City Ventures map

FIRST LOOK — The new City Ventures development behind the O’Reilly complex could have between 100 and a 130 new multi-family units on the site.

Plan envisions 100-130 units for the north end of town

At Sebastopol’s Design Review Board meeting on Aug. 21, the public got its first look at what City Ventures has planned for the two parcels between the O’Reilly Building and the West County Trail.

According to the city report, “The preliminary site design for the project proposes construction of 18 multi-family residential structures. Of the proposed structures, six would be two-story, three-unit buildings, five would be three-story, 10-unit buildings, and seven would be three-story, five-unit buildings.”

The number of units is still in flux, but is expected to be between 100 and 130.

The point of this particular meeting was not to review the building plans, but to do a preliminary review of the firm’s Tree Preservation and Mitigation Report. The company is seeking to remove 40 of the 133 trees on the site, including Black Oak, Coast Live Oak, Coast Redwood, Douglas Fir, Honey Locust and Valley Oak.

Sebastopol city planner Kari Svanstrom described the plan’s reception this way:

“I’d say the initial feedback was that they thought the tree assessment was thorough, and the general strategy in regards to trees was appropriate. They (the board) expressed concern about the Ceres garden and encouraged the applicant to work with them to see if there was a creative solution that allowed them to stay.”

The Ceres Community Project, which teaches teens how to cook and provides meals for seriously ill clients throughout the North Bay, has been renting a portion of the southernmost parcel for their community garden for eight years. The garden is used for Ceres’ farm-to-table education program and for food production for clients, though it accounts for only a small percentage of the food the nonprofit uses.

The company’s initial sketch shows the garden replaced by multi-family housing.

Lars Langberg is one of the members of the Design Review Board who was there that night.

“Ceres is such a beloved organization that has an effect on so many people,” he said. “It wasn’t clear whether City Ventures understood that … There was quite a Ceres presence there, and they spoke clearly and passionately about the garden.”

Ceres’ Communications Director Deborah Ramelli said she was disappointed that no one — not the developer nor the city — had told Ceres about the meeting, which they learned about by chance.

“Our hope is that the people who are doing this development will consider the value of the garden to the community,” Ramelli said, “and that they’ll take into account its role in providing healthy, fresh, organic food to people facing serious illness.”

Ramelli also mentioned the opportunities for youth education and mentorship the garden provides.

In part because this was a meeting about tree removal, there wasn’t much discussion about the number of units that are planned for the site.

“It’s an infill project,” Design Review Board member Cary Bush said later. “They (City Ventures) said the number of units was in response to what people had said at their outreach meeting about Sebastopol’s need for housing. They were trying to respond to that expressed need.”

Last week’s preliminary review hearing before the Design Review Board was just the first step in a long approval process.

According Svanstrom, before the company submits the formal application, it will have a second preliminary review hearing, this time before the planning commission. After taking the boards’ initial concerns into consideration, the company will then submit a formal application, which will include 1) a tentative map for the subdivision; 2) a zoning change to “planned community;” 3) a use permit; and 4) a CEQA review — all of which will have to be reviewed by the planning commission or the design review board and approved by the city council.

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