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Williams Sonoma sails through Design Review

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Architectural details for Williams Sonoma’s heritage store, culinary school and restaurant sailed through the Design Review Commission without change Tuesday.

“It’s exciting for Williams Sonoma to come back home,” said Commissioner Kelso Barnett. “It’s a great project.”

The company plans to refurbish the original 638-square-foot store and modify the other two commercial spaces into a culinary school and a restaurant. The house at the rear of the storefronts will be rehabilitated and used to house visiting chefs.

“I love the ’50s retro feel,” said Chair Leslie Tippel. She was referring to the look of the store, originally modified and stocked by Chuck Williams, then a local homebuilder who lived in the building behind. Williams started a culinary revolution, introducing products and gadgets common in Europe, but unavailable to American homemakers. The store opened in 1956, but was so successful it closed and moved to San Francisco two years later. Now it is an iconic national chain.

Bud Cope, senior vice president for Williams Sonoma, said the “tribute” store will be one-tenth the size of the company’s normal stores and will stock the types of products Williams sold originally. The culinary school will feature visiting chefs and a dozen students. The restaurant already on the site will be expanded.

The color palette and striped awning is similar to the store’s original appearance. The landscape plan and signage will be presented for approval at a future meeting.

History seemed to be a dominant theme at the meeting, with several applicants affected by Sonoma’s past and the city’s new Certified Local Government status. An addition to a historic building at 663 Second St. E. was deemed appropriate to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, but the application was continued because pages were missing from the historical report. An application for a new residence at 157 W. Spain St., on a flag lot behind a historic craftsman which is next to the Castaneda Adobe, was continued until it was determined if an archeological survey should be submitted. And an unpermitted bright blue awning, on the north side of the Plaza, was continued until the applicant determined if his corporate affiliate would allow a different color.

Faring better was Vic Conforti, the architect for a proposed 11-unit apartment complex at 840 W. Spain on a narrow strip of land between West Spain and Napa Street. He was given approval to demolish a small, wooden vernacular building that a historical report stated was not worthy of preservation.

Finally, Top that Yogurt, a business in another historic building on the west side of Broadway, was allowed to keep its pink window trim which had been done without approval. It was deemed unobtrusive because it wasn’t on the Plaza and was hidden behind trees and an awning.

  • Fred Allebach

    A person might conclude from this article that bright, un-permitted structures can be put up around town. And then if corporate headquarters agrees there is a problem, it could be changed.