Large crowd turns out for Pismo meeting on Price Canyon project

Pismo Beach City Council hears residents' arguments for and against plan to build houses, a conference center and more

clambert@thetribunenews.comJune 19, 2013 

After hearing impassioned pleas from residents on both sides of the debate, the Pismo Beach City Council had yet to decide the fate of a controversial project proposed for Price Canyon by press time Tuesday.

A large crowd turned out to Tuesday night’s meeting to show support or air concerns about the proposal, with supporters wearing stickers reading, “I’m OK with Spanish Springs.”

But even if the council approves the Spanish Springs project, the land could not be developed until it is annexed into Pismo Beach.

The project includes 416 single-family homes, 73 apartments or condos, 120 senior units, a 150-room hotel, a 10,000-square-foot conference center, a nine-hole golf course, parks and vineyards spread over 961 acres.

It was designed with city goals for the area in mind, including a golf course with resort facilities.

“It is not a plan that will double the population of Pismo Beach,” said developer Stephen Hester of

West Coast Housing Partners. “It is not a plan that will place a fiscal burden on existing residents … or change the rural character of Price Canyon.”

When complete, Spanish Springs would bring an estimated 1,319 new residents to Pismo Beach — a 17 percent increase over the current 7,655 population.

A special tax would be levied on residents there to ensure the project doesn’t cost the city money, and Hester would pay more than $20 million in fees to the city and the local school district.

Supporters lauded the amenities created with the project, including parks, walking trails and open space, and conference facilities expected to attract more tourists.

They mentioned the tax revenue, housing and jobs the project could bring, as well as an upgrade of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, which the developer has agreed to fund. Some also believe the city should retain control of development in the canyon, as opposed to leaving it in the county.

“Well-planned growth is necessary for this town,” said Steven Puglisi, an architect who lives in Pismo Beach. 

Opponents, meanwhile, implored the council to reject growth in the canyon. They voiced concerns about traffic congestion and water availability, and worried the project would degrade their quality of life.

“The local jobs they propose are largely service jobs, which are historically low-paying and transitory … our city population is declining, and lower-end jobs won’t increase the demand for high-end housing,” resident Nancy Mickel said.

A few suggested the city shift its focus to improving downtown, or put the project out to a public vote.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCounty Beat on Twitter.

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