Over the Hill

Stakes are high for Paso's Beechwood project

Special to The TribuneSeptember 26, 2013 

Phil Dirkx

Housing-project developers are out and about again in Paso Robles, my hometown. I guess they’ve been hibernating and recuperating since 2008 when the Great Recession harshly chilled their business.

But the Paso Robles Planning Commission is now inviting everybody to a public workshop Oct. 8 to examine a group of developers’ latest ideas for their Beechwood project. It’s in southeastern Paso Robles at Creston Road and Beechwood Drive.

When I hear “workshop” I think of places like the one where Santa’s elves make toys. So I looked it up in the dictionary. And sure enough, one definition for “workshop” is “a seminar for specified intensive study.”

The Beechwood project covers 236 acres. The developers want to build 1,011 new residences on it. They also propose three to five acres of stores and such.

The story about it in Tuesday’s Tribune never mentioned houses, just “residences” and “housing units.” I wonder if that means they’ll be condos or apartments. The workshop should answer that.

It should also reveal whether the “residences” will have two stories and double garages and be attached to each other as duplexes or triplexes. I’ve seen developments like that. To me they looked like tight masses of houses, not neighborhoods.

Of course, some developments of attached homes can be quite livable. The Sierra Bonita Village on the eastside of Paso Robles is a good example. It consists mainly of duplexes. They are one story, well spaced and not overpowering. They were fairly priced and sold readily.

But the city hasn’t always been so lucky. It once permitted a developer to build a number of rather stark two-story apartment buildings on the east side, south of Oak Creek Park. In the 1980s people called them “East Garrison” because of their alleged resemblance to the barracks at Camp Roberts, which also has an East Garrison.

Many people are probably wondering if Paso Robles has enough water for 1,011 more homes. When the Beechwood development was annexed to this city nine or ten years ago, it was expected to have 674 housing units. They are counted in the city’s long-range water planning.

City Planning Director Ed Gallagher said if the developers now want 1,011 residential units they’ll have to pay for a study to determine whether Paso Robles has enough water for 337 more residences.

The workshop will start at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. Planning Commission meetings about the future of development projects don’t have to be boring. Just keep in mind that you’re watching a high-stakes game.

Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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