More affordable housing

A proposed 41-unit affordable housing unit would be located next to McDonald’s on Exchange Avenue in the Mill District and would feature flats and townhomes for families.

The Healdsburg Planning Commission held a design review workshop on May 28 to discuss and provide feedback on a 41-unit Mill District affordable housing development that would sit between McDonald’s and Double O Mini Storage on Exchange Avenue.

While there wasn’t any action taken on the item — that will come at a later commission meeting/public hearing — commissioners did give consensus that the simple design didn’t have the best colors and that the facade could have a bit more visual interest. They did, however, like how architects maximized the use of space and how the building was laid out.

The vacant Exchange Avenue site would be home to the proposed four-story building, which would house 40 income-restricted units and one middle-income unit for the building manager.

A multipurpose room, laundry room, an outdoor kids playground and a maintenance office would be located on the first floor. The second and third floors would house the townhomes and the fourth floor would be reserved for the smaller flats.

Proposed parking would be on-site to the rear of the building.

The applicant, local architect Alan Cohen, said the goal of the project is to create a warm and friendly neighborhood space as opposed to a basic, cookie-cutter development.

“The goal is to create a neighborhood as opposed to a project … with a contemporary interpretation of traditional,” Cohen said.

He said with the design they wanted to create a simple and refined industrial look that honors the history of the mill area.

Pyatok Architecture and Urban Design Principal Adrianne Steichen also highlighted the design aspects of the project.

Steichen said they wanted to create a dignified and mature character with an effortless feel in the form of sloped roofing, stucco, wood and corrugated metal.

She said they also wanted to encourage a healthy residential lifestyle with a community vegetable garden with a water tower, and a kid-friendly space to play.

Design features also include solar panels on the roof for green energy, varied colors of beige and white, recessed windows and a trellis framed entrance. 

In terms of landscaping, the area would feature local plantings that are drought resistant and low maintenance. On the McDonald’s side of the building there would be a vine-covered fence with large, columnar deciduous trees lining the fence to create a screen for privacy.

While residents had no problem with the building’s simple design elements, there were some concerns from commissioners and from city staff regarding the overall design and consistency with the Central Healdsburg Avenue Plan (CHAP) design guidelines.

Perhaps the biggest design dislike was the color.

Commissioner Vesna Breznikar thought the white and beige were too stark and “hospital” like and thought rustic colors should be used instead.

Commissioner Jerry Eddinger liked the stucco and said he wouldn’t change anything about the design except the trash area.

“The project layout is really great,” he said.

Commissioners Jeff Civian and Richard Tracy agreed with Breznikar in terms of the color and thought they evoked too much of an institutional feel.

Most did not like the trellis-framed entrance. They also thought there should be more passive space, an area for relaxing, in the community garden.

Commissioner Richard Bottarini’s thoughts centered on the blank wall that covers the main stairwell. He thought it would be a good space for art.

During public comment all resident speakers were in support of the project but emphasized the need to get the development to happen quickly rather than stumbling on minute design elements.

Tom Chambers, former Healdsburg mayor, said it looks like a wonderful project.

“Very pleased to see this project moving forward. Beds are desperately needed … and the solar application is great,” he said.

Richard Burg said he thought the entry was large and generous and said he did not feel the blank wall was a problem. He added that it could be a good space for art.

Ken Munson echoed Chamber’s and Burg’s thoughts and said, “I think this project is terrific. I think it will fit in very well.” 

He liked the simple geometry and the articulation as well as the solar panels on the roof.

Conditional Use Permit for Elephant in the Room

The Healdsburg Planning Commission held a public hearing for a conditional use permit for amplified music on the patio of the Elephant in the Room later that evening.

The motion to issue the permit passed unanimously, 6-0. Commissioner Dan Petrik was absent.

Commissioners had no problem supporting the permit and seemed enthusiastic in supporting the local music scene.

In preparation for the hearing, the applicant, KC Mosso, had a noise study conducted and compiled on March 21.

The study found the proposed decibel level would comply with the noise ordinance for the area.

Proposed sound conditions would have a max of 80 decibels on the patio and 75 on the property line.

Staff findings also found that the proposed use is consistent with the commercial uses for the area.

“The zoning allows amplified music … and the noise study indicates noise generated by the proposed use complies with the

noise ordinance for sensitive

noise receptors,” said Shaunn Mendrin, a Healdsburg senior planner.

He added that if compliance becomes and issue, the commission could reevaluate the conditional permit.

Outdoor music hours would go from normal business hours and end at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

During public comment 19 people spoke in favor of having live and amplified music on the patio.

Folks also spoke warmly of Mosso and the music scene he’s brought to Healdsburg. Others said the spot was a great place for residents and tourists and said venues like the Elephant in the Room were great for local musicians.

Cohen said he thought the music hours were reasonable and supported the outdoor music.

One resident said the Elephant in the Room gave her the motivation to dance again and she also thought the hours of music were reasonable.

Steve Pile a local musician also supported the idea and said, “There is something really magical about outdoor music.”

Kenny Lowe said he liked that it is geared towards locals and that it is always a welcoming place.

“I appreciate you all for considering this application for music… and I thank everybody here, I am moved to tears over the support and I thank you — I love this town and I love music,” Mosso said.

Commissioner Tracy said of the music, “It is a prime location for this kind of activity and the kind of place Healdsburg needs.”

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