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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Forestville Town Square Project Hearing Date Set

Forestville's Town Square Project
designed by Thiessen Homes- goes before the
Board of Supervisors
on June 1st at 2:30 pm.

For Contact info - the calendar and to submit opinions/comments -
please go to:
Please check before you go in case the hearing has been re-scheduled!


By Max Broome, Forestville Planning Association (“FPA”) President

Below is a report and analysis on updated details obtained by the FPA at the April 15 Sonoma County Planning Commission hearing regarding the Thiessen Downtown Development Project (the “Thiessen Project” or “Project”). It has been over two years since the last Town Hall meetings on the Project in Forestville. So, no matter what your opinion on the development, it’s a good idea to get updated on where the project currently stands. The FPA would also like to remind everyone that the FPA’s function is primarily educational. Therefore, the FPA does not have a position (“for” or “against”) on the Thiessen Project. However, this is the time for you to become informed and to make your own opinions known to the County Board of Supervisors!

For more detailed information and analysis of the April 15th Planning Commission Hearing, go to the FPA website -

Planning Commission Recommends Supervisors’ Approval
On April 15, 2010 the Sonoma County Panning Commission voted unanimously to adopt the County Planning Department’s environmental review/findings and recommended the Board of Supervisors approve the Project. The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing for a final vote on the fate of the Project on a date yet-to-be determined (possibly as soon as June 1, 2010).

The FPA encourages people who live in Forestville to contact the County Planning Department (565-1900) and/or Supervisor Carrillo’s office (565-2241), for any Project-related questions and to find out when the Board of Supervisor’s hearing is going to be held. If you wish to be alerted by email with updates, please send your email address to Max Broome at

Updates from the April 15 Hearing: Project/Land Use Issues Worth Pointing Out

The Rural Character of Forestville. Despite recommending approval, the County Planning Department staff noted several concerns with the current Project. For example, the staff found that the Project does not comply with County planning policy to maintain “the ‘rural village’ character of Forestville because it is not a small-scale development, and although it creates a town square, the square is too small (only 10% of the development); cannot be considered ‘substantial’ open space; and does not provide adequate native plants.”

Design Review provided another conflict between the Project and County planning policy for Forestville. In short, the Planning Department found the Project design does not give priority to natural landscape over development, and does not preserve and enhance significant natural features. Nor does it appear to retain open space amenities associated with rural lifestyle.

Boutique Hotel & Open Space. The County previously established a land use policy or at least the intent that any mixed-use portions of any development on the Crinella property include common open space and an open plaza with direct pedestrian connection to main street sidewalks, opening out directly onto the open space area “with a view to the hillside beyond.” This policy was reinforced in 2007 when the Board of Supervisors approved the development of the back 62 acres of the Crinella property, which shifted the higher density development to the front 8 acres for the (planned mixed-use) Thiessen Project.

However, the open space is quite minimal (the town square is only ½ an acre) and the very limited view of the hillside in the current Project plans (from one or two streets within the Project) is now blocked even further by a proposed 18-room boutique hotel, which adds another 15,000 square feet to the Project. The FPA is concerned the town of Forestville has not had a chance to sufficiently evaluate and comment on the hotel and its impacts, including the fact that it blocks out any meaningful remaining views of the hillside beyond (i.e., Green Valley.) County planning policy for Forestville states that, “design review approval shall assure that” projects, “to the extent allowed by law, require a long term scenic easement for the undeveloped portion of the property.”

Affordable Housing. Unlike the previous Thiessen Project plans, the Project as submitted on April 15 included no affordable housing units. However, it was clear that the Planning Commission requires meaningful affordable housing dispersed throughout the development, and the “Conditions of Approval” for the Project include at least 10 affordable housing units.

Traffic Issues. According to the County, the Project is going to make traffic in Forestville worse, especially during the morning rush hour. The proposed HWY 116/Mirabel Rd. roundabout needs to be completed to mitigate the traffic problems, in addition to a signal or roundabout at the northbound approach to the intersection of River Rd/Mirabel Rd. As for the bypass, the County does not own all the property required for its construction. Time of completion estimates for the bypass are from five to ten years, or maybe never, and about three years for the roundabout at Highway 116/Mirabel Rd

Feasibility. Questions about the feasibility of and possible legal impediments to the Project ever being built can be found on the FPA website -

Low Turnout. At the April 15 hearing, only about 5-6 people addressed the commissioners about the Thiessen Project, which seemed surprising considering the Projects magnitude and controversy. The FPA would like to note its frustration with the lack of adequate notification about the hearing and about the new aspects of the Thiessen Project, particularly the hotel. We received notification of the hearing less than 48 hours in advance, and no updates were provided to the FPA either by Orin Thiessen or by the presenters at the recent Forestville Town Hall Meeting. We encourage residents of Forestville to get their voices heard, and we will do our best to keep you apprised as we obtain more information.


