The Sonoma Planning Commission is expected to again take up the Hotel Project Sonoma proposal at its April 13 meeting.
City Planning Director David Goodison announced last week that the certification of the Final EIR (environmental impact report) and consideration of the use permit for the project would be considered at the meeting. The item had been rescheduled from its original date of Nov. 3, then delayed to Dec. 8 before being pulled again.
The second cancellation was due to an 11th-hour request to re-evaluate the traffic study, and the need for additional calculations regarding the left turn into the hotel driveway, which may not have included all trips associated with the project site.
The project – referred to in the EIR as Hotel Project Sonoma – is a 62-room hotel with accompanying restaurant, is scheduled for development in the 100 block of West Napa, just off the Sonoma Plaza. It has been a controversial proposal from the outset, generating a 2014 ballot measure that sought to curtail hotels larger than 25 rooms unless the overall occupancy rate in the city was 80 percent. That measure lost narrowly.
Darius Anderson, founder of Kenwood Investments, the developer of the proposed hotel, is Managing Member in Sonoma Media Investments, the company which owns the Index-Tribune. The offices of the I-T will be located near the hotel, in a separate building at 117 W. Napa St. currently undergoing remodeling.
In fact it is in part the traffic to and from the offices to be located at 117 W. Napa St. that caused the second traffic study. A complainant pointed out that the original traffic study did not include employee traffic for the businesses, nor the residents of the Lynch Building or the Umpqua Bank, at 135 W. Napa. It was speculated that a left-hand lane on West Napa might be necessary to accommodate the uncounted traffic, if it exceeded the parameters that the original EIR found.
“This was an error on the part of the traffic engineer who prepared the analysis. However, it should have been identified by the EIR consultant or by staff and it is fortunate that the issue was raised through the public comment process prior to the Planning Commission’s consideration of certifying the EIR,” wrote Goodison in his memo announcing the new hearing date.
Following a revised traffic study by W-Trans (the same consulting firm which prepared the original study), peer review by CHS Consulting Group and evaluation by CalTrans, the original EIR was upheld and it was found that no left-turn lane would be required.
Similarly, the possibility that traffic entering and leaving the Bank of Marin lot opposite the project site – at 136 W. Napa St. – should also be included in the traffic study was raised because the project description included use of off-site parking as part of the valet service and/or for hotel employees at this location. The offices of Kenwood Investments are located in this building, and the lot has been suggested to serve as employee or overflow parking for the hotel project.
However, again, the revised study did not find a traffic increase sufficient to require adding a turn lane.
“Based on a review of the analysis performed, it is concluded that use of parking on the opposite side of West Napa Street would result in no changes to the analysis or the resulting findings and mitigation measures,” reads Goodison’s conclusion.