Four-level hotel proposed in SLO prompts protests from neighbors

A rendering of the exterior view of the proposed hotel entry, as viewed from Monterey Street.
A rendering of the exterior view of the proposed hotel entry, as viewed from Monterey Street.

A 102-room, four-level contemporary hotel planned for Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo is being challenged by nearby residents who are concerned about its size, anticipated noise and potential impacts on San Luis Creek.

The 60,368-square-foot hotel would be built in an “L” shape around Pappy McGregor’s restaurant, with 55,529 square feet of parking both under the hotel and behind the restaurant.

The city’s Architectural Review Commission approved the hotel with a 4-1 vote Oct. 20. However, because the project has been appealed, the Planning Commission will review the project in December and the City Council will review it in January.

Developers Andrew Firestone and Jess Parker of West Coast Asset Management purchased two adjacent lots, 1845 and 1865 Monterey St., in October 2013 for $2.5 million.

The upper Monterey area is a tourist-commercial corridor, zoned to allow hotels. The new hotel’s location, close to Cal Poly, is centered among other motels and hotels ranging from one to three stories in height.

“It is the last undeveloped little piece up there,” Firestone said. “Our vision for it is to build an interesting, beautiful hotel.”

Bob Lucas, who filed an appeal against the administrative use permit approved for the project, lives in a residential area on San Luis Drive northeast of the proposed hotel.

Resident Angela Soll, who lives in the same neighborhood, also filed an appeal Thursday challenging the Architectural Review Commission’s approval.

Lucas said that he and his surrounding neighbors are concerned about the size and height of the hotel and the number of doors and balconies on the backside of the hotel facing the creek and neighborhood below.

Lucas, who has lived on San Luis Drive for 23 years, said that he and other residents are also worried about how much noise will travel down the hillside into their neighborhood.

“Because of the shape of the hillside, which is like a bowl, you can hear a lot,” such as nearby Cal Poly football games and the crowd from Pappy McGregor’s, Lucas said.

Firestone said that he is aware of the residents’ concerns and is trying to accommodate them.

“The city was very specific in designating this small strip of Monterey Street for development,” said Firestone. “I want to maximize the potential of the property, but I am also aware of their concerns. It is a delicate balance. It is not realistic that we can build a hotel like the others in that area because they were built so long ago.”

Architect George Garcia recently changed the hotel plans to eliminate three balconies that were closest to the creek, as well as the wrap-around portions of three high-level balconies.

Lucas would like to see even fewer balconies, doors and windows facing the creek.

Victoria Kastner, an architectural historian and authority on architect Julia Morgan, is also concerned that the size of the new hotel will overshadow the Monday Club, located two properties away.

Designed by Morgan and built in 1934, it is under consideration to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kastner said that Morgan, who designed Hearst Castle, was recently awarded a gold medal from the American Institute of Architects that will bring more attention to her work.

“The height of the hotel will overshadow the Monday Club to a large degree and alter the view,” Kastner said. “Right now you can stand in the garden and look straight out and see the foothills. It is sad that at the same time that Morgan gains worldwide recognition we as a community do something like this.”

Firestone, who is from the Central Coast, said that he has not requested anything beyond what is allowed on the property.

“You have to be mindful of your community, and I think that we are,” he said. “We have taken some direction from the neighbors and understand some of their concerns and we are trying to accommodate them as best we can. At the same time we are trying to make a project that fits in the conscribes of what San Luis Obispo saw for that part of town.”