Council denies neighbors’ appeal
The Sonoma City Council on Nov. 5, gave its official stamp of approval to the conversion of an historic adobe to a winery office with limited tastings.
The Vallejo-Casteñada Adobe, located at 143 W. Spain St., was approved in September for conversion to an office and private tasting room for Three Sticks Winery and Price Family Vineyards. The Planning Commission approval included the development of a gated, landscaped parking lot with seven spaces at the rear of the property. The building is believed to be the oldest occupied residential adobe in Sonoma and is owned by Robert and Leslie Demler.
Phillip Rososco and Lisa Valenti of the Cypress Apartments, located at 144 W. Spain St., across the street, appealed the decision saying the approval was inconsistent with several sections of the General Plan and Housing Element.
Submitting a petition which contained the signatures of 66 of their neighbors, Rososco told the council that findings for the adaptive reuse had not been met, the residence has already been restored, the use would further commercialize a residential area where retail and office uses are not allowed, and personal considerations, such as a need to sell a property, are not to be weighed.
“Residents of our apartments face daily challenges,” he said. “The eight spaces behind the El Dorado Hotel create traffic. Commercializing the adobe would create even more traffic.”
Barbara Wimmer, president of the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation, spoke in favor of the conversion. She said the organization has a preservation easement on the property and looks forward to working with the new owners. Other speakers in favor cited the cost of continued maintenance of older structures, which is best done by commercial interests; and the suitability of an office in that location, rather than a residence, because of noise.
Speakers in favor of the appeal cited traffic and safety concerns in a location that is already congested. The adobe faces Spain Street, but the property is bordered on the east by a narrow alley at the rear of the El Dorado Hotel, often used to access Church Street.
Councilmember Steve Barbose acknowledged that traffic issues are a concern for everyone in town, as are the number of tasting rooms. “But this is a corporate office,” he said. “It is important that the new owner has the financial resources to continue to preserve this building.”
Councilmember Tom Rouse said he believed the findings had been met, and the Planning Commission had done a good job in making sure there are no inconsistencies with the general plan. The council vote to deny the appeal was unanimous.
The Vallejo-Castenada Adobe dates back to approximately 1842 and was constructed by Native-American labor for Capt. Salvador Vallejo, who did not occupy the building, and who sold it to Don Juan Castaneda, who only owned it a year before selling it back to him. Salvador was the brother of Gen. Mariano Vallejo, and built several structures on the Plaza. Over the years the adobe had a number of owners. Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Jones purchased it in 1947. They did a major restoration and added on to the building. The Demlers bought the adobe from the Jones’ heirs in 1997, and immediately launched a rehabilitation project, preserving the original character of the adobe and gardens while updating the building.
The applicants have promised to allow limited public tours of the building and occasional use by the League for Historic Preservation. While mainly an office, the winery will be allowed to have up to two private tastings a day by appointment, and will be closed Sundays.