Historic Preservation Committee mulls downtown hotel plan

The hotel’s rendering includes a public art installment calling for an egg-shaped statue on the top floor of the hotel – a reflection of Petaluma’s history as the “egg capital of the world.”|

Renderings of a new hotel proposed for downtown Petaluma were seen by members of the Historic and Cultural Preservation Committee for the first time recently, allowing the committee to consider whether the project meets the design standards of the city’s historic downtown district.

An application for the project, dubbed “Hotel Weaver,” was submitted to city officials in April 2022 and calls for a 93-room hotel, a 1,230-square-foot public event space, and a 5,514-square-foot bar and restaurant – with the latter two touted as places for everyone in the community to enjoy – to be built in the empty lot at the corner of B Street and Petaluma Boulevard.

“(We’re) trying to achieve our goal of human connection,” said Mike Jolly, senior vice president of EKN Development Group, at the Jan. 10 meeting. “We build in special places, and Petaluma’s a special place.”

The hotel’s rendering includes a public art installment calling for an egg-shaped statue on the top floor of the hotel – a reflection of Petaluma’s history as the “egg capital of the world.”

The current project is a pivot from a five-story hotel proposed in 2019, after Newport Beach developer EKN purchased the one-third-acre property in 2021.

While the first four floors fit the Historic District’s standard of maximum 45-foot buildings, the fifth and sixth floors are set inward in order to be less visible from the street below. That makes the building 70 feet tall overall, which exceeds the standards in that district by about 25 feet – and is why the project would require a zoning text amendment.

That stirred some concerns from both committee members and a couple members of the public, with one saying it could set a precedent for future projects to request zoning amendments, making it harder to maintain downtown Petaluma’s historic look and feel.

“Everybody agrees that it shouldn’t be a vacant lot anymore,” said Alice van Ommeren, vice chair of the committee, before reiterating concerns with the size and scale of the proposed building and calling for further consideration of the historic aspects of the surrounding area.

But committee member Thomas Whitley asked whether keeping the lot vacant is actually keeping up with historical standards. He also requested more extensive renderings, showing building design from other street views such as from 4th Street and the neighboring Rex Hardware store. Current renderings only show how the building would look from Petaluma Boulevard.

If approved, the project would remove and replace all street trees, remove two driveways from Petaluma Boulevard, remove one curbside parking space along B Street, and reconfigure two curbside parking spaces along Petaluma Boulevard, according to the city website at cityofpetaluma.org/hotel-weaver.

The below-grade parking garage would provide valet parking for up to 58 vehicles using mechanical parking lifts – a feature which also received some scrutiny during the committee meeting.

The project would also include 10 bicycle-designated parking spaces.

It is unclear when the project will be reviewed by the Planning Commission or the City Council, as the developer will next consider possible modifications to its proposal to incorporate feedback from the Jan. 10 meeting.

Amelia Parreira is a staff writer for the Argus-Courier. She can be reached at amelia.parreira@arguscourier.com or 707-521-5208.

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