New hotel fits general plan, EIR will address traffic
Mr. Shonbrun’s recent Valley Forum column (“A sense of place,” Jan. 8) misrepresents certain aspects of the proposed Chateau Sonoma Hotel project and deserves correction.
Mr. Shonbrun’s letter implies the project is not consistent with the kind of community envisioned by the City of Sonoma’s General Plan and its accompanying Vision Statement. This is not the case. The proposed hotel is the very type of infill development emphasized during the adoption of our Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) in 2000.
The UGB represents our community’s commitment to focus growth within a defined area in order to prevent urban sprawl. The proposed hotel is exactly located in a downtown area specifically designated by the Development Code for this type of development. The project is methodically being designed to comply with every applicable and quantifiable aspect of the General Plan and Development Code, to the degree that the project does not require any variances relative to land use, zoning, setbacks, building size, height or lot coverage.
Mr. Shonbrun’s letter specifically deletes key phrases of the Vision Statement and offers quotes free from context that blur the contents of these important land use road maps to fit his message. The letter fails to mention the Vision Statement’s emphasis on innovation, creativity, sustainability, development of a vibrant entrepreneurial economy and the incubation of locally owned businesses – all of which Chateau Sonoma clearly achieves.
His letter also misrepresents size and scale. The new hotel will not “dominate” the Plaza. This has been carefully studied. Approximately 95 percent of the new hotel will be invisible from the Plaza, with the visible remainder largely being building facades located exactly where buildings exist now. He states the hotel is 67,000 square feet, which is also incorrect. The project lot size is 67,000 square feet. The total amount of new building area (excluding parking) over that which already exists on the site will be approximately 59,000 SF, with the scale of this new building area being carefully designed and modulated.
The hotel is now being redesigned based on the valuable feedback we received during the first four community meetings. The Mansard roofs have been deleted. Our ambition for the redesign process is to further enhance and respect the historic character of the downtown area and reflect historic Sonoma architectural forms. The project sponsors are local people who love Sonoma and want to get it right. We look forward to presenting these design changes in a follow-up Planning Commission study session in late February.
Regarding traffic, the sponsors agreed with the League for Historic Preservation’s early recommendation that the project should be reviewed through a formal EIR process. The EIR will evaluate any changes to traffic conditions that may result. While our preliminary traffic study indicates minimal traffic impacts are expected, we will rely on the findings of the EIR to identify any traffic impacts and propose mitigations.
Regarding economic benefits, we are confident this locally-owned business will provide many new job opportunities to Sonoma residents and directly contribute millions of dollars to Sonoma’s economy for years to come.
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Michael B. Ross, AIA, is a Sonoma Valley architect who is designing the proposed hotel.