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Local News

Lawsuit filed over Grocery Outlet

An L-shaped building with a parking lot.
Frank Hartzell
The proposed site for the Grocery Outlet in Fort Bragg.

A local group claims the store violates rules about development on the coast. And the Jackson Advisory Group meets to discuss a new approach to timber harvest plans.

In coastal news today, Cal Fire continues introducing a new approach to managing Jackson Demonstration State Forest, which is in response to environmental activism that shut down the forests during 2021 and 2022. And a citizens group in Fort Bragg has filed a lawsuit complaining that Grocery Outlet violates provisions of the Coastal Act.

The agenda for today’s day-long meeting of the Jackson Advisory Group includes introducing the leaders of what Cal Fire is calling its New Vision. The Jackson Advisory Group is (one quick sentence about what it is and what it’s for.) allows mostly Coast local people from forestry and other fields, now including a Native American leader, to have limited input on timber harvest plans and the management plan for Jackson Forest

A decade ago, a plan agreed to by local environmentalists and local forestry leaders that gave the JAG real powers with timber harvest plans was revoked by the state Board of Forestry, an action that protesters say is a key reason for their resistance to almost everything proposed. The state’s New Vision plan is being pushed hard by Gov. Gavin Newsom. It calls for Native co management of the forest and redoing its management plan early to accommodate community demands that the forest expand its mission. The idea is to include more work on climate change and fire suppression. There is also a move to give the forest a much broader vision as more of a community science project possibility to incorporate more study of native plants, mushrooms as food and energy production among other ideas. The old vision was pretty much just logging and studying how logging could be done more profitably and better.

A new Mendocino Unit Chief for Cal Fire will be announced at the meeting. Chief Luke Kendall retires on Nov. 17. Kendall began his career in 1991 as a firefighter in the Mendocino Unit and worked around the state before becoming the unit chief in 2022. He is the brother of Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall.

Emily Smith, a 26-year veteran with Cal Fire who is from Fort Bragg has taken over communications about the state’s largest demonstration forest.

The meeting is at First Presbyterian Church in Fort Bragg and will include a vote on one New Vision harvest plan. It will be followed by a tour of another Timber Harvest plan area, which will include traditional Native American burning mixed with the latest silvicultural science. Also sure to be brought up are two lawsuits that Timber companies have brought against Cal Fire.

The Coalition to Save Jackson Demonstration State Forest is calling for JAG member John Andersen to step down because his employer, Mendocino Redwoods Company, is one of two companies suing CalFire for breach of contract over timber harvests interrupted by protesters.

In city news

A new lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court presents a challenge to the planned Grocery Outlet store in Fort Bragg. The November 1 filing shows Fort Bragg Local Business Matters is suing the California Coastal Commission, claiming it is not following its own rules. Also named in the suit are the City of Fort Bragg and project developer Best Development Group.

Fort Bragg Local Business matters is a group set up to promote creative, locally owned businesses over formula chains with out-of-the-area ownership. Its website says it is out to level the playing field that global corporations now rule thanks to outsized influence on the governmental process.

There is no list of members on its Facebook page or its website, which largely hasn't been updated since 2020.

The suit’s stated cause of action is that the Coastal Commission failed to follow its charter from 1976 and protect ocean views in the area of ocean bluffs and that it also violates Fort Bragg’s coastal program, approved in 2008. The suit says Fort Bragg Local Business Matters, whose members include “Fort Bragg residents Mary Rose Kaczorowski and Leslie Kashiwada, will suffer direct harm as a result of any adverse environmental impacts caused by the Project.”

This lawsuit comes after a lengthy legal process in which the store was approved by the city. Then Fort Bragg Local Business Matters demanded an environmental report be prepared and filed suit to demand that. The company said it believed it didn't have to do this, but did it to avoid litigation. Then Grocery Outlet, with an environmental impact report in hand. went back to the Planning Commission and City Council, where it was approved by both. Then the matter was next appealed to the California Coastal Commission, which also approved the project.

Fort Bragg Local Business Matters does not seek any money in the suit, but seeks a stay in the project.

Grocery Outlet’s proposals have been a contentious issue for more than 5 years. The store first tried to go in on the headlands at the entrance to Fort Bragg, but that drew vociferous opposition and that plan was withdrawn. Then, Grocery Outlet proposed going into the old county building at the south end of Franklin Street. There were more supporters this time, who said the low prices are needed by the low income local population. Opponents raised traffic concerns and argued that it is a chain that will take money out of the local economy and employs a relatively small staff of mostly minimum wage employees. Grocery Outlet does have a local owner, who follows a formula used by the company since its beginnings in Army surplus after World War II. Many of the foods are odd lots and rejects from other stores. Grocery Outlet has recently bolstered its fresh produce department and some stores, such as Ukiah, offer local and organic products, although these do not necessarily come with the savings that make the canned and other processed foods cheaper.

A Grocery Outlet store.
Grocery Outlet in Ukiah.

Best, a New York City based company, proposes to construct a Grocery Outlet retail grocery store on a 1.63-acre site located at 825, 845, and 851 South Franklin Street, Fort Bragg. The Project includes the demolition of an existing 16,436-square-foot vacant former county office building and associated parking lot and wooden fencing along the property line, and the construction and operation of a 16,157-square-foot, one-story, retail store with a 53-space parking lot and associated improvements and infrastructure.

The calendar in SF Superior Court does not yet include any dates. Kashiwada and the city were both contacted but no comments were available today.

Local News
Frank Hartzell’s first journalism job was in Texas in 1983. For 35 years, he worked for daily and weekly newspapers as prestigious as the Mendocino Beacon and as obscure as the Sacramento Bee. He owned his own newspapers at one time and was once managing editor of the Napa Valley Register for several years, but much prefers working security at Adventist Health Mendocino Coast Hospital. Frank is a regular contributor to the Mendocino Voice and loves ocean walks with dog Brutus and hanging out with wife Linda Little, her mom and their nephews Joel and Jack. He is a bookseller and chicken farmer and can be reached about any of this at frankhartzell@gmail.com