By LORI A. CARTER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Developers of a proposed high-end apartment complex in east Petaluma will need to reconsider their plans if they want approval from the City Council.
After a hearing that lasted past midnight Monday, it appeared there weren’t four votes needed to approve San Francisco developer JDA West’s planned 144-unit complex at 35 Maria Dr., southeast of the Washington Square shopping center off South McDowell Boulevard.
Mayor David Glass, Councilmen Mike Healy and Chris Albertson and Councilwoman Teresa Barrett expressed concerns over the density and design of the project.
Councilwoman Kathy Miller and Councilmen Mike Harris and Gabe Kearney supported the project, saying it fills an important housing need, given the city’s 2 percent rental vacancy rate.
Ultimately, the hearing was put on hold to allow developers time to determine whether a they wanted to return with a redesigned project that satisfy the council’s concerns and be financially viable for them.
In August, the Planning Commission recommended approval of a general plan amendment and a zoning change to allow the complex, billed as a luxury development where 1,000-square-foot units would rent for $2,000 a month.
A group of neighbors urged the city to reconsider, saying the density of the three-story complex is incompatible with their neighborhood of single-family homes.
Neighbors also objected to what they believe will be excessive traffic, noise and a lack of privacy with a nearby apartment complex. The parcel currently has a half-empty office complex on it.
“It’s inappropriate for this street in this area,” said neighborhood leader Kathleen Garvey.
“Our neighborhood is going to be probably destroyed,” said Stanley Dettner, who said he has lived in the area for 44 years.
But city planners noted that the proposed complex is less intensive than what current zoning allows on the nearly 6-acre parcel.
It is zoned mixed-use, which would allow for a retail shopping center and as many as 176 residential units.
JDA West spokesman Marty Brill said current codes would allow for 637,000 square feet of development and 30 units of housing per acre. His company is proposing 147,000 square feet and density of 25 units an acre.
“The property today is struggling both physically and operationally,” he said. “We view this as a great opportunity to improve an underutilized site in an area that could use some improvement.”
Glass said 18 units per acre would be more appropriate. Miller and Harris both noted that this project is far smaller than what could be built.
Healy said he is more concerned with an uninspired design than the density issue. He said he wants to see something that truly “reads luxury” apartments — not just granite kitchen counters and stainless steel appliances.
Planners recommended approving the zoning change, noting that the city needs more apartments, not office space.
A study done for the project shows Petaluma has about a 2 percent vacancy for apartments. In comparison, office vacancies are at about 25 percent.
Brill said early in the meeting that anything less than 144 units wasn’t viable. Afterward, he declined to say whether the company will return with a redesigned proposal.
Staff Writer Lori Carter can be reached at 762-7297 or firstname.lastname@example.org.