There will be current changes to the project as requested by the Planning review Board and because of the roundabout going in at the intersection of Hwy 116 and Mirabel Road.

Forestville Square Project Description
By Orrin Thiessen Homes

Forestville Square is a revised component of PLP03-0025 Crinella General Plan Amendment, Rezone and Major Subdivision. The original 2003 Application covered five contiguous parcels comprised of APN’s 083-080-001, 084-031-060, 061, 062 and 063.

The Crinellas, who owned the land, were encouraged to talk to Orrin Thiessen by the Forestville Planning Association (FPA). Orrin and Terri Thiessen formed a Limited Partnership to design and develop the northern portion of their lands. Orrin met with the FPA Board to obtain input on community needs. The FPA hosted a Town Hall Vision meeting and invited Laura Hall, a well respected land planner and expert on town squares and downtown planning. After Laura’s presentation and a question/answer period, the community members broke into groups and made lists of what they desired in the square and downtown. The FPA’s Downtown Committee collated the information and made a list of the things that the community most wanted.

The Downtown Committee has been meeting with Orrin for two and a half years working on the design of the square and commenting on the design process of the whole project. The meetings, along with another Town Hall meeting, were well publicized and many members of the community gave their input. At the last town meeting, which filled the Odd Fellows Hall, Orrin presented the proposed architecture of the buildings he had completed, most of which were Victorian in style. Orrin asked if those present wanted more of the Victorian style buildings or if they wanted Spanish and Mission architecture mixed in. Approximately 60% wanted a mixture so Orrin has used Spanish and Mission designs for the remaining buildings.

Crinella Properties, in April of 2007 received approval from the Board of Supervisors for PLP 06-0076. This approval of the revision of the ongoing 2003 application adopted the Mitigated Negative Declaration for a General Plan Amendment, Zone Change, and Major Subdivision on 62 acres located at 6740 Highway 116 North, Forestville APN’s 084-031-071 and 072 (formerly 084-031-062 and 063). Orrin Thiessen and Forestville Square, L.P. bring forward this mixed-use planned community for development of APNs 084-031-069 and 070 (formerly 084-031-060 and 061 and 083-080-001). This portion of the development is intended to comply with the Sonoma County General Plan. Zoning compliance is achieved through an approved density transfer from the Board of Supervisors, allowing 59 residential units on this portion of land. The proposed project also conforms to the county’s Planned Community designation. Of the 59 allowable residential units, 49 are market rate and ten units will be affordable.

This project proposes to develop 8.6 acres. The proposed Phased tentative map creates eight parcels with buildings and a Town Square located on Lot A. The Town Square is designed to be a gathering place for residents, patrons, and employees of Forestville Square and the community at large. The vision includes musical events, readings, plays, and a farmer’s market. This parcel will be offered through dedication to Sonoma County Parks. Should this offer not be accepted, a proposal for use and maintenance will be brought to the Forestville Community Service District for their consideration. Failing these alternatives it will be the obligation of the Homeowner’s Association to provide maintenance and enforcement of use restrictions thru recorded CC&R’s.

These maintenance costs would be included in Assessment of Homeowner’s Dues.

Lots 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 contain mixed-use buildings. Lots 6 & 7 contain multi-family residential condominiums only and Lot 8 will have an eighteen-room boutique hotel. Detailed on the attachment to this application, “Unit Size”, the 49 Market Rate residential condominiums range in size from 1265 sq. ft. to 2669 sq ft., with the average size being approximately1675 square feet. Forty-three of these homes will have two-car garages; four homes will have one-car garage and one outdoor reserved space; two homes will have two outdoor reserved spaces. All of these homes will have private outdoor decks or patios. Ten affordable residential condominiums ranging in size from 360 square feet to 684 square feet, with an average of 490 square feet. Each affordable home will be provided with one reserved outdoor parking space. Each unit will also have a covered porch. A request to the Board of Supervisors for an Alternative Equivalent Action on the affordable component of the project accompanies this application.

The Five mixed-use buildings will have a total of 24,094 sq. ft. of ground floor commercial condominium space. Proposed use categories include Retail (10,369 sq. ft.); Professional/Medical (4,937 sq. ft.); Food Service (8466 sq. ft.). The mixed-use buildings on Lots 2 & 3 will each have two common area bathrooms for the exclusive use of the commercial condominium owners/tenants, employees and patrons. Commercial parking calculations per Sonoma County’s Ordinance require 123 on-site parking spaces. These on-site spaces are shown on sheet 8 of the submittal package accompanying this application.

The eighteen room boutique hotel (Forestville Square Inn) is located on Lot 8. The guest rooms range in size from 400 to 600 sq. ft.. Elevations and floor plans for each of the eight proposed buildings are included with this application. The architectural portion will be submitted for preliminary design review concurrent with this application.

The proposed site plan incorporates a continuation of Sonoma County’s Bike Trail, with an offer of dedication. Construction in lieu of Park Mitigation Fees, or through grants, is being proposed to the Parks Department. This dedication will connect the existing bike trail from the south-east corner of the property to Mirabel Rd. A 32’ dedication paralleling the County’s proposed Hwy. 116 bypass with reductions to 12’ width in the remaining bike trail is proposed.

Note: Keep in mind that the plans are conceptual. The county has already indicated that it would like the entrance to the project from Crinella Lane removed. Also, Orrin has based some of the preliminary road names on historical Forestville family names. These road names may be changed.

This building is in Windsor - it gives readers a good idea of what impact the tallest building in the project will feel like in Forestville.


The Future of Forestville?
By Vesta Copestakes

Anyone who knows me well also knows that I am a small town girl and love my three-blocks-long downtown Forestville. We know our neighbors, volunteer to keep our community maintained, and have a common bond that feels like family. At the recent Forestville Chamber Annual Dinner, every recipient of an award for volunteering on behalf of our community spoke at length about our Family of Forestville. This community is our home.

At the April 15th Planning Review hearing on the Forestville Town Square Project, I got up to speak on behalf of Forestville. I feel like a broken record in my opposition to the Town Square project, and have angered some and been patted on the back by others.

If there is any fact that is 100% true and known to all who care about our home town, this project has divided us in Pro vs. Con for the last six years. The previous projects introduced to the town from the Crinella family carry that tradition back decades and generations. We do not succumb to development easily!

At each hearing before Planning Review we hear the tale that the Crinellas were treated rudely by either Planning or the Board of Supervisors at some point in this history. This is given as a reason why we need to be kind now and give this family what it has strived to achieve for so long. This is America and we have rights to do with our land what we choose.

This is where I draw the line in the sand…only if what you do impacts no one but your own family. 72 acres of land in downtown Forestville is a good chunk of our downtown.

When I moved here 20 years ago we fought off 300 homes, a shopping center and school. Then the plan became a golf course. Then the Forestville Town Square Project on 8 acres with 60 plus acres in vineyards, luxury homes and a winery on top of the hill. At this point the only change is the vineyard. It’s “Fish Friendly” so we’re OK with it. Those vines don’t drive cars or trucks and they don’t pollute. They even use wastewater from our treatment plant when they need irrigation. This is a win/win for us.

BUT – the Town Square Project looks like a win/lose and that’s where the debate gets hot. It looks like we’re not going to get our Bypass any time soon so our cars and trucks will still be rolling through downtown and along Mirabel Road whether they stop in town to do business or not. Add nearly 70 homes and businesses – plus a hotel in downtown Forestville and we’ll have more traffic morning and evenings for residents and even more traffic for commercial businesses. It’s also a lot of increased traffic for every road that travels to and from Forestville.

I also see it as NOT Smart Growth. The concept of Smart Growth is developing along major highways to keep commutes short, therefore saving energy and reducing emissions, and concentrating living units to maintain open space. (Hwy 116 does NOT qualify as a major highway!) SMART Growth keeps people living, shopping and working close by. To build a city-like development 12 to 15 minutes from a major highway (HWY 101) is the opposite of smart.

I also have concerns about architectural elements of this project from aesthetics to green technology design and materials. Passive solar technology has existed for decades - where is it in this project? Roofing material is available that creates electricity - why is it not used here? In my mind, it's not good enough that condo owners can install solar panels. When they are installed later on they look like add-ons. Where are the overhangs over south-facing windows, the list goes on. We don't need to repeat historical architecture when modern architecture is designed to be Green from underground to roof top. Let's grow into the future rather than repeat the past.

It’s time for Forestville and our surrounding communities to pay attention to how this one town project not only impacts Forestville, but also impacts every town, and its economy, within the commute path to and from Forestville. We ALL need to be looking at what kind of future we want for our home towns. Growth and development CAN be good - let's be INTELLIGENT about how we accomplish the task.

Vesta Copestakes
Forestvillian for 20 years.

Letter from Ken Smith to Board of Supervisors:

Re: Thiessen Forestville Downtown Development Project

May 12, 2010

Sonoma County Board of Supervisors
575 Administration Drive
Santa Rosa, CA 95403

Dear Board of Supervisors:

I have been a resident of Forestville for over 31 years, and have worked with Orrin Thiessen and other Forestville residents as Chairman of the Downtown Planning Committee for over a year.

Whereas I opposed the Crinella proposal for a major subdivision on the beautiful gently sloping land visible to downtown Forestville thirty years ago, I support the Thiessen project concept of concentrating mixed-use development in the core of downtown Forestville, and in so doing, leaving the hillside sparsely developed with a few homes. That said, I do have some reservations about the project:

• I feel the two-story (for the most part) Mediterranean and Victorian styled buildings are beautiful in themselves. But packed tightly together in a development I feel they are a visually overwhelming for existing downtown Forestville.
-I urged Orrin to consider the “living wall” concept to soften the impact of the project and provide habitat for insects and birds. I would love to see vines on all the wall surfaces to soften the impact of his project. I recommend the book Planting Green Roofs and Living Walls to Orrin that has great resources on how to successfully pull this off. Orrin in fact has introduced vines on some of the wall surfaces, but not enough in my opinion to unify the project with this concept. Orrin in fact has an interest in adding more plant material to the walls. I would like to see detailed descriptions for planting on all the walls on the drawings for approval.

• Design review approval asked that there be a scenic easement for the undeveloped portion of the property. Orrin stated that there are indeed good view lines to the hillside beyond the project, and that there is a misunderstanding about this matter.
-I would like Orrin to show the ways we can see the hillside beyond through his project from main street.

• I am concerned that the downtown square proposed for the project truly be an attractive meeting place for our downtown, that there be lively activity surrounding the square.
- Orrin has recently decreased the square footage of designated restaurant space. Perhaps this is a good thing since we now have a few great restaurants downtown. But what other types of businesses would bring a sense of aliveness to the square? I would like Orrin to suggest the types of business he feels would serve this function other than restaurants and cafes.

• Orrin recently informed us that he could not afford to build the project all at one time. I have concerns about this.
- I feel it is very important that the first phase include all the amenities required by design review such as the bike trail and of course the square and the surrounding buildings at the square, and that the first phase feel complete. There is no guarantee that the future economy will support a second phase.
- Building the project in phases will subject Forestville citizens to an overall lengthened time of construction noise and commotion. I know Orrin is under great financial pressure to get the project started, and has resorted to propose building the project in phases. I think it will be a better project and better for Forestville citizens if the project were to be built all at once. So I urge the bank(s) involved to consider working with Orrin with a long-term view to the total success of the project. Perhaps a letter from the Board may be persuasive?

I urge the Board to consider my concerns.

Ken Smith, architect
Forestville, CA 95436


Max Broome, President, Forestville Planning Association &
Effren Carrillo, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors,

Thank you Max for your update as I enjoyed reading your recent article, report and outcome of the planning commission hearing/ meeting for the Thiessen Forestville Development Project in the Sonoma County Gazette. Much to my surprise in times of extreme economic constraints... it concerns, actually "wows" me to know the project is still a consideration, slotted and subject to approval.

Having served on the Forestville Planning Committee for nearly 3 years as a volunteer, I officially stepped down for the sake that this development did not reflect a vision and character of Forestville I felt appropriate. The development and community process seemed only a display of what "was to be done". I still share many concerns, as do my neighbors, with such a large development in the hands of many non-residents. As noted, many of the reasons clearly stated by the Planning Commission in your article, it seemed appropriate to state my concerns here. Nonetheless, let this letter serve as my "stand-up and be counted" note of record along with concern of my own.

Agreed by many, even as an unincorporated area, I feel the time will be necessary and essential with planning the future of our downtown. I personally support the economic interest of Forestville with development and growth of our community, although mainly in the form of public improvements. As a licensed landscape architect, my personal interest, profession and career promotes and relies on the value of long term land planning, urban land use principles with emphasis in site design form.

The controversial and subject issues for this project that I find in question are... SCALE, CONTEXT, FORM and PROGRAM.


Doubling the size of our downtown with one development puts Forestville at great risk. Primarily, I feel that the scale of this project is entirely dis-proportionate for the site's use nor does it reflect the natural character of the site's land form. I recognize and understand the client's economic commitment to a project, but the SCALE of this project compromises the entire town, the people, and it's current local identity. In addition, where does this leave existing shop and store owners? How does it fit with what's currently Forestville?


Considering the regional context of who we are and where we are located, the proposed "architectural concept" and site plan does not relate visually or physically. It's a generic architectural picture of "Sonoma County Anywhere" and not particularly that of Forestville. It is a mere re-creation of the past and not that of innovative architecture. Compare and consider the proposed main elevation facade for the Forestville main square. I feel it will look very similar, if not exact, to the facade of Omlette Express in Windsor. The only changing factors being that of the length is to accommodate ADA grade access, and maybe the color. (see attached photos).

The proposed "donated" square, being roughly half an acre (or half the size of the Healdsburg Plaza), romantically paints a picture of "natural". It's "postage stamp" reality, especially surrounded by parking flatwork and hardscape surfaces in three directions, in addition to Highway 116 to the north, seems far from "natural". Also consider the building heights of 30' plus, some higher on the uphill slope, removes our greatest rural asset.... the views: Forestville's principal "natural" character and identity.


The project is that of a "traditional mixed use development" and not that of "innovative urbanism", as once reported. I personally feel that the project lacks innovation. This development does not embody true innovative urbanist principles, lacking in both site planning and with the proposed architecture. For example, the architecture does not relate with the natural contours of the site, nor does it create a story or dialog for who or what Forestville is. The buildings do not protect or enhance the existing site features with respect to the native trees/ vegetation, view-sheds, hydrology, or other specific site elements. On the contrary, it removes close to 70% of the existing trees and benches nearly the entire site (primarily 7.6% cross slope) with slab on grade footings and excessive roads, living up to it's "Portland Grid" form. Parking and vehicular circulation is still at large with concerns to accommodating the size of this development.

Ecologically, the runoff from rainfall propose a concern for wastewater (point source pollutants) to watershed (creek) convergence with non-innovative ways for water collection and use. Bio-swales are mandatory for drainage and not that of a site design element. Environmentally, it leaves little in the way for the imagination which could certainly be it's biggest asset for visitor enjoyment.


Up for development, the site... beautiful as it is, needs improvements to accommodate the use of the people in our town. The town uses the space seasonally and needs more passive public areas for local and seasonal events. I think the Theissen development proposal will not sufficiently accommodate the current needs, on the contrary, it will remove space that is currently used by the townspeople.

Altogether, if properly considered and programmed accordingly, Forestville can be on the map for something not done before, thus making it a place of true destination. For example, if Forestville needs structure, build it like no other in the world. Scale it proportionately, program it to the needs of the townspeople and provide a long term (200 year) solution. This structure could relate architecturally to the site, be relative in context, capitalize on views, be technologically innovative, carbon neutral, and relate to our particular destination. This type of development would soon meet FUTURE site design guidelines and standards. Look to a progressive city like San Francisco for new construction allowance and future construction conformance.

Furthermore, ideas for this project's program and concept could glorify and embody our mixed artisan community and environmental concern with it's architecture, be a west county mecca bike trail hub, own up to it's quarry town status, adopt vernacular river funk architecture with historical connection to the river, include recharge of rainfall ingenuity, whatever.... the ideas for our identity should be truly site specific, truly sensitive and fundamentally Forestville. The "concept" should reflect us Forestvillians, not just anywhere literally overdone romantic Sonoma wine country boutique. My point is that this project can get deeper than a copy/ paste Windsor elevation.

Lastly, it is important to note that my letter is not a personal charge against Orrin Thiessen, for either his past or current work. He is a nice guy and I respect his efforts for wanting to put Forestville on the map with a "there... there". He's worked hard, respects his clients economic interest, and I feel he truly cares about making this town a better place for all of us. Although, from my experience as a landscape architect and site planner, research and development and with over two years of monthly community participation, I feel that this proposal will put Forestville on a map as a BIG over scaled "there" and no more. Unfortunately, it truly lacks a another THERE unless the folks of Forestville feel differently. Overall, my thought, stance and suggestions call for innovative QUAILTY, not quantity.

My two cents on the table to be counted. Thanks again Max.

Cary Bush
R.L.A. #5228
m e r g e s t u d i o
[ modern landscape architecture ]




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  • Can I help? Are people in the county but not living in Forestville able to participate? - M, Sebastopol

    YES - anyone living in a community impacted by the traffic going to and from this project will be impacted by the project. Sebastopol could get traffic coming through it via Hwy 116 as well as Hwy 12.- V

    By Blogger Vesta Copestakes, At May 13, 2010 at 12:10 AM  

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