add more population density (of a sort) to enliven the space. The hotel will tick various boxes on several check lists. Creates jobs, generates tax revenue, doesn’t involve “low income” housing or introduce school aged children in to the district… You could ask where the hotel maids, gardeners, and dish washers will live, but now you’re getting into Communist territory. “Those aren’t our kinds of people. Let them live somewhere else.” My guess is the best way to add more residential development to the immediate area would be an old folks home. “Active senior living.” No one ever objects to those and Granny will be out on the street all day with her friends. I’d live there in my retirement years in a heartbeat.

      In the worst case scenario The Barlow might fail miserably and change hands. In that case it will be infinitely easier to repurpose this kind of development in this sort of location compared to a dead old Costco or Walmart out by the freeway.

      1. That is all true. I’m hoping we get some enlightenment around here to allow a residential component. You could build over some of the parking lots, keep the residences out of the flood plain and not loose any parking.

    2. Can you picture the immense parking lot between the Costco and Target being closed off on a Thursday evening and attracting a crowd like The Barlow?

  5. A big fan of the Barlow, Johnny. (Partly because I am a terminal Wine Nerd and one of my favorite wineries, Wind Gap, is here.

    I would comment that Downtown Sebastapol as a whole has a major problem in that the main streets are basically one-way traffic sewers for Highway 116, a major regional highway. It really damages the safety, environment, and feeling of the traditional downtown. That “town square” feels like a leftover island amidst the traffic flows. And cycling through the town can be challenging when you are sharing the main street with four lanes of fast one way traffic.

    So, the Barlow “works” because it is off the through-traffic corridor and feels much less impacted than Downtown Sebastapol in general. I am not sure what the easy answer is, as this is a regional route to the coast we are talking about. Serious traffic calming could have serious, serious impacts on this regional through traffic.

    1. Yes, the county and state highway engineers did a great job of turning the local roads in the center of town into one way mini highways back in the 1980’s. The idea was to keep traffic flowing. Ironically, the traffic in summer during the peak tourist season hardly moves at all. It’s bumper to bumper for months, especially on the weekends. In the off season the cars do tend to drive too fast. I’ve noticed that on city (rather than county and state controlled) streets pedestrian bulb outs and other improvements are being installed that help humans a lot. In the end there is no cure for traffic congestion. I say make motorists sit in traffic while the town focusses on being a great place for people to live.

      1. If the pilotless car thing ever actually pans out every street in the world will have to be rethought for size (narrower), parking (not needed in many areas), and intersection controls as they relate to pedestrians (pilotless cars only need to slow down at intersections, so pedestrians might never have the right of way unless corner traffic controls give it to them).

        1. I’m working on a blog post about the driverless car situation in combination with car sharing, Uber/Lyft, cars powered by electricity, and other emerging factors.

          Here’s the thing. The roads are currently paid for with gasoline sales taxes. Those taxes are already insufficient to maintain what we’ve already built. As the system becomes much more efficient with fewer cars transporting more people there will have to be a shift in taxation and maintenance policies. The insurance industry is already beginning to price premiums based on computer chips in cars that measure miles driven and the quality of the driving. Better not drive too much, speed, or flail all over the road unless you want your insurance to get very expensive or be dropped entirely. State and municipal police aren’t going to like a world where all the computer controlled cars follow all the rules all the time since many police forces depend on traffic and parking tickets to supplement their budgets.

          In the end, a lot of roads are going to be returned to gravel when the authorities realize how expensive they are to repave vs. how few cars actually use them. And a lot of other government services like policing are going to have a find new revenue sources or cut back on performance.

          And by the way, the first groups to adopt driverless cars will be fleets. Walmart, Target, and Costco will have their armies of trucks go autopilot and eliminate the need for expensive human drivers. See also mail jeeps, garbage trucks, and the like. Say goodbye to a large number of medium paying jobs and hello to a much smaller group of high pay tech jobs. This will further exaggerate the economic imbalance in society.

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