Sonora Planning Commission, 5:30 p.m. Monday, City Hall, at 94 N. Washington St.

The new owners of the former bowling alley on South Stewart Street in downtown Sonora will seek permission from the city’s Planning Commission on Monday to move forward with their plans for converting the long-vacant building into a self-storage business with about 100 units.

Joe Pluim, of Plum Construction, and his partners in PWM Properties, a limited-liability company that purchased the building for $375,000 in December, are seeking a conditional-use permit from the commission in hopes of beginning construction this summer.

While the partners previously talked about the possibility of housing other types of businesses in the building as well, Pluim said they are now moving forward with only self-storage units.

In February, the commission endorsed a change in the city’s zoning laws to allow for self-storage businesses within commercial and limited manufacturing zoning districts. The City Council ratified the change in early March.

Pluim said he anticipates the meeting on Monday will go smoothly because they haven’t received any negative feedback about the project.

The building was home to Sonora Family Bowl for 50 years before the business permanently closed in July 2010 due to slumping attendance. It has remained empty since that time.

Several groups and individuals have made a variety of proposals over the years about what to do with the unique space, ranging from a dance club to indoor farmers market, but parking requirements due to the size of the building have prevented those plans from moving forward.

“The existing building is a large space (15,000 square feet) … This large size has led to difficulty in finding another end user,” the city’s analysis of the project stated. “The indoor self-storage use is a good fit for the large space and will allow the preservation of the building.”

The city charges an “in-lieu” fee of $1,500 for each parking space that’s needed and can’t otherwise be provided by the developer, with the required number of spaces determined by the maximum occupancy based on the size of building and type of use that’s proposed.

The project proposed by PWM Properties would not be required to pay any in-lieu parking fees because the building has a credit for 75 spaces when it was a bowling alley and would only need five of those as an indoor self-storage facility, according to the city’s analysis.

However, the owners are also planning to develop a gated parking lot with three spaces in the currently overgrown, vacant lot directly adjacent to the former bowling alley to provide side access into the self-storage facility.

Pluim said tenants would swipe a card to unlock the gate and enter the lot.

The partners in the project decided to turn the former bowling alley into self-storage units because of what they see as a growing demand for such facilities throughout the county, especially in the city where such businesses were previously not allowed and many rental units and homes do not have places for storage.

Businesses and residents would be able to rent the storage units, which Pluim said would vary in size and shape from roughly 25 to 150 square feet.

Pluim said he and his partners attended a self-storage conference in Las Vegas this week and learned that converting underutilized commercial buildings into self-storage units is a growing trend nationwide as the retail industry shrinks due to online shopping behemoths like Amazon.

“While retail is shrinking, the need for storage is increasing because people are still buying stuff and need a place to store things,” he said, adding that they heard one man who converted a former roller rink into self-storage units.

The commission’s decision on the conditional use permit will be final unless it’s appealed to the City Council.

Contact Alex MacLean at or (209) 588-4530.