Kenwood Press

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News: 10/01/2019

GE developer told to change design

A developer wanting to build a mixed-income housing project in downtown Glen Ellen was told by a county panel that the design fell short and needed revamping.

Glen Ellen Properties owner Marty Winter and his architect, Eric Glass, appeared before the county’s Design Review Committee (DRC) on Sept. 18, and presented their latest drawings for what they call “The Rustic Shops & Apartments” on two parcels at the corner of Arnold Drive and Carquinez Avenue.

Currently on the properties are a triplex, a commercial building, a cottage, and one single-family home. Under the proposal, the commercial building (which currently houses a tasting room and jeweler) and cottage would remain, with some modifications. Three new residential buildings would be constructed.

The number of housing units would increase from five to 15, with three of the units designated as affordable.

Access into a parking lot to be built in the inner area of the project would be from Carquinez Avenue.

Glen Ellen Properties, which owns other buildings in downtown Glen Ellen, first started pitching development plans for the site a number of years ago, plans which have undergone a number of revisions, all of which, for the most part, have encountered opposition from the Glen Ellen community. The current renderings are no exception.

A number of Glen Ellen residents appeared before the DRC on Sept. 18 to give public testimony, bringing up a variety of issues, including the size and scope of the project, its design incompatibility with the historic character of the two-block downtown, the removal of too many trees, increased downtown traffic congestion and parking problems, the large size of the roof, poor building materials, and the lack of compliance with specific development guidelines that apply to Glen Ellen.

Glen Ellen resident Mary Guerrazzi said the design looked like “cheap ski condos at South Lake Tahoe.”

Long time resident Nick Brown said it was important for the developer “to realize he is shaping the legacy of our downtown for generations to come.”

“One ill-conceived project like this has the potential to destroy the small town character, feel and quality of life,” echoed 25-year Glen Ellen resident Vicki Hill.

Glass told the DRC that there have been a number of changes since the original design, including what he said was a smaller size, improved setbacks, different building materials, and better landscaping.

“We’ve tried very hard to listen to all the community comments and respond,” said Glass.

The DRC encouraged Glass and the developer Winter to try harder.

“This is an improvement from where you began,” said committee member Jim Henderson, “But you haven’t gone far enough to satisfy the public. It needs more massaging to conform to the Glen Ellen Guidelines. Go back and pay close attention to the character of Glen Ellen.”

The meeting was considered an early “conceptual” design review by the DRC. Later in the process is a “preliminary” design review by the panel, and later a “final” review.

“The applicants have put the project on hold while they conduct further community outreach and revisions to the project design,” noted Nina Bellucci, the county planner on the project in an email after the meeting. She wrote that it’s likely once those revisions are submitted, that the next step would be an additional conceptual design review meeting, but she won’t be sure until she sees the revisions.

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