SLO planners have a Broad Street vision

City planners hope to phase out heavy industrial uses and give the area a downtown feel within 20 years

acornejo@thetribunenews.comMarch 3, 2013 

A  20-year vision for part of South Broad Street that will ultimately transform it into an extension of downtown San Luis Obispo is stirring concern with some longtime business owners about their future in the area.

The South Broad Street Area Plan includes the area of Broad Street that is bounded by Santa Barbara Street, the railroad tracks, South Street and Orcutt Road.

The San Luis Obispo City Council will be asked Tuesday night to include the plan in the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element update.

The concept includes aesthetic improvements to Broad Street such as an eventual median and improved pedestrian access from the west and east sides of the road.

It will also blend light industry with coffee shops, townhomes and office space. 
That plan will eventually incorporate about 425 new homes and an additional 880,000 square feet of commercial space, and transform Victoria Avenue into a “Main Street” environment with shops and homes.

What the plan won’t include is heavy manufacturing and industrial businesses that have long been rooted in the area.

Businesses such as large recycling facilities, storage yards, petroleum product storage and distribution or those that do heavy manufacturing will be eventually phased out and encouraged to relocate to land near the airport.

Existing businesses that will be impacted by the proposed zoning changes will be allowed to stay indefinitely unless they cease business for six months or more.

City planners estimate that about 70 percent of existing businesses on land currently zoned for manufacturing will be accepted under the proposed changes. However, the remaining 30 percent will no longer be compatible.

Some manufacturing businesses along Victoria Avenue could experience the bulk of the impact.

“Victoria Avenue is envisioned to become like a satellite downtown almost,” said James David, city planner. “It’s not that we want the businesses there to relocate necessarily. The idea is that if someone wanted to come in and buy five parcels and put in a rubber processing plant, it would not be allowed.”

John Boitel, who has owned Elco Machine Co. on Victoria Avenue for 33 years, said he isn’t concerned about bringing more homes and businesses to the area. He said it’s the direct impact his business will face as more and more manufacturing businesses leave the area that concerns him.

“We are going to get squeezed out,” Boitel said.

Existing business owners are also concerned about compatibility as more people move into the area.

“The biggest issue with the plan is that we wouldn’t make very good neighbors to high-density residential,” said Russ Kimmell, owner of San Luis Powerhouse on Francis Avenue. “Sure, we can find a way to stay in business here, but I don’t think people would really enjoy living on a street that has to run diesel engines. It doesn’t make sense to us.”

Other business owners such as Jim Rizzoli of Rizzoli’s Automotive said the plan could be a good thing.

Rizzoli, who owns one of the largest parcels on Victoria Avenue, said the zoning changes could make his property more valuable.

“I see it as opening more avenues for me when it comes to possibilities in the future,” Rizzoli said. “We are on the third generation of the business now, and I don’t plan on any changes. But needs change with time.”

If the council agrees to move the plan for South Broad Street forward in the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element update, future impacts of the changes such as traffic, additional infrastructure needs and a fiscal impact analysis will be undertaken as part of the larger land use update, said David, the city planner.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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