Basin Street development gets positive review

The Petaluma Sheraton Hotel is one step closer to having some nearby competition after a hotel-anchored development across the Petaluma River received mostly positive feedback from the Petaluma Planning Commission Tuesday.

The proposed Riverfront project, a 39-acre mixed-use development put forth by Basin Street Properties, includes a 120-room hotel, 134 homes, 139 townhomes and apartments, 4 acres of parks and additional open space for the city to build a community boat house. The project also includes 60,000 square feet of office space, 30,000 square feet of retail space, a sports field and a park along the Petaluma River.

Access to the property is planned at Caulfield Lane and Hopper Street, which will be enhanced with additional safety features. Secondary site access would be available off of D Street.

The planning commission appeared mostly supportive of the draft environmental report of the project Tuesday night, though several commissioners refused to discuss their opinion of the development itself since the commission was only reviewing the environmental document. Most commissioners voiced concern over noise impacts and flood zone mitigations.

Because the project is partially in a flood zone and sits next to the Petaluma River, the environmental study suggests elevating portions of the property anywhere from 2 to 6 feet to reduce soil erosion and drainage issues. In the draft environmental plan, Basin Street agreed to raise such areas by 2 feet.

"I don't understand why we're targeting the very low end of the spectrum," said Commission Chair Bill Wolpert.

Commissioner Jen Pierre called the noise study incorrect and sloppy and said the analysis needs to be redone since it only analyzed ground-level noise during daytime afternoon hours. Pierre asked that sound be measured at higher elevations -#8212; where townhomes and apartments will be built -#8212; during peak morning and evening hours. The rest of the commissioners agreed.

Concerns over the accuracy of the traffic study were raised as well, especially once commissioners realized the study was not preformed locally, but instead took national averages for traffic generated at similar developments.

"It gets quite busy over there. Anyone who has to go over there knows," said newly appointed Commissioner Diana Gomez. "The numbers just seem low with that many new residences and that many people moving in."

The firm that conducted the study argued that the traffic increases projected will have very little impact on existing conditions.

Four Petaluma residents spoke at Tuesday's meeting, three of whom belonged to local labor unions. All the public speakers worried about the safety of construction workers on the project, since the development is located on a former river dredge spoil site where potentially hazardous material could linger, and urged the city to investigate the ground conditions.

Overall, Basin Street spokesperson Paul Andronico said he was pleased with the feedback from the commission and community members.

"I think we're happy with the comments the commissioners made and look forward to working with city staff to address their concerns," he said after the meeting.

A financial impact report completed last year estimated the project would add more than 500 full-time, permanent jobs in Petaluma, while project construction would create almost 2,000 temporary full-time jobs. The project was estimated to generate more than $600,000 of revenue annually for the city, about one-third of which would come from the hotel's occupancy tax.