Delivery dates now appear uncertain for Amazon’s two planned Sonoma County warehouses, one of which faced substantial public opposition and the other cautious acceptance.
During the establishment of three sorting and delivery warehouses in Solano and Napa counties over the past few years, the e-commerce giant planned to lease the existing 250,000 square foot Victory Station distribution warehouse at 22801 Eighth St. E. in Sonoma Valley and to occupy a 181,000 square foot facility in the industrial area adjacent to Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport north of Santa Rosa.
As of late March, both of these Amazon prospects were uncertain, according to project owners and county planning staff.
Jose McNeill of Victory Station LLC sent a letter to Permit Sonoma late last week saying that Amazon no longer intends to lease space there.
It came just days after Amazon opted not to extend the deadline for finalizing a bespoke rental agreement by the March 26 deadline, according to Larry Wasem, general partner at project owner Airport Business. Center.
“I tried to figure out why, but honestly, I don’t know,” Wasem told the North Bay Business Journal.
Permit Sonoma was then instructed to halt work on processing the airport project application, located at 5051 Aviation Blvd., according to policy manager Bradley Dunn. The agency handled requests related to the two proposed Amazon sites.
The Journal asked Amazon why it took these steps for the airport and Sonoma projects, and whether the company plans to set up a facility elsewhere in the county.
“We weigh a variety of factors when deciding where to develop future sites to better serve our customers,” the company wrote in an email. “It’s common for us to explore multiple sites simultaneously and adapt based on our operational needs.”
McNeill suggested the licensing process in Sonoma County had something to do with Amazon’s decision.
“They weren’t able to get permits from the county in a timely manner,” McNeill said.
The origins of the Victory Station project date back to 2009 under a previous owner, who obtained updated approvals in 2015 and 2017. Construction was completed in 2018, but was vacant until Amazon was revealed as a tenant in May 2020. Initially, Permit Sonoma was approaching Amazon’s planned last mile “delivery station” where packages would be loaded onto company pickup trucks heading to destination addresses, as a use that would match approvals previous.
But public pressure, citing concerns such as extra traffic and water use, has resulted in extensive scrutiny of the proposed use of Victory Station. A new use permit application for a “cargo terminal” was required early last year, including parking vans on adjacent property.
Permit Sonoma sent the applicant team letters in March, August and October 2021 stating that the application was incomplete, according to Dunn.
The project team submitted several follow-up documents in February this year. But Permit Sonoma responded with a letter dated March 8 that information was still lacking for the new use with van deliveries versus large truck delivery and pickups for a similarly sized distribution warehouse. Those information that were still missing were traffic analysis for total volume and trip generation, projections of greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle-kilometres traveled, and estimated impact on groundwater resources.
“They came back with more questions, and that’s when Amazon said, ‘We’ve been doing this for quite a while, and we’re done,'” McNeill said.
Dunn said the county requested a full traffic study a year ago.
“These things shouldn’t have been surprising,” Dunn said. He noted that some of the requests for additional information came from state mandates, such as California’s Environmental Quality Act.
“What’s happened around the state is that (governments) that don’t go through a significant environmental review process are being challenged in court under CEQA,” Dunn said. “If they’re not ready to provide the information now, they may have to provide it later. The claim that we were asking for too much information does not match the requirement that California Developments provide this information.
Since approvals follow ownership, not tenant, Victory Station’s application for a freight terminal could still be pursued for another tenant, Dunn said.
Meanwhile, Amazon has expanded its regional and last-mile logistics to serve North Bay. In 2017, a 300,000 square foot sorting facility opened in Vacaville, and a smaller delivery station was added a few years later. And last year, a 201,000 square foot delivery station opened at Napa Logistics Park in American Canyon, where the project was approved, built and occupied within a year.
The company said it employed hundreds of people in each of those locations.
McNeill said the plan now is to find a new tenant or buyer for Victory Station.
“There’s not a lot of vacancy and rents (for industrial space in Sonoma County) are up 25%,” he said.
Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction and real estate. Prior to The Business Journal, he wrote for Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He graduated from Walla Walla University. Contact him at [email protected] or 707-521-4256.