Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Shell Beach resident Maria Santos.
It’s been more than a year since the city of Pismo Beach accepted ownership of the Chapman Estate in Shell Beach, but local officials are still debating how to manage the iconic oceanfront property.
Two events have been held on the estate grounds at 1243 Ocean Blvd. since the Pismo Beach Planning Commission approved a permit last June authorizing fundraising events with a 300-person limit.
In about two weeks, the commission will review the permit following a request from the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County to host 600 attendees on June 7 at its annual Afternoon of Epicurean Delights, including guests, musicians, vendors and volunteers.
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The fundraiser, held at the Chapman Estate for 25 years, benefits CAPSLO’s health and prevention division.
Last year’s event sold about 437 tickets and raised about $58,000, said Raye Fleming, CAPSLO’s health and prevention division director.
The city’s conditional-use permit allows four specific fundraisers with a limit of 300 people — including the CAPSLO gala — and three free community events a year.
In reviewing whether to change the attendee limit and a few other conditions for CAPSLO, the Planning Commission will have to balance concerns of some Shell Beach residents about possible noise and traffic with the desire to allow access to the unique property.
“I’m really familiar with the event itself and I know that it does indeed have an impact on the neighborhood, but I know that Mr. (Clifford) Chapman felt that this was one of the most important charitable events that he did,” Shell Beach resident Charlene West said. “If anything, he would have had 1,000 people there because he wanted to support the worth of CAPSLO’s health and prevention (division).”
The home was built in the 1930s, and Chapman, who owned Marshall’s Jewelers in San Luis Obispo, bought it in 1963. He often opened the house for fundraisers benefiting local charities and arts organizations.
Two fundraisers were held last year: an Opera San Luis Obispo event attended by 267 people, and a San Luis Obispo Symphony event that drew about 40 people, Pismo Beach Planning Manager Carolyn Johnson said.
The process to amend the conditional-use permit for the property is a lengthy one. Recently, the city’s Chapman Estate Advisory Commission and its Parks, Recreation and Beautification Commission asked the City Council to authorize the city manager to submit an application to the Planning Commission to amend the permit.
The council voted 4-1 on Jan. 20 to approve that request, with Councilwoman Sheila Blake dissenting. The commission’s decision can ultimately be appealed back to the council.
At the council meeting, Shell Beach resident Maria Santos said residents want to continue living in a quiet beach community without the congestion that fundraisers can cause.
“This is our neighborhood, this is not an event center,” said. “Please remember that we live there. I want to protect the integrity of our neighborhood.”
Santos suggested allowing CAPSLO to have the higher limit this year, and then cap the number of attendees next year.
But Councilman Erik Howell said he was disappointed in the current permit and hoped that changes will be made to make the estate more open to local residents.
“The Chapman House is supposed to be an asset for the city and the neighborhood,” he said. “And since the city took it over, we’ve had less use of the Chapman House than we’ve ever had. And that’s a shame.”
The current permit for the Chapman Estate will expire on June 24 unless it is extended by the Planning Commission.