A massive renovation and ground excavation at the historic Brainerd Jones-designed home at 26 6th St., owned by Peter & Ginnie Haas of the Levi Strauss & Co. fortune, was approved by the City of Petaluma City Council on December 22, 2020, without required CEQA compliance.
The Haas Residential Remodel project will soon commence without California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review, per the decision of City Council on December 22, 2020.
This project sets a troubling precedent which significantly lowers the bar for historical preservation and environmental review requirements in our beloved historic districts. Preserve Petaluma has lost trust and faith in the City following its required processes and its fair and consistent application of established standards to protect the community’s interests and resources.
Preserve Petaluma is saddened for Petaluma and the future of its designated historic districts, which are now no longer protected.
This project was approved to move forward without adherence to neighborhood outreach as required by City Resolution 2018-107 N.C.S. The resolution requires project applicants to perform outreach to neighbors within a 1000 SF radius if the project is major enough to require a public hearing (such as the HCPC hearing and City Council hearing). Applicants must provide neighbors an opportunity to learn about project plans and details such as timelines and impacts and have their consultants available to answer questions -- all of this PRIOR to the scheduling of ANY public hearing. The applicant's architect voted for passage of this Resolution when serving on the Planning Commission, so should be aware of its requirements. Every applicable project since the Resolution passed has been required to comply, including another project presented at the very same HCPC meeting. This project was heard by the HCPC in July without compliance to this Resolution, and again by City Council on December 21, again without compliance. Why does the City’s Planning Department not require this applicant to follow the rules?
City Staff's Response:
At the December 7, 2020, City Council meeting discussion regarding a requested continuance of this item scheduled for December 21, City staff indicated that a meeting was held between the applicant and the 3 appellants after the HCPC decision. This is no substitute for the neighborhood outreach meeting described above, in which all property owners from a 1,000 SF radius are invited to provide input on the project prior to HCPC review and approval. City staff also mentioned the standard noticing of the HCPC public hearing to homeowners within 1,000 feet, but again, this is not the meeting invitation required by the resolution prior even to the scheduling of the hearing, nor does it represent compliance.
Please see official documentation of City Resolution 2018-107 N.C.S. below.
In 1986, City Council adopted the 'A Street Historic District Standards,' applying them to 77 properties in a designated neighborhood under the City's Implementing Zoning Ordinance. A small amount of the City's residential inventory thus had its historic 'character' preserved as a resource. The 'A Street Historic District Standards' incorporate by reference the U.S. Secretary of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings.
"The District's wide diversity of architectural styles co-exist in harmony of scale and material. They illustrate a cross-section of architectural history over the 65-year period of the neighborhood's development. While there are institutional structures as well as a few very impressive homes in the District, all have fairly down-to-earth, human scale, and are straight-forward, unostentatious design, built with simple, basic materials such as wood and clay.
The "A" Street Historic District is a distinctively representative slice of Petaluma's past, in an nearly untouched condition."
“Applications shall not be approved unless: the proposed work shall not adversely affect the exterior architectural characteristics or other features of the property which is the subject of the application, nor adversely affect its relationship in terms of harmony and appropriateness with its surroundings, including neighboring structures, nor adversely affect the character, or the historical, architectural, or aesthetic interest or value of the district. In addition, applications shall be consistent with standards included in the designating ordinance.”
“Architectural design features on the sides and rear of a building must remain consistent with the front façade.”
"The removal of historic materials or alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided.”
“Distinctive … features … and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property will be preserved.”
“New additions, exterior alterations, or related new construction will not destroy historic materials, features, and spatial relationships that characterize the property.”
“New additions and adjacent or related new construction will be undertaken in such a manner that, if removed in the future, the essential form and integrity of the historic property and its environment would be unimpaired."
Check out our Opinion-Editorial piece in the September 30, 2020, issue of the Petaluma Argus-Courier.
Preserve Petaluma is still shaken by the complete disregard for historic preservation and necessary CEQA review exhibited by the City of Petaluma's City Council, City Planning Department and Historic & Cultural Preservation Committee.
The last possible recourse to prevent this project from proceeding as approved is via litigation demanding CEQA compliance initiated prior to the 30-day statute of limitations expiring on January 20, 2021. The estimated cost for this action is $25-30,000 and unfortunately, Preserve Petaluma does not have the funding necessary, so is urgently seeking any advocates or donors who might champion this cause.
Please email email@example.com ASAP if you are able to help!