San Luis Obispo is such a desirable city in which to live, it makes affordability nearly impossible - and building affordable housing will always involve compromises. That was the overarching theme during the most recent public hearing and discussion about the proposed San Luis Ranch development.
While the San Luis Obispo City Council didn’t take an official action on the project at the meeting, a majority of council members indicated they were in favor of the project.
Over the past two decades, various project iterations have been proposed for a 131-acre piece of property bordered by Highway 101, Madonna Road and Dalidio Drive. The current proposal calls for the construction of 580 residences, 200,000 square feet of commercial space, 150,000 square feet of office space and a 200-room hotel. Roughly half of the acreage would remain agricultural land as it is now, according to the proposal currently under review.
On July 5, dozens of residents took their turn at the podium to express their support or opposition to the project. The city’s planning commission approved it last month.
Leah Brooks is a lifelong San Luis Obispo resident. She says she likes many aspects of the proposed project. but more improvements are needed.
“I think this is a project that has very excellent connectivity within the island of the project,” Brooks said. “However, there are still some concerns with connectivity to the rest of the community.
Resident Stanley Seakist said all parties needed to make compromises for progress to occur.
“There’s a basic premise when you do these types of things. The city has to have regulations, and they’re pretty rigid. The developers need to make money. And you gotta work together to get anything done,” Seakist said. “It seems like the developer and the city are cooperating.”
City officials expressed a similar viewpoint.
“The reality is that no project is everything to everyone, it can’t be,” Council member Aaron Gomez said. “We’ve heard tonight the amount of different opinions of what we want out of this project. We can put as many contingencies on a project as we want - that just means the project won’t work because we can take the money right out of it. We are tasked with figuring out what we can put on it and still keep it a viable project for everybody involved.”
After the meeting, Gomez told KCBX that he and that “any development projects create a lot of emotion.”
Vice Mayor Dan Rivoire agreed with Mayor Heidi Harmon that the “core issue” at the center of the San Luis Ranch discussions is fostering and providing affordable housing. Rivoire said he was “wholly motivated” by that when thinking about approving or denying the project. He also complimented city staff, neighborhood groups and the city’s advisory groups for the amount of work they’ve done on shaping the project into something many people support.
“We’ve got to build some housing...we just have to build it,” said Councilmember Carlyn Christianson. “I think we’ve gotten pretty darn close with this project, I’m very happy with it."
Gary Grossman is the project’s developer. After the meeting, he said he listened to all the comments and that he thought the project went a long way to address concerns.
“I thought it was a lively and good debate for San Luis Obispo. I think there is large quantity of people who know that they need affordable housing,” Grossman said.
The council opted to continue its discussion on San Luis Ranch at its July 18 meeting, when city officials are expected to vote on specific aspects of the development proposal.