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Petaluma City Council weighs two major projects

Published: Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 7:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 7:01 p.m.

Petaluma council members Monday night will consider two significant development proposals that could drastically change the face of downtown and the Petaluma River area.

The first is an economic assessment conducted for the proposed Riverfront mixed-use project at 500 Hopper St., between Highway 101 and the Petaluma River.

The other is a master planning document for the area surrounding the planned SMART rail station on East Washington and Lakeville streets.

The city-mandated fiscal and economic impact analysis analyzes the 39-acre project's impacts on the local economy, employment and existing businesses.

Riverfront, a proposal by Basin Street Properties, includes 273 residential units, 90,000 square feet of commercial space, a 120-room hotel and seven acres of open space on vacant land between the river and the highway.

The council is discussing only the economic-impact report, not considering approval the project itself.

The report estimates the project, when fully built, will generate more than $600,000 annually in net financial benefits to the city. A third of that would go to the city's general fund, which is the primary fund used to pay for city services and employees' wages.

Much of that would come from the hotel tax charged to overnight visitors. The hotel is expected to be similar to a Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn or Marriott Courtyard.

No specific restaurant or retail tenants are identified, but the report said likely tenants could include service businesses such as nail and hair salons, dry cleaners and cafes.

The project also includes 100 apartments and 39 townhouses near the front of the property and 134 single-family dwellings situated toward the river at the rear of the parcel. Office space, the hotel and retail uses are near the front, surrounding an oval “central green” in the middle of the property, next to a park with a soccer field.

Developers would be required to pay $22 million in one-time impact fees meant to offset the project's use of city infrastructure, such as streets, wastewater and other public services.

Developers also would be required to make $13 million to $15 million in public improvements, including emergency vehicle access to the site and other upgrades to roads, bicycle paths, greenbelts and the waterfront. The report estimates the restaurants, offices, retail stores, hotel and apartments will add about 520 full-time-equivalent permanent jobs. Construction will support about 1,950 temporary full-time jobs.

Also today, the council will discuss the depot-area plan.

City staff, community members and consultants spent two years creating a long-term planning model for the area surrounding the train depot, which some expect to blossom when the commuter train begins running, potentially by 2016.

The transit-centered plan envisions tree-lined public spaces, a mix of building uses and architectural styles and walkways that will guide train riders between downtown businesses, the river and the station.

Unveiled before planning commissioners last month, the concept was met with enthusiasm as a model for responsible growth, but skepticism that its lofty goals can be accomplished any time soon.

No specific projects are planned, but the master plan would help guide potential developers to what the city desires in the area.

The area includes the historic rail depot on Lakeville Street and areas along East Washington Street, East D Street and along Petaluma Boulevard South.

Some business owners worry that the specific zoning codes and styles called for in the plan will restrict their uses. A gas station-minimart owner has submitted a petition to the city signed by hundreds of customers urging support for his business, the only gas station in the area.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 11 English St.

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