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Maria Drive apartments get second look

A controversial apartment complex proposed on Maria Drive will get a second look from the Petaluma City Council on Monday. Developers are hopeful that several changes made to the plans will earn them a greenlight from the council to pursue the project.

The Maria Drive apartments were first proposed by San Francisco developer JDA West in August, on a 5.85-acre parcel of land that is currently zoned for mixed-use commercial development. Billed as a luxury complex, with the average 1,000-square-foot apartment expected to rent for $2,000 a month, plans included 144 apartments in six, three-story buildings, with a community building, pool and clubhouse centerally located on the site. In order to build the apartments, the developer first needs a general plan amendment from the city council to change the site's zoning to high-density residential.

But after vocal opposition from nearby homeowners in October, who worried that the density and design of the development would ruin the aesthetics of the neighborhood, the Petaluma City Council sent JDA West back to the drawing board when it asked for multiple changes to the project -#8212; including a reduction in the number of units from 144 to about 100.

At the time, JDA West spokesperson Marty Brill said that reducing the number of apartments made the project unprofitable for the company. In the revised project, the number of units remained at 144, but Brill said the company has addressed concerns regarding the density and traffic mitigation, which originally inspired to council to seek a reduction in the project's size. The new plans reduce the building heights by about 10 feet to around 37 feet and limits the number of apartments that face neighboring homes to allay privacy concerns.

"Based on the feedback and input from neighbors, planning staff and the city council, we made several revisions to the proposed project," Brill said in a statement Tuesday. "We are excited about the changes, as they will directly benefit the community, while enhancing the overall project."

But homeowner Dan Ellecamp, who lives on nearby Creekside Drive, said that lowering the building heights by 10 feet doesn't make the buildings two stories or reduce the number of units, which were his main concerns with the property.

"We don't feel our little street Maria Drive can handle hundreds of extra trips a day from 144 new apartments," said Ellecamp.

He also pointed out that another nearby apartment complex, Addison Ranch -#8212; which was formerly known as Greenbriar Apartments -#8212; is seeking to add another 100 apartment units to its complex.

"It's just too much," said Ellecamp.

Currently, Petaluma's apartment vacancy rate is considered to be extremely low at 1.8 percent.


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