SLO property owners mull impending zoning changes
November 8, 2013
The city of San Luis Obispo has yet to convince property and business owners to embrace a zoning change to a blue-collar neighborhood that promotes mixed-use development.
In September, the council passed a contested plan to change the zoning in a neighborhood bordering South Broad Street between South Street and Orcutt Road to promote mixed-use retail and residential development. The area currently has several manufacturing businesses.
At a San Luis Obispo Property and Business Owners’ Association meeting Thursday, Community Development Director Derek Johnson assured that manufacturers in the area could keep their businesses. They will operate in perpetuity as legal nonconforming uses, Johnson said.
Critics say that incoming retail and residential development will squeeze the manufacturers out of the area.
Current property owner and former business owner in the South Broad Street area, Carl Lea, said he discussed the plan with Mayor Jan Marx as the council was adopting it.
“The mayor told me, ‘Don’t you think the government is looking out for you and is going to do the best for you?’” Lea said. “I was speechless.”
As cause for concern, Lea citied a San Luis Obispo zoning regulation that states the city should remove nonconforming uses or change them to conforming properties “as soon as practical.”
Johnson and Economic Development Manager Lee Johnson touted the South Broad Street Area Plan as a way to create steady jobs and provide certainty for developers. Under the plan, proposed mixed-use projects will undergo reduced scrutiny by city planners and advisory bodies.
But, San Luis Obispo appraiser Rollie McCormick said the economic future of the area is very uncertain. There is little demand currently for retail on Victoria Avenue, a focal point of the plan, McCormick said.
San Luis Obispo architect and former mayoral candidate Steve Barasch said developers must build vertically in order to prosper under the strict architectural regulations the city is imposing in the South Broad Street area.