Historic adobe conversion approved
A permit to allow a historic residence to be converted to office use, with limited wine tasting, was unanimously approved by the Sonoma Planning Commission Thursday.
The Vallejo-Castenada Adobe, at 143 W. Spain St., will be converted from a home to an office and private tasting room by Three Sticks Wines and Price Family Vineyards, whose office is currently at 35 Patten St. The building is believed to be the oldest occupied residential adobe in Sonoma.
The property, along with a vacant parcel at the rear of the site, is owned by Robert and Leslie Demler, who have lived in the adobe since 1997.
At the Aug. 13 meeting, neighbors had expressed concerns about parking, landscaping and the narrowness of the Church Street alley, the major access to the proposed parking for the property. These issues were addressed by the applicant, who offered two alternatives. The one selected by the commission was to provide a paved parking lot surrounded by a stucco wall with a gated entrance. It will be located at the rear of the property with access from the Church Street alley.
In addition, the exterior of the wall will be heavily landscaped and a 1948 garage, also with an entrance on the alley, will be removed and replaced by a smaller structure to be used for storage. This will allow the widening of the alley, which will provide safer access. The applicant will not be allowed to convert the storage building into an office in the future.
Robert Demler addressed the commission, stating that, despite the contributions he and his wife Leslie have made to saving the adobe, much work remains in the preservation effort. “Preservation is not a onetime effort – it is not static – it requires constant attention and even, especially, a fair level of devotion.”
He said it was time to move on while he and his wife are still in a position to choose who will bring the same level of attention and care to the needs of the adobe. “Leslie and I sincerely believe these folks are the next best Sonoma caretaker of our adobe,” he said.
At a previous Planning Commission meeting, several neighbors spoke against the project, but the parking issue was the main concern. The applicant said he had four meetings with neighbors to make sure their issues were addressed.
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 instead sold it to Don Juan Castaneda, who only owned it a year before selling it back to him. Salvador Vallejo 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, who completed 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.
Robert Demler said the applicants have promised to allow limited public tours of the building and occasional use by the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation.