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Proposed riverfront project to bring 2,500 jobs to Petaluma

Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 8:51 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 8:51 a.m.

A proposed housing, retail and hotel development along the Petaluma River brings with it the promise of nearly 2,500 temporary and permanent jobs.

Monday night, Petaluma City Council members and labor leaders sought to pin down the Riverfront developer that those hires would be locals, particularly in construction, one of the hardest hit industries during the recession.

“Seek guarantees that those jobs stay here and are at area-standard wages,” urged Carl Sanchez of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 104.

Several council members said they hoped developer Basin Street Properties would commit to hiring local. “I hear what's been said here tonight,” said company chairman Bill White. “We have always prided ourselves on using a lot of local labor, and intend to continue doing that.”

The job data came as part of a city-mandated fiscal and economic impact analysis, or FEIA, which analyzes impacts the 39-acre project will have on the local economy and workforce. The city began requiring such reports several years ago to help guide leaders in approving large projects that had the potential to cannibalize existing businesses.

The city has no requirements on hiring practices for private developments.

Riverfront includes 273 residential units, 90,000 square feet of commercial space, a 120-room hotel and seven acres of open space on vacant land on Hopper Street between the river and Highway 101.

When built out, the project's restaurants, offices, retail stores, hotel, homes and apartments will add about 520 full-time-equivalent permanent jobs, the report forecasts. Construction would create about 1,950 temporary full-time jobs.

The city sought a “good faith” assurance from Regency Centers, developers of East Washington Place, under construction now, that it would hire local workers.

The results were “not stellar,” said planner Geoff Bradley.

Several council members said they would hold White to his pledge to hire local labor.

Councilwoman Teresa Barrett said she was also pleased to see a hotel in the plans, which will be the most profitable aspect of the project for the city. It could bring in several hundred thousand dollars a year to the city's general fund from the nightly bed tax.

The FEIA estimates the project will generate more than $600,000 annually in net financial benefits to the city once it's fully built. A third of that would go to the city's general fund, which is the primary fund used to pay for city services and employees' wages.

No specific restaurant or retail tenants are identified, but the report said likely tenants could include service businesses like nail and hair salons, dry cleaners and cafes.

It also includes 100 apartments and 39 townhouses near the front of the property and 134 single-family dwellings situated toward the river at the rear of the parcel. Office space, the hotel and retail uses are near the front, surrounding an oval “central green” in the middle of the property, next to a park with a soccer field.

The report noted that the most impacted existing business would be the Sheraton hotel, which is owned by Basin Street. The Sheraton could see a one-year, 3 percent drop in business during Riverfront's first year, the report estimated.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

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