Riverfront project reviewed by council
Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 1:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 1:59 p.m.
In an unusual twist of events at Monday’s Petaluma City Council meeting, no one from the public showed up to voice their opinion on Basin Street Properties’ hotel-anchored Riverfront development.
While other projects in Petaluma have gone through rigorous public debate and even inspired lawsuits in an effort to block the proposals, the first draft of the environmental impact report on the city’s largest proposed development in years drew little attention Monday night from the public.
“This particular project has been in the works for so long,” said Councilmember Mike Healy. “And the developer has made a point to include things the city wants, like a soccer field and a hotel. It’s in an area that isn’t right next to neighbors, so that may be why we didn’t hear the public comment we normally do.”
The mixed-use 39-acre development includes plans for a 120-room hotel, 134 residential homes, 39 townhomes and up to 100 apartment units on the second and third floor of mixed-use buildings. It also dedicates 4 acres to parks and a parcel of land that will be given to the city for the future Petaluma Small Craft Center boathouse adjacent to the Petaluma River. Much like the response from the Petaluma Planning Commission several weeks ago, the massive project garnered minor pushback from the city council Monday, with most concern stemming from noise, traffic and sea level impacts.
The environmental report stated the project would have little long-term effects on traffic in Petaluma. While the development is expected to create some delays, the report classified the increase in traffic as “less than significant.” But Mayor David Glass took issue with the report’s analysis of impacts to the city’s already clogged streets and said it relied too heavily on crosstown connectors meant to link east and west Petaluma that have yet to be built.
“To me, an environmental impact review explains what a project’s true impacts are, so the city council can make a decision about what the development will mean for the city,” said Glass. “But this document doesn’t do that. It lists traffic impacts as ‘short-term’ and relies on crosstown connectors to relieve additional traffic generated from the project. But crosstown connectors have been discussed in this city since 1961 and none have been built yet. If ‘short-term’ is just inside of infinity, then I’d like to know that before I cast my vote.”
Noise generated from the project and its construction was an issue for several council members, as was the potential for noise from Highway 101 to impact residents who eventually live in the project’s housing.
“I would like some additional thought about that because I don’t think it’s been adequately looked at or mitigated,” said Councilmember Teresa Barrett.
Meanwhile, because of the site’s close proximity to the Petaluma River — which is a tidal slough — the environmental report suggested a need to raise the property from 2 to 6 feet by filling in land to reduce soil erosion and drainage issues on site. Basin Street initially agreed to raise the property by 2 feet, causing several council members to question the longevity of the project.
“Our grandchildren will be here in 2100, so I’m interested in seeing a development that will last that long as well,” said Healy.
Barrett agreed: “Some of us live in homes that are more than 100 years old so we need to be building structures that last.”
A financial impact report completed last year estimated the project could add more than 500 full-time, permanent jobs in Petaluma, while project construction could create almost 2,000 temporary full-time jobs. Local labor unions have already expressed in interest in filling the construction positions, and city council members said they hoped Basin Street would seriously consider employing such workers.
“There’s an opportunity to use local tradespeople and craftspeople as much as possible,” said Councilmember Christ Albertson. “We’ve had people in our community ask that these jobs don’t go to outside firms. If part, or all of these site workers could be local, it would certainly be advantageous.”
But Glass pointed out that the city cannot force Basin Street to use local labor. “So we asked for the work to be local and that’s all we can do,” he said.
The Riverfront project has been under city planning review since 2009 when it was first proposed. Basin Street submitted a final application in 2011, with the tentative map of the project completed two years later.
City staff and Basin Street will review the council’s comments and prepare a final environmental impact report, before returning to the city council at a later date.
(Contact Janelle Wetzstein at email@example.com.)
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