What will San Luis Obispo look like 20 years from now?
The City Council is shaping that vision by defining how key areas may be developed.
A number of land-use changes are being considered that are meant to guide development in the city for the next two decades. Those changes could be added to the city’s General Plan, which is used as a blueprint for planning and regulating growth.
The City Council gave the green light this week to include recommendations compiled by the Land Use and Circulation Element Update Task Force and the Planning Commission over the past 16 months into an environmental study that is expected to be completed in the spring.
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The environmental impact report will study areas of interest such as the Dalidio Ranch adjacent to the SLO Promenade shopping center off Madonna Road, two parcels owned by John Madonna along Los Osos Valley Road near the Froom Ranch Shopping Center and the possible expansion of Mission Plaza by temporarily or permanently closing portions of Broad and Monterey streets downtown.
The land-use changes focus on what types of buildings or businesses will be allowed in specific locations. The circulation changes will include things such as road alignments, bike paths, pedestrian bridges and possible interchanges along Highway 101.
“For the special areas, like Madonna and Dalidio, the land-use element will develop policy direction for what a future development application should address,” said Kim Murry, deputy director of long-range planning.
Parameters will be set for future developments such as open-space designations or the intensity of development allowed.
“When those development projects submit applications in the future, the council will review them for how well they match the policy intent captured in the land-use element,” Murry said.
Nineteen land-use alternatives were presented to the council this week.
One controversial change, converting the old Pacheco school site on Grand Avenue into medium- to high-density housing, drew a large crowd of concerned residents to the council meeting.
More than a dozen people spoke against the change, saying they feared it would lead to more student housing in a neighborhood already impacted by nearby Cal Poly.
Many of those residents said any expansion of student housing should happen on the college’s campus.
Although the school site was originally proposed to be included on the list of places to be studied for a zoning change, the school district later requested it be removed from consideration. The council heeded that request.
Ryan Pinkerton, assistant superintendent of business services for San Luis Coastal Unified School District, said the district decided to keep the property a school site because it is unclear how a slew of residential developments planned for the city will impact enrollment.
Those residential developments do not include a school site, Pinkerton said.
However, one other school site could change in the future.
Pacific Beach High School on Los Osos Valley Road will be studied for possible conversion into mixed use.
“Because of the development that has happened around that site, it makes sense,” Pinkerton said.
Other areas in the city that will be studied for change include development at University Square on the corner of Santa Rosa Street and Foothill Boulevard, adding a conference center to upper Monterey and paving the way for residential development behind the former General Hospital.
The council also endorsed studying 19 circulation alternatives including a possible crossing for pedestrians at Santa Rosa and Boysen Avenue, closing freeway ramps in neighborhoods, and converting Marsh and Higuera streets to two-way traffic between Santa Rosa and California Boulevard.
Also to be studied is what will serve Prado Road better — an interchange or an overpass at Highway 101.
City Councilman Dan Carpenter said updating the circulation plan for the city is critical.
“The traffic continues to increase as the housing/jobs imbalance only increases,” Carpenter said. “I’m concerned that with more and more people commuting into the city each day for work (and an increase in enrollment at Cal Poly) that the impacts on our roads and infrastructure will be significant.”
Carpenter said he hopes the environmental impact process will find ways to protect neighborhoods from the increased traffic and instead funnel the commuter traffic onto the freeway system.