Wrong project for our seniors

April 18, 2013 

The gateway to our neighborhood adjoining Ardath Street, Lodge Hill, has a prominent blue highway sign whose two words sum up the problem with the proposed senior assisted living center called Kingston Bay: “No Services.”

Not that there aren’t SOME services in the neighborhood, such as vacation rentals and art studios (and yes, in the interest of full disclosure, we have a licensed vacation rental — and also happen to be on the proposed facility’s lot line).

Neighborhoods are typically where little or no sizable commercial activity is conducted. Kingston Bay violates this adage, big time. Lodge Hill, via Ardath, represents one of three initial entrances into town (the others being Highway 1 and Main Street) from the south. Kingston Bay would detract from that.

My wife and I were not initially opposed to Kingston Bay. A previous senior living project by Mike Clark seemed pre-ordained until the economic downturn. The eight lots with a grandfathered water meter for, I understand, multi-family (not really commercial) construction had languished, and we grew fond of the view of open space and grazing horses.

What we did find unsettling in 2005 was that we were not informed by our real estate agent that this project was in the works next door. We thought about suing (for lack of disclosure) but were new to the community at the time and didn’t want to rock the boat. And, in theory, we agreed that Cambria needed an assisted living center and joked that when we became “doddering” we could just walk to the new accommodations!

Following the downturn, the lots were listed, initially for $425,000, with no takers. Then the parcels transitioned to another local broker, Sotheby’s, and went for a whopping $2 million to the “perfect” buyer — another senior home developer with more experience than Clark.

We contacted Jeff King, the developer, who gave us a walking tour. Our main interest in this was to get a tall wall to block any ill effects of the development, such as construction noise, or invasions of our property. We managed to convince a couple other neighbors of the need for this and sent a registered letter to King. We attended a couple hearings — not to speak out against the project, but to defend the wall idea.

My wife really was upset from the start, but I have to admit I couldn’t find solid reasons to oppose Kingston Bay early on. But as I have read letters and a guest op-ed in The Cambrian expressing real concerns, I began to realize arguments against it hold water. Such as:

No. 1: This IS a very large commercial development, with 41 beds and 31 units (and restaurant), occupying nearly 30,000 square feet on one-plus acre, with a great need for parking adjacent to Ardath — the only road, besides Burton, that funnels traffic from Lodge Hill onto Highway 1. Such a project could clog traffic flow into/out of Lodge Hill with trucks, emergency vehicles, staff rotations etc. It could be a mess, especially during one to two years of construction.

No. 2. Is this the affordable senior care that Cambria deserves, at $4,200 to $6,500 month!? Is it even necessary?  Cherish House says it’s NOT needed (and did an “informal” survey to prove it), but then they have their own biases. Only Cambrian residents my age (66) or younger with elderly parents elsewhere might move them here — local up-in-age seniors see a “nursing home” as highly undesirable, especially considering local services like Cambria’s Anonymous Neighbors, private/agency in-home care, Meals on Wheels, the Community Bus etc.

No. 3. Do we want large-scale development in Cambria? If we are going to build more housing, and severely tax our water resources, a much better project is the People’s Self Help Housing affordable living project for low income (seniors eligible) near the middle school (and away from the Highway 1 viewshed). Unlike Kingston Bay’s developers — which have more than a half-dozen other facilities throughout the state — the agency has a proven local track record.

There are other issues, such as environmental impact. Claudia Worthen, former North Coast Advisory Council chairwoman and a land use and sustainable design consultant (, has detailed nearly 70 of them!

The approval process for Kingston Bay is well underway and may not be able to be derailed. Yet King may not have anticipated the opposition that seems to be developing over time.

Of course, the parcel WILL be developed one day, whether by King or others. But a better fit is individual residential housing or, ideally, a pocket park.

In sum, the issues are community character, project size/traffic, demonstrated need (?),  and sustainable design. Kingston Bay falters on these points.

My wife and I plan to be at the appeals hearing before the Board of Supervisors in SLO May 14. To carpool, call us at 924-1719 (or email billseavey@gmail .com). To sign or deliver a petition, please contact me ASAP, also.

William Seavey is an author (Moving to Small Town America) and activist. He has set up a organization for his Lodge Hill neighborhood. Neighbors may join at the site, or email Seavey and he’ll send an invitation.

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