Mix of support, concern for Oyster Cove development at Petaluma Planning Commission session

The Oyster Cove mixed-use development calls for 132 townhomes and other retail and commercial space to be built near the McNear Canal on D Street.|

Planning commissioners heard a wave of support blended with concerns over traffic and environmental impacts during a study session for a mixed-use condominium project planned to be built near the Petaluma River.

While no vote has been taken yet on the proposed Oyster Cove development, the Petaluma Planning Commission held the June 28 study session to gather feedback for the project, which was proposed in mid-April by UrbanMix Development. If approved, the project would be located at 100 E. D Street and Copeland Street near the McNear Canal, across from the site of a former homeless encampment at Steamer Landing Park.

“There’s a lot about this project that Petaluma typically needs,” said commissioner Blake Hooper, who appeared to express overall satisfaction with the project’s outlook, while also calling for some additions such as neighborhood playgrounds.

Oyster Cove would include a 132-unit residential community with other commercial and open spaces folded in.There would be 121 attached town homes built, ranging from 1,345 to 1,995 square feet, with 2 to 3 bedrooms, plus a home office that could be converted into an additional bedroom. Plan outlines by UrbanMix Development show all units will have 2 to 3.5 baths, some having a roof deck. Each will have either a patio, balcony, or a roof terrace and garage.

The development would also include about 20 affordable housing units to meet the needs of low-income residents, as well as up to 12 granny units on the ground level roughly 300 to 450 square feet in size.

Because this is a former industrial area with three vacant steel buildings, the project calls for a zoning amendment. With a mixed-use designation, the project would be able to include live/work units to invite a variety of retail possibilities. A boathouse, covered public plaza and an outdoor dining patio are also in the works.

Artwork reflecting Petaluma’s unique history would be installed, and there are plans for a new 10-foot-wide multi-use path along the Petaluma River, which will provide a gateway over the drawbridge on D Street, to the neighboring Steamer Landing and Petaluma River Parks.

Because of its close proximity to SMART and bus stations, as well as its connection to walking and bike trails, the Oyster Cove neighborhood would be one of the most transportation-accessible residential areas in the city. Allie Gaylord, development director for the North Bay’s MidPen Housing sector, supports Oyster Cove’s construction for those reasons and applauds its projected alignment with the city’s climate goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

“The project exemplifies Smart Growth principles including mix of uses and housing types, including providing housing for various income levels, the investment in the public realm limiting single-occupancy vehicles are all great aspects of this project,” Gaylord said, adding she would like to see the project offer electric bike chargers as well.

Staff have studied potential risks associated with riverfront flooding and sea level rise, and say they have designed it so all buildings will have a ground floor elevation of 14 feet or higher to provide “end of century protection against future sea level rise.”

But some meeting attendees such as Maura Sullivan, who identified herself as a scientist with the State of California, said she was “beyond dismayed” by the development, and fears an “ecological collapse” is ahead as sea level continues to rise, as well as the loss of local wildlife populations.

“We simply cannot afford to encroach on the small bit of wetland acreage we have left. This is far too dense a development for this site,” Sullivan said. “It completely disregards the ecology of the river. We know better than this in 2022 and we have to do better.”

Planning Commission chair Heidi Bauer addressed the environmental concerns and called on project associates to address the concerns as well.

“This area is right along the river and there are sensitive areas and a lot of bird habitat in between where the housing development will be and the river,” Bauer said in her comments. “I would like for that really to be protected in there, to really create a space for the wildlife to live.”

Other concerns centered on the number of vehicles downtown, and how the project may add to the seemingly growing issue. While the project calls for a traffic light at Copeland and D Streets to help ease congestion, some residents and commissioners raised concerns that the light would only create more gridlock on Lakeville Street and near the SMART railroad tracks.

There would be a limited number of retail and visitor parking spots, as well as a small, new off-site parking lot for the Heritage Center. The project would include up to 253 covered parking spaces in garages for residents.

It is not yet known when the Planning Commission will vote on the project or when it might got to City Council approval.

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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