Council eyes disposition of Patten St. fire station

By Pam Gibson/Special to the Index-Tribune

The disposition of the old fire station at 32 Patten St. will be taken up by the Sonoma City Council Monday, Sept. 16. The council meets at 6 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room at 177 First St. W.

Acting as the Successor Agency to the former Redevelopment Agency, the panel will review options specified under the law, and decide whether to keep the property for a governmental use, retain it for future development, retain it to fulfill an enforceable obligation, or sell it. Staff is recommending a sale, working with a real estate professional to secure the best price.

The property is zoned mixed use. Objectives for the property set forth in the general plan and other city documents state that it should serve as a gateway to the Plaza, and as an anchor to the Plaza business district; that it should stimulate pedestrian-oriented activity; that it should be attractive and compatible with the character of the community; that it utilize environmentally-friendly principles, and that it should include revenue-generating activities.

Located in the Historic Overlay Zone, the structure came close to being sold to Foothill Partners just prior to the recent elimination of redevelopment agencies in California. The property had previously been sold by the city at the height of the real estate boom to its Community Development Agency in 2006 for $2.8 million. Current value of the property, according to its most recent assessed valuation, is $825,000, reflecting the economic downturn in property values, and the fact that it will most likely not be developed for its highest and best use based on neighborhood concerns.

If the council approves the staff recommendation, the Successor Agency will retain a qualified real estate professional to list the property for sale, market it, and solicit offers from qualified buyers.

Once the offers are submitted, the Successor Agency and the real estate professional will conduct an initial review and recommend a short list for further discussion and evaluation to the Oversight Board.

Successor Agency staff will negotiate with each firm under the direction of the Oversight Board which will make the selection of the preferred proposal.

It is expected that the selected firm will not close the deal until planning approvals have been obtained. Once this is done, all proceeds will be distributed among all taxing agencies within the city.

Other matters to be taken up by the council include: approval of a restructured veterans cemetery fee plan, award of a contract for street repairs, and setting annual growth management allocations.

  • Steve Marler

    Architect Victor Conforti designed a masterpiece when he took on the job of remodeling and expanding the historic Patten Street Fire Station in the early 1980’s. The building featured a solarium that provided natural warmth in the winter – supplemented by a wood burning stove. (Fueled by tree trimmings from the Parks Department.) During the warm summer days, scarlet maple trees shaded the solarium, and a whole house fan would draw in the naturally cool night air, chilling the “thermal mass” of the building to help keep it cool for the next day. The building is a tribute to some architectural genius by Mr. Conforti, and to the unshakable dedication to public service of Fire Chief Al Mazza.

    I can’t count the number of times that standing in front of the wood stove provided a comforting warmth, and motivated all of us to do the best we could to serve Sonoma on a cold winter day.

    I used to joke with a prominent property owner that the building would make a great restaurant and B&B. Maybe that joke will move a bit closer toward reality…