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Plans for new Sonoma hotel, apartment complex unveiled

Plans for a new 120-room hotel and 72-unit affordable housing complex on the former Paul’s Resort site will be discussed by the Sonoma County Planning Commission at its Thursday, July 15 meeting.

The applicant, the Springs Investors Group, is a limited partnership led by local hotelier Norman Krug, 83.

The project site at 135, 155 and 175 W. Verano Ave., is three parcels totaling almost 6 acres.

Affordable housing

The “100 percent affordable” rental apartments, to be called Verano Family Housing, are expected to house 170 residents on land bordered to the north by Agua Caliente Creek, to the east by Lazzarotto Mobile Home Park and to the west by the Finnish American Home Association Apartments (FAHA). The new El Verano Hotel will be adjacent along the southern border.

The Verano Family Housing site is outside of Sonoma City limits and the proposal requires a Sonoma County General Plan land-use density zoning change (from an 8-unit per acre to 20-unit per acre density) as well as a zoning change from “recreational and visitor-serving commercial” to “high density residential.”

The 72 housing units will compose six 3-story apartment buildings: 32 one-bedroom units, 22 two-bedroom, 18 three bedroom units, along with a dedicated parking lot with 97 spaces.

While affordable housing development company MidPen Housing was attached to the project when its application was first submitted to Permit Sonoma, the nonprofit builder of such Sonoma projects at the Fetters Apartments and Celestina Garden Apartments is no longer associated with the project, according to spokesperson Tommy McDonald. McDonald declined to provide details as to why MidPen was no longer involved.

A new Springs hotel

The proposed three-story hotel plans include a small café and bar for guests on a rooftop observation deck and a six-building apartment complex, across from Maxwell Park and one block from the Vineyard Shopping Center.

Bill Blum, the former longtime general manager at MacArthur Place Hotel and Spa, told the Index-Tribune in 2018 he had been named by Krug as vice president of the planned hotel. “We haven’t actually picked a brand or what type of hotel it’s going to be, but we do want to make it in an affordable price range,” said Blum at the time. Krug currently owns two mid-price hotels in the county, the 82-room Sonoma Valley Inn on Second Street West and the 163-unit Dry Creek Inn in Healdsburg. Both are Best Western-affiliated.

The proposed stucco Spanish Mission style three-story hotel would be 92,411 square feet and include a swimming pool, gym and meeting rooms, a roof deck and 138 dedicated parking spaces. It is expected to employ 40 full-time staff members and 15 part-time or seasonal employees.

The project also includes a 15,000-square-foot landscaped parklet, located at the southwest corner of the project, proposed on land owned by Sonoma County Regional Parks, which would be maintained by the applicant. A total of 97 trees are proposed for removal, and 105 replacement trees will be planted.

The entrance and egress for both projects would be from Verano Avenue.

The process to date

Normal Krug and his investment group purchased the 5.9 acre parcel in 2018 from Sonoma Valley Health and Recreation Association, also known as Sonoma Splash, a nonprofit recreation group which had struggled to find a developer for a planned community swimming pool complex. They have since allied with the school district to co-develop a pool complex on the campus of Sonoma Valley High School.

If the project receives approval from the county to proceed, a yet-to-be-determined affordable housing developer would purchase the project land from Krug. The two projects will be constructed and operated independently from that point forward, according to the project application.

The hotel and apartment complex is expected to take 18-24 months to build, with construction “beginning sometime in 2021,” and the affordable housing project must break ground before the hotel can be built, according to Permit Sonoma staff.

The applicants first submitted paperwork to the county outlining the project in early 2019. The Sonoma Valley Citizen’s Advisory Committee gave the project unanimous approval in February 2020. The Design Review Committee discussed the project in June 2020 and granted it preliminary approval. Final review and decision by the Board of Supervisors and the Design Review Board will occur at separate hearings yet to be scheduled.

Planning Department staff is recommending that the approval of the project’s use permit General Plan Amendment and Rezoning go to the Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commission will discuss the project at 1:05 p.m. on Thursday, July 15. The public can join the Zoom webinar at sonomacounty.ca.gov.

ElVeranoHotel.pdf

Contact Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.

NOTE: The print version of this article incorrectly lists one of the addresses of the project due to an error in the Permit Sonoma staff report attached above. The correct addresses are 135, 155 and 175 W. Verano Ave.

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