Opponents of a mixed-use development proposed on what is perhaps the most historic block in historic Sonoma suggested it had, over more than a decade, been incrementally altered so many times that the city's Planning Commission had, finally, given in and approved it - and that it was plain and uninspired.
The years of project revisions have "led to this philosophy of, 'Well, it's good enough,' and we believe it's not good enough," Kimberly Blattner said to the City Council on Monday. A member of the city's Community Services and Environment Commission, Blattner and her husband had appealed the commission's decision.
But the council decided that all those changes - and they have been considerable - had added up to something commendable, denied the Blattners' appeal, and waved Mission Square along.
Its architect said after the meeting that work on the project, with 14 apartments and 3,514 square feet of office space, would probably start next spring on the East Spain Street site, half a block east of the town's iconic plaza.
"This was very respectful of some of the natural elements of the actual setting," said Councilwoman Laurie Gallian, responding to critics who said the proposed buildings, sited around a 1922 bungalow that will be preserved, needed to pay more heed to the site's heritage.
"It was not mimicking a historical building," Gallian said of the proposal, "it was creating a future" that merged the past with a vision of what is to come.
Blattner had considerable company Monday, and there were passionate calls to send the project, which has been around in form or another since 2001, back to square one.
"If you approve this project it will define your terms on the City Council; it will be your legacy," said Joseph Aaron, a resident who, like others, argued the project should be held to a "higher standard" because of the historic nature of the site, which is neighbored by the Blue Wing Inn, an adobe building dating to 1837.
But others, among what was a minority in the audience on Monday, said the Mission Square project, which as proposed in 2001 under a different name included a 34 room hotel and 10 apartments, achieved what its opponents sought.
"What we would like to see there is something that shows respect for this historic site," said Sue Simon, whose Realtor's office adjoins the property. "We feel it does that."
Councilman Steve Barbose agreed with the critics.
"We don't want to mimic things and give it this faux adobe look, but I find that something's missing," he said. "We can do better and this project can do better."
But he was on the minority end of a 4-1 vote.
"Simple, in this particular case, in the City of Sonoma, is good," said Mayor Tom Rouse.
The project is proposed by property owners David and Marcus Detert of Burlingame, brothers who summered in Sonoma as boys and who own a number of other historic buildings in the city.
The proposed 2-story office building was sent to the city's design review committee for further alterations, under the Planning Commission's approval in November.
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