Planners OK Mission Square project

After 13 years of consideration, changes, resubmittals and further changes, the Mission Square project received an approved use permit and parking exception on a 4-2 vote Thursday night. Robert Felder and Gary Edwards voted “no.”

Architectural and site design was also generally approved, but one proposed building was sent to the Design Review Commission for approval, along with landscape and lighting plans.

“We have a tremendously-improved project before us,” said Chip Roberson, commission chairman. “At the end of the day, the owners want to be proud of this. The community had tremendous input and the owners have made major concessions,” he said. “Is it a design marvel? No. Is it an eyesore? No. Does it overwhelm or fight with what’s around it? No. Beauty is in the eye of beholder.”

Mission Square, at 165 E. Spain St., tucked in behind the historic Blue Wing Inn, will now be a mixed-use project consisting of 3,514 square feet of office space, 14 apartment units, and associated parking. It will be built on a site slightly larger than one acre, located on the south side of East Spain a half-block east of the Plaza. The mostly vacant site is occupied by the 1922 Pinelli bungalow, which will be rehabilitated.

The project began its journey in 2000 as a hotel, but the idea was dropped when it appeared to have little, if any, support from approving bodies or the public. The current project was submitted in 2005 as 5,700 square feet of commercial space and 23 apartments. Over time, it morphed into office space and a reduced number of apartments. On July 13, after three years of review, the project’s environmental impact report was certified.

But the architectural design – particularly Building One, the building fronting on Spain Street – continues to be challenged and was referred to the DRC.

“We’re not trying to replicate any style in Sonoma, but elements of those styles … familiar elements,” said Carol Marcus, project architect. “Our aim is not to replicate historical buildings, but to respect them by not mimicking them. Our buildings are quiet. They don’t call attention to themselves, and clearly differentiate between old and new.”

Building One is two-stories high, with 2,334 square feet of office space, and would be set back 20 feet, in line with the Pinelli bungalow. According to the staff report, this places the building deeper into the site so it will not be in line with the Blue Wing Adobe or the adjoining Pinelli building.

“It’s a plain building,” said Commissioner Mark Heneveld. “But sometimes plain is good.”

Several persons spoke, criticizing the project engineer’s drainage plans, lack of vibration monitoring for the Blue Wing Adobe, the width of residential parking spaces and the architectural design of the rest of the project.

“This is a jewel piece of property and needs a more than ordinary design,” said Kimberly Blattner. “I respect the architectural team. My issue is, not much has been demanded of them by their client. It looks like Motel 6 housing. Send it all back.”

But while the project was approved, conditions were added: the fire main is to be moved from a visible site off Spain, with the fire department’s approval; carports are to be prewired for use or future use of solar; some type of decorative paving material is to be incorporated at the Spain Street entrance to the project; to the extent feasible, and subject to state approval, vibration shall be monitored at Blue Wing during grading. Approval of Building One was continued until DRC can address conditions raised by the commission and the public.

The development is being proposed by Marcus and David Detert, who also own many buildings on the west side of the Plaza, including adobes they have restored.