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Sebastopol officials defend rejection of CVS project’s design

These photos shows the existing view and an artist's rendering of what the Sebastopol location being considered for a new CVS store would look like.


The design of the proposed CVS Pharmacy-Chase Bank project in Sebastopol changed over the past year from cookie-cutter corporate to a bamboo-colored building with large windows, a plaza and broad walkways fronting the streets.

The CVS and Chase buildings, which would look unlike any others in the nation, were designed by Sebastopol architect Kevin Kellogg. But after six hearings before the Design Review Board and two before the City Council, the project still didn’t pass muster.

“Yes they came back many times, but the focus should be on how good can we get,” said Lynn Deedler, design board vice chairman. “They started with something that was awful, and they moved slowly off of that. They eventually ended up with an attractive building, but the architecture was not fitting for the Sebastopol location and the surroundings.”

Initially, the Sacramento developer proposed a large white building with the CVS corporate logo and with a drive-through pharmacy window that wrapped around the building at the intersection of Sebastopol and Petaluma avenues, the site of the vacant Pellini Chevrolet dealership.

Armstrong Development of Sacramento is proposing to build a CVS Pharmacy and a Chase Bank branch at the site.

After the original plan was rejected, Armstrong hired Kellogg, who redesigned the 14,576-square-foot pharmacy and Chase branch with different colors, lower heights, windows, a plaza and a wide walkway, and 8,000 square feet of garden that filters rain runoff before it runs into the storms drains and the laguna and moved the drive-throughs to the interior of the project.

But Armstrong and the Design Review Board hit a dead end when the board asked that a driveway on Petaluma Avenue be eliminated, the parking lot down-sized, and the Chase building be redesigned and moved closer to the CVS building.

The City Council on Monday spent four hours discussing the design, coming up with its own design critique before ruling the Design Review Board had acted within its authority. The council, however, did not adopt any specific design recommendations.

While there is obvious community sentiment against CVS or Chase moving to that prominent corner from elsewhere in town, City Council and design board members officials said there is no intent in their decisions to keep CVS or Chase from locating that the site.

“In many of the emails I have received over the past month is the desire to keep CVS out of downtown, but I am not quite sure where that sentiment is coming from,” said Councilman Patrick Slayter.

“It is private property. It was decided by the City Council. It met the zoning code and the negative declaration of the environmental impact report was certified,” Slayter said. “To my way of thinking, isn’t downtown where you want banks and pharmacies to be located?”

Slayter and Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer were the only two on the council that voted to approve the project design.

Zachary Douch, chairman of the design board, whose five members are appointed by the City Council, said the design board has ruled only on the merits of the design.

“It has focused on the design issues and made a decision based on those,” Douch said. “Who the applicant is is not relevant.”

Douch also said that he thinks they can find a middle ground.

“I think the applicant understands the critical issues the Design Review Board has highlighted, and so with some redesign work I believe there could be some resolution,” Douch said. “It is hard to say how much redesign work is required. It wasn’t the easiest project for design review. “There were stumbling blocks.”

The intersection is one of Sebastopol’s most visible, most congested and, because it is on the edge of both Main Street and industry, one of the most sensitive.

“I believe they can take essentially the same building footprint but do things architecturally with it that will give it a look that resonates more with community expectation, the old-time Sebastopol look, rather than the contemporary industrial look,” said Mayor Guy Wilson.

The developer already has received the major necessary approvals to develop the CVS store and Chase branch at the 2.4-acre site, at a cost of about $10 million.

On June 5, the City Council overturned the Planning Commission denial of the project and also ruled that a full environmental impact report did not need to be done.

The project still needs approval from the Design Review Board after six hearings, said Planning Director Kenyon Webster.

When Armstrong rejected those final changes, the Design Review Board denied the proposal, which Armstrong appealed to the City Council, arguing that the design met city guidelines and the board overstepped its bounds.

In a 3-2 vote, Wilson, Kyes and Councilwoman Sarah Gurney voted to uphold the board, while Slayter and Shaffer voted against it.

Armstrong can now reapply to the Design Review Board, abandon the project or file a suit.

Armstrong officials last week either declined comment or did not return repeated phone calls asking for comment on what they may do next.

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.

5 Responses to “Sebastopol officials defend rejection of CVS project’s design”

  1. Helen Shane says:

    The problem with the CVS/Chase/Armstrong application is that the plan did not honor our General Plan, Zoning Ordinance or Design Review Guidelines; the applicant would not make any meaningful attempt to do the right thing. At the final meeting, Armstrong officials “reconstructed events” to fit their usual corporate m.o. For lots of info on this, go to Wacco BB and read the pros and cons of the development.

  2. Bill me says:

    I hope, in their desire to get “the best they can get”, that they end up with Armstrong Development going elsewhere to develop a project. Sebastopol deserves to see no new businesses the way they treat potential new business.

  3. John claeys says:

    Really(?), it is pretty ugly.

  4. Steve Klausner says:

    So what’s really the problem with a CVS? Is it the big box or the design?

    Personally, I’m with the no big box crowd, What I mean is, all I want to see of Sebastopol is in my review mirror on my way to the beach. It is a royal pain the way you squeeze cross town traffic through your downtown.

    Can’t you build this stuff off on a side street somewhere?

    xxx Steve in Glen Ellen

  5. Sebastopol Marty says:

    The Design and Review board is bias.