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Sonoma County approves Lanning container project in Boyes

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The container mixed-use container project on Sonoma Highway – known familiarly as Noodle Springs, after a proposed anchor restaurant – is headed toward an early 2019 opening, following a series of positive presentations to and endorsements from the county’s Design Review Committee (DRC).

The property at 18010 and 18020 Bonita Way, fronting on Sonoma Highway, has long been known as Lanning Structures for its former tenants. Ken Mattson purchased it in 2015, before he began his investment in the Boyes Food Center down the street.

Over the last year, plans for the project have evolved to its current form: “a recycled cargo container-based commercial, retail and residential project designed to serve the dining, small shop, and housing needs of the Springs Community.” This is approximately the same form first pitched to the county a year ago, and to the DRC in January, which offered a handful of recommended changes.

The revised plans incorporated those changes was reviewed for a second time by Design Review on Wednesday, June 6. “We’re presenting a vastly different approach to landscaping, some minor tweaks to the architecture and signage (to conform to standards), and have worked with staff to more clearly present the site circulation, maneuvering clearances, and our conformance to parking codes to the DRC,” said Tim Sloat, the development manager for the Mattsons.

The signature business would remain Noodle Springs, envisioned as eat in/take out restaurant operated by Sondra Bernstein. It would be housed in a fully-enclosed modified shipping container, such as those used both by rail transport and highway “big rigs.”

The project includes three dwelling units, one a 773-square-foot 2-bedroom, and two 483-square foot studio units. Outdoor patios and rooftop decks add to livability of the dwellings, and the appeal of the restaurant.

Upon their initial review by the DRC, committee members expressed concern over the need for additional landscaping, especially trees for “shading and softening the experience of the site,” according to the revised proposal, presented by Sloat to the committee.

The committee also questioned the parking allocation, access from Sonoma Highway, and the “Brutalist” architecture of a container-based project along with a number of other design tweaks.

Each of those were addressed in turn: additional landscaping including several new tree wells and shade trees in the common areas, bringing the total from one to 19 trees; traffic turns into the property from both Highway 12 and Bonita, but exits only from Bonita to avoid highway congestion; and while parking presents a challenge given the small size of the .28-acre lot and the congested businesses in the area – the notoriously underparked El Molino Central restaurant is directly north – additional bike parking stations were added to encourage non-vehicular traffic.

As far as the Brutalism, a style of architecture characterized by functionalism and deliberate plainness, Sloat’s presentation noted that “non-corrugated metal architectural elements – wood rain screens, vine walls, trellis – are used to counterbalance the metal container skins.”

Sloat and the Mattsons continue to ask for an expedited timeline from PRMD, hoping to provide the three dwelling units to be rented out “at well below market rate to residents currently residing on the Boyes Food Center property as part of that project’s … phased housing plan... Only after all those existing residents have been settled into their final homes at the BFC will these units be made available to other area residents.”

Following the Design Review Committee hearing, with its unanimous vote to approve, Sloat said he would begin work on the Conditional Use Permit paperwork, and reviewing the draft conditions of approval “to make sure we’re all on the same page.”

He speculated that demolition of the existing structures on the site would begin in late summer. “We’re still looking to have the project completed over the winter months so we’re 100 percent up and running by next spring,” said Sloat.

Contact Christian at christian.kallen@sonomanews.com.