SLO Planning Commission recommends denying annexations

The San Luis Obispo Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of four controversial annexations in the hills above Johnson Avenue.

The proposals would provide 194 acres to the city including 149 acres of open space, and they would provide the property owners with 55 housing lots that could be developed if approved in their current format.

But the commission made the recommendations Wednesday to deny all four, going beyond the staff recommendation to deny two and continue the other two. It made the decisions after facing a sometimes angry, sometimes clapping, but often articulate crowd of 150 who gathered in opposition. The meeting lasted almost six hours.

Many in the audience wore green and also wore lapel badges showing images of the green hillsides.

Pat Mullen spoke as a neighbor in the area, but he is also better known to many as a member of the board that Cuesta College and as the director of government relations at Pacific Gas & Electric.

Mullen noted that a spokeswoman for three of the projects said that property owners had been encouraged over the years by city staff to move forward on the projects.

“You have an opportunity tonight to stand up for our policies and stop encouraging them,” he said.

While dozens of audience members traipsed to the microphone to oppose the annexations and subsequent development involved, only the advocates for the developers spoke in their favor.

Carol Florence, spokeswoman for three of the projects, said the issues brought up by the audience could all be addressed in an environmental impact report which the city could order on the projects.

After the recommendations to deny were passed, she said the property owners will take their case to the City Council.

Commission members expressed many of the same reservations as staff and audience members over the steep slopes, potential wildfire hazard and more that the annexations could pose. Three of the projects had substantial conflicts with the city’s general plan, the city staff reported.

“I would like to see projects like this not come in so far off from where our general plan rules are,” said Commissioner Amanda Brodie.

There is a separate landowner in the case of each proposed annexation, even though they are linked together by reliance on a proposed water tank to be constructed at the property at 1925 Sydney Street.

The 250,000 gallon water feet would be constructed at a 700 foot elevation to serve houses that would be higher on hillsides than any in the city. Currently, city water pressure can only be provided to homes at the 460 foot elevation.

The four annexation proposals are:

1925 Sydney St. – A proposal by King Ventures for a 70-acre annexation, with 57 acres of open space and 12 residential lots. This is the proposal which would include the water tank.

1854 Sydney St – Also know as Fairview Estates, this annexation proposal calls for annexing 89 acres to the city including almost 73 acres for open space. Herbert and Diane Filipponi, and Kenneth, Rosemary, Darrel and Nola Twisselman are the applicants. This would allow a six-lot subdivision.

1700 Harmony Way – This is a proposal for an 11.5-acre annexation including eight acres of open space. The applicant is Roger Brown. It calls for developing a 12-lot residential map.

1600 Bishop St. and 2220 Flora St. – The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors has decided that this land near the former General Hospital is surplus land. The county is the applicant for this annexation of approximately 24 acres with 10.5 acres for open space. It calls for a 29-lot subdivision – 25 for development.

This proposal more than the others was a concern to a few commissioners, who said that because of its density it could perhaps provide more affordable housing than the estate-custom homes proposed at the other sites.

But after two 3-3 votes failed to resolve the question of how to continue the project, the commission voted 5-1 to recommend denial of the Bishop-Flora annexation to the City Council.