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Signs point to improving economy

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If requests for sign approvals are an indication of an improving economy, Sonoma is off to a great summer.

Three new businesses got the nod from the Sonoma Design Review and Historic Preservation Commission. Pet Food Express, at 500 W. Napa St., came back with a revised sign that matches the approved program for the shopping center. Bossa Nova, a women’s clothing store, will be tucked into the first block of shops at 524 Broadway, and G’s General Store will have a vintage appearance. It will be occupying 19 W. Napa St. in a building that was once part of the long-ago Union Hotel complex.

Other signage approved during last week’s meeting was for Wells Fargo Mortgage Center, at 445 Second St. W., Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, 19270 Sonoma Highway and the Old Bowl Center, next door, which will sport an entire new signage program.

Private projects were also considered, but some did not fare as well. A project proposal that would increase the size of a stately craftsman at 563 Second St. E. by more than 5,000 square feet was held for further consideration.

Owned by Keith Hughes, the 1908 house was built by Ralph Murphy, a man who constructed 40 homes in the area. His buildings are considered locally significant by some, but the historic resources report commissioned for the project said it wasn’t historically significant.

Alice Duffy, who also is a specialist in historic resource evaluation, said she did not agree with the findings. “This was Murphy’s private residence,” she said. “Changes doubling the size of the building affect the integrity of scale, setting and overall feeling of the modest, craftsman, wood style of this bungalow.” The addition, mostly to the rear of the property, will be modern in design and Duffy said she applauded Hughes for at least not trying to build an addition that is faux historical.

Luke Wade, of Wade Design Architects, said his entire focus is on the rear. He said the square footage added includes the three-car garage and, while the builder may be locally significant in his own right, this particular house was not one of special importance.

Local architect Adrian Martinez said he would not call this a “plain Jane house.” He said he had no objection to the additions hidden from the street. “I do object to seeing the arm of the new building that sticks out and is visible.” The house is to have a glass enclosure entry way accessed from a side garden gate.

“This first block of Second Street East is very important,” said Commissioner Kelso Barnett. “We have to get it right.”

Commissioner Tom Anderson agreed. “Let’s consider this a study session, take a step back, and look at it again at a future meeting.”

The commission felt that the discrepancy of opinion between two historic resource “experts” was a problem that had to be resolved. They asked that a peer review be done by a third expert to provide additional information. Depending on the outcome, guidelines for the project could change.

Two other historic buildings on the agenda fared better. Williams Sonoma’s Heritage Store, at 599 Broadway, was approved for front elevations and color changes. The main change is the spread of the striped awning along the front of what was once three small buildings, all constructed by Chuck Williams, the business’ founder. Originally it was only approved for the store’s original storefront. The second was color changes for Inn to Remember at 171 W. Spain St.