Rentals, food trolley, bike trail OK’d

Adding to Sonoma’s image as a tourist mecca, the Sonoma Planning Commission unanimously approved turning three office units into vacation rentals Thursday, but this time there’s a twist.

The buildings, located at 158, 164 and 172 W. Napa St., will be returned to their former status as houses. All are older than 50 years, although the Commission was told only one is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Once restored, the buildings will provide income to owner Michael Marino, while he moves forward with Phase II, a small lodging property akin to the “auto court” concept, popular when cars were first mass produced.

“I’m delighted to see this project come before you,” said Karla Noyes, the only member of the public who spoke. “The applicant respects historic buildings and I’m glad he is returning them to residential use. I also support his small hotel concept.” Patricia Cullinan, preservation activist, also sent a letter of support.

The site also contains a duplex, now vacant, and some ancillary buildings and additions Marino hopes to get permission to demolish. His next visit will be to the Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission to start the ball rolling.

The buildings have most recently been used to house the Sonoma Sun and KSVY radio. The first business has relocated and the second one will be out by the end of the month.

While the buildings are considered craftsman and English cottage style, their significance derives from their association with early medical practitioners in the community. Of note was Dr. Allen M. Thomson, a community leader who was an early advocate for a hospital in the community and was at one time president of the Sonoma Grammar School board. He was married to a granddaughter of Gen. Vallejo.

Marino said he is excited to be able to renovate these buildings, having restored historic buildings in the past. He said he is working with an architect skilled in preservation.

In other business, the commission approved a new mobile eatery to be located on a site that already contains Sorrento Imports and Cafe Scooteria at 455 W. Napa St. The bright red trolley will be called TIPS Tri-Tips and will be perpendicular to the building by night and will be removed off site by day. It is currently stored on site behind the building. The conditional approval will be reviewed in six months, at which time modifications can be made.

The two other businesses on the site are closed in the evenings.

In addition to approving room additions and a fence height modification, the commission rounded out the evening reviewing the bicycle trail plan update which was approved without change and forwarded to council. The only critical comment came from commission Chairman Chip Roberson who said he was sorry the council had moved the proposed Class Two trail from West Spain Street to West Napa. This trail will eventually connect to the county’s Highway 12 trail coming out of Boyes Springs.

“I would never put a kid on a bike there,” he said. “It’s unsafe.”

The staff pointed out other the changes made since the last review: completion of the trails on Fifth Street West and West MacArthur, signage throughout the city, and the crosswalk at Maxwell Village.

In answer to a question about when the Newcomb Street Bridge would be built, the commission was told there is no funding for it yet.

The Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan will next be sent to the City Council for approval. While it is a component of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority’s plan, it also stands alone and will be included in the City of Sonoma’s General Plan.