Piazza’s Permit Under Scrutiny
What a difference a day makes.
This newspaper has raised the question of whether Piazza Hospitality’s proposed new hotel project at 400 Healdsburg Ave. is prohibited by a city ordinance passed in 2018 to halt the proliferation of hotels in our city’s downtown core. (“Piazza’s New Hotel May be Illegal Under City’s 2018 Ordinance,” Aug. 3.)
The ordinance does indeed prohibit the project.
It’s a matter of timing. The ordinance was passed on Dec. 17, 2018, and became effective at 12:01am on Jan. 16, 2019.
Within the ordinance is this exemption: “Hotel projects for which an application has already been submitted and deemed complete by the Planning Department as of the effective date of this ordinance shall be exempt from the provisions of this ordinance.”
Thus, whether the ordinance prohibits this project turns on the date when Piazza’s design review application was “deemed complete.” If the application was deemed complete after Jan. 15, 2019, the ordinance applies.
Piazza’s application was deemed complete at 2:56pm on Jan. 16, 2019, when the city emailed Piazza what’s called a “completeness letter,” which told Piazza its application would be processed “in accordance with” the zoning provisions that were “in effect on January 16, 2019”—that is, under the new ordinance.
Yet the project is now before the Planning Commission for design review.
Why is this project still alive? The answer seems to be that the members of the Planning Commission have been kept in the dark about the timing problem, moving forward with design review while Planning Department staff stayed mum.
Meanwhile, Piazza has continued to pursue the project despite being notified in the completeness letter that the 2018 ordinance applies.
Yet there it is, hiding in plain sight within city records. Those records show that despite a hurried effort by Piazza—working behind the scenes with Planning Department staff—to get a design review application submitted and deemed complete before the ordinance took effect, the city proved unable to process the application and issue the completeness letter until Jan. 16, 2019.
Piazza fell short by a day.
The people of Healdsburg, acting through their elected representatives, decided in 2018 to put a stop to further hotel construction in the downtown core.
To disregard the failure to invoke this time-limited exemption would go against the will of the people. The Planning Commission should put the kibosh on this project.
JON B. EISENBERG
We’ve spent a great deal of time and effort further improving the project based upon the Planning Commission’s latest comments. We are ready and look forward to presenting these updated designs at our meeting on Aug. 22.
As we’ve done since we first approached the City with the idea of a hotel and retail project on this site back in 2017, we’re completing the necessary steps as presented to us by City staff.
UPDATE: The Agenda for the Aug. 22 meeting of the Planning Commission, released Aug. 17, does not show that the Piazza hotel project will be heard.
Response From Vertice
Dear Mr. Abramson,
Thank you for your interest in our future projects and recognition of our work in Healdsburg to date. We understand and appreciate your group’s concerns, and at this very early time we are still working with our architects and team to evaluate City requirements and think through the appropriate programming.
Our goal is to think through multiple perspectives and make meaningful contributions to the community through our hospitality, culinary and agricultural programs.
Once we have some preliminary concepts to share with the community, we will have meetings with adjacent property owners and other interested parties such as yourselves, to share our thoughts and receive feedback.
We’ll make sure that this will be well in advance of Planning Commission workshop(s) and then formal entitlement processing.
Healdsburg is our home. We farm here and live here with our families, and we have respect for its history and understand our responsibility to help steward its future.
We will move through the planning process thoughtfully and deliberately and attempt to strike an appropriate balance.
Give us some time to think through that properly, and we will be back in touch with you once we have gotten our ideas better formulated.
KATINA & KYLE CONNAUGHTON and TONY GREENBERG
The Vertice Team
Editor’s Note: The above referenced Letter to the Editor by Bruce Abramson appeared in the Aug. 10 issue of the ‘Tribune.’