SLO Broad Street rezoning plan is approved on split vote

City Council approves plan for area south of downtown that worries owners of manufacturing businesses

acornejo@thetribunenews.comSeptember 18, 2013 

A plan to change the zoning and improve South Broad Street has some manufacturing business concerned that they will eventually become obsolete. This photograph is on Broad Street at Francis Avenue looking north toward South Street.


A plan that will guide future development along south Broad Street in San Luis Obispo is moving forward after nearly a decade of discussion.

The City Council voted 3-2 on Tuesday night to include the South Broad Street Area Plan in the city’s update of its general plan.

Councilman Dan Carpenter and Councilwoman Kathy Smith dissented.

The desire to enhance the area south of downtown along Broad Street has been a  focus among city leaders since the mid-2000s — but not without some controversy.

Rezoning of large swaths of the area is meant to promote additional mixed-use projects in the area over the next 20 years.

However, many owners of manufacturing businesses in the area have repeatedly  expressed concerns about the limitations the plan would put on their businesses.

In response, the city removed from the plan the area of McMillan Avenue and Duncan Lane, where many of those businesses are located.

Some of the remaining 11 business owners who would be impacted by the zoning  changes say the concessions are not enough.

Russ Kimmell, who owns a lot at Victoria Avenue and Francis  Street, said the plan will stop him from buying an additional lot and expanding his  manufacturing business.

“I would either have to leave (the area) or continue to try and struggle on the size we are,” Kimmell said Tuesday night. “The city has made big compromises to get this through, but it is not tenable for us.”

Carl Lea, a property owner in the impacted area, called the proposed changes a “taking” because of the limitations they would put on manufacturing zoned properties.

“We are done,” Lea said.

Those concerns were enough to make Carpenter vote against the plan.

“It will squeeze out these existing businesses,” Carpenter said. “The reality is that this is a taking. … We are taking their rights away to do something they have been invested in for many years. It is an area that is not broken, and I don’t think we need to fix it.”

The area, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, includes an eclectic mix of  businesses and older homes.

The new plan will control the future development of 86 acres surrounding Broad Street, bounded by Santa Barbara Street, the railroad tracks, South Street and Orcutt Road.
The plan ultimately envisions adding 355 new homes and 330,000 square feet of commercial space.

The plan requires costly feasibility studies. The city hopes to cut those costs by including the plan in the city’s broader planning update of the Land Use and Circulation Element.

The area was originally subdivided in the 1880s. It is known in San Luis Obispo history as the Imperial Addition, because many of the streets were named for world leaders in the late 19th century. The area is also known as Little Italy.

It was settled mainly by railroad workers who lived in small, simple houses. Industrial and light manufacturing eventually replaced many of those neighborhoods.

Councilwoman Carlyn Christianson, the swing vote in favor of the plan, said the area is already transitioning to more residential uses.

Two homeowners from the area spoke Tuesday in favor of the plan.

“We are talking about an area that has grown and changed tremendously in the last 10 years,” Christianson said. “It is really close to downtown, the center of our city, and it is  going to develop with a lot more residential … and a lot less manufacturing.”

Southern Broad Street

The plan would affect an 86-acre neighborhood surrounding Broad Street, bounded by Santa Barbara Street, the railroad tracks, South Street and Orcutt Road.

View South Broad Street in a larger map

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

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