‘Oyster Cove’ condos clear major hurdle

The development near Steamer Landing Park calls for 132 condominiums and 9,000 square feet of commercial space.|

A proposed live-work condominium neighborhood along Petaluma’s McNear Canal near Steamer Landing Park is a step closer to reality following a vote of approval by the city’s Planning Commission earlier this month.

The May 9 vote -- reached nearly a year after the project was first vetted by the Planning Commission -- came with unanimous support by commissioners, who recommended that the City Council adopt the project’s “initial study” detailing its potential environmental impacts. A council vote on the project is not yet scheduled.

The Oyster Cove project calls for 132 residential condominium units along with 9,000 square feet of commercial space in a 21-building project on East D Street near Copeland Street.

Introduced by UrbanMix Development, the project also requires a rezoning of that area -- in technical terms, a zoning map amendment and General Plan land use designation amendment -- to allow approximately two acres of the site to switch from “River Dependent Industrial” to “Mixed-Use,” a move the Planning Commission also supported.

“I feel that the CEQA document is appropriate, it’s comprehensive. We’ve had all our questions answered,” said commissioner Sandra Potter before the vote. “I also feel like the development is appropriate for the site, and that the requested General Plan amendment and SmartCode will unify the site for the future development of an underutilized parcel.”

Under the current proposal, 11 of the units facing East D Street would be three- or four-story live/work buildings with living spaces situated over ground-floor commercial spaces. Possibilities floated for the commercial spaces include waterfront restaurants and co-work offices.

The buildings would be all-electric and incorporate shared EV and bike charging stations available in each personal garage. Low-flow landscaping is another environmentally friendly feature.

All condominium units would be offered up for sale on the general market, with 15 percent of them designated as “affordable.” Estimated average prices were not provided.

While commissioners overall supported the project, there were lingering questions and concerns over environmental impacts of the project. Commissioner Darren Racusen said the project has “potential to be a real gem,” but called for a more extensive environmental review, especially regarding its potential impact on nearby wildlife and habitat.

“The river is a very sensitive area,” Racusen said. “Petaluma has a lot of pride in our river. Especially recently, people have seen a lot of development directly on the riverfront, and they start to be concerned that we’re getting excited about activating the riverfront and kind of driving over environmental considerations to get there.”

Project leaders said they are taking projected sea level rise into account, and are setting ground floor elevation up to 14 feet, as sea level is expected to rise six feet by the end of the century.

On the preservation side, the project would enhance and preserve an oyster shed building, adjacent to East D Street and the Petaluma River, to be made into a covered public plaza, public-serving boathouse, and commercial restaurant with an outdoor dining patio.

“We think it’s worth saving even though it’s not historic,” said Barry Long, principal at UrbanMix Design Associates. “We love the location and think it’s a special building.”

The project also proposes a new multi-use trail along the Petaluma River frontage, a new multi-use path with a dedicated bike lane along its East D Street frontage, a new traffic signal at the intersection of East D and Copeland streets, and new off-site parking for Steamer Landing Park and the Heritage Center.

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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