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News: 06/01/2019

Carquinez building to be expanded

SVCAC panel on board with the Glen Ellen project

glen ellen building drawing
Architect’s rendering of the expanded building on Carquinez Avenue and Arnold Drive in Glen Ellen.
Stephen Sorkin walked away a happy man, after getting unanimous approval for the designs to remodel and expand the building that houses the Garden Court Café and McCormick’s Mercantile. The Sonoma Valley Citizens Advisory Commission (SVCAC) agreed that Sorkin’s plans were in keeping with the neighborhood and existing building uses.

The project involves three parcels and one extended structure that reaches from Arnold Drive to Railroad Street along Carquinez Avenue. The 8,328-square-foot building houses four commercial spaces, two of them occupied, along with two occupied residential units. There is a 6,000 square foot parking area and various easements.

Sorkin intends to convert the two vacant commercial units into four, one-bedroom residential apartments, subdivide an existing two-bedroom apartment into two, one-bedroom units on the second floor, and add a new residential unit above the Garden Court Café. One of the residential units will be low-income affordable, according to the application. These renovations will require adding an additional 1,215 square feet to the building, by building up and not out.

The renovation will increase space available to the Garden Court Café, which pleased owner Jazmin Vargas, who said she was ready to take on more space to accommodate a growing customer base. “This is great for me, the business and the community,” Vargas said.

“We want to deliver more housing to the Sonoma Valley,” Sorkin told the commissioners at their monthly meeting on May 22. The revamp will keep trees, and use gravel on the parking lot to keep runoff to a minimum.

“These units are affordable by design,” Sorkin said. “They are not designed for vacation rental apartments,” he responded to a question about who will rent the new apartments. Sorkin emphasized that he lives and works in Glen Ellen, and he thinks the county should closely monitor vacation rentals.

Several informal meetings were held with neighbors before the SVCAC hearing. “The only complaint I heard was concern for increased traffic on Railroad,” Sorkin said.

Commissioners looked at a paint sample for the primary color of the building and found it pleasing, as they did the overall architectural plans, and agreed that they fall well within boundaries of the surrounding neighborhood architecture.

The original building on the corner of Carquinez and Arnold Drive is a typical 1930s style, and Sorkin said his architects closely followed Glen Ellen’s Design and Development Guidelines. They are incorporating awnings for window shade, hip and gable roofs, and will extend existing stucco finish to replace wood siding. Both Arnold Drive entrances will be set back from the sidewalk in alcoves.

The Garden Court’s dining room will be increased almost 200 square feet, also allowing an additional 200 square feet for outdoor dining. The next door retail space will shrink by 300 square feet. The lower parking lot will also pick up an additional space with restriping.

Sorkin is hopeful that construction could begin this year, but hesitated to make any firm predictions based on the current length of time it takes to get permits approved in the county. He intends to keep disruptions to both businesses and residents to a minimum and do most of the restaurant renovation during the winter months, when business is typically at its lowest.

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