Planning Commission approved plans for renovation of space at 41 Throckmorton Ave., expansion of its back deck, outdoor dining and a natural walkway through the redwood garden behind the building, with a number of conditions attached.


Front Elevation Rendering of Playa, a new modern Mexican restaurant & bar set to open at 41 Throckmorton Ave. in 2015. Image courtesy Pahana known, architects.

PictureRear Elevation Rendering of Playa, a new modern Mexican restaurant & bar set to open at 41 Throckmorton Ave. in 2015. Image courtesy Pahana known, architects.

The Mill Valley Planning Commission approved plans Wednesday night for Playa, a new modern Mexican restaurant and bar at 41 Throckmorton Ave., the space where Champagne had been since 2002 and where the legendary deli/cafe Sonapa Farms had been from 1959 to 1995 (with a Noah’s Bagels stint from 1998 to 2000 in between).

Playa is the latest project from Karen Goldberg, the longtime Mill Valley resident and the owner of Tamalpie on Miller Avenue.

Goldberg plans to begin construction in January 2015 and be finished by June.

She has plenty of changes in store for the 2,058-square-foot space, including expanding its 300-square-foot back deck to include outdoor dining, adding a walkway through and a sculpture garden within the grove of redwood trees at the back of the property near Sunnyside Avenue, adding bicycle parking and a children’s play area, expanding alcohol service to include liquor and a new streetfront that re-exposes the historic brick façade behind the existing stucco.

The Commission applied a number of conditions to Playa’s approval, particularly: reducing the size of the back deck from a proposed 2,289 square feet to 1,025 square feet; a reduction in the proposed hours for the outdoor dining area to 8am–9pm; not allowing the sculpture garden and redwood grove to be used as a gathering or dining space; and some additional measures to protect nearby residences from light and noise, including the owners of 15 Sunnyside Ave., a multi-unit residence that is closest to the back of the Playa property.

The site shares a 49-space parking lot with the mixed-use development at 41-67 Throckmorton Ave., which includes the Tyler Florence Shop, the under-construction Aloha Lofts above it, offices and a number of retail shops.

The Commission will revisit the permit six months after Playa opens.

“I’ve always loved that space and I feel like it’s been under-utilized,” Goldberg told Enjoy Mill Valley in September. “We need healthful, local, organic Mexican food in town – something that is family-friendly and casual yet sophisticated.”

The Playa moniker, the Spanish language word for beach, reflects the fact that “when you walk in, you’ll feel relaxed and able to just hang out,” she says. “Put your feet in the sand, have a beer or a margarita (Playa will have a full bar) and a taco and relax.”

Goldberg, whose sister Susan Griffin-Black is the co-founder of EO Products, which has a retail shop in downtown Mill Valley, is no newcomer to the restaurant business. More than two decades ago, she opened Rustico restaurant in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill district. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa. who has lived in Mill Valley for nearly 30 years, Goldberg closed Rustico in 1996 and then bought Annabelle’s, in the space that is now Vasco on Throckmorton Ave. at Bernard Street.

“I only had it open and running for a year and then I got pregnant and I couldn’t stand the smell of food,” Goldberg says with laugh. She sold Annabelle’s to chef Chris Majer, who then opened Vasco predecessor the Frog and the Peach.

In 1998, Goldberg took a break from the restaurant business and started flipping homes – buying houses, remodeling them and selling them. When the bottom dropped out of the real estate market, she eyed a return to the restaurant business.

“The real estate drop forced me to go back to what I really know,” Goldberg said.

Playa’s new neighbors are looking forward to a revival of their block of Throckmorton.

“I want so badly to have a really good happening restaurant in that space,” said Janet Alix, owner of Alix Jewelry two doors down from 41 Throckmorton. “I love the design. I love that the grove would actually be used by people – it’s a gorgeous project.”

Want to know what’s happening around town? Click here to subscribe to the Enjoy Mill Valley Blog by Email!