As the path toward a waterfront winery begins to take shape downtown, city officials are tempering their excitement for the project, ensuring Adobe Road Winery adheres to Petaluma’s strict policies for riverfront developments before stamping it with approval.
During a planning commission study session on July 24, Adobe Road CEO Kevin Buckler, a local racing luminary turned wine manufacturer, and development director Ross Jones presented their proposal for a two-story, 15,848-square-foot winery for the corner of C and First streets, which would unequivocally transform the turning basin just north of the theater district.
“I believe it’s going to be good for Petaluma,” Jones said. “It’s going to bring a lot of exciting activities for residents to enjoy here, and bring some tourism and entertainment to town.”
However, the task of fitting a fully- functioning facility, one that features a tasting room, motorsports gallery and private event space, hasn’t been easy. The project site is on a .58-acre parcel between the PG&E substation and Petaluma Yacht Club, and Adobe Road Winery has found itself caught between its ambitions for the space and the reality of what achieving them might require.
While several members of the Petaluma Planning Commission were openly enthusiastic about the project, all were dismayed that the current proposal failed to provide pedestrian access along the riverfront, which is a key component for that section of the turning basin in the 1996 Petaluma River Access and Enhancement Plan.
Buckler said they “simply ran out of room” trying to accommodate a production facility that produces about 5,000 cases per year, and will require every inch of the project site. Adobe representatives also expressed concerns about devoting resources and space to a pathway that had no eastward connection behind the substation to the D Street Bridge.
“We’re putting all our eggs in one basket, and it’s all out on the terrace,” Jones said.
Uncovering a compromise that would allow the winery to build its outdoor area and still satisfy the city’s desire to increase public use of the riverfront became the prevailing theme of the discussion.
“When this comes back to us, I really would like to see a significant commitment of some kind to the connection to the river, be that the pocket park or boat dock or something that enhances the access for the public,” said commissioner Bill Wolpert.
A future pocket park at the end of C Street, long a desire of river advocates, was also brought up numerous times. The space was approved for a viewing deck and connecting boat dock by the Recreation, Music and Parks Commission in March 2016, although that project has been idle due to budget constraints.
While Buckler indicated he would be willing to partially fund the park, the commissioners made it clear the site plans needed to include a greater consolation if they were going to allow a new development to curtail public access on such a key frontage.
“Perhaps if there was a dock, if there was some other way to interact with the river, that could make up for not having that bicycle pedestrian path,” said commissioner Diana Gomez.
Several other aspects of the project were revealed during last week’s presentation. The L-shaped building would have a bell tower and incorporate Spanish style architecture similar to the downtown fire station.