Sonoma council overrules Planning Commission, OKs Peet's Coffee & Tea

Faced with a public outcry, the Sonoma City Council on Monday unanimously overturned a decision by the Planning Commission and will allow Peet's Coffee &Tea to open its first store in the city.

Peet's use permit application was seen as a first test of the city's new formula store ordinance, which requires almost all businesses with more than 10 outlets that seek to open at the plaza or in the city's historical district to meet certain conditions.

Those conditions include that the business offer diversity and variety and not detract from Sonoma's historical character.

A majority of planning commissioners in September believed Peet's could not meet that threshold and voted to deny a use permit. But the City Council unanimously upheld Mayor Joanne Sanders' appeal of that decision, paving the way for Peet's to open on Broadway at the gateway to the city.

The decision drew loud applause inside the council chambers, packed mainly with Peet's supporters. The reasons for their support included the quality of the coffee Peet's serves and the possibility of getting a cup long after most other shops and restaurants have closed.

"Peet's is not what we think of as a high-volume fast-food joint," said Ann Foley of Sonoma.

A few critics said Peet's is not a good fit for Sonoma and fear it could take business away from local coffee purveyors.

"Being so close to the square gets me feeling that the uniqueness (of Sonoma) could be compromised," one man said.

Peet's will open at 591 Broadway in what now is a vacant office building and plans to operate 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. It will have up to 35 seats, including seven in an outdoor patio area, and will have seven parking spaces.

Council members did not address concerns about increased traffic, another concern raised by the Planning Commission.

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