Proposed medical office building draws flak
THIS IS A RENDERING of what the footprint of the new medical office building on Perkins Street would look like.
Developers seeking to build a 39,000-square-foot medical office building at the end of Perkins Street shared details of the project with neighbors Wednesday night and listened to their concerns, which can be summed up in two words: parking and traffic.
"There isn't a person in this room that wants that building if you don't fix the traffic," one neighbor said, echoing the sentiment that the two dozen neighbors in attendance reiterated throughout the hour-long discussion.
The Sonoma Valley Medical Building is being proposed by the Wiseman Company, a Fairfield-based developer that specializes in office buildings. Nicholas Brereton, a Sonoma resident who is the chief executive officer of Brereton Architects in San Francisco, is designing the project, which is still in its infancy and will go before the Planning Commission for its first study session on Thursday, Sept. 8.
"We've been working closely with the city and (City Planner) David Goodison," said Doyle Wiseman, president of the Wiseman Company. "They suggested we reach out to you (neighbors) before we began ... You're seeing this before the commissioners are even seeing it."
The proposed building could house as many as 25 offices, comprised of medical specialists and most likely the physicians of the PRIMA Medical Group.
"There's a number of physicians we believe want to be there because of the proximity to the hospital," Wiseman said, adding that the space is not likely to contain 25 practitioners, but will also house larger medical components such as women's health, physical therapy or laboratory services. Developers have proposed an L-shaped building with two-stories on one end and three-stories on the other, although that design could change depending on input from the Planning Commission. Neighbors were not enthusiastic about the size of the building.
"I'm just making a friendly suggestion, you should really consider scaling back the building because I think you'll have a big neighborhood battle," said one neighbor.
Developers are hoping to make it accessible from both Perkins Street and Fourth Street West in order to offer two points of entry. This would include a pedestrian walkway to allow better access to and from Sonoma Valley Hospital. The neighbors quickly questioned the feasibility of such a plan.
"You can barely fit one car down Fourth Street, it's only 24-feet wide. You would have to widen it," one neighbor said. Others brought up the issue of delivery trucks further clogging the area.
One neighbor suggested the developers could dedicate some of the private land owned by the medical office building to widening the roadway, something Wiseman said could be a possibility.
"We haven't been able to get input on traffic yet. That's something we're very interested in getting input on," said Brereton.
The other issue of significant concern and discussion was parking. Residents all agreed parking is already a problem in the area surrounding the hospital, where patients, visitors and hospital staff commonly park. The hospital will add around 85 parking spaces in the area when they pave the Carinalli property on Fourth Street West, and developers are considering leasing a parking area from the hospital to provide a total of 181 parking spaces for the complex. Neighbors said they don't see the expanded parking options as a remedy for the problem.
"The hospital employees already park in front of our houses, they're not going to walk an extra block ...," said one neighbor.
Wiseman said this type of medical office building is needed to draw in a variety of medical services to Sonoma Valley. Peter Hohorst, chairman of the Sonoma Valley Health Care District board, agreed that many doctors, particularly specialists, prefer to be closer to the hospital.
"I think at the end of the day we all want better medical services in the community," Wiseman said. "For that to happen, we need nice offices to attract the doctors."
The current 13,000-square-foot medical office complex at the west end of Perkins Street, formerly known as the Price building, is beginning to show its 50-year age. It is owned by four physicians and two investors, who Wiseman is hoping to bring into the fold on the new development.
"We're working with all six owners, 40 percent have signed on, and we're working with the others," he said. "We're not going to build this building ... unless we can fill it to at least 70 percent. Our experience is that we're able to do that."
Wiseman said if all goes as planned, they expect to break ground next spring and have the project completed by January 2013. That will be dependent on what the city's requirements are for the project. The neighbors said they would push for a full environmental impact report as Fryer Creek straddles the west side of Fourth Street West.
"That's for the city to decide," Wiseman said.
By the end of the meeting, the neighbors wanted more answers than developers were able to deliver at this point. Developers committed to working towards mitigating neighbor concerns as the project unfolds.
"I'd hope to live in my house for the rest of my life, I'm not sure I'd want to with what you're proposing. How do you feel about that?" one neighbor asked.
"Give us a chance, we're trying," Wiseman replied.