SLO school district wants to build housing near the high school

Neighbors worry about increased traffic from the proposed 88-unit complex

acornejo@thetribunenews.comOctober 19, 2013 

The San Luis Coastal School District is forging ahead with a long-standing plan to develop a publicly owned property into high-density housing. 

Trustees unanimously voted last week to put a request out to developers interested in the project.

The 4.5-acre undeveloped property is south of the San Luis Obispo High School parking lot and east of San Luis Drive and Johnson Avenue. It rises toward the old San Luis Obispo Junior High School site off Lizzie Street, where the district office is located.

An 88-unit residential complex will be three to four stories tall and include 14 one-bedroom, 960-square-foot homes and 74 two-bedroom homes up to 1,560 square feet. The homes would be built in seven separate buildings and rely on underground parking. Entrance in and out of the residential area is being proposed for Fixlini Street. In addition, a path running along the northeast boundary of the project would connect to Fixlini Street and San Luis Drive.

The project has raised concerns among neighbors about increased traffic in an area that is already impacted by the nearby high school. A report studying the environmental impacts of the proposed project — including traffic — will be complete in early 2014.

“The school district is very much a part of the context of this city and part of that neighborhood,” said Carol Florence, the project planner with Oasis Associates, a San Luis Obispo planning firm. “We are well aware of the traffic challenges … operationally there are some things we can do better.”

The project has a long history. In 2006, trustees considered developing the property in a deed-restricted way directly for employee housing. However, that concept would not have garnered extra money for the district’s general fund.

Over the years, as the school district’s budget faced drastic cuts, the financial lure of building a project that would raise revenue for the district became a priority. At the city’s request the project morphed from nine estate-sized lots to multi-family housing to help fill a need for entry level/workforce housing.

“This is a revenue source for the school district … a very substantial one,” said Ryan Pinkerton, assistant superintendent of business services.

Pinkerton estimates that so far the district has spent about $350,000 on the project, which was estimated in 2006 of bringing upwards of $5 million into the district’s general fund if sold for 14 high-end single-family homes. Pinkerton said he did not have a current estimate of what the project might be worth.

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