Petaluma apartment project approved on appeal
A 90-unit apartment project proposed for a vacant triangle of land near the Petaluma Marina received the last public approval it needed to go forward on Monday, overturning an earlier denial of the project on grounds that included a desired bike path.
On a duo of split votes, the Petaluma City Council approved the design plan and a special permit for construction of Basin Street Properties’ Marina Apartments at 0 Marina Ave., reversing earlier denials by the Petaluma Planning Commission in July, and setting up a sharp contrast between three incumbent council members running for reelection and their planning commissioner challenger.
The latest version of the project included an offer to secure an easement on a nearby property to provide the right-of-way for a future bike path, a move that Basin Street General Counsel Paul Andronico described as an effort to acquiesce to critics who called for pathway improvements as part of the project.
Basin Street secured the easement last Friday, three days before the council’s public hearing, according to city staff.
“We believe we are paying our fair share, and then some, on the project,” Andronico told the council.
Among those who testified that the easement and other changes didn’t go far enough were long-time planning commissioner Bill Wolpert, a candidate for city council whose sweeping criticism during the hearing was in contrast to the three incumbents running for reelection — Mike Healy, Kathy Miller and Gabe Kearney — each of whom voted in favor of the development. He argued the city’s long-term development plans should have required Basin Street to actually build the pathway, and that the form of the building itself was out of step with the marina area as a whole.
“I think this project could be so much better,” Wolpert said.
Having emerged as a major point of contention during recent public hearings, the pathway in question would run along the north edge of the marina between the planned apartments and the Rocky Memorial Dog Park. The unbuilt, separated pathway is among those identified as a goal in the city’s long-term bicycle infrastructure plans, and would provide an alternative to travel along Lakeville Highway.
In a letter on Friday announcing the acquisition, Andronico said Basin Street had been working for several months to secure the easement east of Marina Avenue, which involved property under different ownership than the land where the Marina Apartments are planned. The gap between the easement and the Marina Apartments property itself is a city-owned ribbon of land also pegged for a pathway.
While arguing that a requirement for Basin Street to secure the easement on an off-site property as a condition of its approval would be an overreach, Andronico nonetheless said the move was in direct response to criticism from the planning commission. The company also offered $50,000 toward a future pathway or other capital needs of the city, reduced the height of the building by 10 percent and increased the number of electric vehicle charging stations planned for the site.
Councilwoman Miller emphasized the off-site pathway easement as a major gesture by the developer, and lauded the apartment project as a whole for plans to occupy a property that has sat undeveloped for years.
“It’s an infill project – that’s what we want,” she said.