This week in San Luis Obispo, the city’s planning commission voted in favor of the San Luis Ranch development, recommending the project to the city council for approval. Over the past two decades, various project iterations has been proposed for the piece of property bordered by Highway 101, Madonna Road, Dalido Drive and Oceanaire Drive.
Nick Wilson, a staff reporter with the San Luis Obispo Tribune, has been closely covering this story and visited the KCBX studio to talk about the current proposal.
KCBX: Nick, please tell me a bit of the history of San Luis Ranch?
WILSON: For folks who have been in San Luis Obispo or in the county for a while - they probably remember the previous plan.. which was under the previous owner Ernie Dalidio. That plan proposed a project that was predominantly commercial. The new plan - which is under a new developer, Gary Grossman, who bought the property from Dalidio - is a project that proposes 580 homes with 200,000 square feet of commercial, 150,000 square feet of office space, a 200-room hotel and more open space. Sixty acres would be AG and open space so that's about half of the property property is about 131 acres. So half would be developed and the other half would be left for open space mostly agricultural.
KCBX: And would the agricultural part remain where it is, right along the highway?
WILSON: The part that would remain agricultural is the part that's closest Highway 101.
KCBX: Tell me about the “local-first” proposal?
WILSON: So the way it would work is anyone who lives or works in San Luis Obispo and can show proof of that - then they would be eligible for this lottery system, and if their name is selected for the lottery they would have the first dibs or the first preference on a home of their choice within the developed property. The idea is to gear the property towards people who currently live or work here because they're saying that so many people commute to San Luis Obispo, it's become unaffordable. So that's the idea - to try to help and serve people who live and work in San Luis Obispo.
KCBX: The adjacent, existing shopping center...seems like there's a lot of empty space there. Has anybody talked about that - like, why do we need more commercial space?
WILSON: I did get some answers to that question, because we have the same questions. The space that I think is designated for commercial in the proposal would come in the latter phases of the project. Homes would go first. And so I think [the developer is] still trying to figure out what kind of commercial they would put in there. One thing that they're pretty certain will go in at some point with that commercial would be some sort of service retail type businesses. Coffee shops, barbershops - those kinds of things because if they do get their project approved, the people in the community would have close access to that space and they might want to use services.
KCBX: Well, that sure makes a lot more sense - if there's going to be 580 families moving in there, they're going to need grocery stores and all those services you talked about. And that it’s more of a phased kind of plan. Is there a lot of opposition - from what you've seen - to this project?
WILSON: It's such a big project... and I think it affects everybody in San Luis Obispo and maybe beyond. I mean, say someone commutes from Paso to SLO, they might be interested in something like this because they work here and they might want to buy the home. People that live here are very concerned with traffic [the development may cause]. At the planning commission [level], I think more people supported it than opposed it. However, there were more than 100 letters submitted to the planning commission and there were around 50 people who spoke at the hearing. So it's definitely getting a lot of feedback.
KCBX: What's the big action on this coming up in the next few months?
WILSON: Right. So the big action will be the city council will hear this project on July 5, and if it continues the next hearing date will be July 19. The city council on July 5 will decide essentially on four or five planning documents that are part of the proposal for this project. One of them is the specific plan. Another one is the environmental impact report. So in order for the project to be developed, the city council will have to approve the specific plan and certify the environmental impact report, in addition to some other planning documents.
If all that is approved, then it goes to an annexation hearing with LAFCO. LAFCO is the agency that would determine annexation. And the reason why LAFCO has to consider it is because this is on county land - it's surrounded by city land, which is a little bit of weird set-up. It's in line to be annexed into the city. But that still needs to happen. My understanding is if it gets to that, then [the LAFCO hearing] won't be a particularly difficult or controversial part of this. The developers are shooting - it's a very rough time frame - but they're hoping to break ground sometime in 2018.
KCBX: That was Nick Wilson, reporter with the San Luis Obispo Tribune, speaking with KCBX about the proposed San Luis Ranch development in San Luis Obispo.